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Friday, 29 January 2016

I'm Still Breathing...Have No Fear

I don't know what it's like in other countries, but in England when you're in hospital, waiting, without knowing quite what will happen, is the majority of how you spend your day. If you're an outpatient you check in and are on a list somewhere. If you know who your surgeon or consultant is you might be lucky and catch a glimpse of this lesser-spotted member of the medical species, but that's no guarantee they'll be seeing you. Checking into hospital last night I knew I wouldn't see my doctor till he next day.

I did know that I'd be checked in by a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist and an anaesthetist, all asking the same questions and variously putting in a cannula, giving me a gown, reminding me about nil by mouth etc. At this point I'm not in pain so there's no rush. It's when I start to expect the surgery to happen and there are often claims that what I've been told is different to their understanding: "Your surgeon said you'd be next. But we have you down as number three." 

Short of calling my surgeon's secretary or making better friends with surgery schedulers or A&E I've no clue as to how to resolve this and concentrate in the main in just staying put and as calm as I can, trying not to believe too hard that it will happen - to avoid disappointment - and trying not to believe too hard that it will - at any minute - lest I am caught unprepared. An unsent text to Mat, not finishing this post (in case it's the last one). Not done.

I'm in hospital again. This time, not for anything to do with depression or mental health, but because it appears that the quite miraculous job that my surgeon Mr Laban did to save me and my back a year and a few months ago has worked a treat, and the screws in my spine have done their job and that my back is now healed enough for the screws to be taken out.

So here I am, in a small room where I can see south London outside of my bedroom window, waiting, just as I said, for my drip to be hung, for my surgical stockings to be brought and put on my legs to make them look as unattractive as possible whilst hopefully preventing clotting and DVT, and any hope of bein featured in Stylist magazine.

I had an amusing baptism of fire to the hospital on arrival last night around 8 PM, when being introduced to my private room (I am here as a private patient this time in the hope that it means that the procedure will go ahead on that date part, rather than the risk of being sent home possibly more than once which would negatively affect my mental health by increasing my anxiety about what is already a simple-but-dangerous operation). I found when I went to go to the toilet that it was already occupied... By a suddenly mortified nurse or orderly who, on being discovered, could not even look me in the face but eyes to the floor shuffled, stooped, at pace, out of my room and back into the anonymity of the hospital corridor. Something tells me that nurses are not meant to do this sort of thing!

A super-stylish surgical stocking tantalisingly emerged

Being here is a sign of the future, a sign that perhaps, after all the difficulties caused by the accident, this is the last step to putting it all behind me, then moving forwards, hopefully literally, since of course this operation is not without its risks.

(Image credit:

I do want the future to come, even on my darkest days I believe in the future. I believe that good things are going to come to and from me and others, the people that I care about so much. It's progress from the days that I can still remember, although perhaps not as clearly as when I am experiencing those days, when I feel that everything is hopeless, because I am hopeless, broken, useless, no good to anyone. Thankfully today is not one of those days.

Yesterday I had the most fantastic day off from work, spending the entire day at Maudsley Learning (@maudslearn) in Denmark Hill to speak several times during their #whymentalhealthmattets about my personal experiences of depression and mental health problems and my beliefs and perspective on the things that have helped me continue to work, and continued to make progress in my career, despite the fact that my depression became so severe in 2014 and still continues to bother me much more than I thought it might after such a lot of therapy and medication. I was moved by how many people (many from HR, recognising that this is a relatively new area but a wide-reaching one) have made the effort to attend from their various companies. Of course, I believe that everyone should be taking an interest in this because mental health and physical health are indivisible and whatever health needs are we should have support from our organisations.

It's so rewarding to speak openly about what my experiences of depression, support, stigma, progress and life have been when it follows with people telling me either something of their own story or telling me that my story has helped them to understand a little bit more about these conditions the people are still so afraid to talk about or think that they might have themselves – even mild stress.

Why Mental Health Matters Conference 2016

We still have such a long way to go to understand these mysterious health conditions relating to our minds. Sometimes I do feel like a bit of a science experiment, knowing that I've been on six different types of antidepressants and I've had counselling many times. I suppose that just makes me a work in progress, which is what we all are. I'm not done, I'm still learning, learning to walk, learning to fall, learning to do things well, and learning to fail and fail better as Samuel Beckett said.

I've just seen the anaesthetist, so all being well I'll be off to surgery soon to have the screws taken out of my back. (I had spinal fusion surgery in October 14 after a minor fall caused a major fracture issue.) There were many complications in the last surgery, but I have to be optimistic that that won't be the case this time. The future, I'm hoping, is something that I'll have a chance to be a part of, and hopefully a part of as a well person without further physical complications (I'm sort of signed up and resigned to my continuing mental health management, so it would just be nice to know that despite the accident I'm okay to one extent!). 

(image credit: Pinterest)

However, at this time is one always reflects on the fact that something could go wrong and that I might lose the privilege of speaking out and saying something to the world that is just mine, as I have now in this blog for the last five years. For that reason then I'm posting this, so that all being well I will be writing a follow-up post soon. I'm very afraid, but trying not to be, telling myself not to be afraid, telling my husband and mum the same thing. Telling myself I'm still breathing. Whatever happens I really believe that we need to take care of each other and take care of ourselves.

Let's keep talking, shall we? Talking leads to openness which leads to us all being less afraid, which leads to more openness, and to the start of understanding. I'll see you soon for another conversation. Love to you all. Xxx

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