Saturday, 30 October 2010

October's sad reflection

It's been a sad week. I wonder why this happens in October. It's a month of beauty. Of silent leaves breaking their fall onto damp pavements and stunning vistas in breathtaking splendour. It's probably the most elegant month of the year but, somehow, always the saddest. It was thirteen years ago, on another fabulous October day, that Zach had his first breakdown and we've probably had three other episodes during the same autumn season. So many times in October we've thought that we would not have Zach for long. That his tempting death was all-pervasive but, as he said to me yesterday, he fully intends to outlive us all.

Tragically, however, two weekends ago the seventeen year old daughter of friends of ours was killed in a truly terrible automobile accident along a stretch of desert road in Utah . Our friends were to have been visiting with her just two days later. Her body was flown back to the UK this week and yesterday was her funeral. You ask yourself why something this random, this so utterly unfair should happen but maybe in the greater scheme of things there are those souls who are not meant to for this earth. They reside temporarily with us and leave the most powerful memories. Full of energy, pushing the boundaries and blinding us with her personality, this child will not be forgotten.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Just what the mad need: Surfing lessons

It's quite extraordinary. For thirteen years the diagnosis has been Bipolar Disorder. Two fifteen minute sessions with a 'psychiatrist' at the 'renowned' hospital and there's a new diagnosis: schizophrenia. Didn't read all thirteen years' notes. Didn't spend any time with him after the end of the episode. Didn't speak to the family but in all the arrogance of his 'position' decides on a new nomenclature. Didn't help him though. Sent him away after four days to the streets with no back-up and no way in which to enable him to seek the required help. What a laugh. You have to laugh, don't you? Otherwise, what? What can you do with these people? Surgeons are up in arms because the European directive on hours worked means that trainee doctors are no longer being trained. Well, what did they expect when accepting any directive that comes out of Europe?

If regular interns cannot be trained in brain surgery, what about psychiatry? How many hours are meant to be spent on wards with the depressed, the psychotic, the suicidal? How on earth will any of these trainees be able to recognise the difference between acute depression and psychosis or elation and drug affected disorders? My nice man at the Crisis Centre was right: the NHS is a whale that's floundering in the shallow waters of the Thames. Now the rumours persist once again of a 'supra-hospital' locally that's going to be an amalgamation of the two largest local hospitals but with only one A&E for the whole area. And, of course, who will be the scapegoat in all of this? Why, psychiatry of course!

Nice to see that in the south-west of the country mental health patients are being given surfing lessons. Really makes my heart happy to see how the much needed funds are being spent. Heaven forfend that beds might be made available or social workers or CPNs trained. I wonder who came up with that brainwave. Who makes these decisions and who passes them on?

Monday, 6 September 2010


It's all too depressing. Too repetitive. Too enervating and just too... I don't know. I've run out of adjectives and expletives. Chucked out of hospital. No follow up care. Just lies. The unit says that they referred him. The unit they 'referred' him to say that they've no information about this. So he's back to the future. Tramping around the streets. Scared to go home. Phone 'stolen.' Beaten up by a 'gang.' Hungry. Tired. Strung out. Feet in a terrible painful and raw state because of an infection that he picked up he doesn't know where. Could be Thailand. Could be Egypt. Either way it could be Bilharzia or Leishmoniasis (however you spell it) but no one is doing anything for him and he isn't responsible or capable of looking after himself and he resents me for 'butting in' on his very 'busy and productive life.'

Where do we go from here? Sue the hospital? Maybe. Lack of care. Negligence. The Crisis Team could care less. The hospital additionally. Just joins the psychiatric army on the street. 2010 and I'm told by the very nice man at one of the numbers I called for help that it's 'only going to get worse.' That the consequences of the last hideous, vile, repugnant Labour government means that there's yet still more 'reorganisation' and less money will be spent on mental health.

I want to take the computer and slam it onto the floor. There's no one to speak with and they all pass the buck and no one will take any responsibility. What point my writing a book? What point this blog? Does anyone read it who cares? All this money they spent on a new cafe and they 'discharge' the most needy because there's no funds. They arrange parties for 'employee of the month', while withholding medication. 'The NHS is breaking up,' the nice man told me. What a surprise. It's now an enterprise that's only interested in breaking even and targets and fulfilling criteria and stats. The ill? Sod them.

Monday, 16 August 2010

A Mediterranean craziness

They moved the crazy lady. At 7.00am a barrage of voices; the loudest being the local homeless woman who had colonised the empty house next door. And what a house. If I would win the lottery, what I could do with it. Sam's most adamant that it would make the most amazing abode. However, the crazy lady had spent I don't know how long in the path that led to the back garden. Bags full of bottles, cans, plastic, were piled head high. When they eventually cleared her out the detritus lay on the road opposite. Tarpaulins filled to the brim with mattresses, shelving, prams, umbrellas, flower pots, crockery, chairs, a step-ladder, stools, book shelves, rugs and hundreds of plastic bags stuffed with who-knows-what. The crazy lady fed the cats. She lived among the bags in a twelve-inch-square of habitation. She wore the same filthy grey (they could once have been white) jeans and once-white t-shirt the entire time that I saw her. She would coax the cats out from their lairs and feed them genteely, laying out rows of silver foil bowls of food and others with water, picking up each cat and kissing it and caressing it so that even though it lived in the wild (so the speak), it was loved.

The crazy lady is now gone, although where to, I've no idea. They told me that they had offered her a place in a homeless shelter many times. Each time she had refused. She would be given a bed, a shower, some food to eat and be allowed to spend the nights there, so long as she vacated the premises during the day. She didn't act too crazily. She didn't talk to herself; she didn't shout or scream or throw things at passers-by. I saw a man conversing with her, while trying to give her some money. She shook her head. So was she a 'crazy lady'? I guess that she had to be to live like that. Who would chose to live in squalor and dirt and disarray? Even in this most habitable temperature? What is craziness?

Meanwhile Zach is traversing London. The phone is gone. So, too, possibly is the computer. He's tying things. He told us that the hospital had discharged him. That, apparently, is a figment of his imagination, although he's still been discharged from the ward. His mood fluctuates. Maybe by the time September comes he'll begin the downward curve towards the winter's despair. He doesn't mention the dog.

[updated on the 19th August]

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Nothing changes among the 'carers'

I'm not there but I get the phone calls. Zach was discharged from hospital yesterday. Two weeks ago he was dodging the traffic. According to our wonderful health care workers he's compos mentis enough to be let out to do it all over again and no responsibility will be taken by them. It's the weekend, you see. Not enough staff nor resources to look after those who are ill. Who cares about them? No one. It's very sad. I'm sure that Zach is not unique here. Not enough psychiatrists, beds, support staff, continuity. Has he been given a Community Psychiatric Nurse this time? He never has had one. At least while he was going in to the unit he would, I believe, have discussed his medication. I doubt that they actually made him take it. Against his human rights, you see. Now he's free to stop again and on to the swings and roundabouts.

Zach was meant to be looking after the dog while I was away. He has yet to mention him. Sam managed to get him to the dog sitter while Zach was playing among the cars. How can I ever trust him again? Who knows what could have happened to the dog if we hadn't the presence of mind to organise the trusty D?

I wonder whether it's better in any other place. In New Dehli they looked after him until he was sufficiently compliant and had had to take the meds. Why have human rights superceded real care and support? Is it a sop to eradicate any kind of responsibility?

The phone calls are still bizarre. Zach's angry with Rickey for 'being anxious' about him. "Why can't he just leave me alone and get on with his life" was Zach's angry retort on the phone when I asked him whether he had seen any friends. Eventually none of his friends will bother. Only the other ex-hospital inmates and addicts will be drawn to him but none will be able to give him the right kind of support. How much does one do?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Usual negligent, irresponsible 'caring profession'

When you lie in the main road at a major roundabout, or else dodge the traffic, you expect to get picked up by someone. This, it appears, is what happened to Zach ten days ago. No shoes. Maybe no sunglasses either, or the usual stuff tied to his belt. No keys, that's for certain. Rather scary for the drivers on this particular stretch of road. Luckily it was the middle of the night. Off to UCH and then the transfer the following morning to the local 'hospital.' It's in italics but there is really little of the hospitable about it - apart from the new ward and nice new beds and curtains. Really makes a difference to the mentally ill, doesn't it?

Zach was sectioned again. A 28-day section so that they could 'evaluate' him. He was out in less than a week. Six days. A bit of medication and some enforced sleep and there you go. Out to the streets of Camden. Calls us up in the middle of the night garbling rubbish. Usual questions: 'What are you doing?' elicits a stream of 'What's it to you?' type of response. Won't discuss medication. Shouts and manic laughter at the end of the phone. Admits to cannabis, yet again. 'Calms me. It's my life...' Yeah, and what about everyone else who suffers as a result.

Sam is fed up with it all. 'If he didn't learn after 2006 and especially what happened to him in the Himalayas last year, then he'll never learn...' I know that Zach will never be responsive to treatment or any kind of therapy. Maybe Sam's right. Maybe we should give up on him completely. The problem is that when he's 'fine', he can be delightful; charming, warm and witty but I wish that he would have more insight and just grow up.

And the local 'hospital'? We left it to them. 'If anything happens to Zach this time where he goes completely into orbit, let it be on your heads,' he told the 'nurse' on the ward. If anything happens to Zach this time where there's a dreadful outcome, I think that we should sue the bastards.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Reprise, reprise, reprise.

I knew it wouldn't go away. It doesn't go away if you don't look after it and, as we all know now, Zach doesn't look after it or himself. He has the meds but he takes them in a desultory way. He knows best. Thinks he's 'happy' but doesn't realise that reality for him is that 'happiness' is elation, is pressurised talking, ideas coming at him from all sides; lack of sleep; exuberance; energy; grandiosity - psychosis.

I heard on the news the other day that the American diagnostic evaluation of mental illness is to be changed. It's going to incorporate more varied and less easily identifiable subsumes of 'mental illness.' One of those will be some kind of 'predisposition to psychosis.' As usual this is a red herring, a non-sequiteur. Of course among young men who indulge freely in drugs from a young age, there's going to be a 'predisposition to psychosis.' If you fuck around with the seratonin, then disrupt the neurotransmitters, screw the brain's chemistry, then, bingo! It doesn't take an Einstein to come to the conclusion that psychosis will follow that.

So what do you do? Shut these kids away during their formative years, impressing upon them that drugs and a 'predisposition to psychosis' don't go together? What parent would want to listen to that advice and act upon it? What percentage will create insanity? There's no real leadership from so-called 'role models' that has any force of will to instill a feeling of resistance to drugs in so many teens - boys especially. It's a part of the testesterone rush to prove that they can 'beat' drugs and that drugs won't 'beat' them.

This current government, of whom we had a glimmer of hope, has now gone the way of the last. They're going to cut the NHS budgets so that there will be even less money spent on mental health. Less beds, less infrastructure, less medication and the intervention that can provide succur for the mentally ill and their families.

This, therefore, brings me back to Zach. He's not in Greece, nor India nor Thailand. At 8.00am this morning he was in Camden, when usually he would have been out for the count, asleep in his bed until noon. His friends last night attempted to get him into hospital but, aware of their subterfuge, he did his usual and made a bolt for it. What happens now is part and parcel of his modus operandi. His behaviour will deteriorate. He'll try to do something so that the police are called. Hopefully someone will realise that he's ill and not a criminal and he'll be taken to hospital. Let's just hope.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

July orbits. Here we go again...

Just a note. I thought I'd let you know. July - you guessed it. Will keep you up to date. Once I get my internet connection thoroughly and convincingly together. There will be updates. I'm in the sun. Sam is getting his t-shirts together; those that want to come on holiday too. Tantalising. No?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Of Moat and moving

It's been a strange time. We're trying to move. Stress, by any other name, would not smell so sweet. We've bought a flat near to 'Beth' and I want to spend more time with her. Spend the rest of the time in London. What's so terrible? It would be an interesting sociological experiment to write a book about it all, were it not so anxiety-producing. However, in that vein, haven't I already done that?

So much has happened. Life doesn't stop. Zach's pretty good. He's on his way to see a good friend tomorrow. Eastern Europe, or what used to be Eastern Europe, beckons. When I was there in the mid-'90s, vodka was our daily 'bread', the food being so dreadful. I learned to love all its flavours, even chilli. Hopefully Zach won't indulge himself too much with it. There's the need to counterract other agents. Mentally he's good. It's nice to spend time with him. His hair is becoming grey though. How frightening how time flies.

The fallout of the Raul Moat deaths still reverberates. The man was obviously psychotic. What I don't understand is why the police would not allow his brother or best friend to participate in the talks with Moat in order to convince him to give himself up. To taser him and then to watch while he turned the gun upon himself? He'd pleaded for psychiatric help before. He'd left a rambling four-hour message on the phone. Pretty indicative of his state of mind, I would say. The police had information before his release that he was non compos mentis and intent on pursuing his ex-girlfriend. Who had this information and why wasn't it passed on. When are they going to learn?

Friday, 4 June 2010

Mitch Winehouse, crooning and more summer madness

So I was right. Mitch Winehouse now releases an album. On the back of his daughter's success. Am I being hypocritical here? I mean, I've written a book on the back of my mad son. Is it the same? He'll probably earn far more than me, though. However, money was never the issue. Or fame. Or vicarious 'life.' I wish him luck with the record but do we really need another crooner?

What I do get irritated about though is Mitch's denial of Amy's mental health problems. He invariably harks onto her 'drugs' issues, without ever consciously debating the reasons as to why she uses drugs in the way that she does. And booze. She's hasn't released an album for four years now. Isn't it about time, considering just how 'well' she is?

Zach spent a week with Beth. He had fun. He went to the beach. He spent time in a pub where he met up with a couple of Polish guys who spend their annual holidays in Tel Aviv; they love it there. Beth was working full time, as was the rest of the family. So, considering his money, Zach came home early. The weather's good. The days are long. The nights shorter. He just broke up with the girlfriend. So I'm only ever slightly concerned. You know, the summer haziness.

I wonder whether the summer haziness affected the Cumbrian who just murdered twelve on a spree in the Lake District. Reports said that, worried as he was about his fragile mental state, he went along to the local hospital looking for help but that he was rebuffed. Does this, if it is true, really surprise me? No, not really. What, after all, are hospitals for? It's not the first time, and won't be the last, that someone who really knows better than those in triage that there's something fundamentally and seriously wrong with his mental state and who begs for aid be turned away. How many times have I written about this already? How many more times will it occur?

So Mitch is plugging away and relishing more newsprint, now fixed on him, while Amy does - what Amy does. And we watch while the glittering sun sheds its dangerous light on the vulnerable bi-polarity of the mentally ill and only hope that it doesn't give way for despair.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Blue skies - but what do blue and yellow make?

I loved the allusion to Morcambe and Wise but will these two truely 'bring us sunshine'? It's a faint hope. Maybe a feint hope. Politics brings strange bedfellows indeed. They're in bed with one another. Do you think that the sex will be satisfactory, in so far as leaving them begging and wanting more?

Sunshine. At last. But it's so cold. The dog's hair is growing, albeit slowly. He's beginning to look shaggy again. The proof being in one small child, on sight of waggy tail, calling out to his dad, 'Look at that fluffy dog!' We haven't heard that for a few weeks. More like strange stares and befuddled amusement. What kind of dog is this? I wonder whether he absorbed those curious glances. Do dogs really feel?

Yet another case of a mentally ill man whose poignant requests of psychiatric ward to keep him incarcerated fell on deaf and/or ignorant-to-the-extreme ears. So he was shoved out into the 'real' world where he murdered someone. Of course, as is usual here, no one takes the blame and a poor innocent loses her life and the seriously mentally ill man just gets shut away after the event. Will they ever learn?

I note that next week there's a new series on tv called 'Sectioned.' It's about three men on a secure ward. I shall watch it with interest. Ironically Zach won't be around to watch it with me. He's going to join Beth for a couple of weeks. I know. There will be those of you whose eyebrows will raise in astonishment at his travelling yet again. This time of year. But he's good at the moment. He's charming and good company and a natural conversationalist. He also needs sunshine and blue skies and also to see Beth and she's in no hurry to come back here. I have a good feeling about this. Plus there's so much family there that there's some kind of safety-net should anything happen to him.

I'm looking out and I can see the sunlight flooding the terrace and there's still the blue sky, although clouds threaten, but it makes me feel so much lighter. How much we have all suffered this winter from SAD. How much it affects us all here in the UK. Why do we put up with it? Will this 'new' government make us any better?

Saturday, 8 May 2010

So if you win the majority of the votes, how come you don't win anything?

What a kerfuffle. The election that wasn't. You hear about fraudulent electioneering in the third-world. You don't expect it here. Friends who were queuing around the block for an hour, only to find that when they wanted to vote, the doors were closed in their faces; others where there were not enough voting forms. 'We didn't expect such a high turn out,' is the phrase now being bandied around. As if it were an impossibility that enfranchisement meant that everyone who had a vote now wanted to use it! How could it have been so chaotic? Such an immense cock-up? And it is, considering that the UK sends invigilators all around the world to ensure that voting is not fraudulent. Even my postal vote was posted late. What has happened to this country in the last thirteen years that has left it supine like this? Bloody Gordon Brown, his rotten cronies and Labour. And the grinning gargoyle is clinging on, like the tenacious limpit that he is, enthusing about how it could only be Labour who can 'save the country.' He has no shame.

Back again in London and it's even colder and wetter and greyer than before I went away. This is May? How tedious. I went out with the dog (still short-haired; not quite so weird-looking) this morning, wearing my winter walking coat with scarf and inner lining. Jolly. I was in t-shirt, hiding away from the sun on Thursday.

Zach stayed here and looked after the dog while I was away. He saw me arrive late on Thursday night and rushed downstairs to help me up with my case and then squirreled it away in the bedroom before I could even ask him for aid. A drink and a chat and we enjoyed watching the counting until 3.00am and he wandered back home because his bed was 'his bed.' He looks well. His moods are pretty stable and he's thinking of going to visit Beth for a couple of weeks. Pretty safe. Famous last words? Don't think so. Although, of course, safety is always a moot point.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Of mobile phones and the extortion of the internet costs

You probably think that I'm completely obsessed by the weather. You'd be right. Well, almost. Now, they say, we are expecting more snow and winds and freezing temperatures from the weekend. Great. Well, actually, not. The wind today keenly whipped around my face when dog and I were walking on the Heath. He likes it. Me not. At least we don't get the question mark faces when they see him. Or the amazed stares of 'What on earth has she done to that dog?' It's not MY fault I want to shout at them. I didn't do it! My Russian lady friend. She who has a dog that mine actually does an Obama bow to. An Obow wow wow, so to speak. She couldn't believe it when she saw him. In her rounded vowels she said that we must 'get compensation. It just doesn't look like him!' I know what she means. Not much hair has grown in ten days. It took three years to get that long.

New technology is great, isn't it? It is until you get the bill. I was upgraded to a BlackBerry. In my understanding, I believed the patter that internet and browsing were 'free.' Well, actually, they're! I can't believe that I was duped like this. I received the mother of a bill this week. Something that I had surely not anticipated. I recognise that we are still at the mercy of the phone companies when making international calls. I do tend to spend time abroad and I know from past experience just how much we are exploited for making calls there but this time I was charged for internet and browsing and I really, really (honestly) didn't realise that I would be charged. In fact, no one explained this to me. Only now, having checked my bill and contacted CarPhoneWarehouse and O2, has this been explained in terms of how much each megabyte costs! So beware! Don't be taken in by the beauty of the mobile phone upgrade. I think I'll go back to my old, trusty Nokia. I'm mightily peeved.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Sunshine, SAD, Avram Grant and Yom Ha'Shoa's Holocaust Survivors

Amazing. A whole day of sunshine. People out and about. Summer dresses (even though it's still chilly) and sandals and legs. Walking dog this morning (ok, I've taken him out of hibernation, notwithstanding my pure embarrassment, no, not really) and the people I met en route to the Heath were full of the real joys of spring. "Sunshine!" we shouted at each. "Blue skies!" We have all suffered from SAD this winter and to see the sun above is liberating.

The above was written three days ago. Since then we've had grey skies and wind but today it's sunny but SO cold!

Pompey did well yesterday. Avram was the saviour and 20 people crowded into the flat to celebrate Pompey making it to the semis before they made their way to the match. The fact that they're on their way to Wembley yet again to a final, notwithstanding that they are broke, relegated, full of injured or out of contract players, is irrelevant. Avram wore his black armband and celebrated how strength of mind and the fact that football is not life or death encouraged his players to beat crabby 'Arry's lot. Go Avram!

To continue the Avram theme: Today was Yom Ha'Shoa, Holocaust Memorial Day. Avram left Wembley in order to fly to Krakow and thence to Auschwitz to go on the March of the Living. The fact that his father buried most of his family in the wastes of Russia, having 'escaped' the extermination camps, is a tribute to the way that Avram has led his life. He said that his father was born with a smile on his face and died that way.

A story on AP today showed that the Holocaust is not over for those who experienced it. Over 200 Jews remain in mental health facilities in Israel, never having been able to expunge their memories. Some are 'locked in', unable to speak; others chain smoke and stare bleak-eyed into the distance; some have grotesque nightmares and others, who had managed to make lives for themselves post-war and have families and grandchildren, have found themselves back on psychiatric wards because these horrific memories will not leave them and have placed themselves at the forefront of day-to-day lives.

Ruby Wax, who writes that she suffers from depression, is going around the country with some kind of comedy show for those who suffer in psychiatric institutions. Perhaps she should wonder how Holocaust survivors spend their days. There's no comedy in trauma.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Of dogs and groomers and electioneering

Multi apologies. I've been away. It's been cold and wet and windy and I've suffered from SAD and now it's April and my birthday! Can't believe how quickly the time goes.

We're on our way to an election, although the party incumbant doesn't appear to have the balls to actually call it and yesterday the two weakest, most dorky, most irritating and infuriating - the boys Milliband - decided to launch a campaign wherein Dave the Cam is reflective of 'Life on Mars.' Doesn't everyone know that everybody loves the idea that political correctness is a burden and calling a spade a spade in the manner that Gene Hunt does is something to be admired, not vilified. And they want us to vote for five more years of the loathesome Mandelson and the man who sold off our gold reserves for the lowest price possible. Yes, that 'intellectual giant.' Geez...

Yesterday I took the dog into the groomers. He'd had a long winter. He was dirty and smelly and, quite truthfully, he was tangled. Guess what the groomer did? He shaved him. Can you believe it? A Rough Collie. A Lassie contender. A dog whose beauty is in his ruff had it shaved away! I'm in shock. I'm distraught and speechless that someone whose job it is to make dogs beautiful could actually do such a thing! He no longer looks like a Collie. He looks deranged. You can see the skin in some parts. The groomer showed me the bag of hair when I arrived to collect poor chien. 'He was matted,' he told me. He was never matted! All the groomer had to do was wash him, condition him and BRUSH him! Who's ever heard of SHAVING a Collie?! It will take years to grow!

So it's not all fun and games on my birthday. Zach came over with a card. He's taking me out for lunch later in the week. He's still good but still not doing anything actually to fill his days again. What a shame that the course didn't last for years...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Bleak winter cold and a tragedy in Scotland

This winter just goes on and on. Walking on the Heath today, the icy north-eastern wind permeated my fleece-lined jacket and even though I was wearing hat, gloves, cashmere scarf and fur-lined boots, it was as if I had been dumped down on the Russian steppe. There were still rivers of ice along the paths. Yesterday it was such a gift to see the sun, even though it was bitterly cold for most of the day. Today it's grey again and the sparse spring flowering bulbs are attempting to show their faces above the tundra. There's a number of violet crocuses that can be seen, alternating with the green shoots of daffodils but the sky is leaden and it almost looks like snow again. Tomorrow we are off to sunny climes where it's predicted to be 36C on Thursday and 'Beth' is sweltering in shorts and t-shirt. Who's to complain about that!

A terrible story in the news today. An asylum seeker, obviously seriously mentally ill, imposed his will on his young wife and their 21 year-old stepson, and the three of them jumped from the top of a council block in Scotland. How awful. It was reported that this man was 'fine 90% of the time but off-the-wall the other 10'. I would have to think that it was the other way around. Or maybe not. Maybe you just have to be of unsound mind for that finite 10% in order to jump from a skyscraper. Or any building. But his family? Were they mad too? Could he have been so persuasive that the other two, in desperation for his sanity, decided to end their lives in this fashion?

While walking the dog yesterday (now that I can as my back is about 85% better), I bumped into one of my fellow volunteers from the local hospital. 'I read your book!' she told me. 'It was amazing...' (that's nice of her). She's going to recommend it to a friend whose daughter is also Bipolar, 'although not as bad as your son is...' My son is good at the moment. When he was around yesterday he told me that he now wants to return to university and take a degree that is challenging and worthwhile. 'I've done the teaching course and found that I could handle it and much more...' he told me. 'And I'm taking the meds properly.' Wow. Progress.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Back Pain - In the mind?

Apologies. I've been injured. That is my back - or it could be my hip/leg - has an injury. Is it an age thingy? I stepped out of my car to put my foot on the pavement last Monday week and, weeeeze, ping, went my back! I managed to get a quick appointment with the physio who thought it was something to do with my 'hinges' and treated it as that. Over a week later and it was worse. Oh, well, thought the physio, it could be a prolapsed disc. Not sure really. See a sawbones. Get an injection. Think of surgery. Ah, well, no, I thought. I'll get a scan and that's it. So I saw Mr. Magic yesterday. The fabulous D. who's managed to put me back together before now. Why I didn't think of him last week is beyond my comprehension. Let's say it was the pain.

So deep tissue manipulation, as well as using his x-ray eyes to understand my skeletal frame and the way that I stood and how I was experiencing these vast amounts of pain, he told me he thought that I had dislodged my leg from my hip. After an hour of maneouvering me this way and that, I could stand up and the pain had, the on-going intense pain, gone! Oh, boy.

You see, my body had gone into protection overdrive and I had seized up with the fear of pain. So that's why those scientists had written that backpain is in the mind! Now I can, to some extent, understand where they are coming from. The more your muscles protect the injury and the more you fear the pain and the tensing and anxiety that stops you from breathing properly, the more it hurts.

Well, I'm going to go along to the surgeon this afternoon and I'll go through my real and regular back problems but I'll tell him that I'll opt for rehab chez Mr. D. and forgo any thought of intramuscular steroidal injections or back surgery - for the time being, that is. Who knows what the future brings?

And Zach is still good. He finished the course. Passed everything with flying colours. Is now a fully-fledged teacher of English as a foreign language. All he needs to do is to find a job. Yup, that's all.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Enough already!

It's one of those days where I'm going to kvetch. It hasn't stopped raining all day. The rain is now falling in vertical lines and creating huge puddles on the patio. When I walked the dog this morning - yes, I know, but I had to - we both got soaked. My jeans, my anorak, my hat. Even my boots leaked water. My very expensive Ugg boots that I really would have believed would have been better made. Maybe it was the wrong kind of water! We had to avoid the baby-lakes that lay in wait for us when we walked uphill. The cars, seeing us huddled into the bushes by the verges, kindly slowed down and drove around the grey, cold stuff so that we didn't end up totally wet from top to toe. As it was, the poor dog kept on shaking his fur but it just got wetter and wetter. J. wrote me a text from home: "It's weird seeing people in their summer clothes! It's February! Is this global warning (sic)?"

Zach came around last night so that he could work. I still can't get over him being so responsible and so possessed of doing the right thing, on time and creating lesson plans and making sure that everything is correct! Another personality - although it is the one that resided there beforehand. It's just that we hadn't seen it for such a long, long time. He even makes sure that he gets enough sleep. I keep tapping myself on the head to make sure that I'm not dreaming. The nice thing is the knowledge that there's still sufficient grey matter there that hasn't been eradicated by the oh-so-copious use of narcotics.

I see that the cannabis diaries has been published. Splashed all over the Daily Mail last week. Lots of photos of son from childhood to present day. All real names. Felt sorry for the boy, really. Not much fun having your face spread all over the tabloids with the nomenclature 'addict'. Because I wouldn't compromise and divulge real names and faces, the tabloids weren't interested in me. Such is life. So long as it gets borrowed and people read it, that's fine.

They predict that this rain is going to turn to snow within twenty-four hours. Then I'll really have something to kvetch about. So long as I don't go head-first again. I have a course to go to in south London tomorrow. 'Listening and responding' to cancer patients. Hope that we don't have the wrong kind of snow.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Those kill-joy Saudi Arabians

What kill-joys the Saudi Arabians are. Anything pink, from roses to chocolates, have been banned from being sold in shops in the peninsula. Why? Because it's against the religion to celebrate St. Valentine's Day and the pink stuff is just so anti-Islam. So between marrying eight-year-olds to 80 year olds and stoning adulterers and cutting off the hands of thieves, the religious authorities have the time to ensure that no one buys anything pink or sends a Valentines' card or buys their loved-one a pretty bunch of flowers because it insults their religion. Gosh! They must have so much time on their hands. Insanity.

Today there's two full pages of Gordon Brown; he of the bitten, dirty fingernails and greasy hair, whining about how he should have been the one to have been the PM instead of Tony Blair. He's now joined the celebrity brigade of the woe-is-me I too suffered, crying a little tear when speaking of the death of his baby daughter. I agree. That's sad. But to use her death as a part of his electioneering is depraved. He is so out of touch with the electorate that he may as well be on another planet. Hold on. There's an Endeavour Shuttle going soon...

Isn't everyone just sick of winter? It just seems to go on and on. I know and realise that it's still only February but the cold is getting to me. Maybe it's my age. I need to see and feel some sun. Yesterday it was bitter and the only thing going for it was that the dog didn't get mucky on the Heath but came back with icy paws. He refused to go out again later in the afternoon. You'd think that with his coat, he wouldn't feel the steely winds. Today we did a street walk because the mud had reappeared. The thought of hosing him down yet again deterred me.

Zach's still good and working twelve and fourteen hours a day, preparing his lessons and researching topics to teach. The reversal from total layabout to obsessive tutor is remarkable. One addiction replaced by another but at least this one leaves him no time nor desire for the former. The fact that he is really enjoying the strictures of the course and the people he's with and the positive future presented to him thrills me. Let's hope it continues along these lines. The shops filled with pink heart-shaped balloons and pink-ribboned boxes of chocolates and cards and flowers present no threat to people who have sanity in their lives. There's enough kill-joys even here but this is one instance where we are all free to express our freedom to worship at St. Valentine and maybe even Zach will have found someone to share in this.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Bipolar disorder and the most able students; Zach's progress

A piece in the paper today stated that clever children have a much higher risk of developing Bipolar disorder than less able ones. I guess that's news. Research has shown that the more intelligent children are four times likelier to go on to suffer the condition. The people I know who have Bipolar disorder? Yes, they're all the brightest ones. Zach certainly is. He coasted through school, never really putting in any effort and pretty much under achieving because he didn't feel the need to.

Talking about Zach's education the other night, he pointed to the fact that he didn't read any of the texts for English Literature A-level. Just the crammers. Still managed to get a B. With a bit more reading, there's no doubt he would have managed A's all round and gone to Oxbridge but he just didn't want that. The irony is that he's now started a teaching course and is (so far) loving it! I always thought that he would make an excellent teacher. He's bright and funny and articulate and well spoken and manages to get his point across succinctly. I can see a class of students enjoying his input. Let's hope that he succeeds.

The interesting thing about the brightest kids being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder is that it is also these kids who are the most creative too. Kay Redfield Jamison, in 'Touched With Fire, Manic-depressive illness and the artistic temperament,' explores the relationship between creativity and madness. As one of her critics wrote about her book, it is "an emphatic analysis of the creativity that emerges from a little madness and the horror from too much." Zach is studying hard. He's teaching class and he's researching and preparing his next lessons. He's still also writing music and wants that project to be successful too. 'I'm a little manic,' he said to me last night. 'It's a good manic,' he added. 'I'm watching it. Not letting it get the better of me.'

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Star systems and the amazing Israeli response to the Haiti disaster

It's kinda nice that little has been happening here. Well, that's a bit of a lie but I don't want to expand at the moment. Suffice to say that we have a good semblence of sanity and health. Let's not analyse it too much. Taking things on a daily basis then there's sufficient improvement to inaugerate a star system. I remember the gold and silver ones from primary school. I loved green. Red and yellow were good too. So here it is: all the colours, apart from black and brown, are good. The starry ones the best. I think that we are at a green. Should red be pointing in another direction? I'll have to consider that.

My mind has been on the terrible events in Haiti. What a poor downtrodden country. It's just amazing though that whenever the cameras are on the Haitians, even the ones without anywhere at all to live and no clothing that they can call their own, that they all look so sparkly clean and pressed. How do they do it? It's the same in India. Among the squalor and filth the women are beautiful. Their saris, folded and brightly coloured, do not appear to be hiding dirt or despair. Why is it that only in the west do the street people and the poverty stricken shout their condition?

I'm so delighted that the Israeli response to the Haiti disaster was so fantastic. Who else had the presence of mind to bring a fully operational field hospital that contained, among myriad other medical aid, imaging, x-ray and paediatric care? A functioning neo-natal unit and a telecommunications centre? Yet, by reading comments on various boards, you would be seething at the resentment by the Israel-bashers that Israelis could do such good deeds. Suffice to say that the positive comments outweighed the negative ones. The major aid organisations that search for survivors are leaving. The Israelis are staying there, so hopefully they will, against all odds, find others beneath the rubble and stench.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Library loans, cancer, mental illness and the long-awaited medication compliance

It's raining. I never thought that I would be pleased to see rain. I'll hate it by this afternoon but at least it's melting the vestigages of the snow and ice. I don't have to take a stick to aid my progression along the filthy streets and I can wear boots that I can walk in. Finally. I hope it lasts. This morning we walked for an hour and I didn't slip once! We are supposed to hit the giddy heights of 9C on Sunday and sun. Ok. It's not the Dead Sea in January - all blazing heat and azure skies - but it's not the arctic.

I received a print out from the Public Lending Right this week. It tells me how many times my book has been borrowed from national libraries and how much I have made from this. I think it's done pretty well. From July 2008 to June 2009, its first year of publication, it was loaned a total of 2,212 times. That means that, added to the sales, it's been read over 7,000 times! Not too bad, considering. It hasn't overtaken James Frey but, then, he's been proven to be a liar. Fiction masquerading as fact in a 'memoir.'

Yesterday I was back in my role as volunteer in Oncology at the local hospital. Counselling patients with cancer makes me reconsider mental health problems. I still don't know what is 'better' or 'worse' and it was something that a colleague and I discussed during a quiet period. If you have a physical illness you will, at least, do everything possible in order to seek a cure or alleviate its symptoms. The very diagnosis of a mental health condition invariably means that you are not of sound mind sufficiently (in many instances) and you will deny yourself adequate intervention and help.

Zach opined that he never again wants to avoid taking medication. To repeat the hell that he went though in Ladakh and Delhi last year is the last thing on his mind. Previously, he told me, other 'episodes' at least had their memorable parts. There is nothing that he has positively from India's breakdown. He cringes when he thinks of it and finds it painful to the extreme. So something positive came out of it. It's only taken thirteen years. Let's hope it continues. I won't hold my breath.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

HEALTH AND SAFETY IS AN OXYMORON (and so are the morons who came up with it)

So, so fed up. Fed up with looking at the white stuff. It's nice if you can stay inside and don't have to live. To go anywhere. To have to walk, run, drive anywhere. Food we have but I've ordered dog food and the poor dog has about another day's worth but I can't go anywhere in the car today because it snowed again last night. And, as predictable as day following night, the roads around here are impassable.

Walking the dog (a much abridged version) this morning, I saw a Mini simply sliding its way down towards the main road, its wheels locked, it's driver staring straight ahead in terror. Why he had even wanted to take his box on wheels to these roads on a day like this was anyone's guess. He hadn't even cleared the snow from the roof or the bonnet. Other pedestrians were watching him too. Further up the road another boy-racer sped along, spraying snow and dead grit, until he, too, found himself at the brow of the hill, thumped on his brakes and carouselled into the side of a parked BMW. We looked at each other in disbelief, we of the two legged kind, and continued along our way. It was treacherous.

Zach calls me each day and we lament the weather. He's had some kind of gastric flu and has been throwing up copiously every night. He's worried that it's affected his meds. He's cold all the time and hungry too because he's now scared to eat in case it all ends up either on his floor or the loo. The Winter Vomiting Bug appears to be the one that's closing down wards. That and fractures. I'd hate to think what hospital A&E departments are like this week. Grit has been reduced by 50% and we are, according to news reports, running periously close on empty for that and salt. None of the pavements are safe. Either they've semi-melted and are mini ice rinks or slimy, slidely slush. Either way it's likely that I'll end belly up yet again.

The gardener in the house that backs onto our garden has, in his great intelligence, decided to light a huge fire with wet branches and leaves and the smoke has gathered in huge clouds that have descended into each and every window and crack in the brickwork here. My apartment smells like the aftermath of a damp conflagration. I went out to him and berated him for doing so. His answer: 'Sorry, can't hear you.' So much for neighbourly good feelings. I think that a phone call to the very nice Italians is in order.

And once more the waiting for EDF Energy, the 'Sustainability Partner', to turn up and relocate the effing meter. All morning Monday. I called today to complain yet again. 'Oh, Mrs. Morris. You were left a message in November. The appointment was cancelled. It's now for the 9th February.' Of course no message was left. Just another sodding runaround from them. They're all so nice on the phone. Health and effing Safety again. No other reason not to have the meter where it's been situated since the block was last renovated. Years ago. You see it's dangerous for someone to top up their meter in the dark. When I made the point that there's a light switch in the room where all the meters are situated and that most everyone knows how light switches work, the nice gentleman to whom I was speaking said, yes that's right but Health and Safety has tied their hands.


Friday, 8 January 2010

Snow, fractures, the NHS and Bill Oddie

Hairline fracture of a bone in my wrist. Therefore somewhat difficult to type! Sorry. Two falls in one day and the second one did it. We have so much snow and ice and nothing has been cleared. There's piles of snow and grit and sand but it's all lethal and we don't have the infrastructure here to deal with it.

I spent two hours at the local NHS hospital but was favourably impresssed. Pre-triage and then ten minutes to register and then straight to X-ray. Fifteen minutes and then they were done. Another hour to wait and an extremely nice registrar. What a difference...

But I have a caste on my wrist and it's so hard...

An interesting week with Zach. He's been staying here. Yet another chapter. To be discussed...

By the way: Bill Oddie. Now telling everyone how he's come through his depression. I'm delighted for him. Would have been nice if he had said thanks.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

New Year: New changes. Will it be any better?

Gosh it's cold here. In October we were informed by the Met Office that we were going to have a 'mild winter.' On a par with their 'barbeque' summer that didn't arrive, I don't think that they do their job very well, do they? And they're telling us that by 2050 we'll have 'scorching summers'. Blah blah blah...

So this morning we skated our way around the Heath and the dog avoided the really icy bits too but he has four legs and a lower centre of gravity and there's not too much to worry about him toppling over. I only saw three people almost come a cropper this week on one particular and famous piece of glass. You'd think that the powers-that-be who work for the Heath would've done something about this. But, of course not. I remember when I last asked these gentlemen about doing something to alleviate the possibility of broken bones. 'If we grit one path,' one of them said. 'Then we'd have to grit them all...' Makes one open-mouthed in awe, doesn't it!

Lots of articles about poor Mr. Shaikh. One thing in agreement: Why was it that the Chinese authorities wouldn't allow him to see a psychiatrist? Was it because the Chinese actually wanted to execute a Westerner simply to show that no one's gonna mess with them? Well, it seemed to have worked. Who's going to boycott China?

So tomorrow it's back to normal. We have a new year and a new decade. I wonder whether it will be any better than the last. Will there be new medications discovered that work better for people with mental illnesses? Will there be more money injected into the system here for better care in the NHS for those who are vulnerable? Will there be a different attitude shown towards drug addiction and mental illness? I think it's highly unlikely that anything will change. One can but hope.