I’m back

Like all holidays, that sabbatical seemed to go alarmingly fast! It seems like 5 minutes ago I wrote and told you I was taking a break, for the first time in forever. Loads has happened 

since I wrote my last blog post back on 24th October. Despite the fact it has only been 3 weeks. Crazy how life goes.

Hubby and I had a good birthday and were spoilt by our friends and family. Due to being unable to get the time off work I spent the afternoon of my birthday with Heather. She brought a load of second hand clothes with her from a local group, where you offer things to the community and in return if you take an item you donate fresh food to the families being helped by the group who are receiving food bank parcels. The group is currently helping around 20 families who through no fault of their own are struggling. In all my life I don’t think I have ever known so many people who are struggling financially or so many people relying on food banks. When I was growing up I had never even heard of a food bank. Yet for some families these days it is the only way they can feed themselves once the rent and bills have been paid. So whilst I had fun with the clothes at the back of my mind were these poor families.

We had a good laugh trying on the clothes, my brain is taking a long time to catch up with the fact that I have lost 4 and a half stone (63lbs) I see smaller size clothes and think well that will never fit and then almost die of shock when I can get it on. Some of the clothes were hideous or just too revealing. But I am so grateful for the stuff I have been able to take from it to tide me over until I get to my target weight. At the moment its jumpers and stuff I can layer up that I need due to my poor temperature regulation and menopausal hot flushes. I am either freezing cold or throwing every item off because I am suddenly dripping with sweat. 

Heather gifted me a wonderful birthday present, which I haven’t stopped using since I unwrapped it. It is a hot water bottle that is long and skinny. It must be over a metre long and about 10-15cm wide. It can take up to two litres of hot water. What I love about it is that I can wrap it around myself. So I can apply heat to my lower back and hips in one go. Where as before this could have only been achieved using three. 

Mr Myasthenia Kid bought me a wool pressing mat to help me with my sewing and embroidery. It means I don’t have to wait for him to be home to get the ironing board out. Any surface can now be turned into an ironing board and it produces the most amazing results. I also got a beginners book on crochet. I have wanted to teach myself for ages and wasn’t expecting anything crochet related until Christmas so it made a lovely surprise. 

I managed to get lots of things made which reduced the panic I had been feeling. I still have a mountain of stuff to do but it is a much more manageable mountain. I was feeling before like I was being suffocated under the list of jobs that needed done which is why I took time away from the blog. I just needed to get rid of the jobs that I could and focus on the stuff that I needed to get done. Some stuff I can post here but the rest I can’t due to them being people’s Christmas presents.

I’m still making my way through lots of stuff but I no longer have to keep pushing myself beyond my limits. I am no longer surviving on painkillers and very little sleep.

We also managed a trip out for a few hours for a walk, somewhere I could take my scooter. Dembe adored going to Haldon Forest. He was spinning around like a kid with excitement.

 

It was so lovely to get out and blow some cobwebs away. I said to Jay in the car on the way home “if you told me at the start of the year that I would be able to feel this happy again ever, I wouldn’t have believed you”. Even when we had Dembe in the beginning I just felt like I was going through the motions. Now I feel like I am living again and want to be present.

I have taught myself to crochet ( how well I have no clue) I started on the 2nd November ( badly) and found some videos to help me. My hands have been fine up until today, the base of my thumbs are killing me this morning and my fingers are really stiff. I have managed to make myself a snood / infinity scarf from a yarn tea cake ( huge ball of variegated yarn ) which I finished last night and I am also working on a Christmas blanket.

 

The pattern on my snood is almost like one called vintage shells. So it is raised up and not flat, I made a lot of mistakes, mainly counting – thanks dyscalculia  but I am incredibly proud as considering I hadn’t even picked up a crochet hook until 2nd November 2019 , I think I have done well.

I’ve had two appointments, the eye hospital where they were incredibly pleased with how well my eyes are doing with these new drops. I still have the odd evening where I forget to apply them because I have fallen asleep but on the whole I do remember. I had the dentist last week and as I thought I need a filling so that will be happening on Tuesday next week. I am trying to keep that at the back of my mind. Tomorrow I have an ultrasound on my neck to check out the lump only I seem to be able to feel. It is non stop fun here.

We are back at dog training again. Dembe loves it there and cries with excitement as he knows where he is going on a Tuesday evening. We have also started dog agility training for fun, our first lesson was on Sunday. Dembe did incredibly well, his obedience training has really paid off as he was by miles one of the best behaved there, even though he was sick – probably because he had been swimming in the sea before we went. Yes my baby had swam in the sea!

This Saturday is Dembe’s first birthday! Can you believe it? It is crazy as we still see him as our tiny pup. He won’t be fully grown for another 12 months but I think he will always be our dinky dot.

And yes I am knackered and in pain from all this going out. I have to try to pace myself and get some down time in between excursions but unfortunately that isn’t always possible. I am learning to be kinder to myself and not see rest days as a failure or lack of achievement.

Life Laundry – moving on.

Me and Travis

 

I don’t know what it is about October but it seems to be a catalyst for me to have a look at my life and change things. Remove those things that are causing me unhappiness / hurt. To assert myself and decide that those who do not treat me with respect will no longer have that option. I have no idea what makes me so brave in October, maybe it is because it is my birthday the following month? Is it because I don’t want another year of feeling unhappy, unworthy, stressed out by people or things or events? Maybe I just don’t want another birthday where I compromise and don’t put myself and my happiness first?  October as I have written about before is a month of sadness for me, even more so this year as it is full of anniversaries now of dogs and people I have lost. 

First it is my Grans birthday, I miss her more than I imagined I would. That may sound strange but for much of my childhood she was someone I spoke to on the phone and perhaps saw twice a year as she lived at the other end of the country. I stupidly believed that life would continue on as normal when the time came but I have to admit there have been so many occasions that I have gone to ring her and realised that she is no longer here. She would have loved Dembe, she loved dogs and told me on more than one occasion that if she had owned Buster ( her dog ) first she would never have had children. I miss her sense of humour and Jamie’s face when he tried to speak to her on the phone but struggled due to her Aberdonian accent.

The following day it would have been the babies – Frankie’s and Willow’s 13th birthday. I wasn’t really conscious that day due to the hemiplegic migraine I came down with. I knew it was coming and I was feeling sad so I do wonder if both those anniversaries triggered or played a part in triggering the migraine. It wasn’t something either of us was talking about it was the elephant in the room. Plus that birthday is shared by our niece who was celebrating her 30th birthday which left us feeling ancient. She was just 8 years old when I met Jamie. 

Today 16th October Dembe celebrates his 11 month birthday. He has celebrated in style this morning by having his very first swim in a pond on the common. He has been really funny about water outside of the home, he leaps over or avoids puddles at all costs. He would barely get his feet wet by paddling in ponds when very small and ran away from the sea when we took him down the beach.  So to hear he has had a swim is really funny. Unfortunately Jay thought he had videoed the event on his phone but when he came back to show me, he had taken about 1 seconds worth of footage. It’s not the end of the world Dembe will probably now be a regular swimmer and Jay will take better footage. 

I’m glad that it is only this year that we count the months of Dembe’s age. As our first dog Travis passed away on 17th October 2006, 13 years ago and in all those years there is not a day that goes by when he doesn’t pop into my head. Of course I know that the chances are that he would have passed away by now but to lose a dog before his 3rd birthday is a unique kind of hurt. When you get a puppy you expect to have at least 10 good years with them. Believe me those ten years fly by. If you get longer, which we have been incredibly lucky to do with Mollie ( Travis’ sister), Frankie and Willow, (Mollies children), the loss isn’t so hard to bear. Its tough believe me especially losing Frankie and Mollie within 7 days of each other. I have said it before and I shall say it again, I thought I would drop dead from the pain of it all. However the pain you feel when they don’t reach that milestone of ten years is a pain like no other. I don’t think I will ever be able to say that the pain has truly gone.

October 25th marks Travis’ birthday, we first saw him when he was three days old. At that point we had no idea which pup would be our boy but his name was already chosen and we were so excited already that we were having problems sleeping. It seemed such a grown up thing to be doing, even though we were both 29! Three days after his birth on a Tuesday we moved into our home and have been here ever since. I can’t believe it has been 16 years already, it still feels like it was just a few years ago. But the little boy two doors down is now coming up for 21 and works and the same place hubby does.

There doesn’t seem to be a week in October that doesn’t hold a significant anniversary. For years I always used to hate October, I would start to feel down the minute the clock struck midnight on October 1st. I would just feel sadder and sadder until the 17th and then I would spend that day blubbering on and off, trying to deal with the overwhelming grief that I felt over losing Travis. Some years are easier than others. Last year it was a terrible day, I sat on the sofa all day crying being comforted by Frankie not realising how little time I had left with him. This year it doesn’t feel so bad. Probably because we have our little ray of sunshine Dembe to keep us on our toes. He is such a happy dog it is pretty impossible to stay sad for more than a few moments as he will do something that will either melt your heart or make you dissolve into fits of laughter. I also think after going through that double loss at the start of the year all other grief / pain pales into insignificance.

Whilst October has for many years been a sad month for me, it also has become a significant milestone for my friendships. I am an extremely loyal friend who will fight to the death for you. I am the place you run to when you need help or comfort. Wrongly I put you before me and sometimes individuals take advantage of this and abuse my friendship. I don’t deliberately ever plan to sit and take stock of my friendships at this point in the year. It seems to be something that happens. I think it is because with my birthday the following month I think to myself “would I want to spend my birthday with this person?” Would I feel comfortable accepting a gift from them knowing how I feel about them?” I normally just look at the people I have been moaning to Mr Myasthenia Kid. He will tell me quite honestly if this is a conversation we have had many times before. He will ask me “if next year will we be having the same discussion?” Some years I do nothing, I soldier on determined to make the best of things as due to my health conditions friends who come and see me are in short supply. I do have wonderful friends on Instagram and Facebook but sometimes you need to actually speak to someone, share physical space with them. If it has got to the point where I don’t want to spend time with a person and would rather spend days on end alone then I know it is time to move on. Be it a friendship of two years or twenty. I have no desire to flog a dead horse. I won’t beg, I won’t demand, I just leave and move on with my life. I have done it before, I will probably do it many times.

I don’t expect much from friendship, I certainly don’t expect to be the centre of your universe, we all have our own lives and all the demands placed on them. I do expect to be more than an afterthought. I do expect manners, loyalty and respect. I also like communication, conversation that is two way. I will hold my hand up and admit I can be crap at remembering to message people but I do make an effort for those who I consider in my  close circle. I will always be there for my friends like they are for me. 

To be fair it’s not just my friendships that have come under scrutiny in this life laundry. I have done a lot of sorting out of clothes, belongings etc Donating a lot to charity as both hubby and I are on a diet and so much of our clothing has become tent like. I have been taking a look at each room and trying to reduce the clutter. It seems again to be a pattern of mine in October! probably because I want the house looking nice for our birthdays or Christmas.

As a friend told me its Life Laundry, as in it’s a spring clean of relationships. You get rid of the crap and the unnecessary. As she said “it’s tough but necessary” and she is right. You shouldn’t cling to things that no longer make you happy.  

I already feel so much happier and uncluttered. Even though there is a huge anniversary for me tomorrow I am not facing it with the usual dread.  It is time to move on.

Frankie

 

Mollie and Willow

 

Gran & me

Recovery is dragging

I wrote last week about the consequences of going out and I clearly didn’t have a clue how bad things would be as I am still suffering after my day trip. I think maybe it is just rotten timing that ever since I have been feeling very tired and run down. This last Monday I ended up with a hideous migraine that knocked me flat on my back for over 12 hours and had Mr Myasthenia Kid have to come home from work to look after me. I am glad I am out the other side of that but it has shocked me how battered and bruised I am still feeling for having a few hours out of the house.

I am guessing having a solid six hour block of socialising, driving a scooter and having to use a lot of brain / muscle power probably wasn’t the best idea. The longest I am normally out for is probably 90 minutes at an absolute push and that will leave me more exhausted for normal for up to two days after. My days when I don’t leave the house are in cycles of rest and activity. I have to pace myself or I end up paying for it. It hasn’t helped that there have been appointments that I have been unable to not attend – ringing up and explaining to the receptionist that you need to re-book because you are shattered never goes down well. There isn’t really a word in the English language that accurately conveys the level of exhaustion because we overuse words like fatigue, shattered, tired etc. For me it gets to the point where I can feel like I am having an out if body experience or that I am dreadfully hungover combined with feeling so utterly exhausted it can be really hard to motivate myself to move. 

I have been on my embroidery machine and sewing machine a lot as I am making Christmas gifts for friends and family. I know it is only October but I get panicky if things aren’t made and then I start to feel stressed which means I no longer enjoy making the items. At the moment I have been limited to an hour or two a day, which doesn’t help me get loads done but it is the longest I can sit without the pain becoming so intense that I have to lie down the rest of the day or concentrate for. Obviously on the embroidery machine when it is stitching out I don’t have to concentrate on anything but I do need to be switched on enough to know what step comes next as for the first time I have been using the embroidery machine to do applique and I am really enjoying it.

I know I should have taken it easier last week but even after 12 years I think I can push it and there will be no consequences. I never ever learn. Maybe I simply refuse to.

This week my body has just thrown a hissy fit and ensured that I can’t carry on ignoring it when it sends out distress signals. Every bloody condition I have is flaring out of nowhere – Hidradenitis Suppurativa two abscesses after at least a month to 6 weeks without anything, Arthritis hands as stiff as can be, Nerve Pain left leg is burning which it hasn’t done in years, Tinnitus (so loud I am struggling to hear anything else) Migraine and now a headache every day since, nausea, IBS, adhesion pain, Muscle Spasms in my back and feet you can always guarantee will make me swear like a sailor literally everything is kicking off at the moment. I always find pain adds considerably to the fatigue. 

This isn’t a woe is me post or an attempt for sympathy, I am just explaining how things are at the moment and why at the moment I am struggling to come up with dynamic or scintillating posts. I am finding it hard enough to follow a conversation let alone put an intelligent blog post into words.

I do count my blessings though, Dembe is my hero. On Monday when I was so sick with my migraine he wouldn’t leave my side at all. I thank my lucky stars I have him as even on the days when I am really suffering and thank goodness they are few and far between he is stuck to me like glue and always makes me smile.

So I promise to attempt to be kinder to myself over the next week and get back on an even keel.

Update on Dembe

For this week’s blog post I thought I would give you an update on Dembe. For those of you who would like to see more of him, he has his own blog over at http://www.thedembediaries.com, where I publish what we have been up to over the previous week, with video’s and photographs.

Dembe was 10 months old on Monday (16th SEptember 2019). He now weighs 32kg and is 23 inches to the shoulder. I can’t sing his praises loudly enough, he is a simply adorable pup. He is so loving, sensitive, clever and just happy. I have never known such a happy dog whose tail only really stops wagging when he is asleep but he has also been known to wag it in his sleep as well.

We are training him to become my assistance dog, so we have been doing lots of training going into various different environments, so that he can cope with strange noises, people, smells etc. He becomes a different dog when his yellow vest goes . He knows he is there to work and is on his best behaviour. Like anyone though he has his good and bad days . His bad days though most people wouldn’t even notice, Jay and I are acutely aware.

We passed level one basic obedience training and handling back in July and we are now attending level 2/3 with him for the next few weeks. We all enjoy going to the class and being able to ask the trainer questions and for advice. Dembe loves seeing the other dogs and his time spent with Jay is creating a fantastic bond between them.  When I look back at how he was at the first training class in June to how he is now the transformation is magnificent. We have a dog that listens to instructions and walks beautifully to heel. In fact on a few occasions Jay has been asked by complete strangers for hints and tips on training. Which always makes us laugh.

He is a really sensitive soul, he hates thinking he has done anything wrong. If he accidently hurts me ( which all puppies do clonking you with their paws etc)  he panics and smothers me in kisses. He is such a very loving boy who likes to be touching you when he sleeps or sits next to you. He is a mummys boy but it is wonderful to see how excited he gets when Jay comes home or Jay goes to give him a cuddle.

He is very clever, it took me a matter of minutes to train him to remove my socks. He can retrieve various toys from his toy-box when you ask him to. If you say “where’s crocodile?” “find him” he runs to the toy box and will retrieve his favourite crocodile toy. He will do this with a few toys like piggy, doggy, baby bear, baby blankey and blue dinosaur. I have also had him retrieve his empty kong from upstairs. We were talking about this at dog training last night and apparently this shows he has an aptitude for searching or being a search dog. This isn’t something we have trained him to do. One day I asked him to get crocodile and he did it. I thought it was just a fluke so I asked him to do it again later and he did. I then waited for Jay to get home and showed him. The next day I asked him to find Piggy wig and he did. Now it is our party piece when we have visitors!

As he is 10 months old there are things we still need to work on, things that we have let slide that are now becoming an issue. He is very keen to be as close as possible when you are eating. Which is a bit of a nightmare on the rare occasions we have guests. We need to stop the sitting next to you attempting to get your head in your plate nonsense that is happening . The other thing that needs working on is his need to jump up at me when I am on my mobility scooter and I have come to a stop. However that needs Jay to keep him on a shorter lead and to stop him getting the ability to jump. That will be a huge challenge as he never will see that he influences or has control over what Dembe is doing. Despite doing all these hours of training so it can be a bit annoying at times when you are having the same conversation over and over again. 

One thing I am very sure of is I want a dog and not a robot. I love his character and I don’t want him to feel like he can’t be himself. 

It was very funny on Sunday as we were taking a trip around a supermarket. This one was laid out differently and had a huge precut cheese section at the end of the deli counter. There is nothing in the world that Dembe enjoys more than cheese. He will literally spin in circles if you get the cheese out of the fridge. So here he was confronted by his most favourite thing in the world at Dembe height and easy to access. I closed my eyes fearing we were going to have to pay for a huge block of cheese because he had sunk his teeth into them. He sniffed for ages, every piece of cheese got a sniff but he was very restrained and when Jay told him leave he did indeed leave it. That was a massive test in self control for him and I was so proud. 

But even prouder when my friend who was the duty manager told me the story about the guide dog that visited their store. When you think of Guide dogs for the blind you think of superbly trained dogs that would never be tempted by food whilst working. They are the dogs that are so well trained they put many other dogs to shame.

At the side of the fish counter in her store they have a freshly cooked pasty section. At dog height…how perfect. Beccy told us that as the owner of the guide dog was talking to the fishmonger, the guide dog took a sly lick of a pasty  at the front of the shelf. Then stared down the fishmonger who had watched him do it, in almost a dare to see if he would tell the owner. The fishmonger said the attitude from the guide dog was hilarious and he did indeed keep quiet! That really made us laugh and made him obsessively sniffing the cheese not such a big deal, I mean if guide dogs get a bad day!

Dembe makes us laugh on a daily basis. I didn’t know it was possible to love a dog as much as I love him. He likes walking around carrying stuff in his mouth and he walks around with his antler chew like pipe. When we first brought him home it was really hard, we were dealing with so many conflicting emotions initially it felt like I was just going through the motions. I didn’t feel that bond with him like I do now. I was constantly reminded that I didn’t know him like I knew Mollie, Frankie and Willow because I had known them years. It fueled my anxiety because I was constantly worrying that if there was something wrong with him I wouldn’t know or I would miss the subtle signs that I wouldn’t have done with them. Now however I feel like I know him more and we do have a wonderful bond. I know I love hima crazy amount whereas before I was always doubting myself that I did.

At times I wondered if we had done the right thing by getting him so soon after Frankie and Mollie passed away. But I credit him with getting Jay and I through that awful dark time. We wouldn’t be without him and he brings such joy to us both.

Everyone who meets him, falls in love with him and his gentle nature. In all the time we have had him I have never heard him growl. Bark yes, he likes to do that a lot. Which makes me laugh as everything I have read about Labradors says they seldom bark. Obviously Dembe didn’t get that memo! 

He is also very good when I am poorly and he adjust his energy level accordingly. He did it when I was poorly with a chest and sinus infection about three weeks after we brought him home. He would sleep all day on my feet and only run around like a maniac when Jay came home for lunch and at the end of the day. If I am feeling crappy he will sleep beside me on the sofa having a cuddle. If I am feeling brighter he will want to play more and have more engagement with me. Again this isn’t something we have taught but this is something he has done instinctively, just like his Uncle Frankie.

I could go on and on about Dembe the wonder dog but I won’t bore your further with this quick update.

Truth v Gossip

There is one thing that I have found since having several chronic health conditions that people simply do not understand and that is the fatigue levels that come with them. I know some people have created this fairy tale in their heads that either have withdrawn from society or that Mr Myasthenia Kid doesn’t let me out in the world. People stupidly believe this gossip rather than actually ask me. They are simply untrue, the reason I don’t go out very much is because I get so exhausted by doing very little outside the home.

At home I have an environment I can control. I have regular household sounds, lighting etc. All of which my body is used to. The minute any of that becomes too much I can go to bed, lie down, limit the light and sound. Out of the home I have zero control over the additional stimuli my body is bombarded with. Also these days I am using a scooter a lot of the time, the concentration levels involved in driving this even for a short period of 20 minutes, drains me. It makes it hard for me to manage a conversation and drive. The minute I don’t concentrate like when driving a car accidents can happen. I have almost gone off the sea wall down at the seafront because I was trying to talk and drive. It takes a lot out of me and unless you have to balance your activity and rest periods people just don’t understand it.

Since Sunday I have had an extraordinarily busy week, for me. For normal people this will probably sound like a leisurely few days. On Sunday we went to Pets at Home the big one so around 20 minutes in the car to get there. Then we went to Tesco to upgrade our phones which took about an hour. We had Dembe with us who behaved beautifully. There were lots of people in Tesco that I knew that haven’t seen me since I have lost 49lbs in weight and who also wanted to meet Dembe. So it was very busy. After the morning we had around 90 minutes sit down and then we went to visit friends with Dembe. It was lovely to see them both and Dembe really enjoyed his visit too. However by 6pm I was completely drained and was up in bed resting, before dropping off just after 8pm.

Many of you will be thinking how can that low level of activity wear you out? I wish I knew, my only explanation is the assault on all my senses just physically and mentally wears me out. The extra noise, people, lights, smells, physical activity of driving a mobility scooter. Being upright with my legs down and blood pooling, changes in temperature, all those things combined just zap any charge that was left in my batteries. On Monday it took me hours to get moving. I was fit for nothing until about 2pm, which is crazy. My body just felt like there were 15lb weights attached to each limb and my head, well I just couldn’t really focus on anything that demanded more than a limited amount of mental acuity. 

On Tuesday I felt a lot better as I had spend Monday recuperating, which again if you have never suffered from bone crushing levels of fatigue you would struggle to understand. We needed to take Dembe to the vets to be weighed and to get his worming tablets / flea / tick treatment. We were there around 20 minutes as we like to have a catch up with the staff as Dembe is very popular there. We then popped up to Tesco for a few items, we took Dembe with us to give him some more environmentalization training. We only needed three things but Dembe has such a huge fan club amongst the staff and customers that it took 40 minutes. I then spent as much of the afternoon as I could resting with my feet up as in the evening we had our first night back at our weekly dog training class.

Evenings are the absolute worst time for me to be out of the house. Purely because I go to bed every evening between 7pm – 8pm or earlier if it is a rubbish day. By then I struggle to hold myself upright, co-ordinate my movements and as I discovered last night I can also end up struggling to talk because my brain can’t channel the words to my mouth. Ending up with me looking like a fish out of water. I thought I would be ok, after all I did the dog training in the summer. But I don’t think I had been out as much during the day. The dog training lessons are intense. Even though I just sit there and let Jay do all the training. I can’t do the walking around or being up on my feet that much. 

I coped ok in June and July so it was really surprising ( and frustrating ) to me last night to get half an hour in and to start feeling really, really unwell. I don’t know about anyone else but I hate having to ask for help or potentially making a scene due to being ill. I have in the past been known to wait for everyone to leave the room before I have allowed myself to projectile vomit. Thankfully there was nothing for anyone to see, although I may have gone more pale than normal. I just suddenly had the internal organ sinking feeling, then felt I experienced some feelings of dissociation. I knew I was in the room but I didn’t feel I was part of it. Unless you have felt this it is a difficult feeling to explain. I can feel like this just before I faint and I knew that is what my body was preparing to do. As I was sat down I rapidly starting clenching my bum cheek and tensing my calves in an attempt to get the blood moving. The whole time I was absolutely terrified I was going to wake up surrounded by people having taken a nosedive from the chair.

The weird thing was I could see poor Dembe trying to alert Jay to what was happening as hit lay down on the floor and had his head turned to me. He was watching ensuring I was ok. When I spoke to Jay afterwards to let him know what had happened he said “why didn’t you get up and go to the car so you could lie down?” which is a reasonable enough question as normally I do have quite a bit of warning so I can avert a faint. I just said to him that I felt so bad I was terrified if I stood up that I would go down with a bang. He then said “well why didn’t you shout me?” the simple fact of the matter was I just didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to me.

 I really HATE the spotlight being on me, I hate it even more if it is because I am having a funny turn or have fainted. It is stupid I know but I just can’t, it makes me feel so very uncomfortable. Like I am causing a nuisance or being melodramatic. This probably goes back to various incidents at school and at work where I have been seriously unwell and been called a drama queen or that I was causing a scene. When I was younger I was never believed when I was sick, even when I have had major surgery, I had work colleagues say I was doing it for attention. How on earth you get a team of NHS surgeons to open you up from pubic bone to sternum just for fun I have no idea but apparently I can.

Thankfully my funny turn went after 10 minutes but it left me feeling seriously drained. I spent the entire journey home yawning non stop which is always a sign that my blood pressure has dropped. I was in bed by 8pm and asleep by 9pm.

Today ( Wednesday ) I am seriously pooped but like I always say I’d rather be knackered due to going out and having fun or just living a normal life than being this wiped out from doing nothing. Again it has taken me all morning to get going. I have been up since 7am and it is only now at 13.30 that I am starting to feel human and that I can do anything that needs any mental clarity. On days like this I have to take advantage of any window of opportunity when I feel well enough physically and mentally to be able to get up and crack on with something I want to do.

Obviously having the Weimaraners did curtail my activities outside the house. It was too expensive to get dog sitters in all the time and there are only so many times you can ask friends to do it for you. They were too destructive to leave by themselves, so in the end it just became easier to not go out or just one of us go, than stress out about finding someone to stay with them. Our friends have been fabulous, Imogen looked after them so much in 2015 when I had my CSF leak. If it hadn’t been for her I wouldn’t have been able to attend half the appointments I did. She also looked after them when we went to the Emma Bridgewater factory for the day which was a 14 hour (plus) stint . My friend Sharon also did us a massive favour when she stayed with them so that Jay could appear on Sewing Quarter TV. Both Ellie and Heather have stepped up too and looked after them, along with Tracey, Sarah and so many others over the years. But even with that massive pool of helpers it wasn’t fair to continually ask them to look after them. So our outside activities took a back seat, plus a lot of the time I just wasn’t well enough.

Now we have Dembe and we are training him to be my assistance dog it means the whole world has opened up to me again. It is really weird after having 12 years of not really going anywhere but the hospital, the doctors surgery or the dentist. Those visits also wiped me out. We are so used to being home we are having to force ourselves to go out. Which is another reason why we are doing all the training with Dembe as it means at least once a week I will leave the house and also that he will be a well behaved assistance dog whom we can take everywhere with us. But I will always have to pace my activities. I will never be well enough to go out all day, every day of the week. I just don’t have the stamina or physical reserves to be able to cope with that. And that is fine with me. I do quite like my own company and being able to do the things I want to do. I guess I am saying I like a balance.

So when someone tells you that someone is a recluse or that they aren’t allowed to go out. Have a good long think about that person’s circumstances. Think about if they have a chronic health condition, suffered a bereavement all manner of things that could be the cause of them not being outside in the world as much as you think they should. Don’t take the easy option and accept the gossip no matter how credible the source because it is just that their take on what they “think” is happening. Which doesn’t make it the truth.

Empathy

When I wrote last week’s blog post Rainbow Bridge  I never expected in a million years the response that it received. It wasn’t just me hubby had people coming up to him in work, telling him that they couldn’t read it without shedding a tear or that it said what they felt but had never been able to express it. I had followers on Instagram contacting me about their recent losses and long ago losses too. On Facebook it was the same, with many people contacting me or leaving a comment. . It was emotionally hard as I am very empathetic, so when people start to get tearful when they are talking to me, it makes me cry too. But when I wrote the post I was half expecting it to stir up a lot of emotions because I had been in such a mess as I wrote it. I have to be honest I never did a final check on the post to look for errors, mainly because I found it so upsetting to read, it was real and raw. I haven’t even gone back to look at it now to refresh my memory before writing this one. I just can’t do it, I have already been in tears today twice over the dogs. It is always just bubbling away under the surface for me at the moment, although to look at me or to see any of my social media posts you would never know.

I am so touched that something I have written has moved so many people. I thank each and everyone of you who commented or messaged me. It was very hard last Thursday as I had no idea how it would be received. I had no clue if people would think I was wallowing, being self indulgent or a drama queen. That people would think that I should pull myself together and get on with the rest of my life. I promise you I am not self indulgent, wallowing or being a drama queen. I just write about life and my experiences. I try to give a voice to those feelings that we push down and don’t let anyone else see. I take a chance that people won’t reject me or ridicule me because I try to talk about things that many would rather brush under the carpet. Although there have been several articles regarding the death of a pet in National newspapers it is still treated with some degree of disbelief by those who have never had an animal / pet in their lives. 

The whole point of my post was for you – whoever you are, know that it is ok to feel whatever you are feeling, to express your grief ( and it is your’s and no one else’s) anyway that you like. That these feelings are totally normal. You are not weird, you aren’t wallowing in your grief, you aren’t an attention seeker and you are certainly not being a drama queen. You are hurting and it will take time to process all that emotion. Hell I am only 8 months on and there are days where I can barely keep it together. Days where all I do is cry. Days when I feel guilty when I know rationally I have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I just wanted you to know you aren’t going mad, I honestly thought at times I was losing it. All of those feelings, even the uncontrollable rage that even surprises you when you roar, is totally normal. It is the beast called grief and it doesn’t have to be something that you go through alone.

As I touched on in my blog post even when you have suffered from a significant bereavement such as a partner / child / sibling / parent / friend, people who haven’t been through that kind of grief can’t begin to imagine the enormity of the feelings of loss and pain. They may see you red faced, tear stained and see your grief but that is soon forgotten because it has no direct impact on their lives. The next time they see you, taking the kids to school, going to work, getting the shopping – all things you have to do despite the pain and grief they assume you are “better”. They don’t understand that grief goes on forever. They seem to think that grief has a timeline and by a certain amount of time say 6-12 months maybe sooner if they are real dicks, you “should” be “over” it. How do you explain that there is no getting over it? You are just getting through each day the best you can. There will be good days, bad days and the worst kind of days.  Life will probably never be the same again. But there will never be or has there ever been for anyone who is grieving a time when they are over it. Getting Over It has to be the most grotesque phrase ever. Followed by Time is a great healer. There is no healing from grief, you carry that pain forever.

I had people contacting me about dogs they had lost thirty years ago during their childhood that they still mourned for.  Others told me about their recent losses that they just couldn’t process or that in the proceeding days before my blog post it had hit them, after thinking that they could keep going and carry on as normal. I was quite honest when I spoke to them and told them Jay and I have very little memory of January and February this year.

 We know we got Dembe, we know he was tiny but ask us to recall anything significant like where we took him on his first walk. What the date of his first walk was, his first bark, his first growl all the stuff we would normally remember and we draw a blank. It’s not because we didn’t care about it, purely our brains were overloaded processing what had happened when we lost Frankie and Mollie within 7 days of each other. I am so glad that I started the Dembe Diaries blog and his diary that I base the blog on, so that in years to come I can look back and see all those things in black and white that my brain was unable to absorb at the time.

 I do remember Jay barely spoke in the first 4-5 days after it happened. It was quite stressful as I went into list mode, trying to control everything because my anxiety spiked. His anxiety spiked because I was making so many demands on him all the time and obviously he needed to have some control in his life too. It was very difficult trying to get him motivated to help me sort the house out ready for Dembe’s arrival. Especially as we couldn’t stand being in the house as it was just full of reminders of how empty it was. We did cry together and we did talk about our babies, all of our babies. But the pain and grief was hard because although it has happened to both of you (or all of you) it is also an individual thing that no one can make better or take away from you. People grieve in different ways. Just because Jay wasn’t breaking down in tears every 5 minutes like I was didn’t mean he wasn’t hurting or struggling to cope. You only had to take a look at him, ashen faced, tired and so very quiet, grief and pain was written all over him. For a few days I was worried that he was going to drop down dead from a heart attack or stroke he looked so ill.  

Grief is weird one minute you can feel like you are doing ok and the next minute it feels like the world is imploding. There is no rhyme or reason to it, you are carried on its current and it takes you wherever it pleases. There is no control of it, it controls you initially, even denying you sleep when it wants to. Both Jay and I suffered from terrible insomnia in the 7 days after Mollie and Frankies passing. We would find ourselves downstairs in the middle of the night watching crap on the TV whilst eating chocolate biscuits and drinking sugary tea in the hope we would just pass out from a sugar overdose. I remember one day within about 20 minutes of each other we both left the electric shower on, when we left the bathroom, returning to it a few minutes later, neither of us could work out why we had left it running. We had no recollection of leaving the bathroom.  Life really was being lived on autopilot, all we could do was keep putting one foot in front of the other and get through another day.

I want to tell you that things do get better, the grief becomes less overwhelming.  I feel like I am finally starting to live life again instead of just simply going through the motions. I am not saying that in 8 months you will also be feeling better, it could be less time it could be substantially more time. But there will come a time when you let a breathe out and know that you are starting to be you again.

Up until about a week ago the last time I listened to music and enjoyed it was 29th December 2018. That was the day that Frankie passed away and I had been listening to my Sinead O’connor LP. I didn’t play any music for a couple of weeks. After that time had passed, I tried but I found the noise too much and overwhelming. I had no emotional connection to the music. I would rather be in silence or have the TV on low in the background.  For the last two weeks I have played music non-stop. I have sung at the top of my voice and quite possibly scared the neighbours. I have found the joy in music again. I haven’t played my Sinead O’Connor LP, I think that one will take some time. I may not play it again for several years, I’m not setting myself a target, I will let it happen, I won’t force it. One day I will sing something from the album and it will be like an ear worm that won’t die until I play it. At the moment anything from that LP makes me sad.

We have also started planning things for the future. We have booked  a short break in the UK next year and we will be taking Dembe with us. It is very exciting. This will be the first time since 2006 that Jay and I have had any sort of holiday. It is only 3 nights away but it will do us all some good just to get out of the house and away from the day to day. I am nervous as hell as I have become a real homebody since becoming ill. Other than stays in hospital I haven’t been away from the house in 13 years. It is hilarious to me that I am getting a bit anxious thinking about it when Jay and I have travelled to Sri Lanka, USA (Florida), Antigua, Paris, Menorca and various places all over the UK for weddings / christenings. I know that we can do it, it is just my world has been so very small over the last 13 odd years.

So please be kind to yourself, wherever you are in your journey with grief. Everyone does grief differently, there is no one size fits all. What works for you may not work for anyone else.  Remember living life does not mean that you have forgotten those who are no longer with us. At some point things will get easier, you will reach a new normal. It is not a journey you have to do alone. If more of us start talking about grief and how it affects us we will educate those who have never experienced it and maybe create a little more empathy. The world could really do with more empathy at the moment.

Rainbow Bridge

I have  called this blog post Rainbow Bridge as all pet owners will know what I am talking about and can make the immediate decision whether or not to read this post. If you decide to skip it, I understand . I can’t even read the poem Rainbow Bridge without breaking down and turning into a snotty, red faced, tear stained mess. So if you decide from the outset that this post probably isn’t for you, I get it. I will just reassure you that I will not be talking about Frankie or Mollie’s passing at the start of this year. That shit is just too raw still to deal with and I would prefer to spend the remainder of the day functional rather than being the snotty, red faced, tear stained mess I know I will become.

 
The blog post is called Rainbow Bridge because I want to talk to you about the very real depth of grief losing a pet, any pet can cause you. A grief that you can feel embarrassed about because you didn’t know it was possible for your heart to physically hurt so much and you not keel over and die. A grief and depth of feeling that unless you have lived the experience you can not begin to even comprehend what the other person is going through. And a grief that you feel you have to hide from the world as grieving over an animal is still seen as self indulgent, selfish, weak, being melodramatic. A depth of feeling that is so strong that it even takes you by surprise.
 
We are in this country ( the UK ) crap at dealing with other people’s grief, even when they have lost a child or a partner. We seem to assume that once a person returns to work or starts doing normal things again that they are ok. Many people seem to think that there is a set period of time that a person should grieve for and after that time has passed, all that emotion and sadness should just turn off. If they don’t you are seen to be wallowing or attention seeking. A lot of people just don’t seem to understand that grief is not a linear journey and that it never ends. You will always be dealing with your grief one way or another. Time is not a great healer, there is no healing for grief, there is a just getting used to it. What initially in the first days, weeks and months seems all encompassing does slowly reduce in size but it never leaves us. It is something we carry always.
 
Those of you that aren’t pet owners may be surprised to read that it is exactly the same for those who have lost a pet. I really hate using a the term pet as I feel like it diminishes their status. But until someone comes up with a better word, I will have to use the one that is universally understood. Most people these days understand that our pets are more than just “pets” they are much loved members of the family within their own rights. Which is why it cut me to the core when somebody recently clumsily said to me ” You were so lucky to get Dembe when you did to replace…” she stopped herself continuing with this statement as I think she realised how awful what she had said sounded. 
 
There is no replacing a beloved cat, dog, guinea pig, hamster or horse. The same as you can’t replace a mother, a father, a child, a friend. Each one of those like our pets are unique. So why people use the dreaded replace word I have no idea. I’m glad it was said recently to me rather than just after it had happened because I don’t think I would have been able to control myself. I may have got physically violent because it was just so insensitive. Now because there is a little bit of distance from the event and I am not caught up in the overwhelming emotion of it, I can understand that it was clumsy and not ever meant the way it sounded. Why do I know that? This person has recently lost her mother and father in the space of a couple of years. She knows there is no replacement for them, she is also a dog owner and knows they can’t be replaced either. Had she said this in January I wouldn’t have been so forgiving.
 
When I found myself in the position of losing Frankie and Mollie within 7 days, having lost Willow 55 weeks earlier, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to carry on without them. The pain, the grief was just so overwhelming. The house had already felt strange after Frankie passed and then when Mollie was no longer here, it seemed so cold and empty. I missed the feel of their fur, the warmth of their bodies, the noise their paws made on the laminate floor. The pools of water Frankie liked to dribble all over the floor after having a drink. The barking, the farting, picking up the poo, the bonio (dog biscuit) crumbs. Everything that had meant being a dog owner for the last 15 years had just been suddenly snatched away with no warning. Everything seemed so bleak and miserable. You will never know how much you will crave a cuddle with a dog ( or any pet ) until you suddenly are no longer able to do it. 
 
That was the hardest thing to cope with in the days that followed their passing, that I couldn’t stroke a dog, be licked, have a tail wag. Jay and I spent every minute that we could out of the house because being in the house just magnified our loss. We were lucky in the respect that a week after Mollie passed away we brought home Dembe. I dread to think what life would have been like without him. I know some people will think that far too quick and that they don’t feel that they could take on another dog / animal whilst they are still mourning their loss. Everyone is different and there are no rights or wrongs in this situation. Had there not been any puppies available we would have had to wait, it is just the way things happened. We felt at the time and still do that it was written in the stars. The breeders had the same surname as the breeders of Mollie and Travis. Dembe’s mum was called Willow, it all seemed like it was just meant to be.
 
Did having Dembe stop the grief? Of course not. In some ways it complicated things because initially I was terrified that Dembe was going to die. My anxiety went up through the roof. It had been a very long time since we had a puppy in the house and it all seemed very alien to us. So whilst trying to come to terms with losing my babies – which they will always be to me no matter how old they were, I had a new baby to deal with. It some ways it was also good for us, we threw ourselves into socialisation and getting lots of experiences under his belt. That meant we had to leave the house and see people. We invited lots of friends over to get them involved. I don’t think for us any time would have been the right time to bring a puppy into the house. Our lives had revolved around our Weimaraners and this was such a massive change to our life, it will probably take us years to get used to it or our heads around it.
 
What did surprise me was the way the people seemed to think once we had Dembe that the grief would just suddenly disappear – as in the replacement theory. There were good surprises as well, people that I had only ever known on facebook sent flowers, cards, gifts. We had so many messages from people. Even though at the time it was hard to read them, not because there was anything wrong with them but just because they were so kind and thoughtful. I heard that Jay’s boss broke the news to his colleagues at work and a couple of them burst into tears because on the previous Saturday the poor man had also had to tell them that Frankie had passed away. No one could quite believe that life could be so cruel. I still don’t believe it but I am happy that Frankie and his mum / best mate are together again.
 
Initially I felt like we had to hide the fact that we had been looking at puppies and we had visited Dembe, paid the deposit two days after Mollie had passed away. It wasn’t because we didn’t love her, I have been crying on and off as I have been writing this. It is because Jay and I are realists, we knew the dogs couldn’t go on forever. Mollie was 14 and quite deaf, Frankie was losing the use of his back legs, had arthritis in his hips and spine, he hadn’t been able to wag his tail for months and was a huge 41kg, 12 year old dog. He had lived far longer than anyone had expected. Even before we lost Willow in 2017 we had been discussing when we got a dog in the future what breed it would be and what his name would be. We had always said we would have a boy, due to the fact both girls had spay induced incontinence after being spayed as emergencies. We said a Labrador as Mollie had always had a thing for black Labs, she adored them. We never knew why but if she met a black lab on a walk her face would light up and she would play bow. The Weims were as much part of our decision making process as we were, as we wanted their blessing. I know none of them would have wanted us to live our lives without a dog.
 
I saw a Meme not long ago that said Dogs fill your life with many happy days and the one worst day of your life. It is pretty true, although the worst day is the worst day when you have to say goodbye, the not so worst days follow, where you have to face life without them and hope that Rainbow Bridge is true and that one day you will all be together again.
 
In Loving memory of 
Travis Morris
Mollie Morris
Willow Morris
Frankie Morris
 
Not a day goes by that I don’t mourn your loss. Not a day goes by when I don’t talk about at least one of you to Dembe. You would have loved him so much.
 
Travis
Mollie
Willow
Frankie
 
Everyone thinks they have the best dog ever,  none of them are wrong.
 
Dembe