New Things

Six weeks ago I did something crazy. It had been in my head since before Christmas and I had been spending an age mulling it over too scared to say it out loud. It took until after Christmas for me to even say to anyone what I had been dreaming up.  One day I mentioned to my husband what my idea was, he assured me it wasn’t that crazy and that if I didn’t try I would never know.

To some this idea won’t sound that crazy at all but believe me it sent my anxiety into over drive. My big plan. my crazy idea, wasn’t really out there at all. I just wanted to start up a monthly coffee morning for like minded crafting friends who would like to learn new skills, solve a craft problem, get hints and tips etc. I will be honest  through 2019 I was a bit of a hermit, some of it self imposed, some of it well read my post Reflections and you decide. I was going months and I mean months without seeing anyone other than Mr Myasthenia Kid or Dembe. Ok so that is a bit of a half truth there as we were going to dog training but a 5 minute conversation once a week with someone other than my husband is not socialising. Especially when the topic is just Dembe or dogs in general. My mental health was being crushed, although creatively I had never felt so fulfilled as my sewing / embroidery had taken on a new direction. My anxiety was really getting bad around social interactions because I literally just wasn’t seeing anyone.

Chronic health conditions impact so much of my life, it limits the time I can spend doing it. I would love to run a small business selling items but my body couldn’t cope with the work load that something like an Etsy shop would produce. I can’t do craft fayres as I couldn’t sit there all day without then being sick and exhausted for weeks after. Crafting is my life it gives me the reason to get up and keep going every morning. Without it I would be very lost. However part of crafting is sharing your triumphs and disasters. Whilst there are various Facebook groups ( some of which are very supportive, others are like a nest of vipers) it isn’t the same as actually speaking to a real live human being. I can no longer drive as I lost my driving licence 5 years ago due to my medical conditions. Public transport is too hard going for me. I rely on Mr Myasthenia Kid if I want to go anywhere so attending guild meetings hasn’t been easy due to his work schedule. I wanted something that combined my love and appreciation for all crafts and a social atmosphere. So I took the plunge.

I knew the name I wanted for the group – “The Stitchin’ Bitches”, I also knew due to the size of my house numbers would have to be limited, if anyone wanted to come at all. A friend of mine reached out regarding a crochet issue she was having, we are both self taught and only in the last few months. I casually mentioned in my response that should I start up a group for us to meet and discuss our crochet ( and other crafts) would she be interested. She almost bit my hand off, she would be extremely interested in it and what a good idea. 

Even though I had this positive response I still left it at least a week until I built up the courage to put up a post on my Facebook timeline asking if there were any like minded crafter’s like me that wanted to meet up on a monthly basis and do crafts together. Be it crochet, knitting, embroidery, sewing. I had a lot of responses but it was from people in different parts of the country saying that they wished they lived near me as they would be there like a shot. Initially responses from local friends was slow, embarrassingly so. I was starting to think that maybe there wasn’t any desire from any of my friends ( other than the first one I spoke with). Determined not to take the lack of response from my first post as the definitive answer I posted several more times. Each time I got responses from people outside the area that I lived , even the friends I have made world wide via various health forums wanted to come. But in the end I had 4 people interested which was a good number – remember I live in a tiny house.

I set up a private Facebook group for us all to be able to post in and then set up a poll so that they could let me know what days suited them best to hold a meeting. I had envisioned when I first embarked on this idea that it would be one hour a month – which for me was fine as it would give me time to recover and give me some social time. We decided Mondays were best and set the date for our very first meeting of The Stitchin’ Bitches – they all loved the name by the way! I think we sort of sound like a Country and Western group LOL!

Initially it all seemed fine until my anxiety kicked in the day before our first meeting on Monday 10th February. I was just terrified that the meeting would be a flop, that people wouldn’t speak to each other or that after 30 minutes people would be racing to get out the door. I was so anxious I barely got more than 2 hours sleep, I tossed and turned all night. This would be me hosting an event ( thankfully all my friends know I am poorly and will pitch in with making drinks etc if needed)  without my safety blanket of Mr Myasthenia Kid. Also some of the people attending I hadn’t actually seen since I left work in 2008. For me it was a huge gamble. I am always really anxious when people come to the house anyway, I worry that they think it is dirty or uncared for etc. Its hard to keep on top of stuff when you aren’t well and all the DIY stuff falls on one partner. So I know there are some places crying out to be redecorated etc. I was also worried about people judging me, on the outside I don’t look sick but every day is a battle of some sorts. I worry that people think I am taking the piss because no one ever see’s me when I am really poorly.

Monday 10th February seemed to come around so quickly. By the time 11am arrived I was pretty knackered just from the sheer anxiety creating this “event” had caused. I really shouldn’t have worried. I also wasn’t the only one who had been anxious, a friend confided in me on leaving she had been terrified to attend. As for thinking they would all be racing for the door at 11.30am nothing could have been further from the truth. It was 13.30 that the last person left and the first person had only gone around 15 minutes before that. I had been concerned due to the fact that we all had one work place in common that we would end up discussing that but again nothing could have been further from the truth. It was barely mentioned and that was only as people left. It was just so lovely to have a few hours with people whose eyes didn’t glaze over when crafts were mentioned. I know I can get very passionate about my projects, so it was nice to answer peoples questions about the techniques I had used etc. It was equally nice to see what my friends had been up to. For all of us it was so uplifting to get out of the house and socialise – obviously I didnt go far!

The really nice thing was that as the meeting / gathering was drawing to a close one of the lady’s said “Rach, any chance we can do this once a fortnight? I don’t think once a week is enough”. Everyone else was in agreement also. I said immediately that no one would “have” to come to every session especially if they felt fortnightly was too much, that I was happy for people to dip in and out as needed. But the buzz the morning had created was so great that we set up the next few weeks worth of meetings. I was so proud of myself and what our little group had achieved. I posted on my Instagram account about it and now several other people dotted around the country have decided that they are going to do the same thing. Which is really lovely as it is such a boost for your mental health and to stop the isolation that is all too common in the world.

Today (Monday 24th March) we held the second meeting and today we had the grand total of 7 people here (including me). Dembe was like a dog with two tails, with all the love and fuss he got from everyone. Today two members learned how to start to crochet – slip knot, chain stitches and then double crochet ( UK ). Another lady had a refresher on crochet and learned how to do a Granny Square for the first time. In the corner a lady was being taught to knit. Mr Myasthenia Kid is on holiday this week from work and made himself scarce for a bit having a wander around the town. However he said the buzz and positivity he got from the room when he came home was amazing. He said he was so proud of me for being so brave to try and do something to end my own social isolation. He did make us all laugh as when he walked in he said “good god is this the budget version of the Playboy mansion”. Considering our age ranges were from 21 to 70’s it was hilarious. 

We were also spoiled by a new member who brought homemade scones, jam and cream for us to have as a crafting snack! And bloody gorgeous they were too. I had decided yesterday to make everyone little paper tissue holders as a way of saying thank you for coming and making it such a success. 

I can’t lie after every meeting I have been utterly exhausted. If I knew that it wouldn’t impact my nights sleep I would go for a nap in the afternoon. Mondays after are written off with me having a lazy restful afternoon on the sofa but mentally I feel so uplifted and happy. I am so glad that I pushed myself to do something totally outside my comfort zone and I hope I inspire others to take that chance and do new things.

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On Thursday 20th February, I had the worst migraine I have ever had in my life. It was so bad that I am actually suffering from amnesia caused by it. I have “lost” most of Wednesday 19th, the majority of Thursday 20th, Friday 21st quite a bit is unrecoverable as is Saturday 22nd.  It is only from yesterday on-wards that I can recall anything that happened during the day with any clarity.  I won’t lie this has scared the shit out of me. Which is why I haven’t done a huge detailed blog post because basically I don’t know what happened to last week. I have a gp appointment booked because I need to know that this was just a horrific migraine and that I can be referred to see a headache specialist or if it was something like a TIA that can also be looked into. Having Google at our finger tips can be a curse and a blessing but as I can’t account for much of last week and this has never happened to me before with a migraine I can’t just ignore what has happened. Anyone who knows me also knows that I don’t run to the doctors every 5 minutes so it has really shit me up.

As soon as I know you will know.

Reflections

The start of a new year always makes me a little reflective. I always think that now I am in my forties I should have my shit together. When I was a teenager people in their forties all seemed to know what they were doing, were confident and self assured. Now I am in my forties I realise like everyone else my age that those forty year old’s I admired were just winging it. No one has got their shit together and we all are just making it up as we go along. All that those 40 year old’s had that I didn’t as a teenager was life experience. I don’t think there will ever be a eureka moment in my life where I feel like I have figured everything out. I think I will forever be winging it and pretending that I know what the hell I am doing.

As you get older I do think you appreciate the simpler things in life. You put home, happiness and friendships above the material things. You also start to refuse to put up with so much crap or maybe it is you finally get the courage to start putting yourself first for a change. At the end of last year I made some quite sweeping changes. I reassessed some relationships, I binned some, I reinvigorated others. I pushed myself to make an effort with those I didn’t want to lose. It is funny during the hard times you really notice who runs towards you and who runs away. And there is the third group of people those that in public or on a public forum make all the right noises but do nothing practically to help.I have noticed this a lot over the last 4 years.

 Those of you who follow the blog or know me personally know that basically over the last 4 years Mr Myasthenia Kid and I have been to hell and back. Briefly ( which is a laugh as even briefly so much has happened each event is a blog post in itself) in 2016 I developed a CSF leak which left me confined to my bed for much of the year and if not in bed lying down. It made socialising very hard, several of my friends were wonderful but one in particular would make all the right noises you know the “just let me know if you need anything” and when you did ask you were met with radio silence or a long list of excuses as to why they couldn’t help. I will never ever be able to repay Imogen for how she helped us during that year, looking after the dogs at the drop of a hat for 8 hours whilst I got treatment at a hospital an hour away. Same for my parents who when Imogen couldn’t help would come up and drive me back down to the hospital a journey of over 100 miles. 

In 2017 we lost our dear friend of over 20 years, Andrew, in a car accident, his passing made me realise I needed to make more of an effort to stay in contact with my friends as none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow let alone a next week. In this year I also lost a family friend of many years who I would have regular conversations with via Facebook Messenger and telephone calls, although we never met in person. Later that year I was to learn my Grandmother and my dear friend Pam ( my neighbour twice and the person I saw most other than my husband) had both been diagnosed with lung cancer, Willow our 11 year old Weimaraner passed away on December 15th and it broke my heart. Due to the events of the following January I don’t think we ever mourned her passing properly. Both Imogen and Heather rushed to my side that day. Another friend offered but I realised at that point that I didn’t want her there at the time I was surprised by my feelings but let it pass thinking it was grief.

In January 2018 we lost both my Grandmother and Pam, despite knowing that both their diagnosis had been terminal we had lived in a bubble that it wasn’t going to happen. I had many conversations with Pam, she moved between despair and complete denial. It was emotionally hard going for me, which probably sounds quite selfish and self absorbed but I challenge anyone to listen to your friend of over 20 years talk about the fact they are dying and walk away untouched. Pam passed away the same week Andrew had a year earlier, which I have always found quite bizarre, especially since Pam had accompanied Jay and I to Andrews funeral less than a year earlier.

 We had no idea then at the ticking time bomb that was contained within Pam’s body. Looking back now there were subtle signs that something wasn’t right, she had looked really tired all the time etc a whole heap of little symptoms that added together were something deadly. Even if we had known then I doubt much could have been done but it makes me angry that mistakes were made in her care and the people that made those mistakes have got away with it. 

When Pam passed away both H and Immie rushed to be by my side again. The other friend basically told me she was coming, despite me saying that she wasn’t needed. It was uncomfortable, for everyone as it was like there was a cuckoo in the nest.  I didn’t know why I didn’t want her there, I just knew that if I was hurting she was the last person I wanted present. I should have listened more to what I was feeling and realised that those feelings were a huge red flag. But instead I blamed myself, telling myself I was cruel and unreasonable to be feeling like that. 

Reflecting back on the situation the lesson I take away from this is don’t ignore those feelings / intuitions / gut instincts. If I hadn’t of ignored them I would have saved myself another 18 months of being treated like shit and only being visited when she thought other people may see her doing it. It was very much a keeping up appearances situation.

There are still a lot of emotions to process from the January of  that year. I haven’t stopped crying since starting to write this and the grief has come out of nowhere as I certainly wasn’t feeling sad before I started writing today.

In the July of 2018 my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a very rare type at the same time I had stuff going on in my life that was extremely stressful. I was already suffering from terrible anxiety and depression after losing by now 5 people from my life and one dog ( in the February I lost a school friend who I had known from the age of 11 and we used to have regular chats on social media, just last night I thought I must ask Jon what planet I can see in the nights sky currently, as Jon had bought himself a telescope not long before he passed – totally unexpectedly and I had to remind myself that he isn’t here). I struggled to get up and out of bed as the stress was doing a real number on my chronic health conditions. I was passing out frequently and had issues with ptosis. The heat of the summer didn’t help either.

My mum then had major surgery in the August, in the September we had good news that although what had been removed was cancer, it was tiny, the size of a pin head and very unlikely to return. She is currently in remission, no one is cancer free until they have been 5 years clear. She has regular checks at the hospital and will do for another 3 years.

I finally thought that we may get some peace, after all what the hell could happen to us next? Surely the universe was done toying with us now? But no, 2018 was going to end badly and 2019 wasn’t going to start any better. On 29th December 2018 we lost our beloved boy Frankie aged 12 ( a Weimaraner) and his Mum Mollie (Weimaraner) followed him over Rainbow Bridge exactly a week later on January 5th 2019 aged 14. Both had incredibly long lives for the size of dog they were but at the time it felt like my world had imploded. I had spent every day with my dogs since 1st June 2008 ( except for hospital stays ) They were a huge part of my life and most of the time the only company I had except Jay.  I didn’t know that I could be in such emotional and physical pain and yet still wake up day after day. I thought Mr Myasthenia Kid was going to drop dead from a broken heart he looked so fragile and  broken. Even with Dembe our Labrador puppy coming into our lives on January 11th 2019, we were struggling.

This was where I noticed this friends  persons absence even more, no messages checking on how I was doing. No card, no flowers, no visit. Yet again H and Immie were there by my side, along with Paul, Pam’s partner. I will be forever touched by Paul coming over on the Sunday after Frankie passed and then coming over again the following weekend when Mollie passed. He sat and shed tears with us and told us not to worry that Pam would be looking after them until we all met up again.

 I had cards and flowers from friends and cyber friends and yet no call to check how we were, beyond the initial messages of me telling you what had happened. That is when the penny finally dropped, that when I needed you, you disappeared as you had done so many times before, unless there was an opportunity for you to be seen as a “good” person. There were so many people I only knew on Facebook who came to visit to check that we were ok or who messaged me out of the blue. I have never felt love like it, so many people hugging us, looking out for us, physically being present. 

When Dembe arrived oh my goodness, so many visits. I have never known a puppy get so many toys and presents. I had baby gates offered within minutes of me asking on Facebook if I could borrow some, the same with crates etc. Nothing was too much trouble for people. It was overwhelming and it was something I have never experienced before and I am so touched by all those people. However it made this persons lack of action / concern even more painfully obvious. That hurt, even with all the pain I was in already the fact that we could all be so easily forgotten was another huge red flag.

Initially I made excuses,  maybe I hadn’t said I was struggling? Maybe you didn’t realise I was grieving? Maybe you didn’t understand the depth of my grief? But even to the village idiot it would have been glaringly obvious. Contact over the year became less and less. It felt more and more like it was one way traffic which indeed it was. I was lucky when I messaged you if I got more than a couple of sentences out of you. Again I made excuses, you were busy with your new life now. You certainly made me feel like I was interrupting you living your best life. When it got to 4 months since I had last spent any time with you and even longer since we had spent any time alone, the decision was made. I had waited a month at that point for a message to be answered. I snapped. I was faced with the prospect of you turning up on my birthday and I knew I couldn’t pretend for 5 minutes let alone several hours that everything was ok and that I was grateful for the few crumbs of attention you had thrown my way.

You would have never put up with being treated like that by anyone, yet I was just supposed to accept this? The last 2 years had passed in a haze of grief but I was starting to feel stronger. I knew that your behaviour  was now emotionally damaging to me. I couldn’t move forward if I was going to continually wound myself, wondering what I had done wrong, why I wasn’t good enough or why you felt you could take advantage of my good nature. So I ripped the band aid off and called time, reasonably amicably. I had been hesitant about hurting you when it was clear from your actions you had no concern about hurting me.

I suppose I am reflecting on all this as that is what the new year does. December and January are full of anniversaries of people and pets passing they are hard months. It’s only now on 22nd January that I feel like the weight has been lifted . That I realise that the last few years I have been operating / functioning with a low level depression going on in the background. That the anxiety has lessened enough for me to see things clearly.

 You had changed or maybe the real you had come to the surface? Perhaps I chose not to see the real you or the nasty comments you made on a regularly basis. I put those down to you being verbally clumsy despite the fact you claim to be a writer. I realised I had put up with far more than I had ever credited myself with. I was right to call time and that belief is unshakeable now. I’m not the only one that has noticed that you have changed, grown colder and more bitter than you have ever been. I feel sorry for you as your world is shrinking and you are so full of yourself you can’t see it. One day you will come crashing down to earth with a bump and you will be all alone. Maybe you want it that way, so you can perpetually be the victim?

I reflect back and realise I should have found the strength earlier. That I should have seen the pattern that I could never depend on you. That you liked to take and use, yet giving absolutely nothing in return.  You may think you have everybody fooled but truthfully more and more of us are seeing through you. I hope you find some peace because only someone who is utterly miserable with their own life finds joy in hurting others.