Tuesday, 4 May 2010

And the winner is...Anxiety!

Things aren't so good around here.  Marie's anxiety level is about exploding level. She is totally housebound now.  She is irritable and hasn't much time for our children, our home or me.

Marie and anxiety have been having a battle for quite a while.  And the winner is...well, you know who...

After a couple of months of this, I've realised that I am unable to cope with looking after the children, Marie, my business and the house.  I've been exhausted and my business has suffered.  I have excellent employees and I feel a responsibility towards them to maintain their employment.  So we've hired some domestic help.  This has freed up time for me to catch up with my business affairs.

I gave Marie as much space as I could over the last several weeks.  At last, this week, she came to me, and told me, tearfully, just how bad she felt.  And how she couldn't face living like this forever. She didn't know if she was going mad, or whether her medication was adversely affecting her.  We contacted contacted our family doctor and she agreed that Marie should discontinue her medication.  After a few weeks, if she still feels that she needs medication, we can discuss the alternatives with her.

Our agoraphobic neighbours have been terrific in offering assistance when requested.

Marie is fighting back.

Anxiety may have won the battle, but it hasn't won the war.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Mingling with Marie's Mental Mates at the Party for Panicky People - second succesful Saturday session

Sorry.  The long title is just me having a bit of fun with alliteration.  Just a little bit of self indulgence...

On Saturday evening, Marie hosted her second party for anxiety sufferers and their partners.  The first party (you can read about it here) was last December.  Our fourteen guests came from all over the South of England - five of them travelled more than three hours to get here!  Three stayed the weekend with us.

Most of our guests had never visited the Exmoor area before, and they were very impressed with the scenery and relaxed ambiance of the area.  The idyllic weather helped, of course.

What a great party it was!  It was a great bunch of people relaxing in the knowledge that if they felt a bit panicky, no one would look on them as nutters or weirdos.  Some guests arrived in time for dinner, while others came just afterwards and the gentle revelling continued until about 1.30 am. No one got too drunk, noisy, belligerent or annoying.  The five children also present got on together incredibly well and were no trouble.

Our weekend guests, whom Marie had met through a chatroom, were really nice folks and I expect that we'll see a lot more of them.

I have come to the conclusion - albeit in an unscientific manner - that panicky people are a nicer bunch of people than the "normal" types!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

On Safari?

Marie and I visited Longleat Safari Park during our honeymoon, 4 years ago. She has often mentioned revisiting it in the intervening years. However, organising a trip with an agoraphobia sufferer while accommodating your family requires some organising – especially when the weather is also a consideration. However, on Sunday all things were favourable and Marie, our two children Joseph and Orla, my grandson Reece, my adult daughter Colleen and I made the journey to Longleat. (What would I do without a car that seats up to 7 persons?)

One of the monkeys at Lonleat has contracted Simean Herpes B virus. How this happened is a mystery since it is a closed community; but the monkey park – arguably the most popular part of the safari park, particularly with children – was closed.

Despite missing the monkeys, we had an enjoyable drive through the park. We were lucky to have a lioness stroll right in front of our car. Normally all you can see are the prides lazing some distance away. Then 2 wolves observed us for a while from very close quarters – right beside our car!  Again, an unusual occurrence. We picnicked beside the wallabies and the warthogs. It wasn't the warmest of days, but bright sunshine and just the faintest of breezes made the weather acceptable for an al fresco lunch.

Afterwards, Colleen took the children to see all the other attractions in the Longleat estate except Longleat House itself, which, best example of Elizabethan architecture or not, would have been boring for the children. Meanwhile, Marie and I drove around the nearby picturesque villages and rested in a sunny forest glade until it was time to collect the tired and happy little ones.

For Marie, it was an extremely enjoyable day – a change from her normal diet of going from room to room at home! Every one else had a great time too...except that I would have preferred to have joined the children going around the other attractions... However, I was extremely grateful to Colleen. Without her, the children's day would have not been nearly so enjoyable – indeed, it is doubtful that we would have made the trip at all.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Riverdance show

Last night I went to see Riverdance at the Bristol Hippodrome.

This famous show has been touring the world since 1995 and this year it is presenting its farewell tour.  I thought that I had better see it while I could.  I went with daughters Colleen and Collette and much to my surprise Joseph wanted to see the show too (I had showed him clips on You Tube).

But the person I most wanted to take to the show was unable to go.  That person wasn't, on this occasion, my dear wife Marie (although I would have liked to have taken her too, but her agoraphobia won't let her venture into any theatre just now).  No, on this occasion I wished that my dad could have gone with me.  My father was an amazing person and parent, and I'll It was a show that he had always planned on seeing, but unfortunately he died without realising that ambition.  Because of this, my enjoyment of the show was tinged with sadness.  My daughters felt a little like this too, because they were both very fond of their grandfather.

It was a great show, and like the rest of us, Joseph really enjoyed it.  Being only 8 years old, I was quite impressed by the interest that he showed in the show.

Here's a recent clip of the show in passable quality.  It lasts nearly 9 minutes and starts off with a little flamenco style dancing, followed by the two principle dancers.  The whole troupe assembles for the last 3 or so minutes.


Monday, 5 April 2010

Easter 2010

We all had a good Easter weekend.

Late on Thursday evening you would have found Marie, the children, Blaze and me on the 2-hour drive to Weymouth and Marie's parents.  I always do longer drives at the children's bedtime: they go to sleep and don't get bored; Marie and I have a peaceful journey.

Friday morning's weather was torrential rain at first, but it brightened up and by mid morning it was okay to go for a walk.  Blaze and I went to the beach and then followed the Portland Bay coast line for 1½ miles or so to Weymouth harbour.
I was able to see close up the surprising amount of coastal erosion occurring in this relatively sheltered coast.  Also surprising is the fact that Spring is nowhere to be seen yet.
The walk lasted about 2½ hours and was the first "me" time I've had in over 3 weeks!

Back at Marie's parents' house an elaborate Easter egg hunt was under way, with Marie's 2 sisters' children joining in.  This was followed by a veritable family feast.  There was a great atmosphere, unlike Marie's last visit here, and a great time was had by all.

At bedtime we went on the road again, driving back home - I had to work next day and my grandson Lucas was coming to stay for the day and night.

As usual, having Lucas stay with us was very enjoyable.  He constantly gurgles and smiles now.  Orla's behaviour towards him is unusally tender for a girl of her age and was a joy to behold.

Easter Sunday's socialising started early when Collette turned up with her husband and Colm.  I hadn't told Colm that he would be visiting us that day, so he was pleasantly surprised and thanked me every few minutes!  Colleen arrived mid morning, Easter eggs were distributed (my adult daughters still like to receive eggs at Easter) and soon we were sharing lunch.  Carla and her family visited in the afternoon and we all shared dinner  (leg of pork which I had been slow cooking for 6 hours...mmmm, delicious!).  The adults over indulged in food and desserts and the children over indulged in chocolate - i.e. everyone had a great time!

My ex-wife eventually called at Collette's house today to see her 1st grandchild.  Lucas is 11 weeks old now, so she hasn't exactly been in a rush to see him.  Ah well - it has been her loss.  Colleen reluctantly called to see her mother too; and Colm called to get some money for a football shirt!  Although the visit was somewhat awkward, being a rarity, it also sort of completed a very family oriented Easter.

Marie is sleeping a little less now, but in other areas not much has changed.  (Of course, any improvement, no matter how slight, is very welcome!)  However the holiday season has helped me to recharge my batteries and I don't feel so exhausted.  In fact, life is pretty good at the moment.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

All for nothing

When Sue met Sam, he was working in the building trade.  She was a civil servant, working in the financial department.  Their romance was opposed by both of their families.  Sue's family felt that Sam, as a building worker, was beneath her socially: Sam's family thought that Sue was too "stuck up" for him - this opinion based on the fact that she was well educated.  Nevertheless, the relationship bloomed and they married within a year.

Their first home was a dilapidated, tiny house, but Sue had ambition and Sam was happy to follow her lead.  They renovated the house and saved hard for several years.  Sam became a supervisor in the building firm for which he worked.

A small, local kitchen installation company became available for purchase, and Sue saw it as an opportunity for the couple to improve their standing.  Sam knew little about kitchen fitting, but he was prepared to learn, and happy to put in long hours.  His supervisory experience was very useful and his cheerful, affable disposition made him a natural salesman without the need to use guile.  Sue continued to work in the civil service and looked after the company's books in the evenings.  The business grew steadily.

Sam and Sue decided to postpone starting a family until they became financially secure.  Twenty years later, Sue had given up her civil service career to work full-time in their business and it was going well.  They had moved into a modest detached home (close to my home) and it was time to start their family.  A baby boy duly appeared.

The little boy didn't interfere very much with their business.  Sam and Sue lived quite frugally and invested their excess cash in property.  Local property wasn't terribly lucrative,  so they moved their money to property in the rapidly growing USA market.

Sam worked around 10 hours a day, 6 days a week.  His only recreation was his weekly snooker night.  Sue only worked about 40 hours, but she also looked after the family home and most of their son's needs.  There wasn't much of a social life - they were focussed on saving for their retirement and for their son's future.

The last few years haven't been so good.  The USA property market more or less collapsed and their son rejected their lifestyle and moved to a squat in London.  They rarely see him.  Sue and Sam, approaching their chosen retirement date, seemed to have lost some of their ambition.

A few months ago, Sam had a heart attack.  He seemed to recover, but another heart attack, last week, proved fatal.  Sue claims that her life is over too.  All those years of struggle and self denial - it was for nothing, Sue told me.  Just a waste of 40 years.

I feel really sorry for Sue, but I hope that she will find it possible to create a new and different life for herself.  After all, she might have another 30 years or so to live.

Sam and Sue's story has made me even more determined to take as much pleasure as possible from every day.  Plan a little for the future, but not too much.  Try to avoid regrets in later years.   

And teach my children and grandchildren to do the same.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

An eventful week

One week ago, Marie took the kids for a short trip in her car.

She hasn't driven or left the house without me since.  Her days are almost exclusively filled with eating, sleeping and the internet.

For the rest of us, family life continues relentlessly.

Around lunchtime on Tuesday, I got a call from Orla's school.  I was to come immediately to collect her.  She had fallen in the playground and was a bit upset.

I arrived at the school to find Orla crying hysterically in the First Aid room, her hand firmly clamped over her mouth.  Her school uniform was drenched in blood, she had a bruised eyebrow, bruised cheek, a scraped hand and a cut knee.  She wouldn't let anyone inspect her mouth, so the first aid lady didn't know what damage had been done there.

I got Orla home and simply nursed her for the next hour and a half, after which she became more settled and let me look tentatively at her mouth.  She had pretty much mashed up the inside of her lips and it looked as if a couple of teeth had been damaged.  Later on, I was able to clean her and change her clothes.  I fed her ice cream (she wasn't able to eat or drink) and put her to bed.

She looked so pitiful and vulnerable, sleeping.

On Wednesday evening, Joseph and a team from his school swam for charity.  He swam a creditable 250m (about 275 yds) in a 40 minute session, while Orla (who has been stuck to me like glue all week) and I looked on.  His enthusiasm made me very proud of him.

On Friday morning, Joseph went on a 3 day school trip with a group from his school.  I collected him this evening.  His teacher told me that he had been a pleasure to have on the trip, and he had got an award for his skills as a team leader and for his consistent good manners.  Again he made me proud!

While Joseph was away, Orla and I had spent a lot of time together - just the two of us.  It was just what she needed after her terrible tumble.  Yesterday afternoon she felt well enough to go to a school friend's birthday party, although she insisted that I stay with her.  Her friend's mum, looking with horror at Orla's bruised face and swollen lips, instructed the other little girls to be careful not to hurt her; the instructions were duly followed.

Today, most of Orla's scabs came away and although still swollen, she is definitely looking a lot better.  She is to attend the dentist tomorrow to see what can be done about her damaged teeth after which she will go to school again.

So...an eventful week - both good and bad events - but I hope that this week will be quieter.  And it would be nice if Marie could improve a little too!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Marie and Lucas

The Marie that the children and I know and love came back to visit today.  It seemed the appropriate time to chat about her current state of mind.

It seems that Marie, having achieved so much during her London trip, realised how much she had yet to achieve to have a "normal" life.  She looked at the big picture, and its vastness daunted her.  It seemed to her that there was no point in getting up and fighting agoraphobia each day.  Her virtual world, in which she is as able as anyone else, held more appeal than her physical world.

In other words, depression had set in.

She feels stronger now.  Things will, she assured me, improve.

Just to prove the point, she took the children out for a short trip in her car.  It was the first time she has got into her car since her return from London.

I should have recognised Marie's depression, but sometimes I'm so busy in the day-to-day business of running the family that I can't see beyond it.  Marie's depressions rarely last long, and there is no reason to suppose that this one will be any different.

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

Youngest grandson Lucas, about 10 weeks old now, spent Saturday evening, night and all of this morning with us while his parents had some well-deserved time to themselves.  Marie insisted on doing the overnight feeds, and I didn't to argue with her too much about this!!

Lucas is a happy, content little lad who is spending more and more time looking around him, observing his environment.  He has started to smile, laugh and gurgle now.  He brought a happy aura with him.  Orla couldn't get enough of this real live doll and, truthfully, she was gentle and careful with him.

Lucas doesn't realise it, but his presence made Marie happier and I am sure that he contributed significantly to her depression easing.

Thanks, Lucas!

Friday, 19 March 2010

The panic party - before and after

In my Rollercoaster Agoraphobia post, just over two weeks ago, I related how Marie's positive attitude was helping her to expand the number and types of activities she was comfortable doing.
This continued.
Eleven days ago, Marie went to her friend's house near London to stay for a few day.  I stayed at home with the children.  Anticipatory anxiety had plagued Marie on the days leading up to this short break.  London without me is well outside Marie's comort zone, but she had done a lot of preparation -
  • Her friend's house was only a couple of metres from the road.
  • Her friend had borrowed a car and it would be parked outside at all times.
  • Mobile phone reception was excellent.
  • She could get a taxi within 15 minutes, 24 hours a day.
  • Her friend knew that she couldn't leave Marie alone at any time.
  • I would be able to come and collect her without notice should her anxiety level become too high.
Alas, the best laid plans can go wrong.
Marie's friend had to return her borrowed car, and was unable to borrow another. Marie decided that she would risk panicking and stay anyway.

Marie's friend had to go out a few times on personal matters.  Without a car, Marie couldn't go with her, but she managed to stay in her friend's house by herself!

Bouyed up by this significant progress, Marie started to take her friend's dog out for a walk.  Okay, the walks may have been really short, but this is another activity she did by herself.

On Saturday I left our children with older sisters Collette and Colleen, and drove to London to pick up Marie and her friend and take them to a panic party in Milton Keynes.  The lunchtime "meet" had been organised by No More Panic.  About 20 anxiety sufferers, some with their partners, gathered at a rather attractive pub.  Naturally, parking spaces immediately outside the entrance were available!  The panic party lasted for several hours and seemed to be a great success for all those who attended, including Marie.  Many attendees were pushing their boundaries to the limit just by attending.  There was much laughter and chatter which created a lovely ambiance.

It was a tired, but happy and elated Marie who returned home late on Saturday night. 
The next day was Mothering Sunday, and I persuaded the children to let Mum sleep in, until their patience ran out about 11:30 am.  Then they woke her up, giving her their cards, gifts and a specially prepared breakfast of all Marie's favourite morning foods.

Although Marie was suitably enthusiastic about the morning activities, she was simultaneously oddly detached from the children.

This has not changed.  Since Sunday, Marie has gone back to the excessive sleeping, lethargic, depressed, detached state she has been in before.  Fortunately - and sadly - the children and I operate really well as a unit and everything goes on as normal.  We've even been entertaining some of their school friends.  My business activities suffer, of course, and I am exhausted most of the time, but my family is my priority.

The children and I are hoping that happy, vibrant Marie will be returning real soon...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Mothers Day in pictures

The pictures say it all.

 Joseph made a Mothers Day card.
He composed a Haiku poem for his mum.
Orla also made a Mothers Day card -
but she decided to draw on it after giving it to Mum.
Joseph and Orla chose a Mothers Day card,
based on the words inside (awww).
Orla picked this balloon.
Colm is only 7 months younger than Marie
but he has adopted her as his mother.
Marie got breakfast in bed,
lots of flowers
dinner cooked
and all the housework done.
I think she was well pleased!

Saturday, 6 March 2010


It's odd.
Although I have seven children, all of whom should have had to face the same inescapable facts of existence, I cannot remember how I helped each child how to cope.
Did I help them all in the same way?
What worked best?  I can't remember.
For example, each child - except Colm - has had to face the inevitability of death.
Somehow, Colm's autism has spared him the anxiety normally associated with the realisation of one's mortality.
I do remember Joseph being extremely worried that I was going to die.
I told him that he would be grown up before I died and he wouldn't need me then.
That didn't work.
I told him that I wouldn't die until I was 100 years old.
I was trying to put off the day he was fearing so far into the future that it didn't matter right now.
That helped him, but didn't completely remove his fears.
Then I told him that after I died, I would become a star and would always look down on him from the sky.
He liked this.
I got quite a lot of questions about stars, but in general, he liked that idea.
He has slept soundly ever since.

Now it's Orla's turn.
She was crying sorely, in my arms, at bedtime.
What would happen if I died and mummy died?
Who would look after her?
Who would love her?
Joseph, who was nearby, told her "Don't worry, daddy will be a star.  You'll be able to see him in the sky."
Joseph was being kind, trying to help.
He brought no comfort whatsoever.
I told her that I wasn't going to die before she was a grown up woman.
That is working.
For now, anyway.
She slept soundly.

All parents have to face this problem.How have you dealt with this?
All help gratefully received.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Rollercoaster agoraphobia

Since my last, somewhat bleak report of Marie's level of agoraphobia (you can see it here), things have changed.  As they do.  Regularly.

The most important change is in Marie's attitude.  She is now in positive mood.  Looking forward to a better future.  Here's what she has been doing -

  • Doing the school run.  For the first time ever, Marie is doing almost all of the school runs.  I had been doing them for 5 years.
  • Taking our dog (Blaze) out for exercise.  Just Marie and Blaze - no safe person.  Okay, so all she does is parks her car at a large field and waits for the dog to walk himself, but while she's there, she's been trying to move further away from her car.  So far she has only managed a couple of paces, but at the start of the year, she couldn't even get to the field on her own!
  • Driving to nearby villages.  She has managed to drive 3 miles away from home with the children in the car.  
  • Going to shops by herself, and seeing how far away from the door she can get.
  • Going to shops with the children.  Marie feels safer with the children than alone, so she uses this to go to shops which she can't get to on her own.
  • Visiting friends.  Driving to see them on her own.
Here is a pic of Marie with Blaze, about 4m away from her car!  She can do this without me being there :0)  (We've been having nice, sunny weather for quite a while, now.)

On the family front, Marie has been spending more time with our children.  When she's anxious, she withdraws from them.  She also gets up every morning and shares in the morning routines with the children and me.

On the business front, Marie has rekindled her interest in her jewellry business.  It is still a very small enterprise, but every time Marie takes an interest in it, it blossoms.  This is her business, so I take almost no part in it.  This way, Marie can see the results of her own labours.

As I've mentioned before, the enormity of the task of reinventing herself sometimes appears daunting to Marie, but she now has some victories under her belt to encourage her to progress.

Yes, Marie is riding the rollercoaster of her agoraphobia...and we're rolling, in a somewhat leisurely fashion, downhill at the moment.  I'm sure that there are more, difficult, uphill stretches to negotiate...but right now, we're enjoying the good times!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

TV dog

Our dog, Blaze, arrived here in November 2008, so has been living with us for 15 months now. He has settled down (well, he should have by now, shouldn't he?) and this has allowed his unique personality to shine through.

And what a beautiful personality he has! He is the perfect family dog, obedient, uncomplaining, easy to train, sociable with both humans and other dogs and incredibly good with children. He's extremely good looking too (it turns out that he has an excellent show dog pedigree, but we're not interested in showing him). Everyone loves him. I didn't really want a dog, but he has won even me over!

One of his little idiosyncrasies is that he watches the tv.

He's got quite good taste. For example, he doesn't watch any soaps (ooops! - have I offended anybody?) or trashy movies. He prefers intellectually challenging nature programmes. He likes to watch dogs, of course, but also most other animals. When he hears animal noises, his ears prick up, he sits up and pays attention to the tv screen. If he hears distressed animals, he cries; with cross animals, he barks. It's quite amusing!

For some unknown reason, he has adopted me as the leader of the pack, and although he has got very affectionate towards me, he is not possessive.

At this time of year, we go walking on the beach more often than inland. The reason - Blaze always comes home from the beach clean. Additionally, he loves swimming. As soon as we get to the water, he runs straight in and splashes around. Afterwards he often swims in deeper water. Here he is during a short winter twilight walk.

I've posted pictures of the beaches near my house before, but never pictures I took during the short winter twilight. Following is a selection.

I love these walks on the deserted twilight beaches. Since Blaze came on the scene, I think I'm becoming a bit of a softie!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Grumpy granny

I took Marie and Orla to Marie's parents' mansion (too big to be called a mere house) in Weymouth last Thursday. They were staying there until the weekend, when Joseph and I would be joining them. Joseph and I stayed at home because he had to go to his friend's birthday party and to play for his team in a football match.

Marie rang me often. I knew that things weren't right, but she wouldn't tell me what was wrong. Then, on Saturday afternoon when I was driving to her parents' house with Joseph, she called the car phone. Twice. She was crying, but couldn't tell me why.

I had just got out the car when Orla ran up to me, arms outstretched. I lifted her up and she hugged me really tight. “I'm really glad you're here, daddy,” she said into my ear. “I missed you.” Marie appeared behind her. I put Orla down and Marie and I embraced. Then she revealed the cause of her distress. Orla wasn't being treated well. Grandma was constantly telling her off.

When she was very little and compliant, Orla used to be her grandmother's golden girl. A little girl, to dress up like an expensive doll – what could be better? But now Orla is vivacious, attention-seeking, noisy, never sits still, forward...the typical second child. After two more grandchildren and a lot of babysitting, Orla has become an annoyance.

What had bothered Marie most was that she was trapped in the house. She hadn't been able to take Orla away from her grumpy grandmother.

The rest of the weekend passed off with no problems. We visited Marie's sisters where I found out that grandma wasn't such a great grandmother to her other grandchildren, either.

Marie is very glad to be home again. More determined to change than ever. If it helps her to fight agoraphobia, then her unpleasant weekend was worthwhile.

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

"Orla, was grandma grumpy?"
"Yes. She shouted at me. Made me cry."
"But I shout at you sometimes too."
"Only when I'm very naughty."
"Weren't you naughty when grandma shouted at you?"
"No. I only wanted to go into the kitchen and get a drink."
"Sometimes people when they get older get a bit grumpy and shout a lot. You're still my good girl."
"But you're old too, daddy." [Thanks Orla!] She flashes me one of her impossibly innocent smiles, eyes wide.

There's no answer to that last comment!

"Yes, sweetheart?"
"I miss grandma."

Well, I guess the events of the weekend didn't bother Orla too much!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Agoraphobia - trying to change

Six feet tall, lean and intimidating.  That was my first impression of John.  Then he smiled, and a much nicer persona broke free.

John is a former drug user and dealer.  Depression and panic attacks forced him to reconsider the direction of his life.  John stopped using illicit mind-bending substances...and started to use the legal ones.  When I met him, he had got over the worst days, and now believed that a drug free life was possible in the not too distant future.

Marie met John in a cyberspace and he became one of her online circle of friends, all of whom have suffered from or are still suffering from anxiety disorders.  After a while, learning that John lived in the south west, Marie invited him to visit our home.  He accepted.

Sitting in my living room and chatting freely, John appeared friendly and open.  He was intelligent, articulate and soft-spoken.  He had a good, well paid, responsible job now.  When he gave up illegal drugs, he also gave up all his drug using cronies, so he didn't really have any friends at the moment (except those in cyberspace).  I liked him.  He spoke to me about his mental health problems.  He had been dangerously depressed, he told me, but therapy had given him a life-line.

"Do you do everything the therapist tells you to do?" I asked.

"Yes, I try to," he replied.  "When I do, I feel better.  I know that it's working for me.  I have mostly got over my anxiety.  I know I can get over the rest of my problems."  John went on to tell me that, on advice from his therapist, he had changed his diet and had joined a gym.  He had now embarked on a healthy lifestyle and felt that this had significantly contributed to his recovery.

Later, when John had departed on his homeward journey, Marie and I chatted about him.  She felt really pleased that John had overcome the worst of his depression.  We spoke of his positive attitude, healthy lifestyle and his attitude to therapy.

Why, I asked Marie, didn't she embrace a healthy lifestyle and follow her therapists' advice?

She replied that she didn't know.  But she's trying to change that.

And she is trying to change.  She's really trying.  She's trying to reinvent herself, to be the woman that she would like to be.  But the scale of the change is daunting her, and her lack of belief in herself is her biggest handicap.

I cannot help Marie to change.  That can only come from within herself.  All I can do is provide security, encouragement and support when required.