Friday, 16 December 2011

Adventures in the jouyous run up to CHRISTMAS!

You may or may not have realised, but Christmas is indeed coming and I've been getting super duper excited for it!

This year with being back in work, I was a little worried about being able to see either side of my family at all, and being that we live in totally different regions of the country, Christmas is more about family to us now than it ever was before. Thankfully my manager at work is one of those great guys who really appreciates that Christmas isn't just about the 25th December, and he's taken into account my wishes for my work schedule. This means that I'm actually going to get to spend time over Christmas with both mine and my husbands immediate families, and even see an aunty and uncle! This is the first Christmas we'll have seen so much of both sides of the family together, and the second Christmas where we haven't traveled to either ones family. It's quite a relief, and means we get the best of both worlds without the stress and hassle that comes with staying as a guest in someone elses house, however close they may be.

A Christmas tree on a Christmas crate!
All this means that I'm over the moon with excitement and anticipation for Christmas, but December hasn't been without it's festive themed delights already. We've got a lovely little tree this year, and cleared out a space for it. It's no bigger than the one we usually have, only 3ft, but our flat is so tiny it wouldn't be practical to have anything too much bigger. This years offering is a little less weedy than the usual, however, and I've invested in yet more beautiful decorations. By that I mean I bought loads of little birds to stick in my tree, because I find birds to be ever so enchanting and charming. And the single bird I bought last year was ever so lonely on her own. I've also invested in an angel topper to replace our icky plastic star. We always had angels when I was a little girl, and I dunno, maybe it's because they have wings like birds, I just love them. She doesn't really fit in with the glittery blue, silver, purple and pink of the tinsel and baubles, as she's a white crochet angel, but she's so delightful and sweet I couldn't help myself. The tree itself is not perched precariously on top of the gas meter cabinet this year, where it usually goes, but I covered an old crate in gold crepe paper and stuck it on there, to give it a bit more "presence" in the room. This is grate because I can stash all the presents in the crate until Christmas eve (as the place is so small, if I just stuck them decoratively beneath the tree it would soon become cluttered)

The tree always marks the beginning of the run up for me, but the second big thing is that Laila usually comes to visit us here in Liverpool. She's like a second sister to me, and we quickly get to giggling like maniacal little children as soon as we bang our heads together. We had a great day, participating in the drinking of much tea, coffee, the eating of cakes, and also pizza, and the perusing of the wonderful bits and bobs to be found in the Liverpool Christmas market. We had a few other plans but a rainy day called them off, and then tarrying over lunch meant we were a little late to go to the cinema, however we had a much needed catch up, and much festive joy was shared.

One of the things about Laila's annual Christmas adventure to Liverpool that I REALLY love, however, and I hope you don't mind me saying this dear, but it is the annual Christmas gift from Laila. I have many lovely and generous friends who get me lovely and thoughtful gifts that I treasure, but Laila is an expert in the art of packaging. This year it meant that to get to the goodies within the gift bag I ended up covering the cafe we were sat in with angel and snow flake shaped confetti as I pulled out reams of silver and blue tinsel! The only problem I had afterwards was wondering what to do with it, as it always seems a shame to put such thought to waste. Well, Laila, last night I put your tinsel to good use and made a tinsel wreath!

It's nothing amazingly complex, I simply twisted the blue and silver tinsels around one another, then wrapped the resulting twisty awesomeness around an old embroidery hoop that I rescued from my Granny's bin in April but have yet to use. I fixed it with some craft wire, and then hung some old plastic baubles that I didn't use on the tree this year with the same stuff. I also fixed a cheeky little song bird on it from my tree. I know it's a total hodgepodge riot of different colours and textures, but actually I quite like the deep, warm colour of the baubles against the light, frosty tinsel. I think it's gonna be a keeper, not too bad for a load of stuff that would have otherwise ended up in landfill!

Snow on the street where I live!
I've plenty of social engagements and chores that need to be done over the upcoming week or so. For starters, the place is in no fit state to have the family around...don't worry, it's not at all back to Corner of Shame levels of disorder, but it is in dire need of a seasonal cleanup just to straighten things out again. I have a Christmas meal with my best friends as well as family coming, and then a wonderful new years party to look forward to. I can't wait to put my new dress, although I'm struggling with what to do with my hair. A good old fashioned 50's beehive may be the way of it! In the meantime we've just had a healthy amount of snow dumped on us here in Liverpool...not an atrocious amount, and no where near as much as we did last year, but it's enough to make me feel even more Christmassy! Could we be having a white Christmas here on Merseyside this year? Only a week and a bit to go!

But anyhow, I shall stop my ramblings and head on back to enjoying my day off to write Christmas cards and sing Christmas songs. Whatever you're doing on the run up to Christmas I hope you enjoy it, and I shall no doubt be posting up again before the big day arrives!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Doctor! Doctor!

I was feeling pretty anxious about my doctors appointment. I'd only seen Doctor Keyser once before, in the same situation granted, and he'd been nothing but kind and understanding. But he's a hard little man. He speaks with an almost flawless British accent, yet he is so bluntly German. His eyes are like little hard rocks behind his perfectly round, gold framed glasses. If he wasn't so tiny, standing at no more than five foot one, one could easily mistake him for Nick Robinson going grey. Whereas my usual GP is a younger, softer, charmismatic and personable young woman, Dr Keyser invokes memories of being dragged to the doctor by mother and being scrutinised from every angle by someone who to your feeble childs mind is like a cross between your headmaster, and God.

The buzzer called me in. Don't worry, I calm myself, it's just a quick in and out, he can read your notes after all. He greets me as he's leaving his room.

"Ah, Miss Myatt!" he exclaims. I don't know why the surgery never changed my title along with my name when I got married, "if you could just come in, has the receptionist told you about the student doctor today? Good good! Well he will examine you and take down your notes, and then I will come and check to see that everything is ok. Good? Good!"

The student doctor in question was a young south eastern asian man. At first I groaned inwardly; all other times I've been told there was a student doctor in, it was whilst they observed, never unsupervised. He had a kindly enough face, but he seemed so fresh and, well, undoctorly, I wondered what it was he would say.

"I came here just under a month ago," I explained, "I have a history of depression and I had been suffering with some of the symptoms for a couple of months so I came back before they could get any worse, and the doctor prescribed me my I'm nearly out and I need some more..."

He looked at me strangely. I wondered what his experience with mental health issues was. I was soon to find out.

He asked how I was feeling. On top of the world, I told him, for about a week or so I've been feeling just brilliant. Whether that is the pills or Christmas and the promise of seeing my whole family and the wonderful new years celebrations that are planned I don't know. Perhaps those months of feeling blue were just a minor blip.

He asked if I wanted to come off the pills...I asked if this was advisable...after years of being on and off them in one form or another I know the standard course is 6 months. He said it was just strange; usually with anti depressants they take weeks if not months to kick in, he explains. I say yes, indeed, I know this, this is all an old game to me, but today I am feeling on top of the world, on bad days I'm inconsolable.

He goes through my symptoms, past and present, and he seems perplexed. We've been in for a good five or ten minutes and he mumbles something about being unable to write me a prescription; we'll have to wait for Doctor Keyser. I presume he will be back soon.

Then the extraordinarily unprofessional happens. He tells me he just doesn't understand depression. I ask, what exactly do you mean by that. He says he cannot comprehend. He asks what I mean by "when I'm down I just can't face the world". He says that to him he wakes up on a morning, and then he wants to get out of bed and get on with his day. He doesn't say this in an accusatory way, more in an inquisitive way. I explain that, for me, all logical thought goes out of the window. When you feel like everything is against you, why bother to do anything? Why fight a loosing battle when you may as well just curl up and die?

He asks if I've had thoughts of dieing. I explain that, yes, I did when I came to see the doctor a month ago, and thats what triggered me to seek help, before I let it go to far. He asks if I've harmed myself. I say no. What about in the past? It's difficult to talk about, so I just show him the scars on my arm instead. He seems repulsed.

Then the conversation takes an even stranger turn. He asks "what about religion? Does that help?"

I'm perplexed. He seems to be reading from my notes, but I do not recall ever disclosing anything to do with faith to any doctor here. I tell him that whilst I'm Catholic, on down days God is far from my mind. Indeed, on really bad days one begins to doubt His existence at all.

He begins to explain that he's from a Christian family himself, but it's so difficult. He believes in God but he's not sure about religion. He wants to live life his own way, not prescribed by the church. He wishes to be the master of his own destiny, but he cannot deny that he knows God is there.

"I believe we'll never really know what God wants," I say. He confides that when doing devotionals, sometimes he will read a passage in the Bible which is spot on, and relates to exactly how he is feeling that day. He confides that his friends think he is mad for this, that he must be twisting the words to mean what he wants it to mean, and I suggest that as a trainee doctor he must be surrounded by many scientifically minded folk. He says yeah, and then says, "but it can't just be coincidence, can it?" I say "There's much wisdom in the word. It may be written by God or it may be written by man, but it didn't just appear from no where." He sits in silence for a while, nodding, in deep thought.

"I'm so sorry...I have no idea why I'm telling you all this..."

I get that a lot from people. That's why I'm pursuing counseling as a career.

He realises that he's really crossed the line by this point, but I assure him I don't mind, and besides, religion and theology are passions of mine. He goes back to my notes and asks what I mean about having a history of depression. I go through the whole sorry tale from the first time I harmed myself in sixth form college to the day I quit university. He was suprised to find Id studied a science subject. I wonder if I really come accross as that dumb these days. He asks is there anything I do to try and help myself, and asks if it's possible to try and make yourself "snap out of it".

I tell him no, it really isn't, sometimes you can try and get on with things, sometimes you can't. He reaffirms that he finds it so difficult to relate to mental health issues because he's never had any experience aside from in the classroom. By this point he's perusing my medical notes. Why did you have an ultrasound on your liver? How is your asthma these days? Why aren't you on medication for your PCOS?

The PCOS strikes up a whole new area of discussion. I explain I'm not on any medication because I'm trying for a family so I'm trying to lose weight. He asks how it's going and I explain it's been difficult the past couple of weeks, but Im still going to the gym and I'm loving it. As it turns out he's a real gym enthusiast and we get to talking about our work out routines. He's suprised to know I love the weights. He confides that he never used to do weights, but today he turned 25 and he's determined to get a six pack before he's 30. I wish him a happy birthday, he says thanks, he wishes he was at home in Malaysia with his family. He says I should visit Malaysia, it would do me good as it's always sunny and my depression is obviously seasonal.

By this point we've been sat talking about everything and nothing for almost an hour. Doctor Keyser, it would seem, is seeing another patient, and said patient has taken up all this time. I'm a little irked about this, as my appointment was at such and such a time. The student doctor is appologetic, and suggests I wait back in the waiting room, but just as I'm about to leave Doctor Keyser walks in.

The student gives him the lowdown...she feels fine right now but was not a few weeks majorly terrible symptoms right now. Dr Keyser asks about my sleeping and appetite and gives me a standardised questionnaire. to track my progress

"Yes, you've very much improved, however there is a good chance you will go back if we take you off the anti depressants again so we will follow through with the usual six month course. However, I need you to make some lifestyle changes, because that is really the only thing that will help you in the long run."

I'm puzzled as to what he means. My life is really pretty good right now, and I couldn't ask for much more to be happy that is otherwise out of my control. I ask what he would suggest.

"Well, you need a decent social life, get that social support so when you are in crisis you aren't left on your own..."

I mentally check this off. My friends are ace, my family supportive, my husband gentle and understanding, my social calendar currently packed.

" really need to do some exercise, get those endorphins flowing..."

The student doctor and I exchange glances, we know full well this isn't a problem for me.

"...And if you find that you are getting anxious and irritable make sure you get at least an hour a day to yourself that nobody else is allowed to intrude upon and do whatever you like to relax. Go window shopping or something."

He prints off my prescription and says he'll see me in a month. After my hour long consultation with the student doctor I'm really quite perplexed and am unsure whether I should be peeved or not. I probably should, the student certainly crossed the lines of professionalism there, and Dr Keyser seemed only to be interested in signing off my pills for me, after keeping me waiting for over an hour.

So I'm taking my hour to myself to relate the story here. It's the weirdest doctors appointment I've ever had, and it would be a shame to loose it!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Does anybody want some free healthy snacks?

My supervisor at ChildLine gave me a voucher code for a free box from Graze so I went and got me one, and whatdya know I got a voucher code of my own to give out :) There's a limited time on it, though it looks like it can be used unlimited times (once per person though) so if you're in the UK and you fancy giving it a go drop me a comment and I'll put the code up for you all. The food is pretty scrumptious and you have the option of selecting especially healthy snacks should that be your wish. I can't wait till I get my next one, but a bit bummed I have to wait till after Xmas :(

Grazing aside, today I've been a busy little bunny today. I ordered a fabulous new dress and matching shoes to see me looking gorgeous throughout the Xmas season, all in a festive shade of red. Unfortunately I didn't have any jewellery to wear with it so I dusted off my pliers (seriously haven't crafted anything since I started work!) and gave pearl knotting a try.

I love pearls, and most of the jewellery I wear or make incorporates them. The first piece of jewellery I ever made was a pearl and swarovski crystal necklace for my wedding, as I couldn't find anything affordable or to my taste in the shops. It was lovely, though a little on the long side to what I'd initially imagined. However, thanks to my being a complete novice at the time I strung the lot on Beadalon 49 (I think it was 49...) and eventually the sharp edges of the crystals wore through the wire and all the pearls and crystals scattered all over my living room floor.

I picked them up and stored them away for use at a later date, and have been surreptitiously adding them to pieces of jewellery made as gifts for close friends and family. Call me a wierdo but I can't help but believe that those pearls absorbed some of the magic of that day.

Anyway, moving swiftly on. I've learned a lot about making jewellery in the years since, and discovered not long after my little accident that traditional pearl necklaces are strung on silk threads with knots between each bead. For a long while I presumed that this was some kind of dark mysterious art, especially as you can buy tools specifically designed for the job, but actually I've found it to be a relatively simple (by comparison to, say, wire wrapping) technique and I'm rather chuffed with the result (and secure in the knowlege that should my thread decide to snap, I won't be picking pearls and garnets off the floor for a month!). I used most of the rest of my wedding pearls and interspaced them with lovely Indian Garnets. The earrings I made with pearl, garnet, some of the clear swarovski crystals I used on my wedding necklace, and a generic big red glass bead at the end.

Sadly I ran out of garnets before I reached my desired length, indeed the pearls alone aren't long enough to fit round my lovely tree trunk of a instead of snipping through all the knots individually and starting from scratch with a different design I just added an extension chain to the end. It's not quite as classy as a pure string of pearls but it does mean that as I loose weight I can take links off of the chain until my neck is slim enough for the pearls alone to fit around, and I won't just be left with a necklace that gets longer and longer and longer when it's meant to be short.

Am rather pleased with myself, and can't wait to wear it all together with my lovely new dress. It's been lovely to put my hands to something wonderful too. Now all I have to do is hope my dress arrives ^_^;;