Monday, 27 May 2013

Ghosts and Monsters

I feel weird today.

Over the last year, I've felt so much myself, so much back to normal, and here I am back in the doldrums of not knowing what to do with myself and having no motivation. Back in that place where I have to watch TV and read books and do everything I can to try not to think about him. I'd thought it was over, but it wasn't, and now it is, and I feel weird.

Not like when you break up with someone - no tears and heartbreak. More like a scabby heart that you've had a little pick at.

If I do think about it, I feel really sorry for Steve, but at the same time I know that this is exactly what he would want, it would be his hook back in. I don't know what it is about him that one incident of him being pathetic and useless and self-destructive, and I can almost forget all the trauma and the horror. At the same time, I can't recognise him as the person I spent the good times with - I can't imagine a time when I would have been in love with him. The strange, trauma-bonded, Stockholm-syndrome-type love - oh yes, I remember that all too well; but before that, the normal sort of romantic love - I know I had that once, but it was so long ago.

That photo at the top of the page - it's one of the first I have of us together because I didn't have a digital camera at the time. But it's from about two years in - I can tell from the ring he's wearing. Rings we got after he cheated the first time. And THE POSE! I probably don't need to point that out.

Writing this has helped - a lot. I've realised that when you have been owned, you don't need motivation yourself, because your motivation has been the other person and what they want for so long. You forget your own self, so it is no wonder that having that interaction with him has thrown me back there.

I remember when he had beaten me, I would want to hide because I felt like I was somehow to blame (I eknew I wasn't, rationally I know I wasn't, but emotionally that was the overpowering feeling). Oh, I'd force myself out (usually. There was one day where my son didn't go to school because I couldn't face taking him), but inside I was cringeing.

Even from only having spoken to him, I feel like that again - and this time it is true, it IS my fault, because I chose to speak to him, knowing what might happen.

The monster was only in my head. But the monster will always be in my head, ALWAYS. Seeing Steve for what he is doesn't change that monster. It's one I need to keep in its box. But first I have to put it back in.

So when I've written this, I'm drinking that last cup of tea, putting on some clothes and doing a workout. I'm getting back into a routine, I'm forgetting about a person who is beyond help of any kind, I'm forgetting about the things behind the sun, the monsters under the bed and the ghosts inhabiting my heart.

This mood is just a shadow of where I have been before. The sun is coming out.

But not today.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Playing With Fire and Not Getting Burned

I met Steve.

Yes, you read that right. I decided against all better judgment that I would see what he wanted or needed. I can't say I am any closer to knowing that now than I was beforehand. But whereas before, in my mind, he was a horrific monster of a person, someone who potentially could hurt me or damage me in some way, I now see he isn't. Hence the photo - it's from a Star Trek episode, where this is what speaks to the crew of the Enterprise - when in fact it is a puppet representing a little child-like alien who couldn't scare a mouse. Except this monster was of my own creating.

I know that there was a time when Steve was a threat to me, but not now. Now he is a sad, empty, full-blown heroin-addicted waste of a life. He ended the night throwing up in my garden because it had been so long since his last fix - and he has a stomach ulcer that is only being made worse by not eating and drinking too much, so there was blood in there again. I felt nothing but sympathy for him. And a feeling of responsibility - but that is just a feeling, and I can ignore it. I'm not responsible for him any more.

I know I was playing with fire. I know there was the potential there for him to use me, or fish me in again. But I went knowing that, and being prepared. I wasn't prepared for a life unlived, a person so messed up that they could barely string a sentence together, let alone explain why they had wanted to see me. And there was the ghost of my love there too - I could remember how it felt to love him, feel the tiny bit inside that always will love the person he pretended to be - and the bit inside that still loves this pathetic thing he has become, because it triggers all the protective impulses, all the destructive coping strategies I've developed in my life to keep the self-hatred at bay. But it is fine to feel those things, and recognise them, and not act on them. It is fine to turn my back and walk away.

He is who he is, and he will never change. At one point he was trying to tell me how I was, 'The One' and how he wasn't in touch with any other women, and he handed me his phone to prove it. He thought I'd look at the messages or call-list I presume, but I didn't, just looked at the contacts list. He has every ex he ever cheated with listed on there still, right back to 'Lauren Inthelakes'. I'm only one of many; another old-flame he can't quite bear to extinguish. I deleted my number.

I really do forgive him now. Oh, I'll never forget what he did and what I became, but I now see that he truly has hurt himself far more than he could ever hurt me. I wish him well, but he knows that is as far as it goes, there is nothing to see here any more. Time to move along.

I genuinely hope that he can.

So now I just have to explain to my sister that this was 'sending to the dog-pound' rather than 'casting a morsel of meat'!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bloody Horrible Day

Proceed no further if bad language and obscenity offend you. I mean it. It's not pretty down there.

So this bad day really started on Saturday - but we'll come on to that later.

But first, I want to slam Kaspersky - the people who make the antivirus programmes. I've had Kaspersky for a while - since 2009 apparently. It has happily auto-renewed every year since then. But not this year, oh no. For this year, I have a new credit card. So, the old one naturally was declined, and the auto-renew didn't go through. So far, so normal. One would assume, would one not, that it would be a simple matter to be directed to the website, where one could fill in the updated details? One would be horribly, horribly wrong.

NO, says Mr Kaspersky! Nothing So Simple! After a good 30 minutes of searching the hideously designed (if 'designed' can be used to refer to any old shambolic arrangement of coding) website, I finally found that if the auto-renewal didn't work, you had to cancel the auto-renewal, then order it again.

Ho-hum, seemed a bloody palaver, but hey, I'm just as capable of jumping through hoops as the next person. I cancelled the auto-renew. Which resulted in the 'renew' button and page disappearing. Great. So now I was instructed to buy Kaspersky 2013. Undeterred, I did. Removed my previous version, downloaded and installed the new one, entered the activation code, all done.

It still said my subscription was STILL expired and no updates would be available in 5 days time. Click this link to auto-renew or visit the website. CUNTING HELL! FUCKING GROUNDHOG DAY OR WHAT!

At this point I tried to contact Kaspersky support, but, as every high-profile multinational company should do, they had shut up shop until the next day. I did what every pissed off consumer does in this situation and swore loudly and violently at the cunting bastard on the answering machine, before going off to bed.

This morning I decided that since I was up WAAAAY earlier than Kaspersky employees, who apparently slumber until just short of midday, I would try to solve the problem once again.

This time couldn't get anywhere because now my antivirus activation code wasn't recognised. So back to the mess of a website to try to solve this. It was at this point that I found a section called, 'known problems with Kaspersky 2013'. Now forgive me if I'm being a bit thick here, but if a company can't debug their own program, how the hell can I trust them to deal with a virus?????

Anyway, their advice was to remove the activation key (following the steps given) and then re-key it. Done deal. But OH! Now the key wasn't recognised in any way whatsoever - leaving me £30 out of pocket, with NO antivirus protection at all!

At this point I gave up and phoned customer services (never has a phone line been so mal-named - 'rip-off a mug phoneline' or 'give me your money gullible assholes premium-call' would be more appropriate). Tried to speak to a techie. No good, massive wait at the end of multiple phone menu choices, and I was constantly second in the queue, twice, for 10 minutes each.

Next I tried to cancel and get a refund. Again, same scenario. Got through finally, and quite literally had to shut the girl up, she wanted to know had I done this, had I done that, I ended up saying, 'I'm answering no questions. I just want a refund!'

It's going to take ten days to get my money back. I have to donate a kidney to Mr Kaspersky to get it, and sell my soul to a rag and bone man from Old London Town. Or does it just feel like that?

Then had to telephone the HMRC helpline. Yes, I know. EVERYONE knows that the HMRC Helpline is overloaded and crappily staffed. Everyone, it would seem, apart from HMRC staff themselves, for their stupid bastard tax-credits renewal form doesn't allow you to notify them of changes on it. Oh no, nothing so sensible. You have to put a cross in a box to say your circumstances have changed, and then phone up the helpline to notify them of the change in circumstances.

So you do. And you sit through announcements of how you can get help on the website (like if it was any use anyone would be on the bloody useless helpline). And you sit and wait, listening to crap cunting music like the lazy doley scumbag with tonnes of money that they obviously think you are.

No thanks. After ten minutes I gave up and notified them via their form of my change in circumstance. I then signed this new declaration, and also declared that I thought they were a bunch of thickies, and told them in future to phone me, rather than the other way around, as I actually have sometimes been known to answer my phone.

By this time (and don't forget that I have also taken my mother shopping today, and that's an ordeal in anyone's book) I was in severe danger of going out and massacre-ing a bunch of strangers, that's how bad the pent-up anger was. Luckily, this was highly inconvenient to me, due to UK gun laws, so instead I did Jillian Michaels 'Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism' and 'No More Trouble Zones' DVDs back to back, with added aggression.

Felt a bit better.

I do wonder if I am a victim of my hormones. I've had a period over the weekend , out of nowhere, and now it is ended my boobs feel pre-menstrual, and I am full of rage.

But then maybe it is also because I have spoken to Steve, the ex who beat crap out of me, also known as my sociopathic stalker.

Just having spoken to him on Saturday night has put me on edge. I felt sorry for him (though I nipped that in the bud quite quickly), and have been left feeling I owe him something. Worst of all, he said he would phone me to go for a drink this weekend.

Now I know in my head that he won't. I know that for him, the very fact that he thinks I might answer my phone is ego-stroke enough, and that he won't follow through. I also know that I have no intention of answering the phone to him, let alone seeing him: I mean, dear Goddess, my life has been one hundred per cent happy since he went, there's no danger of me going back.

But just that bit of contact has me unsettled. The little twisty knot in my stomach is back.

I used to think that was love.

Friday, 17 May 2013

No, I DON'T Want a Smear

I don't have smears, or any other screening test, for many reasons, including those outlined by Margaret McCartney in her excellent article here and further explained in her blog here. I have a very different view about health to that of most people, I don't lecture others about them, and because I work in health I am careful to toe the party line if I am asked about things like this by patients.

But when the NHS is in the mess it is in, does it REALLY need to keep sending me invitations to have a smear? Especially when I have sent a well-reasoned and considered letter to my GP explaining why I will never have a smear unless I have worrying symptoms, and absolving them of any responsibility for a bad outcome of that decision? In the 8 years since that letter, I have continued to receive four invitations a year.

Every year I also have to go for a health check because I have asthma. I am a physotherapist. I am quite capable of doing my own peak flow measurement if I thought it was of any use. I know how to diaphragmatically breathe, how to take my inhalers, and I can even do Buteyko techniques if I ever had the motivation to. As it happens, I was (shamefully) using my inhaler incorrectly. Was it found on my health check? AS IF! It was the pharmacist who found out on an impromptu check when the pharmacy was quiet. THAT didn't cost the NHS anything, or waste anyone's time.

I have to have my thyroxine level tested yearly. WHY? I asked the GP, 'is my thyroid going to regrow and start working?' Of course, the answer was 'no'. So why do I have to have the tests? Because it is 'best practice' when you are taking thyroxine. Erm, no, it's a pointless waste of my time, the time of whoever has to take the blood, whoever has to process it, and the money involved.

All small amounts. But add them up, across an entire population, and that's a hell of a lot of money wasted. All because GPs get incentives for screening and health checks. What a pile of bollocks.

All it would take is an easy way for people to opt out of tests. Not for them to forget to go, but for them to actively opt out. Then GPs wouldn't lose their bonus, and money wouldn't be wasted.

Actually, I think there is an argument to be made for taking all of the 'cheaper' screening out of the NHS, but that is another blog post. But I am an adult (age-wise at least!), I know my own mind, and I am perfectly capable of deciding I don't want these checks. Whatever happened to 'listening to the patient' and 'the professional/patient partnership'? It doesn't exist when it comes to screening tests and checks. WHY?

On the same day that I was having my stupid yearly health check (which I attend because otherwise the GP practice manager says they will refuse to give me prescriptions), someone put on Facebook how they couldn't get an appointment for their sick child AT THAT PRACTICE.

If the NHS had spare capacity, fair enough. It doesn't. If no-one has the guts to take the decisions necessary to ration healthcare, at least let people opt out of 'preventative healthcare' if we want to!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

More Than A Job Part Four - You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Work Here....

I left the Accident Hospital to go to work in Mental Health. Now at the time, physiotherapy in mental health was a backwater; a nothing speciality - the domain of the unambitious, and a place where old and/or tired physiotherapists went to die.

Except at Highcroft Hospital.

Nick Rosen is the most innovative, inspirational, motivational physiotherapist I have ever worked with. His nickname was Mr Brittas, after the character from the Brittas empire, because in the same way that Brittas had a single-minded drive to bring exercise to the masses, Nick was evangelical about exercise for mental health. We had technical instructors instead of physio assistants, years before any other department. We had a computer that did our stats in the days when you had a blinking green cursor to greet you when you switched it on, and when NHS computers were generally glorified word processors that you fed information into and never EVER got anything useful back out of. They are still that now, come to think of it - but back to the story....

Highcroft was where I learned what mental health physiotherapy should be about, and what a physiotherapy manager should be about.

It was where I had my last mental breakdown.

It was also where I began learning Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and really got cracking on the process of changing my life and my self.

Those two things are not unrelated.

Highcroft was another massive shock, because I went from being a Senior I who knew all there was to know in her field, to being a Senior I who knew bugger all about what she was doing. Oh, the physiotherapy part was fine. And the relaxation classes were fine - well, the relaxation classes weren't fine, they NEVER went to plan, they could be the highlight of the day or the nightmare scenario and you never knew which it would be, but it was the same for everyone, it wasn't just me being crap.

No, the bit that was so difficult was knowing how to deal with people so ill. Again, with the frankly psychotic people, everyone was in the same boat, and there were behaviour management programmes that everyone used, so I could deal with that. It was the anxious and depressed, the suicidal people. I felt at sea, didn't know how to deal with them, hadn't the skills the other seniors had to know what to say and when. But hey, I was more experienced now, I could deal with this, I'd been here before and I was that bit older.

Then just as I was finding my feet, just as all the reading and learning was starting to make a difference, the two other seniors both left within a short while of eachother. I found myself the most senior clinician left, and deputy to the Superintendent, and this was where things REALLY started to go tits up.

I took on anything and everything. I was determined to prove that I could do this and I tried to prove it by never saying no. I would go to work in a state of anxiety and dread. Whilst I was there, things weren't too bad - during the day I would cheer up - I was too busy to dwell on things and I was so good at putting on a smile that I could even convince myself. Then I would go home and be too exhausted to enjoy anything any more. My thoughts were focussed on my work even when I wasn't there. Nothing else in my life was of any importance compared to living up to my predecessors,  being the best I could be and helping the most people I could. I couldn't sleep, and spent the time dwelling on my own uselessness. Then it was up early again and another panic-ridden commute where I would fantasise about running away.

I remember Nick reading a book that compared problems to monkeys - about how you should only ever have your own monkeys, not other people's, and how some people will always get rid of their monkeys whilst others are monkey-collectors. He said he could see me wandering around picking up stray monkeys, even grabbing monkeys off other people who were quite happy with them, and all the time I was already staggering under the weight of a sanctuary full of the creatures.

Then one day I threw all the monkeys in the air and ran before they hit the ground.

I came into work and saw someone had booked an extra patient in my diary. I picked up my bag, left my department keys on the table, and walked out.

I bumped into Nick on the way out (I was always the first in - even though Nick was always early). 'Where are you going?'

'I resign, I'm never coming back.'

I could hear him asking me to come and talk about it, to come and have a cup of tea, but I ignored him and kept on walking. I caught the bus into Birmingham. I played the usual game of should I continue to my destination or should I hop on any old bus and run away wherever it took me. I went home.

I lay on my bed and cried. But I knew things were very wrong and I knew I needed help. I booked a GP appointment and felt so relieved to hear that 'it's not your fault, you have depression, you are ill, it's your brain chemistry.'

But that was nothing more than a comforting fiction. The pills she gave me didn't do the job. Facing the half-truths and lies in that GP's statement was how I got well.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

I'm Not Paranoid, I Just Know My Stalker!

So on and off there have been little incidents like the Gate incidents, things I can't say were definite stalking, but just had me a bit suspicious. And then last week there was the Return of Stalker's Friend - Dean turned up last Wednesday to apologise for 'being a dick' last time he saw me.

Now it seemed a little odd that he should turn up to apologise some 9 months after the fact, but I let it slide, accepted the apology, and assured him that it was nothing, not a problem. Then I got to thinking. The last time Dean turned up here was swiftly followed by Steve coming out of prison and subsequently turning up here to vomit blood on my drive - so why had Dean suddenly turned up again out of nowhere?

So I was slightly on the alert. But also not, because I had kind of convinced myself I was being paranoid, what with all the gate drama and stuff that never came to anything.

Friday night Heather was here and we had a good old girly night, with drinking and feasting and gossiping. She left, and after about half an hour I was thinking of going up to bed, went and got my dressing gown on and was back downstairs just tidying up a few things when my mobile rang.

I deleted all Steve's numbers after New Year, because I had no idea of his number but was pretty sure it wasn't his old one as his iPhone had been cut off for non-payment when he was on one of his prison stints. So I answered, not knowing who it was (and wondering who was calling at gone midnight).

It was Steve.

'I was just passing and saw your bedroom light on. I wondered how you were doing.'

'I'm fine' I was actually frozen.

'I'm not on anything, and I'm not drunk and I don't want to get back together....'

'Good, because you wreck my life when you are in it....'

'Who's that talking to you?'

I put the phone down. It wasn't anyone talking to me, it was the TV - but he thought I was in my bedroom, and there's no TV there. That's why he was phoning - to keep tabs on me.

I went straight on Facebook and put on a public status about it - cos he hates it when I do that (funny how he knows really, as he pretends he 'doesn't understand' facebook). Well, he knows how to stop me doing it - keep well away.

I switched the phone off, and thought he'd have phoned back - thought he might even phone my house phone, but no. In the morning, nothing.

Which is almost an insult, like I'm only worth a 'convenience' stalk when he happens to be passing!

So I'm putting it out of my mind - I think he was just trying it on - to see if I was up for a bit of exploitation, like so many of his other women (and yes, me too) have been time and again in the past.

Try it on all you like matey-boy, those days have gone, GONE I tell you! But just in case, he has his own ringtone on my phone now - the Twilight Zone music :-)