Just another Hospital Appointment

I joined the social network for A Chronic Voice earlier this year because I needed to find people who understand what life is like with chronic pain. Today I have written a post using the October link-up prompts, to show my experience of living with a chronic pain disorder. Click here to find other blog posts from fellow chronic pain sufferers, or #spoonies as we call ourselves online.

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Waiting

My eyes had been sore for a very long time. My last hospital appointment was in the new year and I was not expecting to return for twelve months. Eventually I couldn’t take the pain anymore, and I decided to phone the Manchester Royal Eye hospital. It was an ordeal! It had been so long since I had to call my doctor that I couldn’t decide which department I needed to see. I tried to phone the secretary of the consultant that I am currently in the care of. She was very abrupt, did not give me chance to explain my situation, and transferred me directly to the admissions department. Since I didn’t have a letter with an upcoming appointment, they couldn’t help me, and said I had to speak to my consultant’s secretary. I explained how unhelpful she had been, but they advised I could only speak to her. So, I tried again. This time I spoke on her level, in her tone, and made sure she listened. She then exclaimed that I should visit the emergency eye department, to which I explained that they refuse to treat me because they do not recognise my condition and do not want to interfere with my consultant’s treatment plan. After all of this, the hospital phoned me back within half an hour inviting me to an emergency appointment two days’ later. That was some relief!

Parting

The pain in my eyes had increased dramatically throughout August. I knew that it was partly caused by the stress of our family dog falling ill and subsequently dying. He was old, and he lived a good life. We miss him terribly. I miss him all the more because he was my nurse when I felt ill. On days when I sat at home trying to rest my eyes while the children were at school, he would be there to cuddle me and keep me company. When I had eye surgeries over the years, he was always there to help me recover. And now he is gone. I cried a lot during August, while he was in the pet hospital, and during the weeks afterwards when he faded away. I still cry for him now, and it makes my eyes sting. I knew we could not keep him forever, but I was hoping for at least a few more years with our boy. Alas, it was not meant to be. Nurse Baxter has passed over the rainbow bridge, and we must let him go.

#Spoonie life

Persevering

My next challenge in the hospital drama was how to get there. We live in a small town about 30 miles away from Manchester, where my hospital is located. There are no direct train routes, and I had to factor in getting my children to school before I left home. There was nobody available to drive me to Manchester, so I had to do it myself. This is a journey I have taken numerous times, both as a driver and a passenger, and is also my old commuting route from when I worked full time. Yet for some strange reason I panicked about getting to the hospital. I think perhaps I just needed a bit of moral support, a shoulder to lean on. My eye condition leaves me feeling very lonely, even when I am surrounded by friends. As I grow older, I feel like I am dealing with it more and more on my own. My mum used to be the one that helped, but her health is worse now, and she physically cannot help me in the way that she used to. Anyway, I persevered, and I made it to the hospital safely, having left my children in the care of friend who would take them to school. I was fine. I could drive.

Affirming

I always visit the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital with some sense of trepidation. Nowadays there is nothing the doctors can physically do other than monitor my condition. They cannot discharge me because they cannot cure it. I began to feel like a nuisance patient, one that just won’t go away. On this appointment I met another new doctor, and as I entered the consulting room, I thought, “Here we go again. I have to explain my condition, she will pluck out a few ingrowing eyelashes, and she will send me away.” I will admit my heart sank a little bit, and my anxiety increased. This doctor was different, however. She looked at my notes, she asked how I was feeling, and when I explained about the pain she nodded. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “I understand that your pain is real, and I can explain it to you. We do believe you.” The relief I felt was indescribable. I could have cried! The doctor explained that as medical research has progressed, they now recognise that there is a chronic pain condition in the eyes. My nerve endings have become sensitive after years of treatment for the ingrowing eyelashes and the dry eye syndrome. Now the nerve endings are constantly inflamed, in a permanent state of alert, and that is what causes my pain. It made perfect sense! All those times I had been desperately trying to pull out eyelashes that weren’t there, and I wondered why I couldn’t ease the pain with my eye drops. The doctor suggested a way to help, beginning with the use of some new eyedrops that have a more gel-like consistency. She also said we could consider a pain management clinic if I continued to struggle. She listened.

Just another Hospital Appointment

Loving

My fellow spoonies will understand how I feel when I say that I could have kissed that doctor. I almost hugged her when she confirmed that I wasn’t a hypochondriac. After at least ten years of chronic pain that possibly wasn’t caused by ingrowing eyelashes, this doctor had an answer that made sense to me. She showed me that the NHS does care, that our health system can work, even if it sometimes takes a while, and that there is hope for those of us who suffer in silence. I know that I am surrounded by loving, caring people at home. My family and my friends are wonderful. Those that have seen me through all the surgeries, hospital visits, new treatment plans, trials and more do understand my condition. But sometimes I wonder if they forget, because I always put a brave face on it, and I never let it get me down, at least not publicly. The loving care of my friends and family is invaluable on those days when I am struggling. Even the simple act of taking the children for a few hours or taking me out for a distraction can make a huge difference. Loving care keeps us strong.

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5 Ways to Celebrate Halloween like a Witch

October is the month of the witch. Whilst many people are preparing for fun on the night of Halloween, with trick or treating, fancy dress and lots of chocolate and candy on the agenda, witches are already embracing the darker nights and shadowy days.

1, Connect with your ancestors, and give thanks for their legacy. We feel the veil thinning. This is the ethereal layer that separates life and death, and during October we feel a closer connection with our ancestors and those we have lost. We might hold a séance and ask for our ancestors to speak using divination. We might consult the Tarot or visit a medium for guidance. Or we might simply sit in silent contemplation at the graveside or in front of a photograph of the person we miss.

5 Ways to Celebrate Halloween

2, Notice the change of season. Get outdoors, get lost in the forest, and marvel at the beautiful autumn displays provided by wildlife. You can collect conkers and apples, pick blackberries, and seek out mushrooms in dark corners. Listen out for winter birds, see the squirrels preparing for hibernation, and give thanks for a pleasant and plentiful summer harvest.

3, Decorate your home for Halloween, or Samhain as we witches call it. This can be done in many ways depending on your mood. I like to have fun with my Halloween décor, by hanging a handcrafted wreath on my front door, sticking up skeletons, ghosts and spiders on the walls, and adding a few quirky trinkets and ornaments. Some witches prefer to embrace the darkness and choose more Gothic decoration. It is entirely your choice.

5 Ways to Celebrate Halloween like a Witch

4, Host a party or invite friends round for dinner. Samhain is about honouring our ancestors and celebrating our family, which includes close friends. Why not invite your favourite people round for dinner, make a spicy autumnal punch, and make merry for the season? You could bake an apple cake, make soup, play your favourite spooky songs and get everyone dancing together.

5, Indulge in a little fancy dress. Throughout the month of October, I like to wear my favourite spooky earrings, which include skulls, bats and pentagrams. Actually, I wear these all year round, but especially at Halloween! I also have a few witchy outfits that I like to wear for the occasion. One is a long medieval style dress in crushed velvet, another is a long, black velvet skirt and coordinating top, and finally I have my cute spooky t-shirt with bats and pumpkins printed all over. Have fun, and Happy Halloween!

@SpookyMrsGreen

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Dog Friendly Beaches in the UK

Are you seeking dog friendly beaches in the UK? For the past eleven years my husband and I have explored lots of places with our dog. We have fond memories of Baxter paddling in the sea at Talacre Beach in North Wales (his favourite beach), stealing a family’s picnic at Bournemouth in Dorset, and digging up the beach at Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire. Those are just a few of our discoveries. There are lots of dog friendly beaches in North Wales, as we have found over many impulsive family day trips on odd weekends. We also enjoyed visits to New Brighton beach and nearby beaches on the Wirral.

Dog Frindly Beaches in the UK

Our family holidays have taken us from Poole in Dorset, where we stayed at the dog friendly Rockley Park caravan site, to Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, to Cresswell in Northumberland, and finally to Allonby in Cumbria. While on those holidays we explored lots of local sites. We especially enjoyed visiting Brancaster Beach in Norfolk. This was a beautiful place, with lots of soft sand, shallow rock pools, and space for dogs to run about. Baxter also enjoyed paddling in the sea on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, where we visited Portland Castle. He explored Amble in Northumberland, went on a seal cruise in Seahouses, and travelled on the Wash Monster from Hunstanton in Norfolk.

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One of our earliest holiday memories is from our honeymoon in North Yorkshire back in 2010. My husband insisted that Baxter had to come on holiday with us, and I couldn’t refuse my dog his time away. We found a lovely dog friendly holiday home in Port Mulgrave, and proceeded to explore Whitby, Scarborough, Staithes and the aforementioned Robin Hood’s Bay. There are so many dog friendly beaches in North Yorkshire that I forget some of the names. We simply went out in the car and parked up wherever we liked the look of a place. Port Mulgrave had a beautiful coastal walk just minutes from our holiday home, so we spent some time exploring the area. Baxter made sure to dig up stones (and bark at them), swim in the sea, dig holes in the beach, and run around like a lunatic with his tongue hanging out. He loved his beach holidays, and we loved our boy. We miss him terribly, but the memories will last forever.

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Vera Wang Duchesse Champagne Flute (Set of 2)

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No! How to Live with a Spouse that has Anxiety

No! We can’t afford it. We can’t manage that. I can’t take time off work. These are the most common responses that my husband gives when I suggest a new activity, event or life change. He has high anxiety and OCD coupled with mild depression, and he can be very difficult to live with. But I stay because I love him, and I just want him to be happy. Sometimes, however, that means that I am not happy, and this is a challenge I am still trying to overcome. I need to be happy; our children need to be happy, and our family deserves to be happy. We have suffered a lot of trauma during recent years, and we need to reconnect, move on, and make a good life for our girls to grow up in.

No! How to Live with a Spouse that has Anxiety

Holidays are a huge issue. He doesn’t respond well to change, and he usually tells me we can’t afford a holiday. He has a good job with a good wage, and our debts are manageable. I know that we can afford it if we plan properly. But he cannot see beyond that, so he makes me feel like I am inferior, and that I am stupid for even suggesting such a preposterous idea as a family holiday. Indeed, our recent family holidays only came about because his parents (more specifically his mum) arranged them for us. I do not have control over the family finances. Part of his mental illness means that he needs to budget very tightly, and he thinks that I am not good with money. I used to believe that, but now I realize the truth. I also accept that I must make allowances for his behavior, as hard as that can be when I have no attempts at compromise coming from him.

Sunny Waves Talacre Beach SpookyMrsGreenA recent challenge is persuading him to start a program of home improvements. We moved house last year and our first job was a complete rewire and brand-new central heating system. The house was in chaos to begin with and we couldn’t unpack properly. It was hard. After that, I decided to wait awhile before I planned to decorate or do anything else. Now I have arranged for us to have a new log-burning stove installed in the living room fireplace. For the past year we have had a hole in the wall, with a mirror propped against it because it “freaked our girls out.” I tried speaking to my husband about whether to have a fire or not, whether to simply have the space cleared out and boarded up, whether to have a gas fire, or whether to have the stove. Eventually I just went ahead and did it, because he would not engage in conversation. It is a lonely journey.

@SpookyMrsGreenI have learned over the years that a person suffering severe anxiety will be evasive. You might ask them to meet up for a drink and they will suddenly go quiet. It doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. It means that their demons are telling them that they can’t do it. I cannot fully comprehend what goes on in the mind of a mentally ill person, but I have some idea based on what my husband has told me in fleeting moments of connection. His first reaction is always to say no because he can shut down that line of conversation and continue with his routine, where he knows what to do and he is safe. For him that routine is work. He works away from home a lot at the moment, and I rarely speak to him on the phone. It’s not because he doesn’t care. It is because he buries himself in work so that he can avoid dealing with all the other challenges of life. And I am expected to run the family, run the household, pander to his needs, and get on with my life. Yes, it is very frustrating when your spouse says no all the time. And I am still trying to figure it all out.

Witchy Wednesday SpookyMrsGreen

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Summer Holiday Review: Allonby in Cumbria

My family summer holiday this year was a visit to Cumbria, more specifically the Solway Coast. We decided to book somewhere that was closer to home, and it had to be coastal to satisfy my need for fresh sea air. I found a lovely holiday cottage in Allonby, right on the coast and a short drive from both Silloth and Maryport. We stayed there in August, but unfortunately the British weather was not kind to us that week. It was mostly windy, quite wet, but we did get a few sunny spells and made good use of them on Allonby beach, at Maryport harbour and on a beach near Silloth while we explored the area. I can also recommend the Gin Case as a fabulous venue for a family day out. There are play areas to keep the children entertained, a lovely restaurant and gift shop, and most importantly, lots of animals to visit. Allonby beach is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. My daughters and I spent hours collecting broken bits of pottery, sea glass, unusual shells and pebbles. We could have spent a whole day picking up treasures, but we just couldn’t fit them all in the car to bring home!

Summer Holiday Review_ Allonby in Cumbria

The only bad thing about our holiday was that it saw the end of our family dog, Baxter. He had been ill just weeks before we were due to go away, and we decided to continue with our family holiday as planned, because the seaside might help him with recovery. He did get one last visit to the beach at Allonby, and he paddled in the sea, which we know is what he wanted. Baxter knew that his end was near, and he made sure that it happened in his bed, with his family close by. He couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful part of the country. Allonby has a rugged beauty to it. The houses are old and weather worn but still standing, you can feel the energy of past generations and the work that must have thrived during the industrial years of the British Empire. If you are seeking a holiday in the UK where there aren’t too many tourists, then visit the Solway Coast. There are miles of golden beaches, shallow sea to play in, open green spaces and forests in abundance to explore, and everything you need for a nice family holiday. I will add that we took my disabled father-in-law on holiday, and we found everything mostly accessible with his wheelchair. He is able to walk a little bit, so we muddled through, but everyone was very accommodating and helpful. We will certainly revisit the Solway Coast in the future.

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Smudged Postcard Family Travel Adventures

 

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The Power of Friendship #WATWB

Today is my best friend’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Jo! Today is also the last Friday of the month, which means We Are the World BlogFest (#WATWB). And I want to talk about the power of friendship. Jo and I have known each other almost all our lives. We attended the same schools and college, and we even worked together in a couple of jobs as we explored career options. More recently we have taken our children on holidays and daytrips together, and always there are the drunken nights out to celebrate birthdays, Christmas and other events. They are not so frequent these days, but we try and do what we can. And it isn’t just the fun stuff. We both have health challenges, and we have both experienced various traumatic events and life changes during the years. We see each other through these events as best we can, always at the end of the phone or just up the motorway.

The Power of Friendship #WATWB

I want to celebrate friendships in general. Here on my blog I have connected with lots of like-minded people from around the world, and I am grateful to all of you for choosing to engage with me and my words. Your support for my recent bereavement has been incredible, and the network I am building around life with chronic pain is just fantastic. We need each other to help us through the dark times, and to celebrate the happy times. In the era of social media and screen time, friendship has evolved into something global. Lots of people my age (late thirties), have made friends in other countries, and make time to visit those friends when they can. We have modern technology through which to speak, and that comes in very helpful when I speak to my friends over in Australia. We are connected to our friends in ways that were never thought possible just one hundred years ago. And our friends are what keep us going. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. And I am grateful for all my friends, both local, national and international. I love you all!

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We are the World BlogFest (#WATWB) focuses on positive stories no matter where they’re found. It is all about spreading peace and humanity on social media. All participants post on the last Friday of the month, sharing a positive news story that contributes to making our world a happier, safer, and better place to live.

You can find more about #WATWB over on Belinda Witzenhausen’s blog.

Free-for-All Friday SpookyMrsGreen

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Mabon Blessings and the Autumn Equinox

Mabon blessings, my friends! Autumn has officially sprung here in the UK, and with it we have all sorts of unrest and changes to deal with. Politically there is the Brexit debacle – I won’t even go there. Then we have the collapse of Thomas Cook, a heritage holiday brand, and that has left at least 9000 people without a job, with a wider community around the world. I have heard from some of the staff involved, and they are devastated. And then there are more domestic matters to concern ourselves with. It is almost a year since the death of my friend’s mother. My friend is still living with the grief whilst trying to continue normal life, and all we can do is take each day as it comes. I am still grieving for my dog, Baxter. Life goes on.

Mabon Blessings and the Autumn Equinox

On a more cheerful note, we are having a multi-fuel stove installed in our living room, which means that the fireplace is being knocked about to accommodate it, and the whole thing is looking better already, now that we are back to bare brick and have removed the old 1980s botch-up pipework and remnants of the old back boiler. This is part of moving on, making positive changes to a house that has been well loved but that needs bringing into the 21st century. Whilst I hark back to more simple times, and I like to furnish our home with antiques wherever possible, I think we are settling in to a nice compromise (after all, my husband lives here too, so I suppose I should allow him a little say in how we decorate!) I look forward to setting up the new fire when it is finished, sitting in my rocking chair before the flames, and contemplating events of the past year, and events that are still to unfold. My Mabon celebration is all about hearth and home. How about yours?

autumn-baxter-walk-spookymrsgreen

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For the Love of Dogs

It has been a month since our beloved family dog died. He lived a long, happy life after we found him in a local dogs’ home. We have no knowledge of his origins, only that when he came to us, he was very nervous, and he had a terrible reaction to loud noises like smoke alarms and timer alarms. He would literally have a panic attack, and we would have to calm him down. Baxter was terrified of water when we first brought him home, but with some gentle coaxing from my husband, he began paddling in the river near home, and he adored visiting the coast and swimming in the sea. He even went for a swim in Lake Bala in North Wales once upon a time. We have so many precious and wonderful memories of our boy, but now we are lonely.

For the Love of Dogs

I have found it incredibly difficult working from home every day and being so alone. I miss the tinkle of his collar as he trots around the house. I miss watching him in the garden while I work in the kitchen. I miss him walking by my side along the canal path and the riverside. I miss our nightly cuddles on the sofa, after we get the children to bed. I am lonely, and our house is far too quiet. But are we ready to bring home a new dog? I don’t know. Part of me wants to go out and adopt all the local Staffies that nobody will have. But we have visited a few animal welfare homes during the past few weeks, and we are not quite ready. Our next dog (or dogs) is out there, somewhere. I think I am ready to bring them home, but my husband needs a little more time. Let us see what autumn brings.

Baxter and Mummy 2011

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