Sunday, June 27, 2010

All The Single Ladies

My husband James and our friend Paul are on the final stretch of their epic fundraiser cycle for  Bob's autism unit.  This afternoon they will coast into the most northerly point in Ireland at Malin Head, after leaving the most southerly point in Mizen Head six days ago.
Hope their brakes work.
The imprint of a saddle will be permanently tattooed on their backsides, for anyone brave enough to take a peek.

                              (the boys with their two favourite cheerleaders Katy and Breda)

While the boys were toiling in the mountains, I was doing a bit of cliff-hanging myself, as I got a (blessedly) brief taste of what single parenthood is like.

I'd love to do a schmaltzy post about missing James, but I'm a grounded kinda gal.  It goes without saying that I miss him, but I also know that it's only for a week.
I've spent longer in hospital.

The single biggest change for me was making decisions without consulting anyone.  
I didn't do anything major like buy a yacht or sell one of the children (or at least that's what I'm telling James), but it was the hundreds of mundane things that couldn't be left to anyone else.

There was no-one else to bounce ideas off ..."should I argue with my teenage son or just let it go?", "will I wash the floors now or wait til the kids go to bed?", "fish or chicken for dinner?".  
Riveting, eh? 
But 24/7, that kind of mental responsibility gets very weighty.

I knew I could handle the kids/cooking/cleaning etc. etc., but the constant rehearsals in my head of what needed to be done next was hard to switch off when bedtime came.

On the flip side, I'm secretly quite pleased with how super-organised I can be, if not a tad concerned about the obsessive relish with which I stream-lined the notice board and rotated the towels in the hot-press (aka the airing cupboard, for anyone who can't speak Irish).
I practically used a ruler.
To hell with religion, alphabetised bills is where inner peace is at.

So I would like to make a bow to single parents, who have to organise having a shower with military precision, and can leave nothing to chance... because if things fall apart you're the only one trying to fix your life with glue and sticky tape.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A RoundAbout Approach

I got to thinking the other day about a particular buzzword that was bandied about with such frequency during my student nurse days, that it began to lose it's meaning.
(Try repeating the words redlorryyellowlorry ten times to see what I mean.)
Buzzwords were very big in the early nineties, and may have been a hangover from the Decade That Taste Forgot (the hallucinogenic eighties)...when people regularly touched base and said things like don't even go there! while wearing stonewashed jeans and giant hair.
And the glasses that I wore that could have been doubled up as satellite dishes are best forgotten.  Perhaps as we speak they are being used to guide top secret military aircraft through war-zones.

Anyway, this particular buzzword was biopsychosocial (phew! I can still spell it) which is a model of nursing practice based on viewing the patient as a whole person instead of a collection of symptoms.
Nice idea, but not terribly practical when you have a 30 bedded ward being goose-stepped by prima donna consultants.
So the word became a rather cynical tool to curry extra points  in essays, by pasting it in as frequently as possible, instead of a usable method of nursing.

But I discovered that philosophy doesn't make the beds.

That said,  I liked the whole idea behind the biopsychosocial approach.
It made sense...if you have a pain in your big toe, it makes you grumpy and then you have no friends.
So a problem in one aspect of your being can have a ripple effect into other parts of your life and, conversely, improving one thing can have benefits elsewhere.

Shamefully, the whole lovely notion got diluted in the rivers of student life, shift work and the seriously nasty Bulgarian wine (£2 per bottle) we used to forget our troubles.

So this little kernel of wisdom survived the almost 20 (yikes!) intervening years only to pop to the surface the other day.

A few weeks ago I was on a bit of a downer, and I lay plastered across the big wobbly depression resting dolefully on my increasingly bigger, wobblier butt.
I didn't mind the curves, but I hated that I felt as physically flaccid as mentally.
So I've decided to (finally) make practical use of this model and I've joined the gym to improve my mental health (of course I didn't tell the instructor that....I don't want them to think that I'm mad).  I just told them that I wanted to look like Elle McPherson as soon as possible.

I was pretty nervous when I did what is laughingly referred to as a Fitness Test...but I was pleasantly relieved to notice that the gym was not populated by size 8, lycra clad gym bunnies.  The clientèle seemed surprisingly human, and wore baggy tee shirts and shiny, red faces with badly behaved hairstyles.
I felt right at home.

So that's the bio and the psycho addressed.  The social?...well, two out of three ain't bad.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Anger Is An Energy

My thought processes are so slow that I reckon I'll have everything figured out just about 30 seconds before I die.
The wheels and cogs in my lumbering old turtle brain have presented me with a new idea.
It took months (gawd, maybe years) to get to this point, so be patient while I explain myself.

As I have talked about a few times in this blog, I am prone to bouts of depression, and even though I'm on medication I still have the occasional dip.
It's no party, but it doesn't frighten me anymore because I know what it is and I trust that it will pass.

So about a week ago my mental health was ably assisted into the doldrums courtesy of the following precipitating factors;

(1) I forgot to take my prozac one day (oops...but hey, I am mad)
(2) Bob was discovered over a mile away from home on a determined trajectory towards his uncle's house (which is 10 miles away!!!)...he was within spitting distance from the Dublin-Derry road
(3) Mother Nature doesn't seem to check her in-box...if she is reading I have finished having children so PMS is superfluous to my needs thank you very much.  
I don't think the cranky old biddy cares though.

So in the post I received a lovely bouquet of lethargy, tearfulness and self-loathing from the mean spirited Mother Nature.
I was a laugh a minute.

 I recalled often reading that depression is anger "turned inwards" and I scoffed at the notion of having the energy to feel anything more taxing than faint irritability.  I could barely get dressed, never mind hurl the denby against the wall.

But as my medication kicked in, my hormones levelled out and Bob was garrisoned even more securely, I began to feel a tickle of rage.

Normally I distract myself from this anger by manically cleaning, or turning the stereo up to 11.
But this time I allowed myself to feel the rage.

You know when you drive over a bump in the road too fast and your stomach turns gymnastic flip-flops, and you're unsure if you're excited or terrified?  Well, that's pretty much what my anger feels like.

I am outraged that despite turning our home into Alcatraz, punctuating our days with endless locking and unlocking of doors and gates, and constant checks on Bob's whereabouts that he still managed to outfox us.  I want to be angry with Bob  and to let fly at him over the terror he put us through, but he's autistic and that's what autie kids do.  So I can't be mad with him.

Spouses tend to be the first in the line of fire, so I want to scream at my husband that it's all his fault.
But he's the one who fenced in a play-yard for Bob and screwed bolts on the gates, and nailed chicken wire to the garden fence and gate to stop Bob clambering through them.  Bob's autism and bolts for freedom are not his fault, so it would be grossly unfair to be angry with James, who is an ace husband and dad.

So that just leaves me to be mad with.
And suddenly the anger-depression  relationship actually means something to me.

I'm not sure yet how to channel this anger, but I recognise that it could actually be used positively, instead of allowed to burrow deep within me and eat me from the inside out.
I'll have to get my thinking cap on about that one.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Less is More

"We have tested and tasted too much, lover
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder"
(Patrick Kavanagh, Advent)

...or if a fellow Monaghan citizen may be so bold as to can get too much of a good thing.

So over-indulgence of wonderful things can become ordinary and they lose their magic.
Lemon cupcakes and Shiraz spring to mind.

Those lines made me think of Christmas morning when we over-indulge our kids with plastic and electronics, and they inevitably ignore them and play with the boxes.

As many of you know, I'm not a sackcloth and ashes kinda gal, but I can see the wisdom in fasting and spiritual retreats.
OK, maybe I'd have trouble with the hunger and the God stuff, but I can imagine it would make all the good things we take for granted seem fresh and new again.

It made me think about the distress our autie kids feel when they are overstimulated by a constant barrage of TV, laptops, Nintendos, iPhones etc. addition to the sensory insults they feel at the light, sounds and touches we don't even notice.

I've started to make a conscious effort to tone down on the in-your -face sensory onslaught that has become a constant white noise in the background (to us), but may make a significant change to Bob's peace of mind.
I don't intend stripping our home back to monk-cell austerity, but switching off the TV now and again, putting the laptop on the shelf  for a while and switching off lights when no-one is in the room could make a subtle, but effective, impact.

That said, my 10 year old daughter's birthday party yesterday was a prime example of how NOT to embark on a sensory diet.
We had a bouncy obstacle course the size of a small planet, many children who consumed their own body weight in sugar and e-numbers, and surprisingly seasonal June weather.
Caffeinated, sugar-buzzed kids were returned to their parents alive and with a full complement of limbs, but the party continued into the witching hours with three of my dearest friends (although Dee had to leave a little earlier with her crew...thank God one of us is a good parent). My Inner Silliness was in good company last night, and it was good to give it an airing.
(Wine may have been consumed...sshhhhh)

But, back to the austerity thing.
My feeling is that simplicity is where peace lies.
Now I'm off to drink tea and build a kitten jigsaw with my daughter.