Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Could it be dementia?

My mother has suffered from anxiety and depression for the last few years but now I'm almost positive that we have to add early onset dementia to the list.
She has begun to do and say things which don't seem to be symptoms of her anxiety or depression. Here are some of them:
She struggles to find the correct word for something and will use other words to describe it, for example, a toaster might be a bread cooker.
She has begun sneaking around the house, trying to find fault with things that I do. Last night, for example, I asked her to fill the kettle for me and switch it on so I could fill two hot water bottles. She did and then went upstairs. I am staying in the spare room which happens to be on the ground floor, so I went into the kitchen and realised the kettle wasn't full so topped it up with water and switched it on again. My mother rushes in to the kitchen and in the most passive aggressive way ever, looks at the kettle and says, "Oh that's strange, I'm sure I didn't fill it all the way to the top. Hmm how odd that I don't remember that. Unless you filled it up. Did you fill it up?" I tell her I did fill it up and then return to the spare room and wait for it to boil.mI then hear her in a very loud stage whisper, tell my father that I'm going to break the kettle, that it should never be filled up and that she needs to empty it immediately otherwise it will ruin the kitchen. This is a prime example of her completely overreacting but then talking about me behind my back. She then creeps downstairs (although I hear everything because the house is so old and everything creaks) and she goes into the kitchen and pours out some of the water. I catch her doing it and say, "Oh I'm sorry, was it too full mummy?", and instead of saying, "Yes darling," she stands there and lies. She says she was popping in to the kitchen to get a biscuit out of the cupboard. I asked her where the biscuit is and she says that she doesn't need it now.
I am living in a mad house and I don't mean that weirdly. But every single hour of the day is like the above example. She talks in riddles and lies to my face. She creeps around finding fault with everything I do and totally overreacts if something is not how she wants it. She cannot have a normal conversation because she lies about everything.
Just this second I asked to come to her yoga class and she tells me it's full. She can't possibly know it's full but instead of saying, actually I would rather go and do yoga on my own, which she obviously means, she just lies. It's not as if it's the kind of lie to protect my feelings because most of the lies are so nonsensical. They don't make sense.
So now, as well as the depression and the anxiety I have to deal with this strange behaviour. It is totally forgivable as long as she gets it checked out. But of course my parents are both in complete denial and refuse to believe there is anything wrong. I can't take it.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

My critical Mother

Most of my feelings of complete lack of control over my life have come from living at home with mum and dad for the last year. I am 48, I had massive surgery on my knee last November, and had to return home for 4 months. I then had set backs, needed to sell my London flat, and here we are, 12 months later and I'm still having to use their house as base. Imagine being at home for a year with your elderly parents and then add fucking depression and cancer to the mix. Mum's depression, Dad's cancer.

I hate mornings, especially I hate early morning when I wake, yet again, in my parent's house. I used to love waking up early. The quiet and calm. The pottering around my flat hours before anyone else had woken up. I like to wake up gently. I don't like to be questioned, asked how I've slept (especially when I only manage 5 hours a night) or constantly nagged or criticised about something.

Mum, with her depression has become anxious about everything I do. She criticises everything from how I cook toast to what plates I use, to what I put in the bin, to using the washing machine, running the bath, what shelf I put my food in the fridge, where I put my bread in the larder, to having my window open by even a crack, in my bedroom. It doesn't stop. But it is never a straight forward request. It is a passive aggressive criticism, a twisted way of saying things I do really annoy and upset her. This morning, she did the typically passive aggressive thing by saying something mean, hidden behind pretend concern.

I woke up at 5am, freezing, so I crept to the kitchen to get hot water bottles and a cup of tea. I crept silently, in the dark, down the 15 metre hallway (the spare room is on the ground floor) until I got to the kitchen and then put the kitchen light on. I was super quiet. I pushed the door closed. The kitchen light is not bright. At 9am, my mother greets me at breakfast by saying ,"Oh darling, you must have got up early. The light woke me up but it's ok, I managed to  eventually find my eye mask and put that on. I didn't get back to sleep but it's ok."

I was incredulous. "Mummy, you're saying the downstairs kitchen light woke you up. The light travelled through the door, down the long hallway, up the stairs, through the crack in your bedroom door and woke you up." "Yes, but it's fine. I don't mind. It was bright that's all. And I don't need much sleep anyway." I began to explain that it was impossible. The light couldn't possibly have woken her, it must have been something else, but my father glared at me and said, "It was the light. Her eyes are really sensitive."  She then gave me a small smile and came to hug me... as if saying, it's ok, I forgive you. But I shrugged her away. It was a reflex reaction because I was pissed off. I'm sick of being made to look bad for doing completely normal things, and yet again here I was being blamed for her waking up, which was a blatant lie. A bloody stupid ridiculous lie. And the way it comes across is with this passive aggressive fuck fuck fucking attitude. I absolutely detest my mother when she does this.

There I've said it. I hate my mother when she has her depression. I hate my father for enabling her and backing what she says, and I hate myself for reacting the way I do.

My Mother's Depression.

I have just woken up, trying to remember the exact words my therapist said to me before she ended our Facetime call. You can't control it and you can't fix it. Remember that.
Yes, my therapist and I are terribly modern. We don't do actual visits any longer. Now that I am so transient and never know which city I will be in from week to week, it's easier to arrange an evening FaceTime call than try and make it up to Covent Garden.
therapist and I have an interesting client/patient relationship. I began seeing her about 6 years ago when I began having debilitating panic attacks. A friend of mine had studied under her at university and said she was truly inspiring, so I looked her up and voila, my therapy sessions began.

Of course, as anyone that has had therapy knows, you think you are going in to sort out one problem but you actually end up talking about a whole stream of other issues. We never really got to the bottom of the panic attacks but we did start talking about some major things that had happened in my life. Things that may be affecting my behaviour now. And it has helped me beyond my imaginings. Six years on, I now only see or talk to her when I'm on the precipice. This is what I call my moment when I am so stressed or unhappy or out of control that I feel as if I'm on the edge of a cliff, about to fall (or throw myself) off. I have these moments every few months and immediately call her and arrange an appointment. 

We have been talking, recently, about my mother's depression. My mother has clinical depression. It used to be called manic depression but now it is labelled bipolar. I think it's too simple a label for what she has. From memory, I can only recall two moments in her life, up until now, where she has shown signs of depression. The first time was when I was 17, and I remember her suddenly going very quiet, losing lots of weight had sleeping all the time. It lasted about 3 months. She wouldn't leave the house much and couldn't make decisions. She looked terribly sad and couldn't explain it or figure out what had suddenly triggered it. The second time was on her 50th birthday. We were living in America and we had arranged a small surprise party for her. I went upstairs to try and hint what she should wear that evening and she clicked that there was going to be a party. Something snapped inside her. What would usually have been a good surprise and joy at her seeing her old friends suddenly overwhelmed her. She sank to the floor and burst out crying. She refused to get dressed or move and sat there the whole evening. That depression also lasted a few months. 

Fast forward 20 years to a few months after her 70th birthday. She began to go down. It didn't manifest the same way as before though... looking sad and sleeping loads, it carried on going down, deeper and deeper. She refused to eat and would sit there with a haunted look in her eyes, shaking and rocking, unable to speak or voice what she was feeling. She didn't sleep, she wouldn't leave the house. She hid. We got an army of help. Her doctor referred her to a specialist who got a therapist and a psychotherapist and she was looked after. The doctor tried different drugs and we tried to keep her eating and doing small amounts of exercise. But it's not a science and you can't give depression a pill and a hug and make it go away. It takes months and months. of trial, error and the most enormous amount of patience. I honestly thought she would never come back from it. She had lost so much weight that she aged 10 years. She would then pull at her skin and cry out at how wrinkly she was, not understanding that the weight loss had caused it. Even her own vanity wouldn't convince her to eat. My beautiful and beautifuly healthy , vivacious, brilliant, chatty, smiley, extrovert mother, disappeared overnight.

There is no rational with depression. You can't explain what the noises are that she is hearing, or try and make her smile. You can't stop the birds flapping, or the neighbour's dog wagging its tail. You can't stop the postman coming to the door or the telephone ringing. We would find her at 4am with a 100 incontinence pads laid out on the floor because she was convinced she was going to wet herself. She never did. It is exhausting and aging, not just for my mother but for the family, my father especially being primary carer. But Dad is another story... a staunch traditionalist who believes mental illness is weakness and shouldn't be talked about. That certainly hinders things. 

It is now 5 years later and my mother has had 5 bouts of depression (one a year lasting 3-4 months). Each one manifests slightly differently, but each time, the downward spiral is less severe. This is what the doctors hoped for with their cocktail of pills and therapy, that each depression would get milder, that each manic period (her high following the depression) would be shorter too. This last bout, however, has lasted since April. It has been more anxiety and less full blown depression. But she hasn't laughed or smiled since then. 7 months without hearing your mother laugh. 7 months of seeing her shrink (you cannot force someone to eat no matter what anyone tells you). She is only 75 but she looks 90. She is grey in pallor, hunched over and so frail, like a tiny bird who's bones might break if you squeeze them too hard. She refuses to change her clothes and wears the same outfit for a week at a time (thank god she does change her underwear though) she smells slightly stale and her hair is greasy. She has a bath every night but it is so quick I cannot imagine anything really gets washed that well. And the worse thing is that I cannot bear to hug her. It's like hugging a dying child. Spindly arms legs and shoulders. Her head is too big for her body and she shuffles around in her oversized clothes and unwashed dressing gown. If I dare to suggest she changes her clothes or I wash her hair for her, my father tells me to shut up. He won't let me talk to her when he's around. He won't let me talk about her depression or ask her how she is feeling. I am metaphorically gagged. I might as well be in Saudi Arabia because I have never in my life felt so helpless and unheard and terminated. I have only ever been able to express myself with words but when I am no longer allowed to speak then what else can I do? 

My therapist says that I have to concentrate on being there as a support when they need me, offering my help as often as possible, but not trying to fix them. I cannot fix them. I can only fix myself and the way I react to them and the situation. She says I must try and not control their lives. I end up wanting to punish my mother for being ill and I want to punish my father for being so stupid, ignoring the situation. I say mean things because I'm so upset. I see her stand on the scales, see her weight drop by another pound a week and say it's disgusting, that she's like a skeleton, as if shocking her might trigger something! Instead she then sits there looking at her feet like a wounded animal and then I hate myself and feel like shit, feel like a horrible school bully, and lock myself in my room and don't speak to them for the rest of the day because I fear what will come out of my mouth. 

I have to just stop. I know that, given the chance, I would do everything differently - taking mum for therapy everyday, making her change her clothes and wash her hair on a daily basis, make her eat more and try and encourage her to take more care of herself. I've just realised I've used the word 'make' several times. I actually cannot make her do anything because then I would be the control freak and not my father. By ignoring the situation my father is not helping. By refusing to talk about it, does not make my mother's depression go away. Yet I am unable to change it. I cannot control it and I cannot fix it. And the sooner I understand that, the better.

Monday, 3 October 2016


I can’t remember a day in the last 11 months that I didn’t cry. Crying for a multitude of reasons, not just because I was sad, although that probably makes up about 85% of the tears, but crying because I was angry, frustrated or in pain. No happy tears unfortunately.

I have read that there are different chemical compounds, depending on the type of tears we cry. We have Basic tears, which keep our eyes lubricated and appear as we blink. Reactive tears, which appear as a reflex response, like when we peel onions or get something caught in our eye. And then we have Emotional tears, which can be happy, sad, angry etc. Emotional tears are the interesting ones to scientists, however, because not only do they look different under the microscope but they taste different too. Emotional tears, especially the ones produced when we are grieving or unhappy, are produced when our stress hormones increase, so they are actually denser and contain more sodium. They sting because they contain more salt and the more they sting, the more we rub, hence red swollen eyes. The sweetest tasting tears, of course, are happy or laughing tears where no stress is released so there is not as much salt.

Only humans have Emotional tears. No other mammal has the capacity for this sort of crying, no matter how many photos you’ve seen of elephants or chimps with a slow tear rolling down their faces. I sometimes wish we didn’t cry. I feel so exhausted and dehydrated from crying all the time. I know it’s a stress relief but the after-effects are horrible. My face is almost always puffy, eyes red and sore, I have constant headaches from the stress and tension of pushing out difficult tears of pain. It is not a healthy way to be.

I had extensive survey last November and now have a titanium lower thigh and a high-grade plastic knee. I couldn’t move my leg for 2 months and was out of action for almost 4. I had to leave my flat in London and at the age of 48, move back in to my parent’s house in a tiny village in the middle of Hampshire, so that I could be looked after. The shock to the system of intense pain and complete silence was huge. I had only a few visitors, the ones able to get time off to visit from London, or a smattering of family. People find it difficult to cope with other people’s pain. They either over-comfort or change the subject when I wince or cry out. And the trouble is, 11 months later I am still crying out.

They now say I have chronic pain. Pain that never goes away. My leg, physically, has been mended. The titanium is in the right place and it is all moving correctly. But when you think what has been done inside, the invasiveness of the surgery, I’m not all surprised that my leg doesn’t like it. Naturally your body wants to expel foreign objects and I honestly think that if the metal and plastic weren’t physically bolted and cemented into my bones, then they would force themselves out through my skin, desperate for air. That’s what it feels like. My body just doesn’t like it’s new visitors. And now, almost a year down the line, my good leg, my right leg, is in the same sorry state of disrepair as my left, and also needs the same surgery.

I have named my knees – Lulu for the left one and Ropi for the right – so that I can swear at them and tell them what I think. I can converse with them and ask them to behave. I can’t unfortunately, ask them to leave, like an overdue drunken guest.

I sometimes wake up and find my pillow wet, having cried in the night without realising. I have never screamed or sworn as much in my life, as I do physio every single day and feel no improvement whatsoever. I have had second surgeries and endless MRI’s to see what needs to be done next and yet, when I then see other people suffering, I realise how pathetic I must seem. At least I have my legs, and I have been helped. Others haven’t and can’t. I tell myself to pull myself together and fucking stop crying but then there is so much other shit going on that I sometimes feel justified in my self pity. Self pity is a disgusting selfish emotion. I cry and then hate myself. I then cry for hating myself.

Everyone has an opinion on my crying and most people think I’m depressed. I don’t think I’m depressed, I know it for sure. What I won’t do is go on antidepressants. And the reason I won’t go on antidepressants is because currently my Mother is on them – for her manic depression – and my Father is on them – to cope with my Mother’s depression. And they are the ones I’m sharing a house with. Two depressed parents. As if it couldn’t get any worse....

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

My arse in an airplane seat.

I’m worried about my arse! I’m not usually worried about it... in fact, when I do think about it, it’s usually when I see it in a dressing room mirror, from behind, at an awkward angle, and I think my God that’s a good chunk of bum, but at the same time I’m annoyed that it doesn’t fit into many jeans or trousers. 

I have a large posterior, always have done, and it does get a lot of attention from a certain type of male. The certain type of male that likes voluptuous round arses funnily enough. But that’s not the problem. The reason I’m worried about it, is that next week I have to squeeze it into a small seat on a small plane, for ten hours on a flight to Cuba. I’m fine in normal airplane seats but I get the feeling that this might be a bit smaller than the normal jumbo jets and that I’ll have to push it down, between the arm rests and hope my neighbours don’t mind an extra bit of bum and top thigh pushing against their own. 

Most people look at me and see a pin head, then they look further down and see ample boobs and a waist. But then my body sort of explodes outwards... I am a very peary pear-shape and it takes people by surprise. I stupidly have changed my seat to a window seat and realise my bottom will have to pass two passengers to reach its destination. My big bum inches from their faces!! I just hope they don’t tut or sigh loudly and don’t roll their eyes or give their other neighbour a knowing look that says.. oh great, we’ve got a fatty next to us! For ten bloody hours!

Or let’s just hope they are one of the people that favour the larger derriere, then I’ll be fine!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

How Similar.

When you find a blog that seems to be written by your doppelgänger or at least someone that seems to be in a similar place to you.. it's as refreshing as spring rain. It goes something like these ladies…

Wednesday, 11 February 2015


I'm stuck. I'm stuck in a circle of illness and the inability to want to continue my life the way its has been going. I'm not sure if the illness is causing the despair that my life is not how I want it, or the disappointment of my life is causing me to be ill. Chicken and egg.

I can absolutely and truthfully admit that my illness is real. As was the 5 hours spent in A&E yesterday. That sort of thing you cannot fake. You cannot fake chest x-rays and blood tests. You cannot fake asthma or a constant and unforgiving rattle in the lungs that teases me and bullies me every time I breathe. You cannot fake a doctor saying to you that you have a chest infection and sinusitis and labyrinthitis. That you need to go home and go to bed and take all the medication and take it easy and not rush back to work. You can't pretend to be ill when the experts are poking and prodding you because science doesn't lie.

So why do I feel as if I've willed it to happen. That another day spent freelancing for a studio, doing a job that at most makes me feel lacklustre, has somehow caused my body to rebel and bring on all these sicknesses because I don't want to do it anymore. There is another vicious circle at play here… if I don't work, I don't have the luxury of doing the things that do make me happy – writing and traveling. If I don't work I don't get paid, I am a freelance designer after all. If I don't get paid, I can survive about two weeks before things start to unravel. Two weeks without work and my direct debits are in jeopardy, my bills are on the cusp of not being paid, my mortgage may bounce. I should have savings though, you think, possibly out loud, as you read this. I have a back-up plan surely, for when things are bad. But you see, I never really have had a back-up plan. I always seem to do ok. I always work just enough to cover everything. I don't work more hours when offered because I don't like what I do, enough to want to do it for more hours than is absolutely possible.

So, here I am in week three of being ill, wondering what the hell I'm going to do. You see I did something stupid. I was so miserable before Christmas with the endless rat run of my life, that I spent my tax money on a trip to Cuba. I paid out £2500 on an amazing 2 weeks in Cuba that I am supposed to be going on in 3 weeks from now, and I am left with nothing. I cannot pay my tax, my bills, my mortgage. I have no spending money to take to Cuba. And I have not been able to do a full weeks work in 3 weeks because my body (and mind) refuse to get well. But there is this nagging thought in the back of my mind, that somehow, I have made myself sick. That it is some kind of wake-up call, making me really truly face my fears and get the fuck out. 

I did attempt to go back to work on Monday. I was still on antibiotics and steroids and inhalers but I knew I had to try and make it for a few days at least. I needed to earn some money and so I managed to just scrape through those 8 hideous hours. I wasn't given anything too difficult, my brain coped as my body cried to go home but it was ok. But yesterday, Tuesday, I only made it to midday. I then had a panic attack. I was sitting in front of my computer and was about to work on a design, and the room began to swim. The printers – which quite unfairly have been moved next to the freelancers desks, and emit a loud whine and an intense heat at all times – were screaming as they forced out paper after paper. I held my head and groaned and a couple of freelancers nodded in appreciation of my pain. They felt it too but they weren't ill and so the intensity wasn't quite so great. The printer was the pain in my head, and I gripped the desk as the room swayed. As the room swayed, I blinked and blinked but couldn't focus, on anything. My breathing became shallow and I started to wheeze and as that small whine left my body, I began to panic. I couldn't do it. I stood slowly and unsteadily went to the loo. I put my wrists under the cool water from the tap and I looked at myself in the mirror, willing it to stop. I told myself not to panic and I used my inhaler. My breathing started to slow and I went back to my desk. Then wallop, it was back. I gripped the back of my chair and quickly put things in my bag, vaguely trying to form a plan. I couldn't think straight, I only knew I had to get outside, to leave the building, to go home. I made it to the lift and clung to the walls as I went to the lobby. No one was around except the two receptionists. It was lunchtime thank god, so no one had noticed my strange behaviour, my unsteady steps. But the girls at reception noticed immediately. I must have been white as a sheet. One said… Jules, and put a hand out towards me. Are you ok? she asked. No, I said. And then I just stood there looking at her. I didn't know where to go, or what to do. I just wanted someone to take care of me, to help me, to tell me what to do. And she put her head on one side and told me to calm down, and that everything would be ok, and she guided me to a little room and said she would call a taxi. She took care of me for 30 seconds and I felt such gratitude. I have no one to look after me and miss those little kind words and caring gestures. I sat there and thought how tired I was, of it all, of doing it by myself, all the fucking time, and the panic came at me again, in a giant wave that left me gasping for air and holding onto the coffee table as I tried to keep whole. 

I heard the receptionist tell the taxi driver to take me to emergency, to University College Hospital, and I didn't refuse. I walked slowly to the car and tried to breathe as the car raced through traffic and road works to the busy hospital. They signed me in and heard my rasping breath as I tried to explain what was happening. I saw the concern and genuine worry as they led me to a nurse. But the panic was making me silent… I felt if I tried to explain that my world might end. That voicing anything at that moment would turn on a tap that wouldn't stop, so I let them do their medical things and I waited. I wasn't told I had had a pretty intense panic attack. That, I think they knew was the tail end of the illness. They knew that the asthma and the general feeling of being incredibly unwell had most probably brought on the panic attack. They most probably see that everyday too so know its best just to keep to the facts and remain calm. They genuinely were some of the nicest people I have met. Maybe they saw the fear in my eyes, the loneliness too, or maybe they were just doing their job, but I felt a level of compassion that I haven't felt in a long time. 

And so with that, came an amazing restfulness. My panic subsided as I let myself be looked after. I let them do their chest x-rays and their blood tests. I let them put in drips and needles and I let them bring me sweet tea and biscuits. I let them do it all for 5 hours until the consultant had all he needed. I then let him tell me I should be in bed, that I was really quite ill and I listened to him. He was kind and gentle and explained things to me. He gave me advice and wrote prescriptions and he made sure I was ok to leave on my own. He made me promise to call him if I was worried and gave me a number. He took his time.

I had someone tell me what to do and I stopped panicking. All it took was a reassurance and a few kind words, and the relief of not having to make every single damn decision on my own, every day of my bloody life, was glorious.