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

Brave

I don’t class myself as brave although I have had plenty of people in the past tell me I am. Most of the time I am a quivering wreck, my anxiety has been awful of late, if there is nothing to worry about my brain will find something and keep me awake at night about it. Dealing with people, crowds, noise or even just being in the outside world alone fills me with terror. Yes on many occasions I force myself out of the house and attend appointments alone, dropped off outside but once out of the safety net of the car I am on my own. After over ten years of being pushed everywhere in a wheelchair ( I don’t have the strength or the capacity in my joints to move under my own steam without dislocations and severe pain, oh and the risk of fainting) today I took a brave step into the outside world alone and went to my hospital appointment by myself. I have never done this. I have never seen a hospital consultant alone in the whole history of me being sick. This is huge.

Now a few people have got hung up on the fact that I didn’t travel the hours journey to the hospital by myself. Having pointed out the fact I don’t do crowds, loud noise, bright lights or social situations alone, what the hell do you want from me people? Public transport is shit, I just couldn’t have done the journey on my mobility scooter from my town to the city. Taking the bus or train would have meant multiple changes in places I don’t know. I’d have had a fucking heart attack, there isn’t enough valium in the world to get me through that. 

This is the person who freaks out about calling for a taxi let alone getting in one. One small step at a time folks you don’t run a marathon the first time you decide to have a jog, so why the judgement about the fact I didn’t travel alone? It was still fucking huge for me to navigate the hospital alone – one of the biggest in the area, to a clinic I have been possibly twice before ( as it location changed within the hospital).

I also need to point out any medical appointments set off my anxiety and can lead to me not sleeping properly for several weeks before I go. Due to the horrendous treatment I have suffered at the hands of the medical profession in the past. So I may go to doctor’s appointments at the gp surgery by myself and the same for dental appointments but it doesn’t mean I am happy or confident doing it. I hate it. It has got to the point where I just don’t like, feel / safe or comfortable if I have to leave the house by myself. My home is my safety zone where I control the light, noise, amount of people etc

So for clarity I travelled in our car for an hour with my husband Mr Myasthenia Kid and our trusty sidekick Dembe, who is in training to become my assistance dog and a bit of an emotional crutch as well to be honest. We tried to get parked up but there were no spaces, so hubby had to drop me off in front of the hospital, he set up my mobility scooter, helped me get on and left. Yes folks he left, I had the appointment letter in my hand and off I went on my adventure on a mobility scooter I have also never used by myself before – someone has always been with me. So many hours were spent last night panicking about it breaking down, knocking stuff over and getting lost. This hospital is not very user friendly and it is very easy to miss a turn and get lost.

This hospital is one of the largest in this part of the country ( South West of England) . Its main entrance goes on forever shops, coffee shops, stands for charities etc and hundreds of bloody people. Who’s walking speed resembles an extra on the walking dead ( For the uninitiated a Zombie). I am not massively confident on my mobility scooter owing to the fact on a couple of occasions I have only just managed to avoid being headline news in the locality…..once I nearly went over the sea wall because I was chatting and not looking where I was steering and on another occasion I moved the control in the wrong direction shot off the pavement into the path of an oncoming car. Despite the look of abject horror on my face I got a mouthful of abuse from the driver ( and I can’t blame them for that). So my nerves were a little frayed already and I had been having nightmares about old people going down like ten pins in my wake.

It actually went a lot smoother than I had imagined it would. That wouldn’t have been hard though as at 2am this morning, I was going over every possible scenario in my head. Members of staff asked me if I needed help ( that was probably the look of sheer panic on my face) asked if I needed doors held open, lifts held. In fact being alone on a mobility scooter I got more help than when I was with Mr Myasthenia Kid in a wheelchair. Which strikes me as a bit bizarre as even with him we still needed assistance with doors etc.

I checked myself in at the clinic and tried to find a place where my scooter and I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. One of my major gripes with hospitals is that despite it being quite obvious that people with disabilities will use them, they do not provide waiting rooms with a space where you can park up a wheelchair or mobility scooter where you are out of the way. It seems a bit fucking ridiculous if you ask me that hospitals seem to not think about accessibility when it comes to their outpatient departments. They ram the waiting room spaces with chairs but when you bring your own it’s a bit of a bloody nightmare to find somewhere to park up and not cause a major obstruction for staff and patients. Anyway rant over. I found somewhere that I thought was out of the way and thankfully it was.

My appointment went well, managed to get myself back on some medication to prevent my migraines as the amitriptyline isn’t doing its job, I have had two migraines in the last two weeks. Plus I really shouldn’t be on amitriptyline with PoTs

I managed not to crash into chairs etc as I reversed out of the room and turned outside. I did however manage to get lost on my way out of the hospital. Probably because I got cocky it was easily remedied with reversing and taking the turn I missed. When I got to the foyer I was just getting ready to find a spot to stop and get my phone out so I could ring Jay and left him know I needed to be collected, when I heard him say to Dembe “There’s mummy look”. Dembe was so well behaved, he came over walking beautifully on his lead and then jumped up and gave me lots of kisses. I can’t tell you how glad I was to see them both. I was no longer on my own and I could make my way back to the safety of the car.

It was also the first time since we had started training that he has walked with Jay and me, when I have been using the mobility scooter. He walked beautifully and I could fully concentrate on driving rather than worrying that I was going to run him over by accident.

Today’s travel and navigating the hospital corridors have left me exhausted. I don’t feel particularly brave but I do know this was a big deal. Maybe when I am not so exhausted I will be able to appreciate how very brave I was today.

The Dentist… not an experience I wish to repeat

As regular readers will know last Friday I had the dentist for a tooth extraction. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience and for that reason I am stating now

if you are fearful of the dentist or have a dental phobia please skip this week’s blog post.

I would hate for anyone to read this and then never go to the dentist again. So I am warning you it wasn’t pretty but there were some humorous bits as well.

I had been pretty wound up about this trip to the dentist from the Tuesday of the week before. Granted I asked for the extraction as I couldn’t stand the thought of having to listen to the drill going and the fear that at any moment the local anaesthetic will have worn off and I will be able to feel everything. The night before the appointment I decided that I would take 5mg of diazepam to ensure I slept. Fear of any kind of medical appointments can leave me struggling to sleep for up to a week prior. Thankfully I had been able to sleep over the previous 9 nights, as we were sorting stuff out due to the car. I slept well but woke up with my usual Diazepam hangover I get when I take the full dose. Of late I have been cutting them in half as they work just as well when I am struggling to sleep.

My appointment was for 9.35am, as we now get up ridiculously early due to Dembe ( although saying that he slept until 6.10am this morning had his breakfast and then slept until 8am – unheard of and what a luxury!) it felt like it was hours away. At 8.45am I took 5mg of Diazepam, now I never take Diazepam during the day, maybe in the evening when my back is in spasm and I would never take the full dose of 5mg. I also took some oramorph so it was in my system and would hopefully help with the pain. By the time we were travelling to the Dentist surgery at 9.20am I was off my face! 

I actually felt like I had drunk several gin and tonics on an empty stomach. My face was numb and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. Jay dropped me off, I prefer doing the dentist alone as then I don’t have to pretend to be brave to an audience. He was going to take Dembe to the beach. I checked myself in and made my way to the waiting room. Eternally grateful it was on the ground floor as by now there was no way I was ever going to manage to do steps by this point. Putting one foot in front of the other without falling over was enough of a challenge. Thankfully the waiting room was empty and I wasn’t going to have to pretend I wasn’t off my face. It was like one of those situations where you are having pretend you are sober and the harder you try the drunker you look.

It was just as well the Diazepam had rendered me incapable of doing much at all because I was late going in for my appointment. around 30 minutes. At any other time where I hadn’t taken Diazepam I would have just run away claiming a prior engagement for not being able to hang around. By the time I got into the consulting room I was floating, I knew I was at the Dentist but I didn’t really give a shit, which is the complete opposite of how I normally am.

As I walked in the Dentist asked me how I was, I laughed and said ” I’m floating” he looked a little confused so I reminded him that he gad previously advised me to take Diazepam for any interventions he was going to carry out. He started laughing, normally I am so uptight I can barely speak. I wasn’t looking forward to the procedure but the overwhelming sense of fear and need to get the hell out of there had gone.

I reminded him – god knows how that I really didn’t need any detail during the procedure, just a high level overview at all times. It is the detail that makes my fear spiral out of control. 

Now my memory of events is a little hazy, I am having to look back at stuff I wrote on social media whilst still under the influence to remember exactly what happened. I know it was horrific and I am still in pain. My gum where the tooth was removed is black and blue and I have only been able to eat solid food from last night 4 days after the extraction. I do remember being rather amusing although it may have been only me that was amused.

Initially my Dentist had a look at my tooth again. I know that he said that it had disintegrated further from just over a week ago. I do have a terrible habit of unconsciously clenching my teeth when stressed and obviously over the last week with having to find a new car and this appointment looming I had probably been clenching more than normal. The tooth to give you a basic idea is on the right upper jaw at the back 7 I believe is its number. It was filled a very long time ago, due to EDS my teeth have narrow fissures which mean they are much more prone to needing filled. Had anyone realised I had EDS as a child they would have sealed all my adult teeth as they came through to prevent caries ( decayed areas). Instead now I am left with teeth that are rapidly losing their enamel and are more filling than tooth. Anyway I digress, the tooth being removed just to complicate things had also fractured. So I one side of the tooth stood the filling and on the other sat the really crappy tooth.

The dentist then gave me two injections one either side of the tooth. The one on the outside of the gum wasn’t too bad but the one on the inside of my gum near the roof of my mouth really stung. Whilst he was waiting for the local anaesthetic to take effect he then did a quick clean of my teeth. I had to stop him once as it was sore, on my bottom jaw at the front but I can see how much better they are looking for it. Of course on the side where he had done the injection he could do whatever he wanted as I could no longer feel anything. As he knew he would have a limited time in which to work as I tend to burn through local really quickly, as soon as I was numb he set to work.

This was really weird, the dentist moved the chair really high up, so I was face to face with him and I was sat bolt up right. I closed my eyes at this point as I find it really uncomfortable staring into someones face whilst they try to rip your tooth from the gum. I have no idea what kind of implement he was using, I am guessing some kind of pliers, as I could feel the end of them against my lower lip. As he was pulling away the pressure was immense. I felt like my cheekbone was going to shatter and my TM ( temporomandibular joint – the hinge joint of your jaw either side of your face in front of your ears) was going to dislocate. I put up with it for so long and then I grabbed his arm and explained that the TM joint was moving beyond a normal range of motion and felt like it was being pushed to the point of dislocation. Let alone the feeling of pressure in my cheek bone. He wasn’t impressed and said “you are going to feel some pressure” I responded that I understood that but I was very aware of the fact that it wasn’t going to take much more for the joint to pop. Reluctantly I agreed that he could continue. He started up again and it was really quite clear that this approach wasn’t going to work. My tooth was claiming squatters rights and a different approach was needed.

As my tooth was quite fragile due to the fracture in it he decided to put a band around it to try and maintain its integrity and to stop it fracturing into tiny pieces. It didn’t work as although all I could feel was pressure there was the sound of a tooth exploding and a wedge of tooth dropped into the back of my throat. I tapped his arm for him to allow me to sit up and then I spat out what had dropped into the back of my throat. It was a chunk of the filling and a piece of tooth. What shocked me though was the sheer amount of blood, the dental nurse had done a good job using the suction device as I hadn’t tasted or felt any blood at all. I had however missed the sink bit when spitting and the dentists pristine white unit and floor now resembled a bare knuckle boxing ring. I apologised profusely for making such a mess. I then grabbed another piece of tooth out of my mouth and loudly declared “the tooth fairy isn’t going to accept this shit is she?” to which both the dentist and the dental nurse laughed. Probably more at the fact the longer I was in the chair the more drunk I was sounding.

As the tooth had disintegrated in my mouth the dentist decided he was divide up the rest of the tooth and remove it piece by piece. This meant the use of the dreaded drill. I started shaking a lot and I had zero control over it. The dentist asked me if I was ok but as he had his hand in my moth at the time I could only make a weird sort of noise that was accepted as a yes. The smell was disgusting, a weird burning smell. I spent the whole time gripping the armrests praying that the local anaesthetic was going to hold. I knew that this deep into the tooth there was a high chance if it was to wear off it would be like a scene from Marathon Man.

More moves with the pliers and more blood. I was starting to swallow it now, which was making me feel sick and slowly the tooth  came out in pieces but it was only the tooth that was visible above the gum line. The roots themselves were refusing to budge. The shakes were getting worse, at about this point I was lying there thinking I wish I had just had the bloody crown done. I had innocently assumed that the tooth would pop out without issue and now 20 minutes in we were looking at playing a game of dig out the roots. My heart rate well that must have been close to the 200’s. I was shaking like I was plugged into the electric mains. My heart sank when he informed me he was going to have to dissect the root in my gum using the drill. Again the fear was that the local anaesthetic would have worn off and I was going to be in pain.

I have to say at this point my dentist was really good. Every time he went to use the drill before touching me he would blow cold air onto the area he was going to work on to check it was still numb before he started. It wasn’t until it was all over and I was sat up talking to him that I clocked that he had a syringe primed with extra local anaesthetic in case it had been needed. I finally felt that after all this time he was listening to me.

I tried really hard to get the shakes under control but there was nothing I could do. The taste of blood the smell of the roots of the tooth being  broken up into pieces. I heard him ask the nurse for the root forceps or something similar. I had to ask to sit up again as whilst the nurse had been getting the tool for him a whole load of blood and bits of root / tooth was sat on the back of my throat choking me. Again I was a little taken back at the amount of blood. I know it was mixed with saliva but the blood was really bright red and thick, so was probably 90% blood and 10% saliva. I really didn’t fancy my prospects of being able to get off the dentists chair without fainting.

By the time it was over I had been in the dentists chair for over 35 minutes. I still couldn’t stop shaking. The dentist showed me the root’s of the tooth he had removed it was over an inch long no wonder the fucking thing hadn’t wanted to come out. It had also been twisted around the other side the root. Still under the influence of Diazepam I said “that’s a fucking monster” I do try to limit my profanity when in polite company but it felt right in the moment. It also noticed there was blood all over the instrument tray and all over his gloves. It is a good job that I don’t faint at the sight of blood.

I have to say this was the most violent and traumatic tooth extraction I have ever gone through. At the end of the procedure the Dentist told me that at one point he thought he was going to have to send me to hospital as he didn’t think he was going to be able to get the roots out. I am not surprised because I think I went into shock during it and that was what was causing me to shake so violently. Plus the sight of all that blood, repeatedly.

At the time of talking to the dentist I was clamping down on the gauze they give you to apply pressure to the wound. After five minutes he checked that it had stopped bleeding which it had but he gave me a spare gauze to take home. Just as well because 10 minutes after being home my mouth was full of blood and I then had to sit for 40 minutes with the gauze clamped against the extraction site to stop the bleeding. When I finally removed it, it was soaked all the way through.

The pain really started to kick in a few hours after I had got back home and my face started to swell. It took every pain medication in the house taken at regular intervals to get the pain under control. My TMJ also flared up with pain so moving my jaw was incredibly painful. For the next few days I was washing my mouth out with salt water every 2 hours. I felt so sick for hours afterwards due to the amount of blood I had swallowed during the course of the surgery. Its not an experience I want to repeat and I think I maybe referred to hospital for the wisdom tooth to be extracted after that debacle.

Its now Wednesday and I am still in pain at the extraction site. The pain hasn’t got any worse and it is localised just at the site rather than what it was like on Friday where the whole right side of my face hurt. I think due to the EDS it is going to take longer to heal. If it hasn’t settled down by next Monday I will give the Dentist’s surgery a ring as it would have been well over a week since the tooth was removed. I have had a quick look inside my mouth and there is quite a bit of bruising so I imagine that is contributing to the pain.

The good news is that on the same day of the tooth extraction Jay picked up our new 2nd hand car. I didn’t get to go out in it until Saturday but it is lovely and very comfortable. Dembe has given it his seal of approval and covered it in long yellow hair!

***

About an hour after I finished writing this post my mouth really began to hurt. It was hurting all along my cheek bone, up into my eye and nothing was touching it. I waited until 11.50am to ring the dentist as I was wondering if it was psychosomatic but as the pain was increasing I knew it wasn’t. Finally the dentist surgery rang me at 14.30 after I had rung them again just before 2pm to find out why I hadn’t heard from them – the pain was increasing and I just wanted there to be an end in sight. They asked me to come straight down.

Even thought this was an emergency appointment I was seen straight away by a different dentist than my own. He confirmed that the blood clot had been lost from the extraction site and that bone and nerves were now exposed. He had to give it a good clean out with cold water and then picked out all the food debris that had got in it. He said it was showing no signs of infection but he took an x-ray and they will contact me if they find anything. 

The extraction site has now been packed with iodine gauze – which tastes grim but has reduced the pain I was in enormously. I have got to try to keep it in situ for the next few days. Then resume the hot salty water rinsing. 

I knew this morning when I woke up feeling exceptionally tired and rough that something wasn’t right but just couldn’t put my finger on it. So glad that I have been, the only time in my life I was happy to visit the dentist!

Sh*t

My fear of the dentist has become sort of legendary on the pages of this blog. It’s now no longer a fear `but has evolved into a phobia, which would be fine were it not for the fact that I can see in my future lots of dental work being needed. Which fills me with dread.

The phobia really took hold last year, I was sat in the waiting room and I could hear the sound of a dentists drill going in one of the consultation rooms. As I heard the drill sick reached the back of my throat and I started to sweat. I felt incredibly light headed and I had to fight the urge of just getting the hell out of there…if indeed my legs would have worked. 

I have never had a very good relationship with dentistry. I have a high pain threshold everywhere apart from my mouth. I am incredibly sensitive even a dentists tool checking my teeth can trigger sharp nerve pain. I often wonder if I have more nerves in my gob than the average human being? I also wonder if it is because you are so vulnerable lying their unable to move or communicate effectively that my fear or phobia has now taken grip. Pain happens at every dentist visit, even check ups. My reaction gets the same response from whatever dentist I see, they simply don’t believe that their action has caused me pain or discomfort. To be constantly told that your pain isn’t real by the people who you are supposed to put your trust in just erodes it over time. I’d love to say that as I have got older my visits to the dentist have got better…they haven’t and now a week Friday I will be going for my first extraction since 2003.

Last year in May I was told I needed a filling. Instead of stopping there my dentist in his friendly way that he was probably taught at university as a way to talk to patients then gave me every minute detail of what he would do to fill the tooth. You see the tooth was decayed beyond saving. He would remove all the pulp you know the bit where the nerve sits, clean it out and then fill the tooth. Panic coursed through me as he continued to give me every last detail. You see for this patient the more technical detail I know the worse it is. My heart rate his risen just typing this, even though I know that he won’t be doing this to my tooth next week. Remembering the appointment still fills me with horror.

I duly made an appointment and the earliest I could get was July. Which was crap because it meant I had a two month wait in which to build to complete hysterics. I was all set for July 12th and then the week before the appointment the dental surgery rang and cancelled. My head was all over the place as that was the same week my mum had been told she had cancer but what type and how bad wouldn’t be known until she was operated on. They offered me an alternative date but we had visitors coming so I said I would ring them back and make an appointment. I never did.

I won’t lie it was easier just to forget about the dentist than deal with it and just get it done. That is when I knew that my fear had turned to a phobia because rational sensible Rachel should have taken over and just bit the bullet and got the filling done. Instead I have endured a year of toothache on and off and the fear of developing an abscess.

When my husband had a phone call to prompt him to book an appointment I asked him to book mine as well. I didn’t want to go but the pain in my tooth was becoming more severe. I’d rather go and get the tooth pulled than wait to get an abscess ( I’ve had an abscess before it took three months to sort out as I developed a dry socket). A dry socket is agony but that is still preferable to me than hearing the drill go whilst it is inside my mouth.

So yesterday despite the mounting panic rising within me I went to the dentist. The dentist tried to tell me off about not coming back for the filling so I just told him my mum got diagnosed with cancer and that I just forgot. I didn’t forget I just chose not to remember. He shut right up and apologised. I then told him that the tooth that needed a filling now needed to be removed and that I wasn’t taking no for an answer. He tried to tell me that he wouldn’t remove the tooth if it didn’t need to be taken out. So I told him either he did it or someone else would. He was quite shocked as normally I am really polite and don’t say boo to a goose – always being terrified that being rude would cause more pain. I explained the tooth had been giving me toothache at a low level for months and that I just wanted it out. It is right at the back of my mouth and its being missing will make no difference cosmetically. He said he would take a look. So with my heart beating out of my chest he lowered the chair.

He took a look at it and asked me again if I wanted it removed to which I said yes. He informed me that the tooth was now fractured right down the middle. There is very little left of my actual tooth as it is being held together with a filling. He said due to the state of it he would remove it for me but he would need to keep an eye on the tooth in front of it as that had developed some decay and would need a small filling. I immediately jumped in and told him I didn’t want any detail. Small filling fine I can live with that. I just don’t need to know what that entails.

I was quite surprised during the appointment to find out I still have a fully erupted wisdom tooth. I was under the impression that they had all gone when I was a teenager as I had a few removed due to them trapping a small piece of gum between the wisdom tooth and the next tooth as they erupted. That piece of gum would then balloon forming like a pink bubble that would then cause horrendous pain. So all my previous wisdom teeth had been removed at the dentist. He explained that the wisdom tooth was showing signs of decay and due to its position it would be nigh on impossible to put a filling in. This again would need to be watched as it would need to be extracted. I don’t know if he means by him or if he meant I will need to have to have it done at the hospital. News to me anyway that I have an erupted wisdom tooth.

I was in and out on that appointment, I booked next weeks appointment and then went out into the fresh air. My legs had turned to jelly and I felt pretty close to passing out. Which isn’t nice when you are alone and waiting for hubby to get the car. I thought ( I don’t know why) they had a bench outside and was going to park myself on that. They didn’t so I had to balance myself against a wall in such a way that if I did pass out there would be minimal damage to me.

Two hours later and my legs were still jelly and I was still feeling like I was going to vomit. Just from the feeling of panic that a visit to the dentist will produce. Jay kept telling me how brave I had been to attend when I hate it so much and for stating my case for getting the tooth pulled. I didn’t feel brave I felt awful. Its a difficult feeling to describe. You know logically the fear and how it controls you is out of proportion to the event but you can’t help it. There is no logic to it and it isn’t a case of talking yourself down. For me it is a whole body reaction, I feel faint, I feel like I am going to be sick, I find it difficult to speak, my legs turn to jelly and feel like they will crumple under me at any moment. The whole time my brain is screaming “Shit get out of here”. My heart rate well is probably close to the 200’s the way my chest feels and all the while my exterior maybe cool and showing none of the inner turmoil / fear that I am feeling.

Maybe that is the problem? It seems no matter how many times I tell people I am terrified of the dentist, it is dismissed with “well nobody likes the dentist”. But it is just so much more than that. I will be honest last week when my tooth was really sore I contemplated going to the kitchen shit drawer getting a pair of pliers and removing my own tooth. Just so I could avoid going to the dentist. If you think that is normal behaviour for someone who doesn’t like the dentist… then you have a screw loose.

My gp tried to help and told me there was CBT online courses I could try to get over my phobia / fear. I told her I was sure there was but when your own dentist fails to appreciate how much going to see him fucks you up then me doing all that work is pointless. It’s not like I can up and change dentists any time I like it took us years to get an NHS dentist when we moved here. Many of them now have closed lists. So it simply isn’t a case of moving and finding a more sympathetic one. However Jay spoke to his dentist that morning and she said she would accept me onto her list if I wanted to move. I am giving my dentist one last chance. If he blows it this time I will be taking her up on the offer of moving within the practice.

Post Easter Vibe

Well as usual when there is any disruption to my routine I am really thrown. Like I have said before and in the blog post Upheaval I don’t do well with change. Easter always throws me out as do any bank holidays, it can leave me unsure of what the day is for a week or so. I know it’s not just me everyone is thrown when there routine is altered. So for this week I thought I would just update you all on the sewing and embroidery projects I have been working on recently.

I have been making a lot of cushions. I like making cushions as it combines using my embroidery machine, sewing machine and overlocker. I have also been using my embroidery machine to embroider motifs onto sweatshirts. However my latest make only used my sewing machine and it was nice to get back to basics. I made some bunting, 10 metres of the stuff to go in the garden once the revamp is finished. (currently being held up waiting for various different parts to arrive)

The bunting has been made out of various scraps of material I have had lying around for a while and some fat quarters that I didn’t know what to do with. I can’t wait to have it hung in the garden this summer. It’s the first time I have made bunting and I am very pleased with it. I don’t know why I haven’t made it before.

I really love using my embroidery machine, it gives me another way to express my creativity and also make items that are personal to the gift recipient. I am in a cushion making phase at the moment, which I really enjoy because it uses so many skills. Here are just some of the ones I have made in the last few months.

I love the ones with the Deer on they are my favourite. I also really love the Llama one and the Lion head. Embroidery always cheers me up when I am feeling low, it’s been really hard since Molly and Frankie passed away, even though I have Dembe it’s not the same. I wouldn’t be without him and he is enormous fun but it is a massive change to my routine with him being a puppy.

I have also really enjoyed learning how to embroider sweatshirts. I buy plain £10  unisex sweatshirts and then embroider a nice design on them. It has been a case of trial and error getting the stabilisation right on these. I am much happier with the last three I have done, although I still wear the other two that I did before Christmas.

What is even better with this design was that it was free one month. I am also starting to now get adventurous and changing up the colours from those that my embroidery machine says to do it in. It is important when you do that to write down what colour you are using instead of the one listed on the screen or you can get yourself into a bit of a pickle.

 

I wear this sweatshirt a lot as it is totally me. Whenever I am stressed or anxious I try to sew as it keeps me focused on the task at hand rather than worrying about something I have no control over.

 This is a terrible photo but this is my favourite design that I have embroidered onto a sweatshirt I call it Chinese Chrysanthemums. I bought this sweatshirt especially to embroider this design onto it as I felt it was so dramatic it needed the black background to really pop.

What I love about embroidering clothing is that by changing the colours, placement etc you end up with a totally unique piece of clothing. I am going to try some more embroidering onto t-shirts for the summer. I will use a few of my old t-shirts to practice on to ensure I have the level of stabilisation right so there is no puckering or distortion of the design.

I think I love my embroidery machine ( like I love my sewing machine ) because I have to use the old grey matter and solve problems. It was nice making the bunting recently as it was going back to basics and just doing something that wasn’t too taxing but still needed thought about. 

I also made a peg bag recently, which has made me chuckle as it is like I am doing my sewing journey in reverse. Last year I was making quilts and bags, designing my own patterns etc this year I have made some bunting and now a peg bag. Both though are good basics to master. The peg bag I made my own hanger from wire as I didn’t have a small enough hanger and then made my own pattern. I used remnants from another project to make the bag. Now I can’t wait for my washing line to be back up ( once the garden is sorted ) so that I can see my peg bag in use.

I like using my sewing skills not just to make decorative items and gifts but to also solve problems. So recently I have made us a beautiful front net ( type ) curtain from a Broiderie Anglaise panel I was given. It is brilliant as it stops the light glaring onto the TV during the day but doesn’t impact the light levels in the house. It also provides us with some much-needed privacy. It looks really nice from outside the house as well. The problem with our lounge window is that it is south-facing so we end up with the light streaming in which is lovely but can also mean you end up all summer long having the curtains closed whenever you want to watch the TV. With the panel being denser than net it gives us privacy which we both value (I know that may sound odd from someone who writes a blog). It’s also had the added bonus of stopping Dembe looking at the window and barking at everyone who walks past! 

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.