Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A Lucid Dream about my Dad

Me with my Dad, November 2011

I began this blog on the death of my Dad in 2012. I can't believe we are coming up to 5 years since he died. 

Last night I dreamed that I went to Dad's house to pick him up for Sunday lunch. I went upstairs to find him, and he was lying in bed with the newspaper over his face, he had fallen asleep reading it. I was worried for a second that he might have died, but when I picked up the paper it woke him up, he was fine. 

He was moaning about having to get ready to go out, and as I was making his bed I was saying, 'Dad, I don't know why you're making such a big deal, you're so much better than you were in the nursing home....' As I said it, I suddenly realised he had been in the nursing home because he was dying, and he had died, and so this must be a dream. I turned around and sat on the bed, and Dad said, 'what's up?' because I was crying. 

'I've realised this is a dream, and I don't want to wake up, I want to stay here with you.' I got up and hugged him and he put up with it (he didn't really do hugs). Sort of patted me on the back and said, 'you soft sod, you know you've got to go to work.' 

I tried to hold onto him, but I woke up. 

I've not let myself think about it all day, but now I'm home from work I keep thinking about it, because I want to remember how it felt, and how lovely it was - it was so real. But it means I can't stop crying. I feel like I've lost him all over again.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Forgiven But Never Forgotten

I admin a group on Facebook for people who have been abused by sociopaths, and the subject of forgiveness came up recently, as it frequently does. This time the discussion was initiated when someone posted this article to the group. One of the members asked, 'do we have to forgive them?' Interesting question.

I've blogged about forgiveness, or rather my lack of it, in the past - about how for me Steve would always be The Unforgiven. Yet I find that this is no longer true.

Whilst there is no obligation to forgive someone, I have found that as I've moved out of victimhood and into healing and a thriving life, I have forgiven him without particularly trying.

I think part of the problem is that the mantra of 'forgive and forget' causes a lot of misunderstandings about what forgiveness is and what it requires. As I wrote in that previous blog, I truly believed that forgiveness meant wiping the slate clean. That was something I learned from my Mother, ironically a woman constitutionally incapable of saying the word, 'sorry,' and meaning it. I no longer believe that. Steve's abuse stays fully listed on the slate, and I would no more speak to him in the street than I would poke my own eyes out. He has shown who he is and I have no wish for anyone like that to be in my life.

In reality, forgiveness is pretty well defined in Wikipedia:
Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offence, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), pardoning (granted for an acknowledged offense by a representative of society, such as a judge), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).
In certain contexts, forgiveness is a legal term for absolving or giving up all claims on account of debt, loan, obligation, or other claims.
So forgiveness is to stop feeling anger, to stop blaming, to stop requiring repayment. I like that definition.

I bear Steve no ill will. I bear him complete indifference. Occasionally I'll hear of bad things happening to him, and I admit I'll have a little inward smile, because he surely deserves all he has coming to him. But I don't wish bad things to happen to him.

I do disagree with the Elephant Journal article when it gets to the point of talking about how to remain close to an unapologetic person. Why would you want to? A lack of apology is a denial of your reality. Why care for someone who cares so little for you as to do that? It goes back to the Circles of Trust described so well by Natalie Lue - trust can be earned, and trust can be broken, and a non-apology means some broken trust - and an easing away of that person from your circle is a sensible boundary to have.

In the end, though, unless you have forgiven, you haven't let go. Until you let go, the weight of holding on drags you down. Forgiveness actually comes organically from the letting go. One of the reasons people don't want to forgive is because they think that it is 'letting someone off the hook' for what they have done. It isn't, it's letting yourself off their hook finally and completely; it's allowing yourself to move past what they have done; it's breaking another tie that binds you to the abuse.

So in short, the answer to that question of 'do we have to forgive them?' is no, you don't have to forgive. But I believe that if you want to heal, then you have to be open to forgiveness happening, because when you heal, it will.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Breakdowns Can Lead to Breakthroughs

Me in October

I did it again - I never thought I would, I thought I knew the signs, but I did even so. I got addicted to exercise. 

The mad thing is, over summer I was deep in Melanie Tonia Evans' Quanta Freedom Healing and dealing with my eating problems, which involved peeling away no end of hidden layers of self-hatred. But even as I was up-levelling, I didn't notice how I was punishing my body.

It happened so subtly, but looking back, the start of it was my love of Insanity Max30. I adored the whole 'push yourself harder every time' thing - so much so that I began applying it to every workout I had. I had to get further through each time, or lift heavier each time. But there wasn't enough time to keep up my cardio fitness at peak, whilst also keeping my strength at peak too. So the workouts grew longer - half an hour cardio and half an hour weights in the week, then an hour cardio and an hour weights at the weekend. I stopped going out walking so regularly, because it felt like I was wasting time I could be 'pushing myself'. If a day passed when I didn't 'press play', I felt overwhelming guilt - even if I had a headache, or a cold or something. 

So all the parts of the Beachbody ethos that had once motivated me were now tools of my oppression. Meanwhile, my body was failing. 

I'd originally taken up exercise to ensure I was fit enough to work. The original aim was to not feel like an old lady when I woke in the mornings, and to be strong enough to continue working as a physio into my 80s and beyond. That aim was now lost, and there was no aim in sight. No achievement was going to be good enough. I now had an ever-moving 'better, stronger, faster' goal that was always two steps beyond what I was achieving. 

My performance - in fact my entire life - began to suffer. I began to have joint pain on getting out of bed again - every morning. I found I was exhausted by the end of the day. Sometimes I was dreading getting home because of the workouts ahead. I'd end them shaking and feeling faint. I had constant back and neck pain, even in bed, but I couldn't admit this, not least to myself. My body was screaming, but I had closed my ears. I was emotionally in such a good place that I was able to refuse to pay attention to my physical feelings.

Then on Halloween I got ill. And you know the mad thing? I had so lost touch with my body, that I didn't recognise I had a tummy bug, or food poisoning or something. I went into work with diarrhoea and feeling nauseous and feverish because I had decided that I was having - wait for it - a PANIC ATTACK.

I ended up with colleagues telling me to go home, and me just crying and saying I was being stupid and weak. Then I threw up. It was actually a relief, because even I couldn't deny that I was ill. I went home.

When I came out of the fuddle of fever, I looked back at what had happened, and realised I had been punishing my body - because I hated it for being fat. So I've QFHed on that (and on all the pains), and am coming to terms with that whole fat thing. Again, a whole new bunch of hidden self-hatred. But immediately I realised that I wanted to start listening to my body, so I ditched the workouts for a week and began doing yoga, specifically Yoga with Adriene on YouTube.

This is Adriene, and she's sorted me out - for now

I cannot believe how much I love yoga, and how much I love Adriene! She is so personable that she makes me feel happy even when I am contorted into positions that make it difficult for me to breathe. At which point she will usually say 'we'll stay here for three breaths', blithely disregarding how those three breaths are so shallow for me that they take about three seconds. 

After that week, I re-introduced my other workouts. But I don't look to see how far I got last time, or how much I lifted last time. I listen to how far I can go now, today. My weekday routine is now 20-40 minutes of cardio and/or weights, then 15-40 minutes of yoga, to make about an hour a day. At the weekend I go for a walk, or I don't exercise, or I do some more yoga, whatever I feel like doing. If I feel tired in the week, I just do the yoga. It's about listening to me and paying attention to me. 

The neck and back pain has gone. I am more supple already, and stronger on those chaturanga things than I was at the start, which has really surprised me given how many push-up variations I used to do. My energy is back - and it's nearly Christmas! Hooray! New Year, New Me - a me who listens to myself, my Inner Child and my own Body. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

How the RCM Stance on Abortion Could Be A Covert Attack Upon Women's Rights

A 31 week old foetus. 

The Royal College of Midwives' position statement on abortion calls for the decriminalisation of abortion at any stage.

On the face of it, to me it is a madness that defies comprehension. Abortion is already available pretty freely (and in practice, on demand) up to 12 weeks. It is available with further safeguards up to 24 weeks. It is available for medical reasons up to full term.

What IS illegal is self-induced abortion, and abortion by someone other than a registered medical practitioner. The only prosecution I can find anywhere of self-induced abortion outside of Northern Ireland is of a woman who used medication bought online to induce her own abortion in the third trimester, so after 28 weeks.

So what will legalising abortion up to full term, and by anyone, achieve? I think to answer this, we also need to look at attitudes to abortion.

As I was growing up in the 70s and early 80s, if a teenager got pregnant, the assumption was that she would abort the baby. It was one of those things that went unspoken but was known. Having a baby in your teens was frowned upon, and so it very rarely happened. Then this happened:

In 1985, 16 year old Michelle Fowler became pregnant on Eastenders. Against all the odds and expectations, she refused an abortion and went on to have her baby. I don't think it is any exaggeration to say that this was the point where everything changed - the point at which having an abortion as a pregnant teen began to become the frowned-upon option. The time when this attitude began to spread to all abortions, so that 'you've had an abortion' became some sort of shameful abuse you could throw at the 'enemy' on Jeremy Kyle, whereas going through with the pregnancy and struggling to cope with the baby was something that the audience would cheer.

In my own experience, women of the generations that followed my own have become less approving of abortion. The expectation now is that a teenager getting pregnant would be expected to have the baby rather than the abortion - an expectation reflected in soap operas nowadays too - no-one would be shocked at Michelle's decision today. It's almost as though a woman has to have a 'good reason' to not have a baby. Attitudes are hardened in a way the law isn't.

My personal view, if it matters, is that I think we need to get rid if the pussy-footing around and make abortion on demand legal up to 12 weeks. Otherwise I think the law has it pretty much right, although there is a case to be made for lowering the 24-week general limit to 22 weeks, given technological advances. To allow unrestricted abortion up to term is nothing short of legalised infanticide, however you dress it up.

To decriminalise late abortion and abortion outside of medical supervision - well, just who are we trying to help? The mentally ill? The under-age? Those with learning disabilities? The otherwise vulnerable? All of these groups would be treated sympathetically by the courts - IF they were prosecuted. The situation seems to be that if these cases are happening, they are not being brought to court. The potential back-street abortionists and online drug distributors? Surely every woman deserves protection from those? That only leaves the cruel and psychopathic - and of course, everyone likes to think that such people don't exist, but they do. The We Trust Women campaign blithely disregards their very existence. There are women I wouldn't trust with a cat's life, let alone a baby's. Infanticide is rare, but it doesn't mean it should be legal, and so surely the same applies to self-induced late-term abortion? 

So what would happen if this decriminalisation were to take place? Someone like me, who is pro-choice, could no longer enthusiastically take that stance. I would no longer feel able to speak up against the pro-lifers, because I could not justify a law that was allowing abortion of a child. It isn't a foetus if it is capable of surviving birth - it's a baby. It isn't abortion if it is at 38 weeks - it's murder. It's one thing if two doctors say there are good medical reasons for that murder to take place with the mother's agreement. But for a woman to be able to decide that without safeguard or consequence? 

I won't be the only one to feel this way. So what this campaign is doing is fighting for a change in the law that would ultimately harden attitudes AGAINST abortion. That isn't good for women, and the consequences could be frightening, because pro-lifers have a startling propensity to throw the baby out with the bathwater (sorry). What seems to be a stand for women's rights could turn out to be the first step back to the dark ages. 

I can't help thinking it would also be detrimental to the fight for women's rights over their own bodies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The old 'look, you legalise abortion and it will be a slippery slope down a mountain of dead babies, like in England' argument will be all the more powerful. 

Things are never as simple as they seem. Call me paranoid, but it doesn't mean the establishment isn't out to get us.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Grieving is an Empty Room and an Empty Day

This is Oscar, and on Monday I had him put down. Oscar was 21, and as people who know me will know, he has been a complete arse of a cat for the last 8 years.

Put something on the floor, and he'd piss on it. Shoes, bags, clothes, whatever. He was confined downstairs for that very reason - nothing was safe. In the last few years even putting things on a table was no guarantee - he managed to balance on top of a Vicar of Dibley box set to wee over my sister's Christmas present one year. And of course, there was the famous incident that really needed a cat-shaming photo:

But I've had him since he was a kitten. As my sister likes to point out, 'he lasted longer than your marriage.' He was like a beloved relative that becomes infirm - you don't just abandon them because they piss (and poo, towards the end) everywhere. Even if that means you end up with a litter tray in your living room, right next to the door. Nice.

His passing wasn't a shock - I'd been worried he wouldn't make it to Christmas, and had prepared Son for that fact. But he carried on, despite his thinness. Then last weekend I realised he was really poorly - his breathing was laboured and his paws were swollen. I was half minded to call the vet to put him down then, but Son really didn't want me to, so I didn't. Instead, we had one last weekend, where all he wanted to do was sit with me. This was not the usual Oscar - normally given the choice between me and Son, Son will win every time, because I'm the baddie who shouts at Oscar when he wees on the cooker (for example).

He couldn't jump up onto the sofa so I was having to lift him up. He couldn't support himself on his back legs when he was pooing, so he would lie in the litter tray and get a pooey arse that I tried to clean, but never quite managed. 

On Sunday night, as I lay in bed, I heard him crying. So I spent the night with him. When I left the living room even to go to the loo, he would cry again. 

Monday morning Son said goodbye to him. I took the day off work and called the vet. An hour before the vet arrived, he got off the sofa and drank and ate - up to then I'd been bringing him his water and food, so I wondered if he was somehow recovering. But when the vet arrived, she said no, he was a dying cat. His heart stopped before she finished the injection. 

It was a lovely death really. I was stroking his head, the nurse was rubbing his chin, and he was purring. Then he was gone, bar a bit of twitching, which is apparently just the nervous system dying.

When they had taken him away, I just broke down. I had no idea I would feel that way - I was worse than when my Dad died. 

And now, I just feel so empty all the time. The next day, I really felt like 'what's the point' when I woke up - even though I have a Son, and a great life.I could cry at any moment. 

Every day is just one huge litany of reminders he is gone, from the minute I go into the living room (don't have to push the litter tray out of the way as I open the door) to last thing at night, when I don't have to feed him and drag the litter tray behind the door from the other side of it.

For the first time, I am alone at the weekend when Son goes to his Dad's. The weekends, that was when Oscar would sit with me. I would put the heating on for him, even though I didn't need it, because he was an old chap, and he felt the cold.

I woke up this morning to snow, and I began to rush down to tell Oscar - but of course, he isn't here. Although sometimes it feels like he is - I feel as though he is sitting next to me, or is waiting for his food. 

When Dad died, I found I had a lot of extra time on my hands, because visiting him had taken up so much of my time for a year. With Oscar gone, so has the entire routine of my day, for the last 21 years. No body fluids to clean up, no food to put down, no one to chat to, no one to argue with (we often had our disagreements)

When he was twitching, after being put to sleep, the vet said, 'don't worry, it's just his body remembers what to do and it's going through the motions. It happens a lot with old cats especially, their bodies have so much memory.' I feel like that - he was here for so long that even now I still expect to go through the motions of caring for him daily. The grief feels so raw because there are constant reminders that those actions are pointless now.

I feel like I'm being an idiot because he was 'just a cat'. But he really wasn't. He was my Baby Cat, a constant companion, the only 'person' I would talk to for days at a time, sometimes. He was always there. Without me realising it he had become an intrinsic part of my routine and my life - and my life feels as empty as his chair now he is gone.

RIP Oscar Cat. You git.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Insanity: Max30

Insanity Max30 - Month 1

I've loved Insanity since the first workout I did - the adrenalin rush, Shaun T's motivation, the feeling of achievement - there's no other workout programme that has come near to it. The only downside was that when following the programme I lost strength, especially in my upper body, and put on weight, and it has never shifted. TBH, I haven't made any great attempt at shifting it, I've been too focussed on performance, and to that end I had moved on to a programme of my own devising where I mixed up Insanity with P90X, TapouT and Jillian Michaels, with longer workouts at the weekends that were two or three hours of Davina, or power walking or yoga or a mixture. 

The one problem with my own schedule (and any that include the workouts I've mentioned) is that you need to give about an hour to them. This meant I was quite excited when Shaun T's Focus T25 came out. That excitement didn't last long. I didn't like the music, and more importantly the workouts, whilst not too difficult in themselves, were so fast-moving that for some reason they were really hard on my feet. I have arthritis in my feet and hands, and Focus T25 really flared that up, although I don't think it helped that I had just done the Moonwalk. The modifier was too easy, so I really only use the workouts when I don't have time for anything else - or I combine four or five workouts and modify them for weekend longer sessions. And I still don't like the music.

This time around I really tried not to get overly-excited at the prospect of Insanity Max30 - I mean, could Shaun T really get the same effect in 30 minutes? The answer is a resounding OH YES!

I'm just coming to the end of month 1 - and it has been fantastic. I must admit to being kind of smug going into it. I'm used to ripping through most of the Insanity workouts now - I still get puffed, but I can generally do them better than some of the participants on the DVD (I'm talking about Shanita, Akeel(sp?) and Josh at least). Max 30 is only half the time - so surely I could do at least half of that before maxing out?

The idea of the workouts is you go as hard as you can until you can't go any more. That is your max out time, and you note it down. The Cardio Challenge workout is your fit test also. I managed 7 minutes 40. The shame!

So in the last four weeks I have followed the programme and I have improved massively on all the workouts except the Cardio Challenge - I still hover around the the 8.30 mark. In contrast, I can make to 24.30 on the Tabata Strength workout, more than double my starting max on that one. I have definitely improved massively in my cardio ability though, and I'm not so aware of loss of muscle as I was with Insanity. It is CRAZILY difficult though.

However, don't be put off if you haven't exercised before, because there is a modifier to each exercise, and you can choose an option to have them on-screen (split screen) throughout. So this is a programme that can easily grow with you.

The bit I like the best is that it is such a rush to do. I feel euphoric at the end of each workout, and have had emotional releases at the end of every Sweat Interval workout, it is completely amazing. Also, the Abs workout, whilst only being 10 minutes long, is the most challenging to the abs I have ever experienced - I haven't managed without multiple rests at all, and often max at under two minutes!

The weak points - well, the warm up is short (and just as intense as Insanity), and thre is a distinct lack of stretching. Even the Pulse DVD uses mostly dynamic stretching, and I'm just not convinced that dynamic stretching can stretch large muscle groups in the same way that prolonged stretching when you are warm can. To that end, I do half an hour of yoga stretching after a workout at the weekend. I think the programme would have really benefitted from a pure stretch DVD - maybe a 30 minute stretch option in place of the Pulse DVD, and a ten minute stretch to use more regularly, along the same lines as the one after the warm-up in Insanity. But this is a minor quibble, and one I get around easily enough - another option I use is to hold the Pulse stretches for longer and ignore what's going on on the DVD.

Added bonus? I got on the scales today with complete trepidation, really feeling I needed to shock myself into action after a week of binge eating and other extreme cake consumption (it's been an emotionally trying time for various reasons). I've lost weight. I'd thought my jeans had stretched!

So on the whole, I cannot fault this programme - you HAVE to try it. I got mine at a bargain price of £60 off ebay - well worth the money. I know I'm going to do at least one more full round after this, there is so much variety (month 2 is another set of DVDs) that I haven't got used to the workouts at all yet. There's a bit in the Sweat Intervals where Shaun T says, 'how are you feeling?' and every time I just shake my head cos I am so exhausted, and he goes, 'no, seriously, answer me.' I never remember until he says it :-)

It's also making me wonder about how worthwhile it is to give an hour a day to fitness if half an hour can achieve a better result. I wonder if the same would be true for a weight-lifting programme, and I'm thinking I might have to try out P90X3 too. More results in less time - that would be a real win.

Got to get through month 2 first though. I really am a bit feared of what those workouts will be like - how can it get any harder?

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, I love, love, LOVE the music - similar to Insanity, and maybe even more motivating. Hooray!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Deja Viewing

I think I've mentioned before how there's something about Timothy West that reminds me of my Dad. I watch him on his barge programmes, and on Eastenders, because sometimes (more often on the barge than on Eastenders) he'll do a 'Dad' look, or a smile, and it is sort of comforting. In the same way as stalking old men around Tesco's if they remind me of Dad is, but without the potential for freaking out innocent elderly men. 

Unsurprisingly, it was a bit of a shock to find out that Stan Carter, Timothy West's character in Eastenders, had prostate cancer (the cancer Dad died of). That was nothing to Tuesday's episode though. 'Old'Stan was a curmudgeonly character, not like my Dad at all. Of course, in true soap style, he has mellowed, and we have seen a more sensitive and vulnerable side to him of late. Then after all that softening up, what happens? He only suddenly goes off his legs, doesn't he? The exact same thing as happened to my Dad. It was horrific to watch, I went through all the emotions of that night again. Same cause as well - metastases in the spine. 

Now I get to watch my pseudo-Dad die in exactly the same way as my real Dad did. Not so much deja vue as deja view. 

At least if it gets too much I can change channel this time. Real life is a single channel you don't get to turn off.