Friday, 28 September 2007

Dental Détente

I am out of zonkdom. It's a temporary reprieve but a welcome one.

Tonight my ex came round and we had a meal and a chat. He came round initially because I had some logistics to discuss. My wisdom tooth has to come out. This means I have to go to my Mum's to recuperate during term time. This is a problem, though not an insurmountable one. I need my ex to completely take over care of my son for a while. It seemed polite to run it past him. And in the end, we both gained a lot from having to spend an evening together. It's the first time we've really talked since we split up. Now we know something of what the other has been going through there's possibly a move towards détente. You can't stay at war forever, and this has been a very cold war. Icy hearts, huge walls, the odd missile crisis and far too much tension. Now, and only now, it seems we can talk. Yes, a dental crisis precipitated the shift but so what? At least we're talking. We may as well make the most of it before I find myself unable to talk at all.

My last extraction took a month to get over. The tooth in question shattered in my mouth, leaving the dentist with very little to grip on to. There was a subsequent infection and dry socket (where a clot doesn't form properly and the hole doesn't heal) all of which means I totally don't remember last July. Except that I missed a wedding.
This wisdom tooth, well to be honest it is a right sod. It's impacted under the jawbone, near a facial nerve and in need of cutting into four pieces to remove, after they have sawn off a chunk of my jaw. I knew this four years ago when it first flared up. Then I got ill and surgery kept being put off, because I just wasn't up to it and I had a choice to delay, which I am thankful for.
The thing is with chronic long term conditions is that other stuff still comes along. Life is like that. I could at least postpone this for a few years. I couldn't do the same with tube-feeding or other emergency treatment that just had to go ahead. I got through all that. I will get through this.

My son gets to stay with his Dad for three weeks, maybe longer. My ex, thankfully, has the option to work from home in times of crisis, freeing him up to get to school. They will watch action films and Dr Who replays, batter the playstation, run riot and generally have a ball. Ralph...hmmm. Suggestions welcome. He would hate a cattery, but I have pet insurance which may cover 'emergencies'. Depends what they think of my health, as I am pretty much uninsurable now. But we're talking about his insurance, his boarding fees, albeit because of my emergency.

Son happy, cat sorted, I can retreat to my Mum's and hole myself up until I've healed. My immune system, whilst not great, is better than when I weighed next to nothing. Part of the decision to act now is because I am in relatively ok shape for me, and still ultimately have to tackle my medication conundrum. I can't embark on that with major dental work hanging over me. So on October 9, all being as well as it can be, out it comes. And off I will go.

I have a week and a half to forward plan. I can use this time to:
  • Take my son out to see a film, maybe go to the park, take him skateboarding
  • Enjoy autumn in some small way before I am in bed recuperating
  • Compile a list of very funny films to rent from Amazon's DVD rental service - I will be setting up a list to deliver to my Mum's address, and will leave it in place for her. She needs some laughs too at the moment.
  • Gather thoughts on what reading matter will help for when I'm in bed. Big, beautiful picture books for starters. Gardening books. I can manage a short visit to the library and stock up before I go.
  • Borrow a friend and do some emergency bulb planting quick. I need to see crocuses, snowdrops, daffodils and tulips in my garden next Spring.
This autumn I was going to go to parent's evening, do something nice for my ex as an olive branch for his 40th, and make rosehip jelly. I was going to have tea and cakes with my son at a cafe after school for half an hour once a week. I was going to expand my interest in photography, get into the software, take pictures of autumn, sort out my Flickr page. I was going to go to the Botanical Gardens and enjoy the sting in the air, the tingle on my nose, the sun on rich-red leaves.

Autumn now has to be condensed into ten days. Well so be it.

Bring it on.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Gather ye rosehips

Only two more days on antibiotics then back down to earth. Did cancel the new psychiatrist though. It would have been totally counterproductive for him to see me like this, all dozy and 'whatever' and compliant. Not me at all. My GP gave me a temporary prescription until I meet Mr Shiny Shoes next week. I just know he will have shiny shoes.
Instead, I have been occupied with largely sleeping and the following wholesome activity which got me some fresh air, the first for several days.

We have an abundance of rosehips at the top of the garden and I felt compelled to collect some before they go off. Wild food is great to forage for, even better with your son in tow so you can spout off about nature and living simply and using what's available right on your doorstep. Once you know what to do with it.

I do have one question that hasn't been answered in my google quest to find out how to cook them or what to use them for.
Are these ripe yet?

It's not my best shot, but it was late and I am still playing with indoor macro settings for my winter project. Anyway, a question for anyone with an affinity with nature or love of cooking...What colour are they supposed to be, and how soft, before you attempt to turn them into jelly or syrup or whatever? Do they need to be squishy? These are quite firm and bright red. They are currently residing in the freezer for a night to give them a 'frost' before cooking. That's what those in the know seem to do. And it has been interesting in my trawling of sites for recipes to pick up on climate change. This year's rosehips are early. We are unlikely to get the frost they need to sweeten them before the opportunity to harvest them passes, which is why people are using their freezers. But are the ones we collected even ripe? Will I poison the neighbourhood with my concoctions (jelly or syrup, possibly both if I can be bothered). Will I be alarmed at the equipment required to embark on such a project? I don't want to get into all that thermometer business. A kitchen is a kitchen, not a laboratory.

This has all come about because the gardener returned to do battle with the ginormous hedges that have sprouted forth in this exceptionally wet summer.
He pruned back the buddleia. It was huge, now less so, but takes up so much room for a postage stamp garden that I wonder whether to have it taken out - then I read the post where I took a picture of a bee - now I feel torn, though it only flowered for a week or so...

Once he got past the buddleia, he fearlessly grappled with the hawthorn, which flowered in May. It too had become gargantuan, unwieldy and quite fearsome. Once tamed, the rosehips came raining down. I will be planting cuttings from the original tree, which remains, though seriously pruned back. If we stay here long enough I'm aiming for a hawthorn hedge, or at least a couple more trees going along the whole back of the garden.
Rosehips are beautiful. Big, red shiny berries which glow in the autumn sunshine and, having done a bit of research, can be used in all manner of recipes. Rosehip syrup. Jelly. Puree, tea, wine.
So, having millions of the things littering the garden post pruning I thought it would be best to go out and pick them even if deciding what to do with them comes later. My son and I collected three large bowlfuls, and there are plenty more to come.

Friday, 21 September 2007

And, and, and then

It all goes a bit hysterical. Yesterday I got a sudden and vicious infection in my wisdom tooth. It came about because Mr Junior Dentist (the one who blanched at the very sight of me a week or so back) suggested flossing.

Flossing is such a waste of energy. I told him as much. He told me about the miracle that is the electric flossing machine. And so, keen to maintain some level of dental hygiene with or without him (he certainly didn't seem to want to be directly involved) I went and bought one. They're a bit like an electric toothbrush but with a cute little lyre-type attachment that has a little string of floss stretched taught, which vibrates. Mine is called The Hummingbird. This perhaps isn't the best advert for it, so I won't provide a link.

I used it for a couple of days, duly replacing the flossing bit each time, and it dislodged your average oral detritus...the stuff Mr JD should have been tackling in the scale and polish I never had. I found my novel and very tiny humming device kind of fun, and my teeth now feel a lot cleaner. But back at the surgery the dentist also has a blowy machine, a sucky machine and a rinsy machine. I don't. So I can't hoover up like a dentist can and, because my wisdom tooth has erupted and is impacted, it can easily become infected due to the little bit of gum that flaps about collecting whatever comes its way. Yes I was using mouth rinse. But it obviously didn't work. Plus my gums bled. Then it all went pear-shaped.

So, and this will perhaps be a blessing to many, I will be utterly zonked by antibiotics for seven days. Big strong ones. Zzzzzzzz. I will be so stoned when Mr Shiny Shoes psychiatrist is due to try and turn up for our rebooked appointment on Thursday that he'll probably...well I may just cancel this time. I don't see the need to present as utterly catatonic when in reality I'm just slightly, sometimes.

Soon I have to have my wisdom tooth out, because I've gone over the limit of number of infections permitted before extraction (three...I'm on five). And this is the icing on the cake. The dentist I like, who is really calm and experienced and professional and agreed a year ago to take out my wisdom tooth from the relative comfort of his big chair at the surgery...has moved into the lucrative arena of dental implants. So I have to go into hospital where there be student dentists lurking around every corner.
Before I drift off into the realm of the undead I have only one thing left to say.


Thursday, 20 September 2007


So I print off the Ashton Manual, which is indeed an excellent resource for anyone involved in benzo withdrawal. I dig out my care plan, and carefully go over Goldfish's really pertinent Guide to Chemical Addiction . I have everything I want to say ready and reasoned. I'm fully prepared for Mr Shiny Shoes. The new psychiatrist I didn't know about who was supposed to come and see me today? The one who, on a whim, messed with my prescription without asking me about it. The clinic called 10 minutes before he was due at my house and cancelled. Honestly, it makes you want to give up trying to give up before you've even started.

Monday, 17 September 2007


I bolted for the weekend, and have come back to even more responses to Untitled. Thank you, everybody.

The point was raised in the comments that there are comprehensive packages of support out there for withdrawal from illegal drugs such as heroin.
Mary wondered if similar services are in place for prescription junkies (my phrase) like myself.

No, nothing structured or intensive that's for sure. And because I am on prescription medication, I don't qualify for support from my local drug action team, who concentrate their efforts on illegal substance misuse. But I don't hold that against people using or withdrawing from heroin or other drugs. I started writing all this in the comments box but it turned into a post. I don't know how to do links in comments boxes for one thing... I also think it's worth further thought.

All addictions are tricky to treat, and often expensive. I wouldn't begrudge anyone support just because what they've taken is illegal, though it could be viewed as tempting for me to do so. It would be too easy, and wrong I feel, to resent the emphasis on treating users of recreational or illegal drugs. Yes more money goes into those treatment programmes than the sort that doesn't even exist for me, but then my prescription...well it's so outdated really, isn't it? And mental health services just keep on suffering further cutbacks. I will think more deeply on this but can only presume that in the eyes of the Government, it all comes down to that old chestnut 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'.

Heroin addicts (like 'they' all belong under one label...bit like 'prescription junkies') are commonly perceived as the criminal underclass by your average voter. I, being on prescription drugs, don't need to commit any crimes because of my addictions. I just phone the chemist, who delivers it all to my door. So perhaps in not being a perceived threat (unless I turn into one of those 'psychos') I am not so voter-friendly to treat.

I will be patching together my own support programme for my withdrawal from prescription drugs. It will more than likely involve No Panic (a telephone counselling and support service for people with anxiety disorders and those going through tranquilliser withdrawal), the solid and expert recommended by Miss Vertigo which seems to have more stuff on its site than I was aware (result MV!), and The Samaritans for very bad days.

I have more or less given up on the mental health team who contributed to all this. A local centre has just been shut down. Waiting lists are horrendous. People I know working in health services in my area are ashamed. Things are better 20 miles down the road under a different trust, so if I get really desperate I can always move house (again).

Today I found out my psychiatrist has left, which is why my dosage of Zopiclone was suddenly halved over the weekend when I got my latest prescription. I found out after writing Untitled. It kind of made me smile. I now have to explain to Mr Shiny Shoes new shrink why halving the dose all of a sudden is NOT a good idea for someone with my medical profile and please could we do some research together, and talk about it in a few weeks? I'm meeting him on Thursday. He's at least coming to the house, although you tend to find home visits are shorter (pushed for time). Ten minutes or so to explain my disabilities and complex malmetabolising of medication. Can't wait. But at least I get the opportunity to discuss withdrawal, which is what I was building to doing by booking an appointment with my GP...sometime. I do feel that rather than this whole thing being taken seriously by one expert, I am somewhat scrabbling about for a way forward.

It's too expensive a process to get someone off prescription drugs - and that's despite valium being one of the cheapest drugs a doctor can prescribe. Cheap and nasty.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Still Life

A scooped out passion fruit

I was mucking about with still life in mind a few weeks ago, and now all of a sudden this seems highly appropriate.

I've been trying to occupy myself by backing up all my photos. It's such a mindless task, perfectly suited to when you need to mull things over. Being deep in thought sometimes works better when there is something else going on.

So I've been thinking about what to do, about how lovely people (that's you, and youandyouandyou) can be in times of need, how it's not the end but a transition. All the usual self-absorbed crap you'll generally find up here only now you know my mind is soaked in sedatives, so perhaps I can be forgiven a little. And anyway, anyone left alone for too long can run the risk of becoming tediously introspective. I salute all of you who consistently avoid tedium and self-indulgence, and frequently create quite beautiful words from silence or solitude. You are amazing.

No way is this going to become a blow-by-blow withdrawal site. As it will take some years, I simply couldn't subject myself, or anyone else to a daily account of what is going on in my body.
I won't even get an appointment to discuss what to do next for a month or so at least. So please don't all run away.

The sites I have read where someone is going through a medication change have usually been managed with dignity, humour and a large helping of consideration for readers. I have taken these observations on board.

As we go into winter (yes, I know, not yet, but personally I can't wait) I've decided to pick up a second-hand lightbox and experiment more with still life images. It should keep me amused and prove a diversion from all those flowers. As I archive everything I realise why macro photography has become my thing. It suits the slowed down body and mind very well. Your subjects don't move, you can photograph them from a scooter or wheelchair, (or soon, the kitchen table) and take your time.

It's amazing how we adapt to our circumstances, really, isn't it? And sometimes without even realising it.


Tuesday, 11 September 2007


Drugs do not work in my case, and it's taken quite a while for my doped mind to figure this one out. Now my body is giving me clear signals that I have to do something about it.

Don't read on if you feel you may become distressed. I won't be writing like this very often, but I have to get this out.

I wasn't doped up three years ago when I was exhibiting very clear, checklist-like M.E. symptoms. Nobody I saw in the early days had the expertise to pick up on what was wrong, or the sense to refer me to someone who could help.
So how do you treat someone who crashes into your clinic in a state of physical crisis and emotional turmoil? Let's put ourselves in the shoes of your average UK psychiatrist for a few moments.
Picture the scene from the other side of The Desk. Occupy for a moment the tiny mind that is governed by the DSM (the handbook of mental disorders used by every dysfunctional doctor who lacks perception, life experience or empathy). What would you be thinking?
"Jeeeesus Christ."
Look at clock. Reach for DSM.

And that's about it.
Really. Truly. That's what happened. Each psychiatrist I saw, whether at the clinic, in a respite house, during home treatment or in hospital added something new. The excuse has been that each of them was only trying to help. But throw in the combined efforts of a couple of seriously clueless GPs along the way and nobody communicating, and you get my current prescription.

Zopiclone - a sleeping tablet: addictive.
Valium - a tranquilliser: addictive.
Propranolol - a cardiac drug, given for anxiety symptoms
Mirtazepine - an antidepressant which made me eat my way out of malnutrition, only now I'm far from malnourished
Lansoprazole - used to treat gastritis and stomach ulcers. It was severe stomach problems that caused me to need hospital treatment for malnutrition. Brought about quite possibly by overloading my stomach with medication. Now I need Lansoprazole to keep my stomach functioning.

An average day: I get up, get my son breakfast. I am in a stupor, hungover from my night medication. I take my morning propranolol after he's gone to school, so I can function at least whilst he's around. If I don't take it I seize up. But when I take it, it puts me back in bed for two hours. I am not safe to so much as boil a kettle until the effects have worn off. The rest of the day is floaty. I have valium and more propranolol at 6pm. I feel groggy. I take all five drugs at bedtime. If I try to cut down on anything I fit, vomit or shake. I have been on this medication regime for more than two years. My hormones are shot to bits, I have back problems, jaundice and something vaguely referred to as 'mood disorder'. That'll be the drugs then.

Rehab was discussed but ruled out by the M.E. team who finally came into the picture sadly after I'd been put on this disastrous cocktail from hell. I have something called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. It means my body is groaning under the pressure of these drugs, not metabolising them very well, and yet will go into crisis if withdrawal is mishandled. Not surprisingly, no one wants to go near my prescription. I can't do rehab. I don't want to be in a longterm state of withdrawal, and yet I have no choice. Five drugs to kick. One at a time. Very slowly. I'm guessing it will take the rest of my son's childhood. Robbed is such an inadequate word. Here's a few more. Violated. Abused. Fucking Furious.

So there you have it. I'm finally out as a prescription junkie. But I hope you all understand that it's the last thing I wanted to happen, and I never would have thought it possible that the strong, capable person of four years ago would end up like this.

Why have I done this now? Because I wanted to. Because it's time. Because I'm not ashamed. And because I don't want anyone to ever live even one day like I had to for months on end in the not so distant past...lying on the bathroom floor, less than seven stone, too weak to lift my head to vomit, my then partner trying to keep my son away because the scene was just too terrifying.

"Is Mum being sick again?"
"No, now come downstairs. It's nearly time for school."

Monday, 10 September 2007

The thing is

Loneliness and sedation are a bad combination. You become very introspective and things can spiral downwards very quickly. The answer? Well, less sedation longterm but this afternoon I made myself go out again, despite a very crap morning.
It was the only answer. I went to school then spent a couple of hours out watching my son skateboarding with his friends. All I had to do was sit and watch. And I felt better. So much better than lying in bed, which is what I really wanted to do. And some days that's fine. But not when there's life to be lived, even if it amounts to little more than sitting on a bench. And I'm not writing this for 'well done' comments. I'm writing this to record the fact that I managed to somehow turn today around.
I'm having to do the one day at a time rule. I find a dip in my mental health sends me pretty much into 'too much' mode. It's all just too much to cope with.
That's the complete bummer about dealing with a dual diagnosis, as they call it.
The physical side of things can be unpredictable enough, but the mood swings and depression, anxiety etc etc can be impossible to track, let alone plan for, react to or chart in any way. And my moods are not only affected by my physical condition, but by a pretty poor psychological state and really crap prescription drugs.
I know I have to do something about it. But you try getting anyone in the health service to agree they've badly messed up and THEN agree to help you unmess it.
That, my friends, is the dilemma. And all I can do for now is try to distract myself on the really bad days. And stop buying so many chocolate biscuits perhaps.

Very low

Sometimes I honestly believe I am going to die of exhaustion. I really believe that my heart is going to pack in or I will collapse and just not get up again.
And sometimes I actually want that to happen.
I went to the dentist today. The taxi journey there was enough to tell me I shouldn't have gone. But I'd left any sort of check-up for more than a year. So I went. The dentist was a new guy, young, just out of medical school. And he didn't do anything. I was expecting a basic check up, a scale and polish, and perhaps a filling. But nothing. Why? Because I listed my medication, answered his questions about organ function checks and suchlike and he blanched.
I came away without even a scale and polish. Now surely a tooth tickle is hardly going to be any risk to my health, is it?
But he didn't want the responsibility on his shoulders for anything to do with me.
I am sick of being on so much medication that it scares even doctors.
I am sick of being so disabled that no one knows what to do with me, so no one does anything. When I brought up medication with my GP in a recent phone consultation she suggested I visit the local chemist for a prescription MOT.
Um, I think a clinical pharmacologist may be of more use but will she refer me? No, because as every doctor dealing with me knows..."Whatever you do, don't TOUCH the medication."
Nevermind the fact that it's all making me feel 100 per cent worse and the side effects are as bad as my actual condition.
I am depressed, and yet this is allowed to continue. My notes over at the mental health clinic probably read "Yadeyadeyah, blah, blah, whatever." Because of COURSE I am depressed. I'm fat, miserable, lonely, can't go anywhere, can't do anything. I stay in bed half the day. I overeat. I have no motivation to try and do things. I can't enjoy time with my son, I am exhausted when I try to do anything enjoyable. Who can possibly help me? What treatment is going to possibly be of any benefit? None. So nothing happens and I just rot away in my own stomach acid.
Yes. I'm feeling very low. And no one is helping me.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Back To Schooooooool

And today (being a teacher training day) has been spent completely doing other things until about, ooh, two hours ago.
Then suddenly we HAVE to find a protractor (because they're so useful in adult life aren't they?) and I find myself pleading with my son to fill in just some of the DAILY diary he was set as holiday homework.
Holiday homework! Cuh! We naturally ditched the very notion six weeks ago, but suddenly bottled out at the last minute.
What if the teacher is, like, really cross?
Do I, in truth, give a monkeys? No! Holiday homework! Arse!
I decided a compromise was best. He filled in the more interesting days, the time spent actually doing stuff because of course doing stuff is what they want to hear all about, rather than just hanging out, loafing around, chillin' we left the rest blank.
It made me realise there has been quite a lot going on, and to be frank, not nearly enough of the monotony I remember in the 70s. Ah, the 70s. When you weren't expected to be multi-tasking until adulthood, when overstimulation generally involved illicit drugs, and when you were expected to be bored in the holidays and put up with it until the two weeks at the seaside. No playstation. No channel-hopping. Just space hopping and, and...the sound of lawnmowers?
And as for holiday homework. There never was such a thing. Probably because it was the 70s, when people went on strike and belonged to unions and had rights and actually stuck up for themselves. They probably didn't dare even suggest holiday homework. Then everything changed. I blame Margaret Thatcher.
God if it's like this now, how the crap am I going to cope when he's suddenly getting ready for secondary school and actually knows what a protractor is for... except I still don't????? Enough. Bed.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Night night from me too

I'd like to know if anyone out there knows how you take pictures of the night sky. There was such a beautiful moon tonight, with those little scudding silver clouds all around.

A dreamy song drifted up from someone's garden a few doors away, and I lay in my bath, bathed in silver rather than Clary Sage for once listening to...well Who WAS that lovely male vocalist with his whimsical melodies and that gorgeous string arrangement shimmering through the trees as they whispered their gentle accompaniment? I should have been out there lying on silk cushions and drinking tea from a glass it was so lovely.

I'm so lucky to be able to lie in the bath for over an hour with the sash window open, looking out over a really beautiful nocturnal vista of trees, occasionally softly lit by a garden candle or patio light. By daylight it's nothing special. It needs dusky shadows and a breeze to bring it to life.

Even when temperatures hit below zero I bet money on me still having the window wide open. It's too special an experience to miss. It's when the streets fall quiet and you hear foxes and owls. Imagine added frost and stars. I'll just have to add more hot water.