Thursday, 31 December 2009

Not quite the Christmas I wanted...

23rd December.

Jenna and her family arrived.  I picked them up at the airport.  They are staying until 1st January.  Matthew looked great!

Matthew now.
He's changed a lot since he was ill.
24th December.   
All my family gathered at our house for my birthday party.  It was Christmas Eve.  The birthday presents were both generous and thoughtful.   I'm a lucky man.

While indulging in some horseplay, one of my grandchildren threw a mobile phone.  It struck the TV, bounced off it and hit Jenna's husband, Colin, on the cheek.  The TV was ruined and Colin had a significant bruise on his cheek.

At 11.00pm, I went to church for midnight mass.  The church car park is about 200m along an unlit, narrow lane.  While driving up the lane, a horse stuck its head out from the field alongside the lane into the path of my car and I was unable to avoid hitting it - although the collision was at low speed.  The horse ran off into the darkness of the field.  I got home about 1.00am and relayed my story to Marie and Jenna.  What was their reaction?  Was the horse hurt?  Why didn't I find the horse to see if it was ok?  Obviously I am a really bad person - I should have run around the muddy field to locate a horse which probably wasn't really looking for human company, and then I should have cornered it to examine its mouth for injuries...all of this in the pitch black!!  No one asked me how the collision had affected me.  Oh well.

Damage to my car

25th December
We had Jenna and her family and Colleen with us on Christmas morning.  It seemed like the opening of presents took hours.  But everybody was well pleased with the presents.

Around lunch time, Colleen went to Colm's house to collect him and bring him to ours.  It was icy where Colm lives and he slipped.  He hurt his wrist and smashed his present for Marie.  We didn't tell him about the broken present in case he got upset about it.

My property alarm company called to report that one of my alarms was sounding.  A subsequent inspection revealed that the alarm had gone faulty.

All my children, their spouses and children had arrived just after lunch time.  Presents were given and received.  With 17 of us, that took a long time!  Happiness everywhere.  Great atmosphere.  Christmas dinner, prepared by Marie and me with some assistance from Colin, followed.  Marie and I have got the hang of catering for such a large gathering!  It was a great success, not only due to the quality of the food (Marie's Somerset cider ham is legendary in our family), but also to the seamless flow from course to course and the general ambiance.  As usual, all the adults helped with the clearing up.

My 7 children - Colm, Joseph, Carla, Jenna holding Orla, Colleen (top right) and Collette (bottom right)

Julie and Drew called around about 9.00pm!  This was a major achievement for Drew, especially as our house was bursting at the seams with family members.  Family members began to leave or went to bed leaving Julie and Drew, Marie, Colin and me to have a much quieter and very enjoyable time with good craic and fine wine.

At about midnight, my alarm company called again...

26th December
Colm's wrist was still swollen.  He spent most of Boxing Day at the hospital and discovered that he had broken his wrist when he slipped on the ice.

Marie and I went to her parents' house where she had a birthday party as well as a Christmas party.  Her sisters, their children and a few other family members were there too - the first year that all the sisters had children at Christmas.  There were lots more presents for Joseph and Orla.

During the afternoon the alam company called yet again!

27th December
We spent the morning completing the assembly of the children's toys (nothing comes ready to use any more) and tidying up all the packaging associated with children's toys.  In the afternoon, I took advantage of the near Spring-like weather and took all the children to the beach where they happily played with sea pools, crabs and sand for a few hours.

The alarm company rang yet again!

28th December
Baby Matthew had had a rough night and was very snuffly.  He wouldn't feed and his breathing was very laboured.  He was distressed and crying almost non-stop.  I felt that a visit to the hospital was required, where they found that his heart rate, breathing rate and temperature were all higher than they should be.  Treatment began almost immediately and I became a messenger boy getting pizza, clothes and nappies.  Matthew was kept in, so Jenna spent the night in the hospital with him.  I eventually got home around 3.00am.

29th December
Two members of staff reported ill early in the morning!  One was a manager, but I managed to get cover for her.  I had to cover the duties of the other ill staff member.  However, the faulty alarm, about which the alarm company had been ringing throughout the holidays, prevented anyone from opening the safe, so one of the branches wasn't able to open for several hours, until the safe engineer sorted out the whole mess.

By lunch time, Matthew's treatment had worked wonders and he was able to go home.  Smiles all round!

After lunch I found out that the unwell members of staff would be able to work next week.  That's good, of course, but even better is the knowledge that they are getting better.

In the evening Marie and I went to a Christmas party.  It was in a private house and I suppose that there were about 40 people there.  The evening was very enjoyable much helped by the fact that despite the party being noisy and crowded, Marie was almost totally anxiety free the whole time.


All in all a mixed Christmas season, but I feel the the good points significantly outweighed the not-so-good ones.   However, I hope that next year we'll have less incidents to cope with!

Btw - The picture at the top is of my wrecked TV!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Mingling with Marie's Mental Mates at the Party for Panicky People.

Marie hosted a party on Saturday evening.  It was for her friends with anxiety issues, but she let me attend too (as long as I agreed to help with the catering).  Our guests all came from the South of England and 5 of them who had travelled about 2½ hours to get to us had booked overnight accommodation.  In total there were 11 of us present.

Sufferers were afflicted in various degrees with one or more of the following conditions - agoraphobia, arachnophobia,  gynophobia, haphephobia, monophobia, ocd, panthophobia, ptsd, social phobia and xenophobia.  A social anxiety sufferer took 90 minutes to pluck up enough courage to ring our doorbell.  Our ptsd guest didn't converse with anyone for almost 2 hours, and then talked incessantly.  A few of our invited guests, including our new next door neighbour, Drew, couldn't make it because their phobias were too strong on the night and one had a stomach upset.

Marie had what looked like the contents of a small supermarket delivered from the local Asda (UK's Walmart stores).  It was all snack food and cakes and the drinks were either alcoholic or sugar saturated.  There wasn't a healthy tidbit in sight.  As a result,  the food and drink were very popular!

Our guests mostly hadn't met each other before.  They were all keen to compare symptoms of their conditions as well as chatting about TV, movies, their children (who appeared to be either really sweet or real nuisances) and jobs - or lack of them.  Of course, no one had to hide their condition or put on a false front, so we had a very relaxed atmosphere.  Some of our guests were very pleased with themselves just for travelling so far or going somewhere with so many people.

Everyone seemed to have had a good time.  No one panicked!  The guests wanted Marie to have another party and the concensus was that some time around Easter would be good.

By the end of the evening, I realised that all our guests suffered from one common problem - poor self esteem.

Nobody got drunk enough to be annoying, the carpets and furniture hadn't been damaged and when all our guests had left, around 12.30 am,  we completely filled a bin bag with rubbish!  Blaze (our dog) got petted all evening and had some of the leftovers, so he had a good time too!

Marie's mental mates are a great bunch of people! 

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

My next door neighbour has agoraphobia!

     The doorbell rang. 
     I opened the door to a quite attractive lady in her early thirties.  It was one of our new next-door neighbours.  She was slim with long legs, had quite short curly brown hair and a disarming smile.  Her dress was peculiar - under an Afgan she wore a dark knitted top, jeans...and a brightly coloured, striped blanket.
     "Hi Julie!  Come on in.  Fancy a coffee?  I was just about to make one."
     "Mmm.  Please."
     She followed me into the kitchen and watched carefully as I prepared our beverages.
     "Sugar?" I asked.
     "No, thanks."
     "Shall we go into the living room?"
     We sat down on different settees, at right angles to each other.  Julie sat on the edge of her seat, knees together, hands clasped together on her lap, back rigid.  We had met before, but only on a business footing. She's an Ebay trader.  Meeting socially is different, of course, and Julie appeared somewhat ill at ease.
     "You must think I'm odd," Julie ventured apologetically, with a sweeping gesture highlighting her stripy blanket.
     "Living with Marie, I'm kinda used to odd behaviour," I replied.
     "Yes, but I hope you didn't mind me watching you make the coffee.  I can't eat or drink anything unless I see it being made.  And the blanket, I have to wear it when I feel anxious.  It's my safety thing.  It's a security blanket.  I have about twenty of them."
     Julie continued to catalogue her "oddities" and for the most part, I just sat and listened, nodding my head at appropriate intervals.  She can't walk far from her house, can't travel in a car further than about 30 miles, can't cope with being in a room with more than a few people, has anxiety about any type of social interaction but feels okay in most business environments.  She has some OCD, being compelled to put things in their "correct" places and she finds it very difficult to put down a puzzle without completing it.
     Julie now settled into the soft cushions of our settee.  She had obviously relaxed.  She told me a little about her difficult childhood, and how it left her with problems trusting people or showing affection.  Drew, her "other half", a local business man and known to me, has social phobia - but only in non-business situations.  She wasn't sure if he would be able to come into our house.
     Both of us looked up as Marie entered the room.
     "Hi Julie!  Sorry to keep you waiting.  I was just getting ready."
     "No problem."  Julie got to her feet and took her leave of me.  She and Marie had arranged to go to the local shop.  They were going to give each other courage.
     So Marie has a new friend; and Julie has too.  Each glad that the other knows something of how they feel, of how their phobias are affecting their lives.  I'll see if Drew will allow me to befriend him.  He hasn't had a friend for many years.
     It's early days, but this might be a helpful development for Marie - and our neighbours.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

My extraordinary son

"The apple does not usually fall far from the tree."  (Der Apfel fellt nicht gerne weit vom Baume.)

If this proverb was true for my son Joseph (8), he would be untidy, unruly, unhelpful, disrespectful...  My anarchic tendencies during my formative years was the bane of my mother's life.

By comparison, Joseph is:
  • affectionate
  • neat
  • punctual
  • conscientious
  • organised
  • respectful of authority
  • considerate
  • obedient (most of the time!)
  • loving
Joseph is, academically, in the top 2 or 3 in his year at school, has the most awards for behaviour/good work, is one of the best footballers on the school and local club teams, is one of the best swimmers and the best gymnast in his school.

Now, that list of attributes would make any dad proud of his son, but Joseph has even more to offer.

During his mum's month long malaise, he has helped me around the house.  Without being prompted to do so.  He washed and cleaned the bathroom, walked the dog (close to our house), often set the table at meal times and sometimes made breakfast for all of us.  He looked after his little sister by showing her how to draw and colour in, selecting tv programmes for her to watch, often played with her and if he saw her doing something that he though was dangerous, would report it to me.  He made cups of tea for his mum.  I could continue to wax lyrical about my son, but I'm sure you've got a pretty good picture already.

Joseph, you enrich my life.  You are a truly extraordinary son.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Nativity play season

Once again, it's the time of year for school nativity plays.

This year, Orla was in her first nativity play, and Joseph was in his fifth.  Normally this would mean attending two nativity plays, but in a break with tradition their school decided to have a play which included all the children between the ages of 4 and 9; so both children were in the same play. 

I had the honour of helping out as musical director (for free of course!).

There were three performances of the play, and all on the same day - yesterday.  Joseph was one of eight chosen for a solo speaking role.  He carried it off with aplomb.  He also performed in the school choir.  Orla was a very attractive angel.  Yes, I know I'm biased!  The picture at the side was given to me by the school since I was unable to take one myself.  (I thought that this was very considerate - I hadn't asked them for a picture.)  She sang her heart out with the rest of her class with "Away in a Manger".

The children were fantastic and the play was a great success.  Even the 4 year olds (like Orla), performing for the first time and after only 12 weeks at school, were terrific.  The kids' performances were really moving.  More than one parent had tears in their eyes.

But do you know what the best thing was, for the children and me?  After hours and hours of indecision, Marie plucked up enough courage to attend the final performance.  The children were thrilled.

Marie was pretty pleased with herself as well!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Medication moderated - Charles Linden Method is back

Charles Linden has a new hair style.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"My" Marie is back.  Her sleep pattern is returning to normal, she spends time with the children, carries out more domestic duties and is beginning to look to the future.

Here's an email she sent Charles Linden:

I have had a couple of rough months as I mucked my medication up again. Cold turkey isn't a good idea as I should have learned by now.  :(   I've had laryngitis as well as the side effects of my tablets. I am feeling a bit better now and I am going continue the Linden method.. I truly believe in what you say Charles - it's just believing in myself is the problem.  :(  I am too scared as I'm letting my anxiety controll me I guess. So I need a kick up the ass. Charles, I want out of agoraphobia and I kinda have let myself down as I did not keep the work up and I kind of feel a failure as I let the anxiety control me again  :(

Recovery starts from today x

Here's his reply: 
Marie, you are not a failure! Life gets in the way sometimes. You must stop see-sawing your meds though, a stable physical foundation is what is needed in order to recover fully - you know that. Keep your meds dose level or withdraw, it's your choice, but once that is done, you can start the recovery process. Equilibrium is the watchword Marie. You can do this but try to get level first, then move forwards. You can do this Marie... look at how far you came before, there is nothing to stop you. C
 Ok, then.  Onward and upward!  Marie is listening to her therapy CDs again.  Wanting to go out in the car again.  The children are enjoying her attention.  I'm able to spend a little time attending to my business.

Life is better!