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All posts for the month February, 2013

Birthdays and Sad Times

Published February 24, 2013 by crazyinpink

My re-launch into the world has not gone exactly to plan.  The infection I mentioned in my last post is ugly and the two strong antibiotics I’m on have been messing me about with all kinds of side effects.

Thursday was my birthday and I spent it conference organising and then dining with a bunch of academics.  Then Friday was taken up with a workshop all day and a cinema trip with two of my girlfriends.  I arrived home after midnight to find my mum still awake in the living room.

I instantly knew something was wrong. My mum is always in bed by 11pm at the latest.

I unlocked the front door nervously, fear building up behind my eyes and nose. Tears were already threatening to escape. Seeing the look on my face, she immediately assured me that my grandparents were fine. I am very close to my granny and granddad. She then sat me down to tell me that Gus, our guinea-pig, was gone.

We got Gus, or Gustav, five years ago. I was in my first year of university, my brother was finding it rough being a teenager minus a father. He wanted a pet and my mum agreed that he could have a small one. And so came Gus.

I didn’t really take to him for a while. I’m not a big animal person but his wee personality won me over. He loved music and would squeak and leap about to songs he liked. Anything with a heavy bass beat, however, drove him to burrow into his hay. He became my companion as I am the one at home the most. I would chat away to him, practice my presentations to him, even turning my laptop towards his cage so he could see my powerpoint.

Because we’ve never had a pet before, we didn’t expect it to be so sad when he was gone. He was getting old and we had given him a life full of love and spoilt him rotten. 

He was put own early on Friday morning and, stuck in a workshop, I had no knowledge of him even being sick. Mum considered contacting Best Friend and telling him to look after me but then decided against it. She wanted me to enjoy my time with the girls that night.

Then came the sad news that our past minister’s wife had also passed away. While we aren’t particularly fond of our last minister, seeing how he ignored us after my dad walked out and turned the church against us when divorce was mentioned, his wife was a big part of my teenage years. She taught me how to knit, how to sew, how to do things like make trifle for hundreds of people and arrange flowers as centrepieces. She was practical and motherly in that country farmyard kind of way.

My heart feels full.  My lack of sleep since on the medication isn’t helping matters. I just feel so sad and helpless. Best Friend is continuing to amaze me with his support, understanding why I’m foregoing tomorrow’s meeting to go to the funeral.  With so much happening this week in the run up to our big conference, I’ll be kept busy at least. In the meantime, I’m just clinging on to my faith.

“It’s not about you!” or being selfish when you’re chronically ill

Published February 19, 2013 by crazyinpink

I felt like screaming at him “Shut up! It’s not about you! You haven’t done anything. I don’t even care about what we’re talking about. I’m just sore! It’s nothing to do with you!!”

Moments like this, although not frequent, are familiar to those of us living with chronic pain and especially an invisible illness. Something changes inside you and you go from being normal to suddenly having pain or discomfort. If you’re in the middle of something, your whole demeanour changes.

I go quiet, I concentrate on even breathing and my posture ranges from hunched over to leaning back – anything to try and ease the pain.  When this happened on Saturday, in the middle of a day of conference organising with Best Friend, he immediately thought he had done something wrong and went on the defensive.

It’s happened before and it’ll happen again. Best Friend isn’t the most confident person in the world and, in his socially awkward ways, assumes he is to blame for any slight change in my attitude or appearance.

Last year, during the most awkward weekend of my life, I cried in front of him while we stayed in a B&B in Ireland. For months he kept on about it, asking me to tell him what he had done wrong and why he had upset me. It was only in a surge of embarrassing boldness, I finally told him that I had an abscess that weekend which was causing me considerable pain and discomfort and I couldn’t have told him that when we were there.

Sometimes, I feel so helpless about what my body does without my permission. I could be fine, working away, smiling, spending time with friends and two seconds later, my insides are spasming and it feels like a rusty hook is dragging across my pelvis. There’s no big announcement or event that precipitates the change. There are no signs. It just happens. But the timing sucks sometimes.

So it happened on Saturday, while going through a budget for our conference, a cyst that I had only noticed the day before became so angry and determined to disrupt my relative peacefulness.

Best Friend and I have a weird kind of relationship, where we’re close enough to share everything but only at certain times. If I volunteer information, he usually recoils and feels awkward. I have to keep it until he asks, only then do I know he’s ready to handle it. And he does ask, eventually.  He’s been so good during the last few weeks, phoning me every day, sending me cards. When I returned to the office for the first time on Friday, he spent all day hugging me and, for the first time ever, kissed me on the cheek. He was truly happy to see me.

Now that this cyst has reared its ugly infectious head, I know I’m more tired, more grumpy and less “me” than usual. My body is fighting an infection while its still recovering from having stuff scraped out of it.

I tried to tell him I was sick but, in his head, I’ve had an operation and so I should be better.

I know I’m being selfish but I just felt like yelling at him. His insecurities irritate me and I don’t really know why. He is only trying to help, he cares about me and wants to know what he has done to upset or annoy me. But, right now, its not about him. Its about me.

 

Of course, even saying that makes me feel worse. 100% Bitch.

Back into the swing of things

Published February 14, 2013 by crazyinpink

It’s now time to re-enter the world after my post-surgery ‘hibernation’ of the last month.

I have a lot coming up over the next few weeks and, while I should have been back at university last week, the extra week at home has really convinced me that I am recovered. With any previous operations, and particularly the one last July, I was so anxious not to miss anything that I hurried my recovery.  When will I learn that my body likes a slower pace?! So, this time, I did it properly. I had my daily salt baths, I didn’t leave the house for a full two weeks, and after that, I paced my recovery. I went to church for an hour. I visited GB for half an hour. I’ve been slowly building myself back up and I feel better than ever now.

At the weekend, I did my first outing without my mum, who has been my constant nurse, companion and chauffeur. My Toyboy drove me to the cinema to see Les Mis. I was so disappointed I couldn’t go see it the minute it came out since I’m such a musicals nerd. But Yay! I got to see it and it was amazing!! I may have fallen a little bit in love with Mr Revolutionary. Something which Toyboy, who was watching it for the second time, had predicted would happen.  But seriously, how could you not swoon with this face and that determined stare?

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Anyway *recovers from swooning* I was all set to go back to the office on Monday when my car wouldn’t start. My car is literally running on wishful thinking, it’s so old and, like a grumpy old man, only does things with a lot of moaning and groaning. This time, I had to get a new battery, which took a few days. Thankfully, I have more than enough work to keep me occupied at home but I am looking forward to getting back to the big world.  And just in time too. There is much happening over the next few weeks.

This weekend is marked out for conference organising.  It seems like only yesterday I was complaining about the committee and all the politics and now, its only two weeks away. Our call for papers closes tomorrow so the weekend will be spent choosing the papers, organising panels, assigning chairs. Basically it will involve a lot of lists and hopefully, some arts and crafts. 😀

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Next week, I have a meeting of the Pain Alliance of Northern Ireland. As I’m the unofficial poster girl for chronic pain, I’m being trotted out to speak to politicians, etc. There’s free food though. Then academic obligations kick in. My research project is hosting a one-day workshop on poverty (exciting, huh?) next Friday. We’re taking the visiting speakers out for dinner on the Thursday night. Which also happens to be my birthday so I’m spending it with a bunch of historians. What a fun way to celebrate my 24th!

Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to meet up with some of my girlfriends for a wee cinema trip over that weekend and see my family. Because the next week is going to be full-on panic mode in the countdown to the conference. Which is another weekend gone. I’ll be so glad when it’s all over and, fingers crossed, all has gone as it should.

Next up in my diary, an interview for an online broadcast on endometriosis. Part of a series on chronic pain but an episode will be focussing on endo specifically and, handily, it’s being recorded during Awareness Week!

That weekend features bag packing in a local supermarket with my GB girls to fundraise and then a church concert.

I am so glad I’ve booked a little holiday to England at the end of March…I think I’ll be needing a break by then!!

untitled (3)LONDON BABY!!!

I have confidence in confidence alone…

Published February 4, 2013 by crazyinpink

 

Once upon a time, I was convinced that it was my calling in life to teach.  This started in school, after the time I was convinced that I would be a journalist.  I loved writing and reading and had a very inspirational GCSE English teacher.  When I progressed to A Level, I had a younger, trendier teacher who was a waste of space.  She was by far more interested in her love life than in imparting wisdom. Our lessons were hugely dictated by what was happening to her personally. One week we’d be studying love poetry, analysing the relationships in Wuthering Heights and the next, after a break-up, we’d be looking at poems about death and questioning the notion of love in King Lear. Regardless, I still maintained my dream of being an English teacher.

I went to uni to study English and History as I thought the two subjects would offer twice the experience and I’d always had a soft spot for history. My A level results were slightly disappointing as English was my worst, earning a B. Still, I ploughed on with my ‘five year plan’ to finish a degree, do a PCGE (teacher training) and start working as a substitute teacher until I could get a job. This continued for two years of my degree until, after a semester of living hell in my Creative Writing class, I began to see sense. English in first year had been horrible, reading a book a week (usually a very boring one) and expected to understand complex -isms which had never been fully explained. I did well, gaining marks worthy of a 2:1. On the other hand, my first year of History was a revelation. I got to choose what topics I wanted to study from a range of first year courses. First semester had been fascinating but the second had awakened the historian in me. My performance in that class won me a prize at the end of my first year and a glowing reputation among the staff.

I started my second year with optimism, knowing that I could now choose what English modules I wanted. I went with one on language and power, one on medieval literature and creative writing. While my marks remained the same, my heart wasn’t in it. I rarely did all of the preparation required and would only read the things I knew I was going to write an essay on. I made more of an effort in creative writing but it quickly became clear that my tutor only appreciated sinister fiction that involved mutilation and, preferably, the death of several children. She told me that the only way I could be a writer was if I went into ‘chick lit’, in a very condescending tone. That semester also featured my collapse and subsequent adjustment to life with chronic pain, something which was extremely challenging. I think it was this that made me stop and take stock of what I was doing.

I realised that I attended my English classes out of duty more than anything else. The passion had long gone and only mild, wavering interest remained. Whereas in History, I was steadily becoming something of a teacher’s pet. I worked hard because every new thing I learnt seemed wonderful and inspiring. I looked forward to my classes and was eager to answer questions or engage in debate. My reputation was soon heightened and I realised that I really wanted to be as good as people believed me to be. Consequently, my average marks in English were eclipsed by those in History. I had to leave my old dream behind me, there was no point continuing in something which I no longer held in any esteem.

Making the decision to switch my degree to single History was difficult. It meant staying an extra semester at uni to complete the requirements but it was something I knew I had to do. The following year was confusing to everyone as I simultaneously attended second and third year classes. My new second year classmates, a year younger, had no idea who I was or where I had come from.  I later discovered that they assumed I had failed a year and had to re-take it. It didn’t matter much to me, I had few real friends in History. Most of my buddies I had met at uni studied other subjects and we’d bonded over the most bizarre coincidences.

For example, I met one friend Bella at a music society Halloween film screening of The Omen. I hate scary movies and had only gone because I fancied the conductor of the university choir at the time and he’d invited me. I went as a pirate wench and, not being a music student, knew nobody so started a random conversation with another pirate wench who seemed similarly lonely. She turned out to be studying for a Masters in English. Over five years later, we’re still very good friends. 

Anyway, I completed my odd year of being in two year groups and then progressed to my dissertation. Because I had mixed things up, I did mine in Autumn while everyone else did theirs in Spring. Finishing my degree in January meant I had the opportunity to work full time for six months before graduating with a scholarship for a Masters, something I definitely wouldn’t have earned had I stuck with English.

I sometimes think about what would have happened had I not changed my degree. A friend of mine is currently studying for her teaching qualification, not out of any real passion herself, more to appease her parents. The pace and intensity of the course seems like it would never have been compatible with my health. I consider myself very fortunate to have realised in time and chosen a different route.  I’m very glad I had the confidence to change things since now, looking back, it was definitely the right choice.