Thursday, December 31, 2009

Still trying to get my head around the year 2000 being history rather than futuristic

It was widely predicted that the world was going to end 10 years ago, both by religious zealots, and those in charge of computing systems (anyone remember the millennium bug?).

A decade later and we’re still here. In fact there are ¾ of a billion more of us than there were at the turn of the millennium.

While reflecting on this surprising survival story, I thought I’d look back at my diaries since the year 2000 and see what themes would leap out.

There have been tragedies and there have been triumphs.

I have had a collapsed business, a new built business, a sold business, a failed new direction and a new, new direction - the outcome of which has still to be determined.

There has been the birth of one nephew, 6 great-nephews and nieces, and three grandchildren

I have lived in 3 different houses, owned 3 different cars and had 6 different mobile phones in my pocket.

There have been deaths. Too many, of course.

I have had an on-off battle with Depression, 2½ years of group therapy, 2 different 18 month periods spent on anti-depressants, time spent with a life coach and a stint with a cognitive behavioural therapist

There have been times of money, times of no money and times of near homelessness.

I have been given the rather useless diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

There have been changes in weight, discovery of a vitamin B12 deficiency, discovery of a genetic mutation causing haemochromatosis, and the discovery I have abnormally small pupils.

I have created 5 different blogs with over 1,200 posts between them.

But through all this, two things have remained absolutely consistent across the whole decade.

One is the love Maggie and I have for each other has only ever grown stronger.

The other is I am horrifically bad at predicting the future. There has been no point in my life where I have been able to say with even vague accuracy how my life was going to go over the next year or two.

So who knows how the coming year or decade is going to turn out. I only hope it’s a good one for you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Festivities

The presents are almost finished being wrapped.

There is more than enough food in the house

Meg has quite bad ear infection but we managed to see the doctor today and get the required medicine. She's now focused on being excited about Santa coming tonight

Our friend Eryl's operation was a success, and although she will be in hospital across the festive season, fears of the worst were fortunately premature.

I just found out today that my father's heart caused him some serious problems yesterday. Again. The 2nd time in only a few weeks. They were going to perform an angioplasty on him in a couple of months anyway, but in light of this did it today instead. My sister says it went well and he's in fine spirits.

Life has a funny way of periodically reminding us just how fragile and fleeting it is.

Tonight I hold my family even closer.

And I wish everyone a wonderful festive season.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Free will? Don't make me laugh...

Every now and again you’re out shopping and you come across something you’ve never seen before.

Something that, now you know it exists, you cannot imagine a universe without it.

Something so simple, yet such a profound idea, you find yourself irresistibly drawn towards it, convinced Christmas could not fail to be enhanced by its presence.

Something you never knew you were missing until you saw it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…

*Drum roll…*

Marks & Spencer’s Christmas Washing-up Liquid: tough on grease and grime. Orange and cinnamon fragrance.

When we spotted it on the shelf next to the tills, we were awash with an array of emotions.

Desire, of course; admiration for the person who came up with this idea; amazement that no one else seems to have done this before; nostalgia for those Christmas aromas of childhood, even though orange and cinnamon washing-up liquid didn’t exist back then; and guilt for so very nearly falling for it.

We didn’t buy it; we managed to catch ourselves just in the nick of time.

And while I would like to feel a certain air of self-congratulatory smugness for deflecting such a sophisticated psychological advertising technique, the M&S Ready Prepared Honey Mustard & Maple Parsnips now sitting in our fridge, are testament to how powerless we really are in the face of such marketing onslaughts.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Support for the Kitchen Bitch

Latest update 9pm, Wed 23rd Dec - see end of post

Philosopher, poet, storyteller, writer, blogger extraordinaire (The Kitchen Bitch Ponders), and one of my favourite people to photograph, Eryl, has been taken to hospital and is not in a good way.

I received an email from her husband, Steve, this morning; we spoke on the phone; then I went into visit Eryl in Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary this afternoon.

Apparently she had not been well for several weeks. First thought was flu, followed by the sense it was probably an infection. She was given various antibiotics, which did seem to make a difference, until she collapsed last Friday.

They initially thought that it was a intestinal thing but on having a CT scan they have found a "complex" mass on one of her ovaries. Further tests are being done, but whatever the outcome, she will have major abdominal surgery before the end of the week.

If whatever it is is benign, they will probably deal with it in Dumfries. If it's malignant, she'll be taken up to Glasgow or Edinburgh for surgery.

For those of you on Facebook, a page has been set up - Hugs for Eryl, at where you can leave messages of support. Steve will then print them off and take them in with him each time he goes in to visit.

If you're not on Facebook, or want to send a message more directly, she's currenly in ward 6, and Steve's email is srshields // at // yahoo // .com

As and when I hear anything else, I'll update this post.

And if you know others who know Eryl, please let them know - Steve wants to create a large a support network around her.

Test have come back and show the complex mass is NOT cancerous - it's what they call benign.

Eryl will be given drugs to try and reduce the size of it, then will still have surgery to remove it. She is still very poorly.

However, as Steve said when we were on talking on the phone, "As bad outcomes go, this was the least bad we could have hoped for."

Please continue to leave your comments on the Facebook page, or to email  Steve with your messages. Steve is quite clear Eryl is feeling comforted by all your messages of support


Just got this in from Eryl's husband (9pm, Wed 23rd),
Just to let you know Eryl had surgery today and it has gone extremely well. She is in recovery at the moment and will be moved to ward 4 of the Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary later this evening. I spoke to the surgeon and she said that it was a large abscess that was inflaming her ovary and leaking into her abdomen causing lots of infection and swelling but this has now been dealt with without the need to remove any bits of Eryl. This is a fantastic result and much better than we had hoped for even this afternoon.
She will still be very sore and on getting home she will still need 6 weeks to recover from her operation, but she is now on the road to recovery


Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Pre-Xmas Question

Here's one for you to mull over...

Which would you rather have for Christmas (or birthday, if you don't celebrate this festivity)?

A surprise gift, or something you wanted?

You can't have both.

Now in broad, generalised terms, my feeling is most blokes would far rather get something they wanted, even if they knew in advance what it would be.

It's the female take on this that I feel far less confident in guessing.

Of course I would love to be able to buy Maggie a surprise gift of something she'd really like.

But our previous 19 shared Christmasses have clearly demonstrated I can successfully do one or the other, but very, very rarely both.

So it's a case of trying to figure out which is likely to be the least disappointing for her...

Monday, December 14, 2009

From too much to too little

TIBC Saturation (total iron binding capacity)
Average – 20-55%
My current levels – 23%
To be kept below – 50%

Ferritin levels (protein that stores and releases iron)
Average – 30-300 ng/mL (for a man)
My current levels – 11
To be kept below – 50

My level back in March after 6 months of blood taking - 4

It appears I'm still anaemic, 9 months after they realised they'd taken far too much blood from me when treating my haemochromatosis (see Iron Levels and Still Anaemic for the back story).

The good news is I don't have to have any more blood taken off me for a while. The bad news is I have no idea how much of my tiredness is CFS and how much is anaemia. Not that I suppose it makes that much difference - I was tired before they started bleeding me.

And I guess it puts a definite end to my Black Pudding Emporium business idea...


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tetchy, Grumpy Bastard

Despite my very specific statement to, "not leave messages of sympathy, pity or advice" in my last post, a few people still insisted on giving me advice – precisely the kind "advice" that had me holding back from writing the post in the first place.

Advice given from a position of non-understanding.

I understand why the advice is given. I understand it is given with the best of intentions. But when I’ve heard the same, or similar misplaced advice given from a position of non-understanding a thousand times before, I just want to bash my head against a brick wall.

Sometimes a little empathy is a dangerous thing.

For some, just because they have been drunk a few times, they think they understand the alcoholic.

For some, just because they once ate an entire box of chocolates, they think they understand eating disorders.

For some, just because they have been randy, they think they understand the sex addict.

For some, just because they smoked a few joints in their youth, they think they understand the drug addict.

For some, just because they have panicked once or twice, they think they understand people with severe anxiety disorders

For some, just because they have been back to check they locked the door a few times, they think they understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorders

For some, just because they have been tired a few times, they think they understand Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

And of course, for some, just because they have been depressed a few times, they think they understand Depression.

Compulsions, Addictions and Mental Health Disorders are NOT the same as momentary or temporary moods or conditions.

They are not a choice

They are not an indulgence

They are not easily dealt with

They are certainly not cured by will power alone, or by someone trying to GUILT them out of it.

In fact, overwhelming feelings of guilt are very often at the heart of many different disorders, and making someone feel guilt about their condition, in some misplaced notion of “tough love” only serves to make the condition WORSE, not better.

And if you think you know better – I ask, have you suffered directly from these disorders yourself over a period of years? If not, please keep your opinions and advice to yourself and do not feel you can inflict it on me from a position of superiority, however well intentioned. I do not accept that you know better how to treat my conditions.

I do not want your sympathy

I do not want your pity

I do not want your advice

And if I sound like a tetchy, grumpy bastard, that’s because I am at the moment.

Now, cures and coping mechanisms are possible for most disorders - but they require patience, understanding, planning, and developing and implementing strategies over a sustained period of time.

Thank you to all those who left comments of support in the last post. And thanks especially to Dan, Soulaima and Mary who made me guffaw and chuckle.

However, for this post, I’m turning off the comments.

Normal (ha ha) service will resume shortly…


Friday, December 11, 2009

The blog post I’ve been avoiding

I usually blog about whatever occurs to me at the time or what I’m currently obsessing about.

Sometimes there are things going on that affect the family or other people, which are not really for public consumption. At that point I’ll usually search around for something else to write about.

But this time I just didn’t want to discuss my own dominating thoughts. I hoped I could avoid it, but I can’t seem to find anything else to put in its place. Whatever else is happening in my life, there is only one thing filling my thoughts whenever I come to write.

Consequently I’m getting to the point where I’m beginning to avoid visiting my blog and others for fear of having to raise the subject or get into a conversation about it.


So I feel I’d better mention it in the hope that I can get past it and on to more interesting thoughts and posts.

The fact is I can feel the Depression returning. That hollow life-depleting pain, deep in the chest.

I weaned myself off the anti-depressants earlier this year; I was fed up with the side effects.

I have no desire to return to them.

This is all old and familiar territory (see sidebar label for mental and physical health), although no less painful for that. But why I haven’t been wanting to blog about it is, to be honest, I don’t want the reactions from other bloggers.

I’m not looking for sympathy and I’m not looking for well meaning, but misplaced, advice.

Those who have suffered from Depression know what it’s like. Those who haven’t very often give suggestions like “go for a brisk walk,” or “read a good book” or “just think positive thoughts.”

And I don’t want to hear it.

Depression (capital D), the condition, is quite different from depression (little d), the temporary mood. The “pull yourself together” suggestion, or variant, is about as useful as giving a sticky plaster to someone who has just had a limb ripped off.

Depression is not a self-indulgent choice.

I don’t want to have to pretend to smile and be grateful for comments such as “but you have so much going for you” or “what I do when I feel down is…”

The pain is recurring with greater frequency, but I am now exploring an alternative approach of mindfulness based cognitive therapy. This will take a bit of time to develop, but ultimately it should be a far more powerful tool than anti-depressants will ever be.

So. I have written this post in the hope that I can move past this block on my blogging.

I hope you will understand if visits to other blogs, or responses to comments are sporadic.

But please do not leave messages of sympathy, pity or advice.

I don’t want them.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Swine Flu Vaccination Offer

10 days ago…

Ring ring


Hello. This is the health centre. Meg is on the high priority group for getting a swine flu vaccination

We think Meg’s already had swine flu. In fact a swab was taken a couple of weeks ago when she was ill, although we still haven’t been told the results of that.

Well she’s entitled to have the jab as she’s on a high priority list

I think it would be better if we find out whether she had it first.

5 Days ago

Ring ring


Hello. This is the health centre. We can confirm from the results of the swab test - Meg did indeed have swine flu. Would you like to bring her in for a vaccination?

But if she’s already had it, isn’t that a bit pointless?

Well there’s always a minor risk she might get it again…

But surely the antibodies created from already having the flu will be more effective than the jab anyway

Hold on one moment, Dr Scott’s walking past, I’ll ask him… muffled murmurs… Och, you’re probably right. Don’t worry about it then


Ring ring


Hello. This is the health centre. Meg is on our priority list for getting a swine flu vaccination. Would you like to arrange a time to bring her in?

But she’s already had swine flu

Ah, but unless people have had an actual swab and the test has proven it, we’re still advising them to come in for the jab.

But she did have a swab and it was proven.

Oh. I’ll maybe take her off this list then…

It has been widely publicised that health centres are getting paid an extra £5.25 for each swine flu vaccination they give, and that the goverment is keen to be seen as acting concerned.

Of course I would never be so cynical as to suggest there was any connection between that and the phone calls we’ve been getting.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

So you think you know?

The world is not as it seems.

Some people never seem to realise this.

Some people suspect it, but fear to investigate too closely.

Some people understand it on one or more levels, and spend time and effort trying to relate this understanding to other people, in the hope something can be done about it.

Some people know it on so many levels it makes getting out of bed in the morning a daily quandary.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

And The Winner Is…

Thank you to everyone who entered the free prize draw. There were 15 entries in total

Using an online random selector, the winner chosen was the blogger, Kiwi Chick

With the photo she sent, she wrote,
“Would love to see how you can enhance the attached photo - some wrinkle removal would be great. I'd also like to crop my mum out of the picture at some point - not because I don't love her - more so that I have got a photo of just me (without too many wrinkles) to save.”

Here is a video showing the selection and the transition.

If this has sparked any thoughts of potential gifts for loved ones, then do get in contact (email address on my profile).