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.

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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

I am a survivor

Well I am still not feeling the blog. I don’t know what’s going on but I am really finding it hard to come up with stuff to write about. I am spending 7 days waiting for inspiration to strike and it just isn’t happening. By Tuesday each week I am in a bit of a panic, I like to try and write on a Tuesday if Jay goes out running errands. If not I will wait until Wednesday morning but I don’t like leaving it until Wednesday as I always panic if I have a migraine or something and no blog post is produced.

At the moment the days are just merging into one. I haven’t seen any of my friends for over a month although I keep in regular contact with some of them. I have come to realise over the last 8 months that some of the people that I thought for there for me, disappeared when Frankie and Mollie passed away.  I understand that everyone has their own lives and families, with their own shit to deal with but it has been a very isolating experience. Some people have made a supreme effort to be present and other well not so much. It’s ok as I have a long memory and will be sure to return the favour when the shit hits the fan in their lives. I didn’t expect to be visited constantly but the occasional text message would have been nice, especially when they know my situation of living alone and Jay working.

Thankfully though I am pretty self sufficient, whilst dealing with my grief, I was juggling a new puppy and attempting to find time to sew / embroider. It hasn’t been easy but Dembe and I have found a new routine that works for us. He is pretty good at entertaining himself whilst I am busy sewing. He always positions himself in a location where he can keep an eye on me and ensure he knows if I have moved. He likes one of three places, the bed by the washing machine, the sofa that looks into the kitchen or out under the gazebo on the bench surrounded by all the cushions. I can’t believe my luck that he doesn’t get bored and then start destroying things. When I have finished sewing he knows that is our time and I will ensure I spend the time playing with him, doing training or just cuddles depending on his energy levels. I have been blessed with a pup that is so very well behaved and so very loving. His favourite spot for sleeping is right beside me on the sofa. This is him right now as I am writing this post.

My life has totally changed this year, I have re-assessed a lot of relationships. I have made the decision that I won’t swim an ocean for people who wouldn’t jump a puddle for me. I have decided that instead of worrying about what everyone is thinking or saying about me behind my back and believe me you’d be surprised the shit I hear being spoken about me by people who should know better, that I shall just carry on living my life and enjoying myself. The best revenge on those sad twats is to enjoy yourself and plaster it all over social media. It totally then fucks up all the fairy tales that they have been telling people for years.

I am also getting out of the house a lot more, this does have to be limited and planned for. I haven’t suddenly magically got better, it is just with one dog things are a lot easier. Especially as Dembe is such a friendly dog and on the whole pretty well behaved, although we have now hit the teenage years and recall seems to be a take it or leave it thing! Fatigue still grinds me down. I like using my energy for things for things that make me happy. So using my mobility scooter on Woodbury Common and getting out with Jay and Dembe has been unbelievably healing and grounding. 

It has been the one thing I have missed most since I got sick. The wheelchair trike although brilliant is an absolute ballache to transport. The wheelchair is fixed framed so that would take up the whole boot and then I would have to juggle the trike attachment with me in the front of the car. Not exactly safe. Then I piled on a load of weight when I developed my CSF leak and was virtually bed bound for a year, then in 2017 and 2018 we suffered a number of bereavements and I tend to self medicate with gin, chocolate and junk food / takeaways. I was 5 stone over the optimum user weight for the trike. So anytime I did try to use it the battery drained in minutes. I’ve been too embarrassed to say that because I allowed myself to get fat as fuck, I haven’t been able to use it. Hopefully now I am back losing weight ( it’s taken me until the last month to feel like I can actually do it) and I am back to 3 stone down, ideally at least another 3 to go so I will be massively under the optimum user weight. The trike will be used in the future as it is more suited to the rough and rugged environment of the common.

I do love my mobility scooter though and it has given me back my independence. It is easily taken apart to it can fit in the back of the car. It makes life so much easier if I need to go to the doctors or the hospital for appointments.

Over the 2 months I have got back into sewing and actually enjoyed it rather than feel I am going through the motions. From January until June I made a bloody good show of pretending I was ok, ensuring I used my embroidery machine every week and appeared to be enjoying myself. At points I felt like I was dying inside. I felt like a shell of the person I was. I didn’t feel I could voice the pain I was in. I know others struggle with grief especially when it is over an animal and not a human being.  Like I said earlier it has been one of the most isolating experiences of my life. There just felt like there was no one there. I do wonder if there had been someone their if I would have still felt so isolated.

I do have a tendency when things are tough to disappear into myself and attempt to shut out the world. I still kept on posting on social media, I still kept the creative things going but in all honesty I was going through the motions. It is only now that I can watch anything remotely sentimental without breaking down immediately. I only now feel like me. I feel like I have been on some weird journey where at points I lost myself. It is true what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger because in January / February this year I honestly thought the pain would kill me or I wished it would.

So I skillfully went off on a tangent there, I am enjoying sewing again and being creative rather than having to force myself to do it in the hope at some point the joy would come back. I am still working on my scrap busting quilt sew along. I found out yesterday that it is between a double (bed) and king size (bed) size, so it definitely is the largest one I have ever worked on. I made the back panel for it yesterday.

And in case you have forgotten what the front looks like

This morning I sorted out the wadding ( what you call batting in the USA ) which needed sewn together. I also made some plastic templates  to draw around as I have decided to tray something totally different with the quilting. It has taken me a few days of mulling it over to come to my plans. I have drawn it out so I have something to refer to. I now just need to have Jay clear the floor space in the lounge so that I can put my quilt sandwich together quilt back + wadding / batting + quilt top. I use temporary basting spray to hold it together but as it is so large I will also be pinning it. This ensures that the fabric stays nice and flat so it doesn’t shift and give you puckers. I also managed to sort out the binding yesterday. So it is all ready to be quilted shortly. I will be quite glad when it is finished now as I hate half done projects hanging around. I am really ready to now get myself into new projects and stretch my skills.

Anyway I started with no clue where this post was going and have managed to ramble on forever!

Dembe has changed locations

He likes it so he knows exactly where I am in the house at all times.

I think this year I have learnt, a lot and we are only in August. My heart has hurt more than I ever thought possible without keeling over and dying. I have learnt in the depths of grief you are still able to love unconditionally and you must never feel guilty for that. I have also learnt that the majority of people run away from grief and think that is acceptable behaviour. Despite all this I have come back stronger, love another dog more than I ever thought possible but when you have this gorgeous mutt in your life how could you not?

And yes he is holding my thumb in his mouth!

This is the year that nearly broke me, the year that changed everything and has just proved to me I am a survivor.

A hard week health-wise

The last week has been really hard health wise. I haven’t been the sickest I have ever been but I have certainly been sicker than I have for a while. There is no “reason” that I can identify for this other than perhaps the decline in my health that I have been waiting for since we lost Mollie and Frankie. Stress, emotional upset and change can all upset my chronic health conditions and it seems everything wanted to bubble to the surface last week. I did just power on through which now I am wondering if that was the right thing because I am having more and more MG like symptoms this week – shortness of breath, limb weakness etc sorry I should have said my idiopathic hemifacial spasm the latest bullshit diagnosis for my Ptosis, totally ignoring all the other issues.

If I am honest there is only one symptom that has me terrified and that is when I will suddenly and for no reason lose the ability to take a deep breath. No matter how hard I try to suck the air in my chest fails to move. I end up taking a series of short breaths to minimise the panic that rises in me. I have an elephant sat on my chest who is refusing to budge and I know that if I went to hospital my breathing would be ignored and I would be labelled with a mental health condition rather than the fact that there is something going on at the neuromuscular junction which has been proved time and time again with the ice-pack test. Apparently for the latest neurologist I have seen for these symptoms back in 2017 I believe, it is just a placebo effect. Words fail me.

Sunday freaked me out a bit as well. I wasn’t feeling great when I got up and knew there were a couple of jobs that I had to do, then I could sit around and rest for the remainder of the day. Once those jobs were completed I noticed my legs had become exceptionally heavy, like there were lead weights attached. I could walk but it was very slow and shuffling because lifting my feet was taking a supreme effort. I attempted to climb the stairs but that was impossible. I may as well have been sat at base camp for Mount Everest without oxygen, as those stairs were impossible. After attempting three I came back down on my bum and then wondered how the hell I was going to stand up again. Thank god for Mr Myasthenia Kid being home and with it happening on a Sunday. He could help me to my feet and get me to the sofa, plus organise my medication. 

You see I get to take Mestinon / Pyridostigmine Bromide for my PoTs symptoms. I usually dose as follows 7am 60mg, 11am 30mg, 3pm 30mg or 60mg depending on how I am feeling and then 30mg at 7pm. I have to be careful with Mestinon by body is extremely sensitive to it. Too much and I can be twitching all over but mainly my face and it can trigger terrible stomach cramps. It takes a lot for me to take another 60mg during the day but at both 11am and 3pm I ended up taking the full dose because without it my legs wouldn’t work. My legs not working is not a PoTs symptom, it isn’t an EDS symptom either. There is no medical explanation for this symptom, other than the fact the medical profession believe its all in my head. Which is why when my breathing gets difficult I panic. This medical condition that appears so much like MG / Neuromuscular junction disease will be ignored and it could end up killing me. I am lucky, my symptoms are mild but I have bouts like this especially when the weather gets warmer where my body fails to cope. I worry one day I will be so ill that the doctors refusal to think outside the box will mean that I will be killed by medical negligence and that is a fucking scary thought.

I mean if there is nothing wrong with my breathing……why have I had home oxygen since 2009? In the current economic climate of ongoing austerity since 2010 why if I don’t need support for breathing on occasion why has this precious money wasting resource not been taken from me? Home Oxygen can’t be cheap,  I have an oxygen concentrator a machine that pulls oxygen from the air and then feeds it down a nasal cannula at a purer form. In case of power cuts I also have to have a huge oxygen canister in the house, I have to notify the local fire-brigade and I am classed as a vulnerable service user by the people who maintain the power grid. The canister also impacts my home insurance cost. If I didn’t need it I would get rid of it, not only are the canister and oxygen concentrator ugly they are taking up valuable space in my small home. So in an age of cuts to all services who is covering their arse by allowing me to keep my home oxygen? 

Home Oxygen won’t save me if I end up in a full blown Myasthenic crisis. This is where the muscles around the lungs and the diaphragm become paralysed and can’t move so you can’t get the air in as when you attempt to breath nothing happens. In this situation you need to be in hospital on C-pap or Bi-pap or in the worst case scenario put into an induced coma whilst they ventilate you – sticking a tube down your throat and breathing for you ( intubation ).  Today as I am writing this the elephant has returned, breathing is hard. I took my mestinon at 7.30am already my right eye is starting to droop, its seems I may have to take my next dose earlier.

The Myasthenic like symptoms are the worst thing I currently deal with and I am lucky they are mild the rest of the time. Last week was like a smorgasbord of every medical condition I have. My PoTs symptoms were crazy – heat induced despite me upping the salt tablets ( to 8 a day ) there  were multiple episodes of pre sycope ( near fainting). I had vertigo luckily I caught that attack very early so I only had to endure the room spinning for an hour but it leaves me tired and feeling out of sorts. I had a migraine on Friday one of the worst I have had in months. It was actually the first migraine I have had since January 14th ( my last one was the Monday after Dembe came home with us). My Tinnitus has been so loud it has been difficult to hear the TV and radio. I have felt constantly exhausted .

Then there was the joint pain and my right shoulder continually fighting to escape it’s socket. To be honest I have only scratched the surface of what I have dealt with over the last 7 days. I really don’t like to say much most of the time because I don’t want to be accused of moaning but if I stay silent about it people think that you aren’t as sick as you claim you are. You just can’t win, you’re an attention seeker if you say something and a liar when you don’t. It drives me nuts. I stay silent because to be honest it is easier that way. I don’t want Jay aka Mr Myasthenia Kid worrying about me when he is at work, I don’t want lots of platitudes on social media. It isn’t because I think they are false it makes me feel like I am drawing attention to myself and trying to play the sympathy card and that’s just not me. 

It’s been really hard this week being a puppy mum, I love Dembe dearly, I wouldn’t be without him but it is hard work trying to keep him occupied whilst using as little energy as possible. On the whole he is brilliantly behaved but like it is with kids there are days when he can be a little bugger and whilst amusing, it can be frustrating, especially when you aren’t feeling well. He is just a puppy though at a little over 6 months old and over time he will calm down. I guess I was so used to Mollie, Frankie and Willow being older and more sedate this has come as a real shock. Jay does loads, he gets up and does his breakfast, he does all the walking and he comes home everyday for lunch to give me a little break and check I am ok. I take my hat off to those of you who are chronically sick and have children, I don’t know how you do it.

It has been a hard week health-wise, I just hope things start to settled down very soon.

Time for a change

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time you will have noticed this week that on both platforms, Blogger and WordPress that my blog sites have had a makeover. 

The reason behind the change was two-fold, firstly it was just time for a change and secondly it was time to move forward. Both platforms used photo’s of Frankie as part of the blog. My Myasthenia kid page had a photo of Mollie and Frankie from the summer as its banner. Every time I went on the page it was a very real reminder of everything we have lost and the grief I feel. The time both Frankie and Mollie have been gone can still be counted in weeks, I still feel very sad most days. When you are with your dogs like I was 24/7 for the last 11 years they become a massive part of your life. It was like losing two members of my family, the family I have made with Jay. Still having them on the Facebook Myasthenia kid page and as a huge part of both blog platforms felt wrong. Although I will mourn them forever it was time to move forward and the new chapter of our life is now with Dembe our yellow Labrador. Not featuring him when he is a major part of my life felt disloyal to him. So hence the change.

I’ve known since the day we lost them both that the day would come that I felt strong enough to update the look of my blogs and Facebook page. I needed there to have been enough time passed that I wouldn’t feel guilty for changing things. It still took an awful lot to change the banner of my Facebook page associated with this blog. I wondered if people would think it was too soon or that I didn’t care about Mollie and Frankie. No one has said anything and deep down I knew they wouldn’t but you are still very conscious of how things may look to other people. 

The blogs were a spontaneous decision on Saturday night, when Jay was working late. I hadn’t like the look of blogger for ages and I needed to change the banner of the WordPress sites. I had taken a lovely photograph of some tree’s a couple of weeks ago and thought it would make a nice banner / background. I love Woodbury Common it has strong emotional ties for me. Every dog we have ever owned has been walked there, it was where I would go to forget the stress of everyday life before I became too sick to walk the dogs. To have that represented on the blog and it being my photograph gives me a sense of pride.

I also needed to change my Google Avatar. The photo had been a black and white one of me and Frankie. It is one of those things where every time I saw the photo I would hold my breath and wait for the pain in my heart to start. I have now changed it over to a lovely photo of Dembe. I wanted to start to look forward as I have been feeling a lot better of late. More like me and not totally bogged down in my grief. 

It has taken time for me to accept that I am allowed to look to the future and how our life with Dembe will be. Being an only dog he is even more the focus of my attention. He must some days wish that I would shut up as I talk to him constantly. He is the thing ( along with Jay ) that has got me through these last few months, who has forced me to get out of bed, to socialise when all I wanted to do was go to bed and just not have to deal with the world. Although it has been really hard on occasion I have made it through 100% of my worst days and that is an achievement.

The final thing I changed was my profile photo on my social media accounts. For a year possibly more it had been a close up photograph of Frankie’s nose. People always ask me about it as it was a cute photo but when you have just lost a faithful companion it can be really difficult emotionally to talk about it and people assume that he is still with us. I then have to say that he isn’t and that compounds the hurt. So I have changed this over to a photo of Dembe because when I speak about him I don’t feel sad. 

It took longer than I thought it would to change all the stuff. Whilst updating all my social media accounts I realised some of them were out of date and they still talked about Mollie and Frankie. So it was sad updating them but I do need to do this. I will never forget them they were a massive part of my life. They the three of them saved me when I was grieving for Travis our first Weimaraner and then when I became sick. I don’t know if I would still be here without their love and affection. Dembe has done the same shown me that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that it is ok to be sad as long as it doesn’t dominate every waking hour. 

So I hope you like what I have done to the blogs etc I think you will agree it was time for a change.

Dembe aged 24 weeks

Upheaval

Currently our back garden is in a state of upheaval, I know that the end is in sight (fingers crossed it will be completed or at least almost completed over the Easter weekend) . We knew it would need to be done this year but had hoped that it would wait until the summer. At the time we had discussed the plans we still had the two Weimaraners and not a puppy who was hell-bent on discovering every piece of rotten decking and turning it into a huge hole, or carrying bits of rotten wood into the house.

I will be honest I don’t cope well with change, I don’t like not knowing when things will be completed. I must have a plan or my anxiety goes through the roof. I often wonder if my inability to cope with change, tell a story just going from A to B, rather than all around the houses, my problems with textures of foods, materials, clothing, dirt on my hands is a massive signal that I have some sort of sensory processing issue or the fact that I am on the Autistic Spectrum.

 I have noticed at my physiotherapy sessions that I take my therapists instructions literally, I have to look at her to see what she is asking me to do as invariably I will do the literal interpretation not what she has asked me to do. I wonder also if my need to control everything is also born from the possibility of being on the spectrum. I like order and control. I like a routine, changes in routine cause anxiety.

The other “issue” I have although I don’t see it as an issue it is just mildly irritating is that I will get fixated over words and repeat them endlessly in my head. A few years ago for months I was fixated on the phrase / word Beth Din after listening to a programme on radio 4 about Jewish courts ( a Beth Din) and getting a divorce ( a Get ). The word Get also became part of this never-ending repetition of words in my head. I now sometimes panic if I hear the phrase Beth Din worried that it will start-up the never-ending loop of this word bouncing around in my head. Sometimes I will also say the word out loud but it is always when I am by myself. That’s not deliberate it just tends to be when I am by myself the word loop can intensify if I am not distracted. 

I know some people might say that this sounds more like OCD but there is no dread or sense that bad things will happen if I don’t say them or have them on a loop in my head. It is just something that happens and I can go months without having a word doing a loop, today’s word seems to be parallelogram. The words can be because of the way they sound or the way my mouth moves when saying them. I know it’s a bit bizarre and I may regret being so honest about sharing! 

So as I said earlier I can’t get to a point without going around the houses and there was a diversion definitely in the paragraph above. So the garden looked ok to those that didn’t realise that a lot of the plant pots were covering holes in the decking. It was getting to the point where we just didn’t have enough pots to cover them as Dembe was always busy making more.

We are doing the work ourselves helped by friends who have offered up their time and expertise. 

On the Sunday Jay started he pulled all this up really easily as it was all completely rotten. The balustrade was also completely rotten through. Jay made a start before our friend Leanne came over to give him a hand. due to my medical conditions I am not physically able to help and it really upsets me that all I can do is plan and order the things we need. Whilst everyone else does the physical labour. Before I was sick I would have loved to have got involved ( wearing gloves of course!).

In 4 hours Jay and Leanne removed loads of the rotten decking but were stuck when it came to the joists. In some places the joists were rotten so it was easy to saw through them and remove them. However quite a few parts were not rotten and sawing them by hand was taking forever.

Jay asked one of his colleagues from work if their husband had a chain saw and within an hour they were here making light work of the joists that had caused so many problems.

Of course to complicate matters we live in a mid terrace, with no rear access. So everything that is removed from the garden has to come through the house. On the following Tuesday Jay removed all the decking and joists that had been piled up in the back garden and brought them through the house. Cue lots of mud and bits of wood. It then took him a couple of hours to saw the large pieces into bits small enough to get into our car. Thankfully it was only two car loads to get it up the tip.

The following Sunday, Mark who had helped us with the chain saw the previous Sunday came over and helped Jay remove the remainder of the decking and the joists. This time they took everything out through the house the same day so that Jay didn’t have to do it by himself on his day off. This last bit only took around two hours.

The next phase of the garden will be completed (fingers crossed) over the Easter weekend. Due to the soil being heavy clay and water-logged we need to install a drainage system called a French drain to remove the surface water or the gravel that will be going down to replace the decking will just turn into a bog. 

The garden did dry out a bit when we had a few days of sun and wind but as soon as it rains it turns back into the mess you see above.

I had to order 25 metres of land drain which is the black coil of pipe in this photo. Rather unrealistically I believed that it would come in a box – obviously my spacial awareness is lacking. It doesn’t look to big here but it is enormous and had to be rolled through the lounge and then the kitchen to the patio. The small amount of patio that Dembe has had to do his business on has got smaller and smaller as more items are delivered.

We have fence posts, fence panels, garden gate and 3x 800kg of gravel. For someone who likes order and routine it is a lot to deal with on a daily basis.

All the fence posts, panels and garden gate also need painted so we are waiting for three days of dry weather so that we can slap a coat of Sea Grass on them ( same as the fence in the photo above).

I know it will be fantastic when its been completed and that Dembe will have a lovely space to run around in, where he can’t slip and hurt himself or chew through rotten decking boards. And although it is being done earlier than we had planned at least we will have the summer to enjoy it. If its anything like it was last year Dembe will be getting a paddling pool to enjoy as he loves water!

So if everyone could keep their fingers crossed for a relatively dry Easter it would be appreciated.

Dembe

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know that sadly I lost, well we lost our beautiful Weimaraners 7 days apart at the end of last year beginning of this year. I let you know that we had also got ourselves a beautiful yellow Labrador ( he has a bit of fox red in him as well). I haven’t really spoken about him much here, not because he is some state secret but because mainly my blog has always been about the Weimaraners and because our lives have changed so completely with losing them and having Dembe.

 Mollie

 Frankie

Willow

Our lives have always revolved around our dogs and they always will. With the Weimaraners our lives were quite restricted, when left they would destroy our home ( chewing furniture, banisters, carpets basically anything they could get their teeth into) and sing to the neighbours. It meant if they were ever left we would have to pay for a dog sitter or beg friends to come and sit with them. They were fine as long as they had someone with them they just had awful separation anxiety when left alone. We could have taken the easy way out and given them up / rehomed them. If you ever look on websites for dogs you will always find Weimaraners on there 6 months to a year old who are being rehomed because they can’t be left alone without causing damage or noise. It breaks my heart. 

We decided as that as we had wanted them we would have to adjust our lives accordingly. It meant no going out together as one of us would have to stay home, ( they also destroyed the car if left in that with Willow eating the handbrake one day!). They dominated our lives for 15 years but although it may seem like a huge hardship they gave us so much love and so much companionship for me I never saw it as a hardship. We loved them dearly and due to that love we were prepared to put our lives effectively on hold for the time they were with us. Those years went past in the blink of an eye. The hardest part of those 15 years was some people just not understanding that our dogs would always come first and that we would miss events because of not being able to leave them. 

Now I am not slagging of the Weimaraners, a lot of their problems were caused by me and Jay. I fell ill 3 months after Frankie and Willow were born and due to the stress of me being ill and genuinely not being well enough their training was rubbish and so was their socialisation. They also got attacked several times when they were puppies by other dogs, so they became nervous aggressive. Walks became so stressful it was easier to walk them at 5am, which then became 4am which then became 3am. Jay would then be up for a few hours and then would go back to sleep getting up time would depend on whether he was working that day or not.  Evening walks would have to take place in dark on the common like the morning walks so that they wouldn’t bump into any other dogs. It was stressful, we were always worried about dog owners who had no control over their dogs who would let them get up in Frankies personal space despite us telling them he was nervous aggressive.

When Willow passed away in 2017 things got easier, mainly because there were only two dogs to control and the fact that she would whip the others up into a frenzy. We missed her greatly but it would be a lie to say that things didn’t get easier. Frankie no longer reacted to dogs out on the walk, he stayed well clear of them but you no longer had to worry that he would get aggressive due to his fear. Mollie was always really good with all dogs and we never had any problems with her. 

With Dembe it has been a clean slate, training started from the minute he arrived home and has been consistent. We don’t get dictated to by him when he goes out for a walk, where as the Weims would start crying and pacing due to being creatures of habit. For Dembe we have deliberately kept his walks unscheduled, so he doesn’t know and therefore doesn’t start acting up demanding a walk. He fits in with us not us with him. We don’t love him any less or any more than the Weims, we just decided that we wanted some of our life back.

The change in both of us has been immense. Jay used to suffer terribly with fatigue, we put it down to his methotrexate for his psoriasis and the stress of looking after me and the dogs. In reality now we know that it was night after night of broken sleep. Being awake for a few hours in the middle of the night from 3am until 5am then going back to sleep was destroying him. He never wanted to do anything or go anywhere because he was always so exhausted. Who can blame him he was dealing with extreme sleep deprivation. What I haven’t said is that when he was on an early shift ( quite often he would have had a late finish the night before so he wouldn’t have gone to sleep much before 11pm) he would get up at 3am and that would be him up until he went to bed that evening. 

Jay is now up every morning by 7am, 7.30am at the very latest. If he is on a late night we get to do stuff all together before he goes to work at 12pm.  We have a cup of tea and have a chat and then we will take Dembe out. Depending on how I am feeling or where we are going means that sometimes I can join the boys using my mobility scooter. Dembe is limited at the moment as to how much exercise he can have so that we protect his joints . Currently he can have 20 mins a day in just over a weeks time he can go up to 25 minutes as it is 5 minutes for every month of his age. 

Jay and I would be lost without him but we have really struggled to accept over the last 10 weeks that he is actually ours. That probably seems a really weird thing to say but I think because he came into our lives during one of the most traumatic periods we have lived through, although we loved him immediately there was almost this feeling that he didn’t belong to us. I would forget he was in the house with me and he would bark and I would jump out of my skin. His care was never, ever compromised it was just we were overwhelmed with grief and all this love we had for this little ball of fluff. 

He seemed so very little when we first got him home at 8 weeks, despite the fact his weight has increased by at least 10 kg and he has got so much bigger he still seems very dinky to us. After having three huge Weimaraners for over a decade I am guessing anything would seem tiny.  He is a very affectionate dog, he loves cuddles and kissing. He really loves Jamie and they have a little routine that when Jay gets into the car he looks into the back and Dembe smothers him in kisses. For me Dembe is my little shadow, I can’t go anywhere without being followed. He has also started to pick up on when I am unwell and adjusts his behaviour accordingly. We are not at the stage yet where he will happily lie on the bed with me all day but he will snuggle up next to me on the sofa. When I had a migraine Sunday afternoon and went to bed at 6pm he came up with me and settled down with his head over my feet. Just like Frankie used to. He also likes sleeping curled up on the top corner of my pillow. He gives me a little kiss goodnight when The Archers theme tune comes on at the end of the programme and settles for the night.

Without him Jay and I would have fallen apart. We have both really struggled mentally and physically over the last three months. I finally have started feeling more like my old self again but I am very quick to tears. Anything about Rainbow Bridge and I am gone. If anyone posts that their dog or cat etc has passed away I break my heart. The pain is still very raw but I am able to function in the world where as initially I felt so disconnected and as if I was trying to work on autopilot. 

I have neglected a few friendships because I have just been overwhelmed by the grief of it all. I know some people just wont understand at all how you could be so upset by an animals death. Believe me you can. I wish every night the last image in my head wasn’t Frankie passing away or seeing Mollie unable to walk or lift her head due to the catastrophic stroke she suffered. I had to stop watching this weeks episode of the walking dead when the heads on spikes mouths were moving despite them being dead. Frankie’s mouth muscles twitched for the whole time I lay on the floor with him after he passed away. It was too much and sent me straight back into flash backs of losing him. I was quite proud of myself being able to write all this without sobbing but I have fucked that up now.  I hope some day those horrific images stop waking me from sleep and stop being the last images in my head before I fall asleep because I do know happiness despite being so sad.

Without Dembe I wouldn’t be here, it is as simple as that. I could not have carried on under that weight of grief. I am not saying that to be melodramatic but for a few days there I wanted to die myself. My heart hurt and no one except Jay understood what I was going through. I have never seen Jay look as ill as he did during those 6 days that we had no dog in the house. When Dembe came home the colour came back into his face and it forced us to start living again. He is our miracle boy and our saviour. Even when he is being a wee shitebag.

If you would like to find out more about Dembe he has his own blog at http://www.thedembediaries.com