Physician – heal thyself

daily living, health, Life, lifemeaning

historicdesignin00john_0049 copy 2I am not sure how to start – why I should even want to – connecting is not the straightforward process I would like. I am in a fug. I cannot straighten my own perspective on the world I experience – and having just removed myself from the benefits of prescribed medication for the first time in a couple of decades, I am trying to be gentle on myself, but now I am needed.  My husband has retirement challenges – the common experience of finding how to re purpose one’s life.  I know I can only enable – not do anything, but it’s not easy seeing the person you live with struggle with the existential loneliness that is being human. We all struggle with it to a greater or lesser degree – a universal challenge then – but he, like me, is not a great fantasist. He cannot imagine something that is not apparent. And I am beginning to consider that the art of delusion should be on the National Curriculum in order that we maximise the potential of mental wellbeing. So how can I help? Probably cannot. I choose to try and stay kind – not leaping to judge, remembering its the tiny things that make a person feel loved. But part of me is 6 year s old and screaming ‘What about me?’

And so it is. And it will go on being like this – worrying for him, about him, wanting more for myself, feeling anxious that my sons and their loved ones are going to have to feel the pains of being human.  The only real answer is non-being and I don’t think that will do down well with the family.

So tell me how you manage those feelings of hopelessness, lack of worth, lack of meaning.  Tell me how a walk in the woods nurtures you, listening to Bach, stroking the dog. What am I missing?  My rational self understands all these strategies, even believes in them, but there is still a deep well of loneliness that refuses to be filled . It’s not completely dry, but it could do with some refreshment. This once voracious reader cannot connect with the writer’s I love, something has broken and I don’t think it’s them.


When love is not enough

blogging, depression, Derek Walcott, health, Life, Thoughts, wellbeing


d walcott

but it helps.

I received a message from someone in my family today which has shaken me.  As a lovely young woman , she has been dealing with the challenges of depression and anxiety , and recently has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  And I don’t know how to help.  So I will tell her my story.

You see, when I was her age I was exhibiting symptoms of depression too, working in a pressured environment and wanting to perform like Adele on a good day ( albeit in the print packaging arena ). I set my standards high and I worked to reach them.  A few years of having my foot hard on the pedal resulted in what my G.P.  diagnosed as a ‘breakdown’. The world was different then and because my boss didn’t want me stigmatised at work by that diagnosis, he could only give me a week off.  I needed more, but I needed the job too. I saw a counsellor weekly and worked on my thought processes.  Eventually I caved in to the work pressure and resigned. I was lucky as I was newly married and ready to throw myself into raising a young family.  It nearly broke me.

I wanted to be happy, and knew I had everything I could have asked for – a home, a loving family, two beautiful sons – and yet I could not function at a level I felt comfortable about. I was tired , not just mildly sleep deprived, but absolutely buggered. Every day was a huge effort to continue the daily requirements . Shopping and cooking were chores that felt like Sisyphus carrying the rock up the mountain.

I was prescribed Prozac for depression – I felt depressed but not worthy of having depression because what could I possibly be depressed about?  Prozac didn’t suit me, or rather it suited me too well, but everyone else thought I had disappeared. Which I had, I felt like a lumbering cow, just grazing on life. Nothing touched me. I came off it.

A further visit to a new doctor and a new prescription – this time Venlafaxine. This suited me better, the symptoms of depression were alleviated, but this led to me discovering a deep well of unfulfilled need within my life.  I ended up making a huge life change – leaving my then husband and making a new life with a new partner.  ( It happened like a thunderbolt and shocked the family, but ultimately it was a necessary change – and everyone worked hard at making the family unit stay strong. I continued to co parent with their dad, and managed not to disrupt their schooling, staying half the week with their dad, and the other with me. My mum and my brother were brilliant at being there too. The boys flourished and are now 24 and 21 and I couldn’t be prouder)

A diagnosis of fibromyalgia by my G.P.  helped me to understand that my coping strategies needed tweaking. I had for years battled a diagnosis of depression – now I understood I had a reactive depression to a condition which had been masked by the very medication I was taking. When I came off the drugs, my symptoms flared, and it was during a flare that the correct diagnosis was made. So knowing I had something which I could investigate, acknowledge and understand was part of me helped me to put into place the conditions by which I could most easily manage the condition.

It is becoming more accepted now in the same way that depression is less stigmatised, but unless it is experienced, or someone close to you has it the full impact is not easily acknowledged by others. My experience of having it was dealing with the knowledge of diagnosis itself – it sent me to investigate books written on it, blogs, forums – anywhere where I felt vindicated. I wanted to make sure everyone knew I was not imagining it – it was real. That didn’t happen really. People don’t want a relationship with a bag of symptoms, they just want to relate to you.  And I had to learn that some people got it , whilst others didn’t. Close people don’t always get it. I tried to shield my bad days from my sons – I wanted them to see me strong, and capable. In the end, as they got older I had to share with them that sometimes I couldn’t do what I wanted to for them, or with them.  They were brilliant and loved me anyway.  They didn’t understand, they just accepted me for who I was, and didn’t make me feel useless. Although I was pretty useless. They still say I am weird but that’s a different story. I found things to occupy myself with, that I could cope with, or put down and come back to. I managed to set my standards lower in certain aspects – housework suffered, decorating was off the menu, the garden became a self supporting area of interest.

One of the hardest aspects is still there – committing to social activities is difficult, because when it comes around, it may be impossible. Now I have managed to find a balance of not turning everything down, and knowing it will take me a couple of days to recover. I have limited my social life probably more than I have needed to, but part of that comes from having had a life spread over two counties for the past decade or so.

The reality is I cannot help my family member – I can’t take away her symptoms as much as I would want to. I only want her to know that it isn’t the thing that defines her. I came away from looking at the internet about Fibro, avoided the forums, refused the group sessions offered at the doctors, because I didn’t want my focus to be on my condition. I wanted to understand what it meant for me and then re focus my energies on the activities that meant something to me and to my family.  I have learnt those things over years, and it is hard learnt sometimes. I have suffered in silence more times than I can remember, and sometimes not so silently!  I constantly have to remind myself not to resent others for not being more considerate sometimes. I have to remember to tell them how I feel in the moment , that no matter how much I may want to so something, it is sadly unachievable for me. And sometimes I have to remember to challenge myself and test my limits. I have surprised myself on occasion.

I still feel a fraud. That is my problem. I feel a fraud at life. I challenge that thought because when I look at the reality, it isn’t true. I still have to have that conversation though. On a regular basis.


Wisdom, more precious than philosophy.

government, health, history, illustration, Life, philosophy, Thoughts

Epicurean saying Anne Corr

——for tomorrow we die!

Well, perhaps not tomorrow, but some day.  That’s why I am attracted to the Epicureans, who held this thought in the forefront of their minds.  Consequently if you follow their philosophy you will live prudently, avoiding pain, and enjoying the delights this world holds, by living simply and making friends.  Friendship was a big factor in the Epicureans version of the good life. And in case you think he was just another hell raiser, consider his letter to Menoeceus, wherein he explains himself,

When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or wilful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of revelry, not sexual lust, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul. Of all this the beginning and the greatest good is wisdom. Therefore wisdom is a more precious thing even than philosophy ; from it spring all the other virtues, for it teaches that we cannot live pleasantly without living wisely, honourably  and justly; nor live wisely, honourably  and justly without living pleasantly. For the virtues have grown into one with a pleasant life, and a pleasant life is inseparable from them.

Was Nietszche attracted then to the intellect of the pre Socratic philosophy of Epicureanism?  I shall have to discover.  Whether he was or not, he did write the following, which seems to follow the path of thought that what you see is all there is.

Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of “world history,” but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die. One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened.

On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense (1873)

Hope your week holds plenty of worldly pleasure and little pain.  If you follow this guys recommendations it’s more likely to happen.  O.K. so he lived a long time ago ( around 300 B.C.), but truth will out. Here some of things Epicurus of Samos told us:

No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.

The just man is most free from disturbance, while the unjust is full of the utmost disturbance.

Of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.

Natural justice is a pledge of reciprocal benefit, to prevent one man from harming or being harmed by another.

There never was such a thing as absolute justice, but only agreements made in mutual dealings among men in whatever places at various times providing against the infliction or suffering of harm.

Not a bad guy then.



Vintage advice

health, Life, Thoughts, United Kingdom


Today is a day that I need help.  So I shall be entering a fictitious world of Anne Enright’s  ‘Forgotten Waltz’  mainly in order to have read it before tomorrows book group. Or maybe I shall indulge in some heavy housework to stave off the onslaught of a gathering cloud of  melancholy.  Most likely I will fall back onto the rituals of the days requirements of me and move through it as through a thick smog, lacking clarity, lacking any sort of view.  It has been threatening for some time, but I am full of wily strategies to complicate and divert it.  Perhaps it is more persistent than I imagined, or hoped.  Anyway, I know it is temporal. like the clouds that I watch skittishly dancing across a beautiful blue sky.  Joy in small things.  I shall attempt the advice above and hold my head high, alert at all times.  Joy in small things.

The C word.

books, health, illustration, Life, United Kingdom

You want to know something?  I bet you do, that’s why you are reading this.  We are all wanting to know.  We might not know we are wanting, or what we are wanting, but we do. We all want.  The thing we are all trying to figure out is what it is that we do want; the thing that is really going to do it for us.  We spend our lives trying to work out the combinations of what is around that may lead us to feeling  good.  What we don’t do is research it.  We don’t really think about how we are going about living our lifespan.  Alot of what we do is random. It really is.  You might think you chose that degree course, but a set of random events will have pointed you there. Same with your partner.  They are big players in your life. It matters how you feel about your life, if you happen to get up every morning and hate going into the job you’re in.  Or you are constantly looking at other couples wondering why they are happy.

So thinking about your life may work out well for you.  It might just be a good idea to contemplate how you are behaving in your world and reflect on whether it’s working out well for you.  You see, although we share the same planet,  we don’t share the same view of the world, so when you tell me that your dog died, unless I feel the same way about dogs, I might not be able share that particular pain, and I may seem uncaring.  It may not be the case, I may care deeply about your sense of loss, but not be able to show the empathy for losing  a pet.  That is an example of how communication falls down.  And it does.  It falls down all the time.

I often can fell adrift in the world, it can often feel as though I am watching a play or a show, and not participating.  Even though I am surrounded by a wonderful set of human beings who know me quite well, I can feel isolated and sometimes frighteningly so.  I have spent my life building myself . Literally building myself.  As a teenager I suffered from the same exixstential angst that I suffer from today, but with less strategy to deal with it.

We don’t talk about the fragility of living very much.  It is the last taboo.  We can talk about sex, we can talk about oral sex, we can talk about adultery, we can talk about incest, we can talk about paedophilia, we can talk about cancer, we can talk about euthanisia, we can talk about racism, we can talk about death.

We don’t generally allow others to talk to us about the fragility of our lives.  It is far too scary.  But here’s the rub, when we do , we feel less fragile, less scared.  Tha’s why therapists are making an industry from listening to people talking about their fragility.  Therapy has its place, but there are drawbacks, for one, you have to pay for it,  The therapist may be rubbish.  You don’t want to talk to a stranger.

Families are where we learn to deal with others.  Some are better than others.  All are flawed. Because they are made up of humans, and we are all flawed beings.   I strongly believe that as a society we need to put back the emphasis on a family life.  That doesn’t have to be a family in only one sense of the word, a family can look as unique as it likes, Nevertheless, the interdependence we have on one another as human beings is of paramount importance if we are going to lead healthy, fulfilled lives.  Notice I don’t say happy.  It is an overused concept.

Back to where I began today, about building my life to where it is today, which is of no consequence except to me and my beloveds.  One of my strategies includes reading fiction.  When I am in a state of displacement, and I can’t feel much at all, I find that reading helps me to reconnect those neural pathways so that I can reenter the human race.  It is a strange affair that fiction can reacquaint me with the reality of what it means to be human, but it is true.  It has to be a writer that is skilled at his craft, a perceptive,insightful author.  Someone like William Golding, or Anne Tyler.  It works for me. Currently I am reading a novel by Anne Enright ‘The Gathering’ and it’s hitting the spot.

So I suppose what I am saying is the C word –   Connection. Communication.  Isn’t that what you’re doing here after alll?



NHS lobby letter to your MP

government, health, Life, United Kingdom

Hi there,

The Lords failed to defer the Health and Social Care Bill. I don’t think this has anything to do with party politics, but I do think the government is proceeding carelessly and is making a critical mistake with everybody’s NHS. Not theirs, everybody’s NHS.  I have posted my letter to my M.P. here, in the hope that you will copy it , and send it to your M.P if they voted for the Health and Social Care Bill. If you go the this link, you can easily find a format for sending your letter to your own MP. You can find out if your M P  did vote for the bill to go through.  Please use my wording if it saves you time/ effort.





I am dismayed that the Lords allowed the Health and Social care bill to get through.The professional body itself raises its head above the parapet and says ‘However, we still believe that the government’s reform plans pose an unacceptably high risk to the NHS, threatening its ability to operate effectively and equitably, now and in the future. This is why the BMA continues to call for the Bill to be withdrawn or, at the very least, to be subject to further, significant amendment.’ – Dr Hamish Meldrum of the BMA. I quote Ben Goldacre here : ‘In case you don’t understand NHS bill: GPs know they’re being set up to fail by being given commissioning powers. Those are specialist skills. ■After GPs fail, private commissioning expertise will be needed: large private corps, which will come to operate like health insurers. ■These large bodies, like public/private insurance co’s, will be able to pick & choose patients. Note no geographical responsibility in bill ■Small differences will emerge in what services they offer. Top up plans will become available. And that will be that. ■It is so very obvious that GPs are being set up to fail at the specialist task of health service planning that it’s clearly not an accident” You are not taking into consideratin the opinions of valued menbers of the professional bodies. How can you expect us, the voters, to place our trust in a government so blind and deaf to those experts? Why do the government continue to refuse the release of the Transitional Risk Register for the Bill, despite being ordered by the Information Officer and an appeal tribunal? MPs voting now are passing judgement without knowing the risks the government expects this legislation to have for the NHS. This will have the same result as the poll tax had for the Thatcher government. Your party will be unelectable after proceeding with this bill. I urge you to reconsider and hope the Commons defer the bill pending further analysis.






If only……….

health, Life, Thoughts

Would that I could but know myself, as Erasmus advises when compiling his ‘Proverbs’ from contemporaneous literature.  If I did know myself, perhaps I would feel less bewildered by life, and by the times in which I live. I crave understanding and meaning, and always have done, since being a little tot.  I don’t know why, and I have more questions than answers, as in the song.  I look back to Seneca, and to Socrates, to Shakespeare and Confucius. I know I am not alone in this unmapped territory but the  fact that I am not does not ease the dis-ease of my mindset.  I read alot, but that which I can understand doesn’t enlighten me, and the stuff I don’t understand simply adds to the confusion. In the much quoted (by me) Ian Dury ‘ There ain’t ‘arf been some clever bastards’. So cleverness can’t help me.  Once upon a time, I though that Love must hold the answer,  but I am loved, and I love in return, and my feelings of utter desperation to hold on to something I cannot grasp still return, and threaten a sense of well being. To ease the anxiety, I find like minds and decide to enjoy the ride.  Hope you are well, hope you find your way in the world. Hope I do.  What concerns me now is whether the children I have had will be trapped in the same headlights as me.  Hope not. They are on their own journeys, perhaps ones that have maps. Hope so.

Here’s a great link, well two actually . Different in treatment but attacking the same theme,  how to manage you own mini madness. Enjoy.

Just Say No! But say it now. Say it loud.

government, health, Life, United Kingdom

My thanks go to Ben Goldacre, highly respected science journalist, if you want to know more about his credentials, he writes for the Guardian, and has a blog here

He has identified quackery for what it is, and continues to risk dismemberment by raising his head above the parapet.  Anyway, I trust him much more than I trust alot of journalism.  He does the work in researching his subjects, and then makes pithy conclusions.  In this case, I had concluded the same, but he says it better than me.Follow this:

‘In case u  don’t understand NHS bill: GPs know they’re being set up  to fail by  being given commissioning powers. Those are specialist  skills.

  • After   GPs fail, private commissioning expertise will be needed:  large private   corps, which will come to operate like health insurers.
  • These  large bodies, like public/private insurance co’s, will be  able to pick  & choose patients. Note no geographical responsibility  in bill
  • Small differences will emerge in what services they offer. Top up plans will become available. And that, kids, will be that.
  • It is so  very obvious that GPs are being set up to fail at the  specialist task  of health service planning that it’s clearly not an  accident
  • Those  last 5 tweets are what will obviously, predictably, happen to  the NHS  after this bill. If you missed them, they were a bit  important.’


And that is why he is suggesting anyone interested in trying to save the National Health Service from these catastrophic predictions should sign one of the many petitions out there, or get involved in the sterling work to counter the plans. You could go here;

or here:


Remember this……….

health, Life, Thoughts

You might just make all the difference , and no-one knows when, where or to whom a stroke will strike.  Commit this small memory to mind, the first three letters of stroke.

You might save a life. If a stroke victim gets medical help within three hours, they stand a good chance of a full recovery.  How good is that? .