Empty Wombs: Menopause and Infertility

I was struggling to think of a snappy title for a post about loss of fertility and the menopause. Then I heard Gary Moore’s ‘Empty Rooms’ on the radio…

For most women, the menopause happens around the age of 51 but I wasn’t even 40 when my gynae consultant informed me that my eggs had flogged themselves into early retirement. The technical term he used was ‘ovarian failure’.

I was only 39. It didn’t seem fair?

I phoned my mum.

‘I’m f**king menopausal, Mother!’ I howled.

She heard me out, then said, ‘Oh my darling girl, I’m sorry to hear this but I was the same age when I started mine, you know.’

I’ve blamed her ever since.

The reality hit me a few weeks later..

I could no longer make a baby.

I broke down and sobbed. LOUDLY.

No, I mean REALLY LOUDLY. My pet rats, Thelma and Louise, were that perturbed they did a load of poo then hid in their toilet roll inner-tubes.

Biologically, I have done what I was put on this earth to do. I’ve reproduced. Not once, but three times. Given that some women are unable to have a biological child, I am fully aware of how lucky I am.

Some women are only too happy to reach the end of their baby-making days. For them, there is a great sense of relief that they are able to give their bodies a well earned rest. For others, it’s a loss and as with any other meaningful loss there is grief.

I understand that women who have never been able to have their own children might read this post and feel pissed that somebody has the audacity to moan about not being able to have any more children when they already have three. My heart goes out to those women but I can only tell my own story..

I didn’t expect to feel this way.

Most likely, I wouldn’t have chosen to have another child. I was a month off being 39 when I had The Boy and my body didn’t know what had hit it. However, the choice was taken away from me and I think that’s where part of the problem lay. I no longer felt in control of my body. In fact, I’ve not felt in control of my body since but they say that it can take up to ten years for things to settle down after the menopause.

TEN MOTHERFUNGLING YEARS!

Some women choose to have a career first and children later, which is fine. Many women are having their first child in their 40s nowadays. However, if I’d have left it until I was 40, it would have been too late for me to have child with my second husband. As it turns out, my early menopause seems to be genetic and I would advise women who want to have children later rather than earlier, to take note of their mother’s menopause because history has a way of repeating itself..

Sometimes I dream of being pregnant. I see my tummy growing bigger and there is the feeling of euphoria (similar to when I see deceased relatives in my dreams) but as the dream unfolds my tummy grows smaller. Or I have a scan only to be told that there is nothing there. It’s like I’m having a phantom pregnancy in my sleep but it’s just my subconscious reminding me that I can’t have anymore babies – the bastard.

You know what?

It’s OK to feel sad that your baby-making days are over. It’s OK to grieve. It’s OK to secretly hate the sight of pert-breasted young women pushing prams because they exude youthfulness and you feel like shit.

Here’s the thing. The menopause will come for them too. Their bottoms will sag. Their nipples will head south and their ovaries will throw in the towel.

It comes TO US ALL.

That said, try and remember how wonderful it felt to be a new mother. It would be wrong to deny them the same happiness that you experienced, eh?

Try to see this time of life as a positive thing. Yes, it effing sucks. BUT. There are positives.

We no longer have to worry about unplanned pregnancies. Although, it is possible to get pregnant when you are going through the change, so don’t be throwing your contraception in the air just yet. Normally, a woman is told to take precautions for twelve months after her last period – two years if your menopause is early. So if you’ve spent the last 20 years rearing your brood and dreaming of retiring to Spain once the last one has bogged off then I would make sure you keep taking the pills, no?

Regards the mood swings ‘n’ stuff..

After the menopause has passed you will no longer have the urge to stab your husbands/partners face because your hormones will eventually settle down. Hence, the chances of you being done for manslaughter decrease. Who wants to spend their autumn years Pleasuring Her Majesty? Or is it, Her Majesty’s Pleasure?

Confusion. Another perk of the menopause.

I know how it feels to wake up at 2am DRENCHED in sweat due to a hot flush. You toss and turn for a few hours then give up and lie there listening to your other half snoring his head off. For a few seconds, you ponder ending his life. Why? Because you are suffering and he’s not. It pisses you RIGHT off that he is still able to make a baby while your ‘bits’ are decomposing. You worry that he might leave you for someone younger and fertile. But take heart, dear, because shit happens to men too. Their penises shrink and they can develop, er, performance problems. What can I say? Age can be a cruel mistress to both sexes.

There comes a time when the grief passes and you accept what is. Think of your womb as the cocoon which held your little butterflies in the making?

Second thoughts. Scrap that. It sounds wanky.

The key to surviving the menopause is to find the positives in it. Stick a Victoria Wood DVD on and have a damn good laugh about it. Really wibble yer bits. Yes, your reproductive system is now defunct but it’s earned it’s retirement, wouldn’t you say? Hopefully you are in a comfortable place financially and can spend more time doing the things you want to do. I’m not there yet because I had my youngest child at 39, not that I would change a thing. If anything, it gives me the incentive to keep myself as healthy as is possible because my job isn’t done yet. But for those of you whose kids have left home – this time is yours – so enjoy it.

Viva La Menopause!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panic Disorder: When The Fire Isn’t Out

 

Panic disorder is like a fire.

At worst – a raging inferno.

Your body becomes sensitised and responds to everything as if it’s a threat and each fearful response releases more stress hormones into your body. It’s like throwing petrol onto a fire that’s already out of control..

So, you work your backside off to get better and in time those do flames die down. The panic attacks reduce and are less severe or they stop altogether. You’re no longer in fight or flight mode 24/7. You sleep better. You feel better. You think you’ve recovered.

So, you stop doing the things that helped you to feel better..

This is where you make a big mistake because those embers are still burning away..

The fire isn’t completely out.

The way it works is this: Your body has been sensitised for a long time and even though you feel better, you still have a higher than normal level of stress hormones knocking around in your body. These are the burning embers, if you like. Meaning that it doesn’t take much for the fire to be rekindled. Then a few months down the line you wake up at 4am with your heart thumping in your chest. You feel sick and dizzy and the full weight of despair punches you in the face.

There’s Fear, suitcase in hand, with a big smile on it’s fugly face.

HEY HEY HEY!! I’M BAAAAACK! DID YOU MISS ME?

Fear doesn’t wait for an answer. It’s already pushed it’s way past you and before you know it the little shit’s sitting with it’s size 10 feet up on your imaginary sofa.

WTF?! How did this happen?!

Here’s how..

You went back to your old habits and for a while your body tolerated it because you were less sensitised, but when you have been nervously exhausted it really doesn’t take a lot for things to get out of control again. The good news is that there are signs that let us know us that our stress levels are increasing.

  1. Increase (or return) of addictive behaviours
  2. Increase in obsessive compulsive behaviours.
  3. Rumination
  4. Tensed muscles
  5. Inability to complete tasks.
  6. Seeking reassurance.
  7. Completely losing your shit over trivial stuff.
  8. Living in the past or the future, never in the present.
  9. Avoidance behaviour.
  10. Insomnia.

These are all signs that anxiety is flaring up. Those embers are now flames but it doesn’t have to escalate into a full-on inferno. Recognising these warning signs gives us the chance to address our stress levels BEFORE things get out of hand.

The Fab Five.

Five important steps that will put you back on the road to recovery.

  1. Diet
  2. Relaxation exercises
  3. Thoughts
  4. Sleep Hygiene
  5. Acceptance

Diet

Have you lapsed back into poor eating habits by eating crap? By crap, I mean sugar-laden or fatty foods? or caffeine? The foods that made you feel shite when you were poorly?

A reminder.

Eating such foods releases CORTISOL into the body. Cortisol is a STRESS HORMONE.

If you want to get your cortisol levels down – you have to watch what you eat and drink. Boring, I know, but it depends on how much you want to kick this anxiety shit out of your life?

Relaxation

When was the last time you did some relaxation or meditation? Chances are you’ve gone from doing it religiously every day to when you can be arsed or never at all. It’s good practice to do some kind of relaxation EVERY DAY, even when when you feel better because it helps to keep the stress hormones down. Mindfulness lowers cortisol levels. FACT.

Thoughts

Be aware of your thoughts. Are your thoughts in the past or in the future? They should be mostly in the present. Thoughts about the past can produce pain if your dwelling on painful events whereas thoughts about the future can produce fear because the future is unknown. Fleeting thoughts about either are fine, necessary even in order to make plans. The problem is when you are living in the past or the future (or both) instead of the present.

Sleep Hygiene

How are you sleeping? If it’s poorly. What are you doing differently? Are you on social media before bedtime? Or watching stimulating TV? If so, remove all the electronics and read a book. A really boring book and aim to be asleep by 10pm.

Are you ingesting caffeine (inc chocolate) after 3pm? If so, stop. Caffeine is a stimulant. All you are doing is ramping up the stress hormones.

Are you lying there thinking about problems? If so, try mentally put those worries into imaginary balloons (or whatever you like) and watch them float away. You can address them the next day when you can actually do something about them. You can’t do much in your rollers and nightie, can you?!

Acceptance

Acceptance is the most important of them all.

You must accept every bewildering symptom.

You must accept every bewildering thought.

You must accept that you will have crap days.

You must accept that you will have some monumentally crap days.

You must accept that the road to recovery isn’t short.

You must accept that you need to keep doing the things that made you feel better EVEN WHEN YOU FEEL BETTER.

It’s called MAINTENANCE.

As long as you fight against your anxiety, you will never beat it and I do mean, NEVER. Those embers will keep on glowing with the potential to flame up at the slightest bit of stress.

Fear is the firestarter – the twisted firestarter. Deprive fire of oxygen and it will be extinguished. Deprive Fear of stress hormones and it becomes powerless. Make no mistake, Fear will try to knock on your door again and again but each time you will become more adept at seeing him coming..

The day you no longer react WITH FEAR to Fear, is the day you’ve well and truly beaten that nasty little shit and with time (and effort) you will put that fire out completely.

 

 

Sex and the Menopause

When I was a kid, the mere thought of my parents having sex was enough to have me projectile vomiting all over the nylon carpet. I mean, they were in their THIRTIES!! URGH!!

As we know, anything past 30 to a child is practically Jurassic.

I imagine we’ve all got stories like this but as a teenager I walked in on my parents one Sunday afternoon. IN THE LIVING ROOM!

OH. MY. GOD.

It was one of those moments in life where you pray that you’re experiencing a psychotic episode and the horror you see before you is an hallucination. Only it wasn’t an hallucination. My parents had taken advantage of a teen-free house but hadn’t bargained on their daughter popping home for her Duran Duran LP. Needless to say, I’m still in therapy.

*assumes fetal position and quietly sobs*

Why am I even mentioning this?

Well, my mother was well into her menopause by then so, HORRIFYING as that memory is, it’s also kind of cool that there was still some life in the old girl despite the decline of her reproductive bits. Mother did later confirm (under the influence of numerous whiskies) that she’d enjoyed an active sex life up until her late 50s. My fingers were jammed in my ears at the time but I think that’s what she said..

My grandparents having sex?

QUELLE HORREUR!

In my grandmother’s day – women hit the menopause and sex was off the menu except for the odd fumble after one too many port and lemon’s. To be fair, families were generally much bigger back then. A woman’s job was to be a mother and a home-maker and many were still firing out babies into their late 40s and early 50s. Understandably the menopause provided a welcome break to women and their weary vaginas..

Things are different now.

Women are different now.

Many menopausal women have the same sexual appetite as they ever did. More so, in some cases – especially if they are HRT’d up to the eyeballs. However, some women experience do sexual problems during and after the menopause..

Libido

Sex drive gradually declines with age in women and men. However, women are more likely to be affected earlier because of the menopause. Think of your libido as an air bag that’s been deployed, a deflated balloon snagged in the branches of a tree or a bouncy castle after the generator’s turned off..

Depressing, no?

It’s not all gloom and doom though. There are things you can do to inflate the ol’ libido.

Exercise – If you are overweight and feel crap, it will affect how you feel sexually. So eat healthily, lose a few pounds and do some exercise.

Stress – Stress affects libido BIG TIME so take address your stress levels. Do some relaxation exercises or go stare at a tree for half an hour a day.

Stimulate Thyself (brain) – Read Fifty Shades of Filth or other such classic literature.

Another problem with libido is that having hot flushes at night. They interfere with sleep and turn amiable women into fire-breathing dragons. Morning sex? Well yeah, IF YOU HAVE A DEATH WISH! The LAST thing a woman wants after night’s hormonal sweat-a-thon is a frisky partner with cod breath!

The Big O

Another problem is that many women notice that their orgasms are more, Oh, Than OH OH OH!!!!

How to explain this?

Orgasms can become more of a damp squib than the knee-tremblers you may be used to but before you go and hurl yourself into the nearest canal – listen up.

You can STILL achieve a decent (ish) orgasm.

The key to it is stimulation.

You can lie there and think about Sean Bean in his Y Fronts till the cows come home, dears. You need to go that extra mile (or two) and so will your OH. Get him/her to play you like a banjo if needs be. Failing that, get yourself a vibrator and give yourself a blast on that thing for five minutes. Think of it as giving yourself a ‘jump start’. A bit like starting up an old banger on cold a winter’s morning. Get your jump leads out and stick em on your battery!

Tip. Don’t bother with anything handbag sized if you’ve heaved out a few nine pounders. It’ll be like throwing a chipolata up a corridor. You get me?

Painful Sex

Another problem women have to endure is pain during sex.

Here’s the rub (intentional pun)

Lack of oestrogen thins the vaginal walls. Yes, really. Technical word is vaginal atrophy. It’s nature’s way of telling us that our reproductive work here is done and we can crawl off into a corner and DIE. You might start to find that the ol’ vageroonie gets a bit dry? VERY COMMON. The reason for this most shittest of conditions is a decline in oestrogen.

One word.

Lube.

You can get oestrogen creams via your GP if you prefer but be aware that there could be unwanted side effects and not just for you. If used incorrectly your bloke could develop bigger boobs than you. NOT JOKING.

Bottom line. If you want to keep your ‘glovebox’ in good working order – keep it lubed and exercised.

A Word on Pubes

Another perk of the menopause is that your pubes turn grey. MASSIVE bummer. However, we have options.

Shaving

Shave them off. Or if you’re into pain, pay to have some sadist wax them off.

Dyeing

Dye them to match your natural shade or go for something a bit more funky. Shocking pink perhaps?

Eu Naturel

Embrace them as they are. Greying. Sparse. Depressing.

Get Creative

Next time you go to the hairdressers, nick some hair off the floor that’s closest to your natural shade and make yourself a little pube-toupee.

Pube-Toupee anyone?

It may be the case that you’ve had enough of sex for one lifetime and you’re quite looking forward to settling down at night with a Horlicks and Saga magazine. This is perfectly acceptable, as long as your partner is happy with the situation? Bit of an issue if they’re not. You need to talk to them because your menopause affects them too. It’s important that they understand that your body has changed – therefore your sex-life will change. This isn’t the 1950’s where we talk about ‘the change’ in hushed tones. It’s something that happens to every woman. It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are many other ways to be intimate that don’t involve swapping body fluids but that’s one for another post because I’ve already exceeded my word count..

The menopause may signal the death knell for your reproductive life but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for the flannelette nighties just yet. You just have to put in a little more effort, that’s all.

Viva La Menopause!

 

 

 

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Researching autism in mainstream secondary schools, I came across this comment on an online debate of whether autistic children should be taught in mainstream schools..

 “As a student taught in a mainstream school, I know the pain of autistic kids. There is an average of one autistic per classroom, and it commonly disrupts the learning environment, In recent years, I have seen many classrooms disrupted by a call for “iPad!!!” or “Hungry!!!” in the middle of an important lesson, sometimes even a test. I understand the argument for mainstreaming, but by the time that making the… Lesser… Kids feel better by putting them in normal classes infringes upon the learning environment of those who actually have opportunity (keeping autistics in the same school as normals) , that’s going too far.”

Charming, eh?

Where do I start?

“I know the pain of autistic kids”

No you don’t.

“There is an average of one autistic per classroom, and it commonly disrupts the learning environment”

“It”? I hope this person is referring to ‘it’ as the autism, not the child?

“I understand the argument for mainstreaming, but by the time that making the… Lesser… Kids”

This person considers him/herself as being more important (and intelligent) than autistic pupils.

“keeping autistics in the same school as normals) , that’s going too far.”

Are we talking feral cats here? Or human beings?

I am a literal person and I take words literally but there is no doubt in my mind that this person sees autistic pupils as inferior to himself and that they should all be buggered off elsewhere.

I’m not oblivious to how autistic pupils can be disruptive but that doesn’t mean they have no place in mainstream. When I was at school it was the opposite. It was the “normals” that disrupted my learning on a daily basis for the entire four years I was there. Personally, I’d have ripped someone’s arm off to go to a special school but many autistic people do better in mainstream as long as they have the right support – not to mention the acceptance and understanding of their peers.

There is much I could say about inclusion but that’s for another post. Today, I want to address attitudes towards autistic people.

So, lets take a look at some other “lessers”.

  • Dan Aykroyd –  Actor – Aspergers DX
  • Hans Christian Andersen – Author – Considered Autistic
  • Susan Boyle – Singer – Aspergers DX.
  • Tim Burton – Film Director – Considered Autistic
  • Henry Cavendish – Scientist – Considered Autistic
  • Charles Darwin – Naturalist, Geologist, and Biologist – Considered Autistic
  • Paul Dirac – Physicist – Considered Autistic
  • Albert Einstein –Er, Hello? Genius!– Considered Autistic
  • Bobby Fischer – Chess Whizz – Considered Autistic
  • Bill Gates – Co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation – Considered Autistic
  • Temple Grandin – Animal Scientist – Asperger DX
  • Daryl Hannah – Actress – Asperger DX
  • Steve Jobs – Former CEO of Apple – Considered Autistic
  • James Joyce – Author – Considered Autistic
  • Barbara McClintock – Scientist and Cytogeneticist – Considered Autistic
  • Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet – Considered Autistic
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Musical Genius – Considered Autistic
  • Sir Isaac Newton – Mathematician, Astronomer, & Physicist – Considered Autistic
  • Jerry Seinfeld – Comedian – Self-DX
  • Satoshi Tajiri – Creator of Nintendo’s Pokémon – Aspergers DX
  • Nikola Tesla – Inventor – Physicist -Electrical & Mechanical Engineer- Considered Autistic
  • Gary Numan – Singer – Song Writer – Producer – Composer – Self-DX Aspergers
  • Paddy Considine – Actor – Director – Screen Writer – Musician – Aspergers DX
  • Alan Gardner – Award Winning Garden Designer and TV presenter – Aspergers DX
  • Chris Packham – Nature Photographer, TV Presenter – Author – Aspergers DX

Those who consider that autism equals low intelligence would do well to take a long hard look at this list because all the people on it have a diagnosis or are generally considered to be autistic by those who are autistic and the professionals who diagnose it. This list of talents is as diverse as the autistic spectrum itself. I wonder if our friend who wants the “lesser kids” out of his/her classroom will change the world in the way that some of these people have?

I’m guessing not.

Another problem is that the word ‘Autism’ is often used as a slur – an insult.

Ignorance causes distress. On any given day you can type the word ‘Autistic’ into the search bar of Twitter and you will come across a tweet that uses the word as an insult.

Actual Tweets.

“This lady is watching some lads just go and buy a drink, yelling autistic dribble, making funny noises and clapping her hands.”

“they usually have something worthwhile to say though…..your tweets are nothing but autistic outbursts”

“Got an image in my head of (name omitted) having an autistic shitfit trying to work the wetherspoons app hahahahahahha”

“Like how autistic do you have to be to think going to spawns on an aim map and spawn killing in DM is going to help you or beneficial.”

“autistic retard”

“my friend keeps sending me snaps of some autistic guy dancing at the bar .. lemme tell u for free , i never seen a retard dance like that.”

Plenty more where they came from but you get my drift?

If I had my way, I would have them rounded up and fired off into space on a one way ticket because there is a chance these fuckwits will spawn and spread their ignorance throughout the planet. Harsh, but effective, yes?

I haven’t made screen shots of the tweets but they are there. I haven’t made these up.

Some of these tweets will have been made on iPhones and what these idiots don’t realise is that the Co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple, is Steve Jobs – a man who is generally considered to have been AUTISTIC.

Or maybe they’ve done the Pokémon thing?

The world-wide phenomenon which is Pokémon was created by a man with a Aspergers diagnosis. Get this. In 2014 Satoshi Tajiri was estimated to be worth $5.1 billion!

PIKA PIKA MOFOS!

“Lesser”? I don’t think so!

Some autistic people do have severe learning difficulties but they often excel in creative thinking.

“Lesser”? No. Different? Yes.

We all have something to offer.

The slurs are offensive – no question. However, the joke is on the ignorant wankpuffins who make such comments because the world that we know today has been shaped by autistic people.

Issac Newton wrote: “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

We see further today because we are standing on the shoulders of giants and many of those giants were autistic.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

 

 

 

Big Mouth Strikes Again..

It isn’t often I climb aboard my soapbox but occasionally somebody pushes ALL my buttons and this week that person is Camilla Long.

Camilla writes for the Sunday Times. She’s also an expert on autism, or so she thinks..

On September 23rd, she tweeted this:

Firstly, Camilla is implying that you can tell if a person is autistic or not by how they look.

Secondly, she seems to be confusing autism with a disease.

Thirdly, she thinks she has the necessary qualifications to diagnose autism.

I am autistic and I do NOT ‘suffer’ with autism. However, I DO suffer with the uneducated opinions of Camilla and her ilk.

At the time of writing this post there are 470 comments in response to that tweet – mostly from an irate autistic community who have rightly taken offence to the statement, “An insult to real sufferers”.

@plannergeddon tweeted: I think it’s called spectrum for a reason.

‘Dr’ Long replied: “I think it’s bollocks”

No. What’s bollocks, Camilla, is people like you coming out with uneducated SHIT like that. You have 62’000 followers – some of whom will be stupid enough to take the drivel you write as fact.

When it comes to ‘suffering with autism’, I don’t ever recall saying to my OH,’ My autism isn’t half giving me gyp today. I’m really fucking suffering’.

I suffer with how people treat me because I’m different.

I suffer with anxiety caused by the stress of living in a neurotypical world.

I suffer because people can be utter arseholes at times.

I do not suffer with autism.

Autistic people are working hard to spread awareness of what’s it’s like to be autistic and ONLY autistic people can do that. If want to have a better understanding about autism, listen to autistic people. Don’t listen to idiots like Camilla who think that you can’t possibly be autistic unless you are Raymond Babbitt aka Rain Man.

To be clear, Camilla Long does NOT speak for me.

‘Dr’ Long is dismissive of Gary Numan being autistic. Why? Because he doesn’t have an official diagnosis.

Oh, well that’s that then! The voice of authority (not) has spoken.

Speaking to Autism Connect, Gary said: “I had some problems during my school years and, after many trips to a Child Psychologist, it was suggested that I had Asperger’s. I’ve never known for sure but I’ve always accepted that to be the case.”

“Some people seem concerned about it but I have always seen it as a positive thing. Yes, I’m somewhat awkward socially, but that seems a small price to pay for the advantages that come with Asperger’s.”

“I’m obsessive, but that’s a vital and useful trait for people in the music business. I’m driven and highly focused on things that I’m interested in, like my musical career.”

“A child psychiatrist at St Thomas’ Hospital in London suggested it might be Asperger’s. At 15, I was put on Valium and Nardil for about a year but as my mum hadn’t heard of the condition she thought the diagnosis was an insult to her parenting so we stopped seeing the psychiatrist and it was brushed under the carpet.”

An interview in The Guardian:

“I’m fine doing interviews and meeting fans because all I do then is talk about me but at functions where I have to talk to people about normal things, I’m rubbish.”

“The only downside is that I’m pretty awkward when interacting with strangers. I find being around a lot of people uncomfortable and I’m easily intimidated by the unpredictable nature of people.

“I often talk too much and I have a problem with eye contact. When I talk to people face-to-face I count how long I’ve been looking at their eyes so I know when to look away. It’s mechanical, not natural. There are a number of little things like that which I employ.”

If Gazza doesn’t have Aspergers, I’ll eat my diagnosis papers. WITH CHIPS!

Incidentally, Are Friends Electric was the first record I ever bought and it’s apt because most of my friends are online. I loved our Gary Numan and his face paint. I got that he was different (like me) and that it wasn’t all for show.

Gary is content to self-diagnose and self-diagnosis is valid. Often, just knowing that you are autistic is enough. I self-diagnosed for four years before I was referred for assessment. A DX is a professional validating what you already know. A diagnosis is important for children to be able to access support but when older people are diagnosed, they usually have a lifetime of coping skills behind them so there is little to be gained from official diagnosis. I know people who are self-diagnosed and they are happy to remain so. As far as I am concerned their experience is no less valid because they don’t have a piece of paper that says ASD or Aspergers Syndrome on it.

Gary knows he is autistic and that’s all that matters, NOT the opinion of some trumped-up columnist.

Camilla could have used her 62K following to educate people about autism but instead she chose to spread ignorance. The woman doesn’t even have a basic understanding of autism so who the chuff is she to decide who is or isn’t autistic?

I’ll close this post with one of my Twitter favorite responses to her tweet…

We are autistic. Not fucking “sufferers” Get back in your own lane and STFU until you’ve learnt something about autism – @andreadonstar

Hear hear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Your Diet Could Help With Anxiety

In England about 4.7 in 100 people suffer from anxiety, 2.6 from depression and 9.7 from depression combined with anxiety. That’s shit loads of people. Overall, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem this year and I am a one in four because I suffer from generalised anxiety disorder.

What you may not realise is that diet can make symptoms worse..

Anxiety isn’t necessarily caused by our diet but it can definitely make the symptoms worse. When it comes to anxiety eating healthily really does make a difference.

Before I got carted off to A&E with my epic (I’M DYING) panic attack, I’d noticed that I was getting palpitations after eating my daily Kit-Kat (four-fingers) and a pint of real ale would have me waking up at 2am with a 10/10 scale panic attack. The night I was taken to hospital, I’d downed a take-away and a pint of 7% beer. Not excessive by any means but a) I’m a lightweight and b) I was on the brink of nervous exhaustion due to the amount of adrenalin that had been surging through my body over the previous two years. There is NO doubt that it triggered the panic attack.

It makes sense to avoid foods which could be making your anxiety worse.

Such as:

Alcohol

Relaxes you initially but you wake up at 3am with a gob like a flip-flop because you are dehydrated. Dehydration can trigger a panic attack. Alcohol also mucks about with the serotonin levels in your brain which makes things worse once the alcohol has worn off.

Caffeine

It’s a stimulant so it makes your heart beat faster and can give you palpitations. It’s a known anxiety stimulant. Remember Tweak in South Park? One cup a day preferably in the morning is OK for most people but anything more than that is a panic attack waiting to happen. I’m an all or nothing type of girl so I’ve given it up completely and I have to say that some of the decafs on the market aren’t too bad at all!

Fried Foods

I noticed that I felt iffy after trawling my way through a full English and now I understand it’s because the digestive system has to work it’s arse off to digest it all. OOPS!

Sugar

AVOID! AVOID! AVOID!

Naturally occurring sugars are fine but the nasty white refined stuff will have you hyperventilating into a paper bag before you can say ‘One lump or two?’

Dairy Products

Dairy isn’t bad in the grand scheme of things but when it comes to anxiety it can raise your adrenalin levels so if you’re already ‘buzzed off your baps’ it’s not rocket science to understand how eating a lot of dairy can contribute to your anxious state. I’ve ditched the cheese but can recommend the vegan cheese-less cheese slices which are relatively palatable with some imagination.

Acid Forming Foods

Acid forming foods play havoc with your magnesium levels. Many people are deficient in this mineral due to food processing. Low magnesium levels can also contribute to anxiety and many people say that taking a magnesium supplement greatly improves their symptoms. Some even say that it makes them disappear completely but low magnesium levels can cause the same symptoms anxiety.

That’s the depressing part but it’s worth looking at what you are ingesting to feel less anxious. As Del Boy says, ‘You know it makes sense, Rodney!’

So what can you eat and drink to make you feel a bit calmer?

Herbal Teas

Chamomile, Lemon Balm and Valerian are all calming drinks. Be careful with Green Tea though.. It has numerous health benefits but it’s also a stimulant, so make sure you drink it decaffeinated.

Fresh Fruit

Fruit will give you the energy you need without the buzz that sugar gives you. Bananas are also a good source of magnesium.

Vegetables

They make you fart but farting ‘trumps’ a panic attack any-day of the week. See what I did there?

Tryptophan

Foods such as poultry, oats, dates, fish, peanuts, sunflower seeds, soy and chickpeas are rich in Tryptophan which is known to reduce anxiety.

Water

Most of us are dehydrated and dehydration nearly always leads to anxiety symptoms so increasing how much you drink will improve things. I’ve found that knocking back a glass of Lancashire tap settles my palpitations down a treat.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Evidence suggests that Omega 3 is important for anxiety so Flaxseed oil, fish like salmon and tuna are good for you. Your house will stink like Grimsby Docks but your body will adore you for it. I also take a supplement and as well as the improvement in my anxiety, I’ve noticed that my brain doesn’t feel as ‘foggy’.

Supplements

Magnesium

Magnesium is a calming mineral. It supports the nervous system and helps to prevent anxiety. In my opinion it definitely helps so I take a daily supplement to make sure I’m getting enough.

B Vitamins

B12 is the most common, but all B vitamins may have an effect on anxiety. B-vitamins play a strong role in the nervous system, so studies indicate that supplementing B vitamins could also improve anxiety outlook.

A word of caution about B Vitamins

I was taking a B vitamin complex until I realised that it was increasing my anxiety and I learned that Vitamin B6 is used in most energy supplements because it can increase the production of various energizing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. It’s better to take it in the morning and with food.

The general function of norepinephrine is to mobilize the brain and body for action

When you are in a state of anxiety, your body is permanently ready for action so pumping more of this stuff into your body is going to increase anxiety levels. However, everybody is different in how things affect their body so the best idea is to see how it affects you and adjust the strength accordingly or leave them off altogether until you’re body isn’t constantly flooded with adrenalin and cortisol.

Cutting out the crap and eating more healthily will not cure your anxiety but I can assure you that it will improve how you feel. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar etc are all known to worsen anxiety and trigger panic attacks so removing those from your diet means less triggers to deal with. Less triggers means less adrenalin and cortisol. Try it. You may feel worse to begin with as withdrawal from any addictive substance makes you feel like you’re coming off crack (not that I know) but after a while you should notice an improvement. You will also notice that your skin is clearer and you don’t have ‘brain fog’.

I know how comforting food can be. My heart has soared many a time over the glorious sight of a Yorkie bar hiding at the back of the cupboard but I’ve also learned that those few minutes eating sugar-laden goodies isn’t worth the ambulance ride at 5am in the morning. If you want to get better, I strongly suggest you cut out the stimulants. This is not to say that you can never enjoy these things again. Once your body recovers and is no longer releasing stress hormones 24/7, you will be able to snaffle the odd doughnut and cappuccino again without it being a problem.

Until then, do the right thing by your bod, eh?

 

 

 

 

The Menopausal Gym-Dodgers Work Out

I hate the gym.

Firstly because I’m an anti-social arsehole. Secondly, I have a pathological fear of looking at another woman’s pubes (attached or on the floor) when I’m showering.

Communal showers? Me dear? No dear.

The last female pubes (other than my own) that I clapped eyes was in 1986 when I was shoved into the communal showers by our sadistic PE teacher who was having no more of my ‘Please excuse my daughter from showering – she’s on her period’ notes.

The gym not your bag either? Here are some simple (but effective) exercises you can do at home or when you are out and about.

The Curling Tongs Squat – Bum & Thighs

I use my straighteners for this exercise..

Instead of resting the appliance on a table, or between your thighs, put it on the floor.

Health and safety: Use a heat mat (obvs) or you’ll set fire to the farking carpet.

Starting in the standing position, keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Pull in your tummy, push your hips back and bend your knees, lowering the body into a squatting position. Pause, pick up your hair appliance, then push back up to the starting position. Fiddle with your hair a bit, then lower yourself back into the squatting position – placing the appliance on the floor.

Do these squats every time you do your hair and you’ll have a rear-end like Kim Kardashian in no time!

Health and Safety: Have your mobile phone to hand in case you pop a hip joint.

The Bag For Life Cardio and Bicep Workout – Biceps/Cardio

Go to local supermarchet and buy two carrier bags worth of groceries. These must include a few tins. I suggest ‘bags for life’ – not those flimsy pieces of shite they flog you for 5p. You know the ones – wispy bits of plastic that surrender under the pressure of a loaf and a packet of Kit-Kats.

Keep the loads evenly balanced and start walking home.

Build up a nice fast pace to get your heart going like the clappers, hence, cardio.

Once you’re nice and warmed up – start lifting your carrier bags as if you’re doing a bicep curl with a dumbbell. Do a few reps with the right, then switch to the left.

You might notice people crossing the road away from you or doing a finger-swirly thing at the side of their heads? Swirly-finger aside, they are actually doing you a favour because it means that you have the entire pavement to yourself. More room to throw those bags about, dears.

Too far to walk? No probs! Park your car further away and get a few reps in before you collapse onto the drivers seat. Opt for this instead of doing your shopping online and within a few months you’ll be fit as feck.

Or possibly dead after having suffered a massive coronary..

Health and Safety: Always carry your mobile phone should you need to phone for a taxi or ambulance.

StairMaster Challenge – Bum & Thighs – Cardio.

This one is really simple. You alternate between running up the stairs and taking them two at a time whenever you get the chance. Running up the stairs gives you a cardio workout and taking them two at a time will give you thighs like tree-trunks. Just think of how magnificent you will look in those hot-pants you’ve been hoarding since 1975!

P.S This won’t work if you live in a bungalow.

Door Slide Squat – Bums & Thighs

For this you need a door – preferably a smooth one.

Stand with your back against a closed door and slowly lower yourself down to squatting position, then slowly push yourself back up.

That’s it.

First time I did this, the buggering door gave way. Before I knew what was happening my Reeboks were up in the air and I was staring at the bedroom ceiling. £250 quids worth of You’ve Been Framed right there. Thankfully nobody knew about except me. And now you, readers..

This exercise works your bum and thighs. Again, it might be an idea to keep your mobile handy in-case you can’t get up once you’re down. Though, I always find that a military type sideways roll sorts that particular problem out.

Health and Safety: Always check that the door shuts properly or you could end up doing yourself a mischief..

Bath Bingo-Wing Blaster – Triceps

Bingo-wings are what happens when the skin on your arms (the muscle above your elbow) carry on wobbling long after you’ve stopped waving to your mate across the street. It’s the reason cardigans were invented and it’s why some menopausal women wear one even when it’s 33 degrees in the shade.

YES I’M TALKING ABOUT ME!

Bingo-wings are unsightly but you can get rid of them without having some sweaty sergeant-major wannabe hovering over you bellowing, ‘GIMME FIFTY, YOU ‘ORRIBLE LITTLE WOMAN!’.

For this exercise, you’ll need a chair. A stable chair. Not a B & Q plastic garden chair.

Sit on the chair and grip the edges either side of you. Move your feet forwards to lift your bum off the chair. Keeping your knees hip-width apart and bent at 90 degrees, lower yourself by bending your arms to about 90 degrees, keeping your elbows tucked in. Push back up and repeat 10 to 15 times.

I do this on the side of the bath when I go for a wee.

NOT that I wee in the bath..

This is the same as the chair exercise. You simply use the side of the bath as you would the chair, innit?

Health and safety: Don’t do this after having a bath. It’s asking for a fast ride in the back of an ambulance with the nee-nar on.

Pelvic Floor Workout

As we age the muscles around the bladder, vagina and bum passage get slack. This is why we piss ourselves laughing. LITERALLY. However, there are exercises we can do to help with this problem and the good news is that we can do them anytime, anyplace – anywhere.

If you want to ‘feel’ where your pelvic floor muscles are – stop yourself mid-wee. That is your pelvic floor muscle working only you shouldn’t do this as a strengthening exercise.

Squeeze the muscles about 10-15 times in a row.

You can do this while standing in the post-office queue if you like. Unless your concentrating face is the ‘tongue out’ kind, nobody will know what you are up to. Do these exercises every day and stick the Vs up to incontinence.

So there you go. No need to go sweating it out at the local gym or paying extortionate fees. All these are free.

Note: These exercises are valid (except for the carrier bag bicep-curl which is me being a tit) but it’s a good idea to get yourself an MOT at your GPs before launching yourself into any keep fit regime. Oh, and make sure your life-insurance is up to date in the event of you carking it mid-squat. 😉

Viva La Menopause!

 

Viva La Menopause: Hair and Make-Up

There comes a day in your life when you’re standing in a mirrored-changing room and you look at yourself and think, ‘Effing hell! I look like an ageing glam-rocker!’

It’s a defining moment in your history.

We can’t stop ourselves from ageing but wearing the wrong make-up (or too much of it) can make us look older than our years. Teenage girls literally wear their own body weight in make-up to look older, right? So it’s logical that when we get older – the opposite applies. We need LESS make-up to look younger.

Here are my tips for looking magnificent after the menopause.

Hair

After the menopause most women suffer some level of hair loss. Why? Because Mother Nature is a cow.

Technically it’s to do with lack of oestrogen. You’ll find yourself de-clogging the plug-hole everytime you wash your hair. However, there are things you can do like limiting the use of hair straighteners etc and using hair-thickening shampoos. This is where ‘back-combing’ becomes a necessity rather than a fad. Do you know why little old ladies have their hair back-combed? It’s to make what little hair they have left go further. Of course, you could always do a Dolly Parton and slap a wig on?

When it comes to colouring hair- darker colours can be ageing and accentuate thinning hair. You also have to disciplined when it comes to touching your roots up or you end up looking like a badger. I’m currently a rather fetching Dot Cotton shade of red. Like Autumn, it’s my final fling with colour before I succumb to the monochrome. Once I hit 50, I intend to strip my hair of dye and have it cut short and a bit spiky. If it’s a really crap shade of grey, I will have it highlighted. Either way, I aim to be flippin’ funky at fifty!

Make-Up

There is a specific order to putting on make-up. However, I am a lot like the Morecambe and Wise sketch where Eric is playing ‘all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order’. As long as I manage to get my foundation on first, I consider myself to be WINNING!

So, once we’ve faffed about with cleansers and anti-ageing creams, we can begin. *cracks fingers*

Foundation

Use the BEST foundation you can afford. You want one that STAYS on. I use Estee Lauder’s Double Wear which retails at around £30. It’s expensive and I have to flog a bodily organ every four months to afford it but it makes me look semi-alive and it stays on until I jet-blast it off the next morning last thing at night. This is the Chuck Norris of foundations.

Concealer

Bags under your eyes? You’ll need concealer. I use Touche Éclat by YSL which retails for around £25. It isn’t the cheapest but it is the only concealer that works on my dark circles. I have dark circles because insomnia goes hand in hand with the menopause and this little treasure gives the illusion of me having my full quota of kip. If you can’t bag a night’s sleep, blag a nights sleep.

Blusher

Once the hormones go feral it’s best to opt for cream blusher and BLEND that sucker in well or you’ll look a proper div, yeah?

Eyebrows

If you’re anything like me – thirty odd years of plucking the living shit out of your eyebrows has left them sparser than a Christmas tree in January. You can go and get some tattooed on if you like but be warned that it could leave you looking a 42 caret plonker if it goes wrong. Just add a few ‘hairs’ with an eyebrow pencil or eye-shadow. No, not Azure Blue! I mean one that matches your eyebrow hair – what’s left of it.

Eye-Shadow

Glitter is fabulous but glittery eye-shadow should ONLY be worn by teenage girls under the influence of Lambrusco. Glittery or frosted eye-shadow accentuates every crease. After a few hours, your eye-shadow settles into your eye-crevices and it looks nasty. You might as well have a neon sign over your head which says, ‘WELL PAST IT’. Opt for matt or cream shadows and leave the neon shades to the kids, eh?

I should mention brow bones here. You know? The area where you used to put your highlighter? Basically there is this ‘landslide’ thingy that happens with the skin on the brow bones as we age. That once defined line between brow-bone and eyelid becomes confined to the photograph album. I think there are exercises you can do to tone things up but I say SOD THAT for a game of conkers!

Eye-Liner

It’s the 1980s on the phone for you, dear. IT WANTS IT’S EYELINER BACK!

Confession time. I wore Electric Blue eyeliner until I was in my 40s. I have GREEN eyes!!! Awks!!

Mascara

Mascara is my number one favourite item of make-up. I would stab ANYBODY who tries to come between me and my magic wand. Thing is, I know my eyes are my best feature. Like me, they’re odd. One is green and the other is a mixture of green and brown. It’s very me. Mascara brings them to life and even if I was in the throes of a massive heart attack, I would still attempt to get a few strokes in..

No. YOU have a filthy mind!

My tip is to buy a decent mascara and use three coats. Then once a week, use a shit brand while you are doing the housework. Those three coats will weigh an absolute TON – the advantage being that it gives your ageing eyelids a much needed workout. Just as if your eyelids are pumping weights, innit?!

Lipstick

As we age, our lips become thinner. They can become wrinkled and lines may develop around our mouths. The boundary between lips and skin are less defined so lipstick ‘bleeds’ and if you’re a fan of red lippy you can end up looking like Robert Smith from The Cure if you’re not careful. However, there are things you can do though such as avoiding glossy or creamy lipsticks. Or how about ditching the lippy altogether and settling for a nice lip-balm? If you want to be really cheap – slap on some of that Vaseline that’s been festering in the back of your bathroom cabinet since 1988.

That’s it for this time, folks. VIVA LA MENOPAUSE!

Good morning, madam. May I interest you in our skin-care range? We do sell this astringent – I don’t know if it’s strong enough for what you need, but it brought my chip pan up lovely. ~ Victoria Wood ~ As Seen On TV.

Robert Smith Image Via Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

What Happens When We Die? Part Two: NDEs

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A near-death experience (NDE) is a personal experience associated with death or impending death. Such experiences may encompass a variety of sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light.

I believe NDEs offer us the best evidence of life after death.

Over the years, I’ve read numerous accounts from average people and medical professionals like Penny Satori who is one of the leading experts on Near Death Experiences.

I recently read an account where a young woman developed an embolism after giving birth and she went into cardiac arrest. She flat-lined several times and after an hour of trying to resuscitate her the doctors pronounced her dead. Then they noticed a pulse..

Four days later she woke up and she had a story.

The woman left her body and watched the doctors working on her. Then she was whisked off on a journey by an ‘orb of light’ that communicated with her via thought. Yeah, I know that sounds a bit funky monkey but stay with me..

She was shown the world from a different vantage point, as in flying, and I don’t mean United Airlines.

She experienced the world more vividly and profoundly than is humanly possible.

She felt an overwhelming sense of being loved.

She was shown deceased relatives.

She was shown a little girl who was yet to be born. This child would be ‘different’ and would teach people acceptance.

She was told that she had to go back by her deceased mother.

She told her doctor everything except the part about the child because the knowledge that the child was going to have problems upset her and she hoped it wasn’t true.

The doctor implied that it was nothing more than an hallucination.

She didn’t mention it again to anyone outside of her family until many years later when she was working as a staff nurse and a lunch-time conversation turned into a discussion about weird stuff that happens to people who are close to death. She shared her story and this time she mentioned the child because 21 years after her NDE, her daughter had a little girl who was born severely autistic. Alongside her daily challenges was an infectious sense of humour and the ability to make people choose love over anger.

Impressed?

I’m not done yet.

One night this woman’s granddaughter (then aged four) told her that she remembered seeing her ‘before’. Her grandmother didn’t immediately understand until the girl told her that she saw her when she “died and went to heaven”.

“I saw you there”.

*shiver time*

How can people, whose hearts have stopped (and who are clinically dead) report lucid and structured experiences when their brains are not working?

The answer is that we still don’t know but at least the medical profession is starting to take the NDE seriously.

The Aware Study

AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) is the biggest ever medical study into NDEs led by Dr Sam Parnia where scientists at the University of Southampton spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria. Of those interviewed – 39% claimed to have had some form of awareness before their hearts were restarted. One man’s 57 year old man was able to accurately recall everything that was going on around him after his heart stopped.

Dr Parnia: “This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted, but not an experience corresponding with ‘real’ events when the heart isn’t beating.”

Dr David Wilde, a research psychologist said, “There is some very good evidence here that these experiences are actually happening after people have medically died.”

The study concluded that in some cases of cardiac arrest, recollections of awareness are compatible with out of body experiences that correspond with actual events. Also that a number of people may have vivid NDEs but don’t recall them due to drugs or brain injury. Most importantly, the findings are such that further investigation is warranted. In other words, it’s time for the medical profession to treat NDEs and the people who experience them with more respect than the usual, ‘The brain does funny things’.

The experience I spoke about in the previous post wasn’t an NDE or an OBE – That’s out of body experience, not Order of the British Empire – but I DID experience the overwhelming feeling of love and peace which is something that NDErs frequently describe..

Some Common Elements of the NDE

  1. A feeling of overwhelming love
  2. Mental telepathy
  3. Life review
  4. Experiencing God
  5. Ecstasy
  6. Unlimited knowledge
  7. Shown the future
  8. Told to ‘go back’
  9. Tunnel and light

Some of the scientific theories are plausible. Theories such as The Dying Brain Theory or The Temporal Lobe Theory etc. However, one theory I have always rejected out of hand is The Hallucination Theory. The woman in the story brought back knowledge of something yet to happen and it not only happened but was validated. That doesn’t sound very ‘hallucinatory’ to me.

NONE of the dying brain theories adequately explain why people are able to bring back knowledge of things YET to happen. The best some skeptics can come up with is ‘coincidence’. ‘Coincidence’ is what people say when they can’t be arsed to dig deeper. Essentially – it’s a cop out – followed by ‘There is no proof, therefore it doesn’t exist’. They state their ‘opinions’ as facts. To be fair, the skeptics I am referring to are not really skeptics at all. They are what Marcello Truzzi calls, ‘pseudo-skeptics’ The true skeptic looks at ALL the facts and evidence before they form an opinion and even then they will remain OPEN to changing their minds in the light of new evidence. The pseudo-skeptic never changes his/her position.

Science understands the human body but it does NOT understand the nature of consciousness. There is no proof either way but there is a mountain of evidence to support survival of consciousness and thanks to the AWARE study there is scientific evidence obtained under TEST conditions.

“We just don’t know what is going on. We are still very much in the dark about what happens when you die and hopefully this study will help shine a scientific lens onto that.” ~ Dr David Wilde

There is no denying that the evidence is there to support the theory that consciousness survives death. Most importantly, the lives of those who experience them are never the same. They look at life differently and have no fear of death. Some even come back with ‘psychic abilities’ that they didn’t have before such as being able to see ‘auras’ or predicting the future. I read about one lady who was able to move objects with the power of though after her NDE. Sadly, her blog was inundated with nasty comments and she shut it down from public view.

You don’t have to believe these people but they deserve their truth as much as you deserve yours and this is their truth.

If you’ve had an NDE or a similar experience to me and want to share it, please do. If you want to talk about it privately, send me an e-mail. I would be fascinated to hear your story. Meanwhile, here’s a few websites and books for you to get stuck into.

NDERF Website

IANDS – Website

NDE Books That I’ve Read & Recommend

Dying To Be Me ~ Anita Moorjani

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeons Journey To The Afterlife – Eban Alexander

Evidence Of The Afterlife: The Science Of Near Death Experiences ~ Jeffrey Long

Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of Near Death Experience ~ Pim Van Lommell

Wisdom of Near Death Experiences: How Understanding Near Death Experiences Can Help Us Live More Fully ~ Dr Penny Satori