Laughter As Therapy

Some of the most saddest people on earth are also the funniest. Funny, that.

Spike Milligan

Stephen Fry

Robin Williams

Jim Carrey

Paul Merton

Catherine Tate

David Walliams

Ruby Wax

Caroline Aherne

Kenneth Williams

All have had a depressive disorder.

I can understand how some people would struggle with the concept of funny people being depressed but the fact is that being funny doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. Humour is often a way of coping with life and the shit it throws at you – a defence mechanism, if you like..

I write funny posts. Correction, I try to write funny posts as well as serious ones but you may have noticed that even my funny ones are sometimes about difficult subjects? It’s a release for me. The sting of a bad memory isn’t quite as sharp when I’m putting a humourous spin on it. That said, some things just aren’t funny and never will be.

Humour was a lifeline to me when I was growing up. Watching comedy like The Kenny Everett Show or The Young Ones went some way to lifting my mood after yet another diabolically crap day at school. I laughed so hard I was in actual pain and sometimes my laughter bordered on the hysterical – which was a bit freaky – but I think it was in lieu of the tears that I hadn’t cried at school. That’s my theory, anyway.

Or I am indeed certifiable?

 

For me, the humour is there but it gets lost in translation if I try to verbalise it, so I write it down. I’m funnier on paper, or screen, in my case as I HATE writing with a passion. Maybe if I’d have been able to make people laugh at school, I wouldn’t have been bullied so much? As it was, I did make them laugh. The problem is that they were laughing at me, instead of with me.

Research shows that children laugh about 300 times a day whereas adults only laugh around 15 times a day.

I have laughed three times today. THREE!

This needs addressing, no?

Humour is medicine.

Write that down and stick it on your fridge door or laptop.

The sciencey bit..

Physical Benefits of Laughter

  • Improves brain and heart function
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts immune system
  • We create disease – fighting antibodies
  • Increases oxygen levels in the blood
  • We heal faster

The way I see it, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting this to the test. So instead of putting on a film that makes you sad or on edge – put on a comedy.

Buy yourself a funky notepad (with unicorns on it, if that’s your bag) and rate how you feel, before and after the film.

Think of laughter as therapy. No, I don’t mean the kind of therapy where you sit in a circle and laugh like sodding hyenas for no reason at all. I mean funny books, films and TV.

I’ll give you three examples of what tickles my funny bone..

The 86 Fix by Keith A Pearson

It’s hard to believe this is Keith’s debut but it is and it’s hilarious. If you’re a certain age – you’ll need a change of pants or Tena pad.

It’s basically about mid-life, time travel and the 1980s. That ticks three of my boxes. It was most probably written with male readers in mind but I generally find male humour funnier than female so it works for me.

When it comes to films, Blazing Saddles is up there with the VERY best. There is a little high-pitched fart part way through and I usually lose it at that point. If you can watch this scene and not laugh, you’re dead to me.

Last of all we come to TV..

Dinnerladies is one of my all time favourite comedy programmes. Victoria Wood was a comedy genius. She was an observer of northern life and could take the mundane and make it knicker-wettingly funny. Victoria took her ‘flaws’ and made them funny. Her death was such a huge loss to the world of comedy but it’s the likes of her that inspire me to put a humorous spin on my own life.

This scene NEVER fails to make me laugh.

My examples may not be your cup of tea. The point is that there is something out there to suit everybody’s taste. So get looking and get laughing ha ha ha?

“Do you do sugar free muesli?”
“No. This is a canteen, not a ground sheet at Glastonbury.” ~ Dinnerladies

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

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!

 

The Dash In-Between

There is a dash which represents our lives between birth and death.

This is the dash.

en_dash_u2013_icon_128x128

My dash has one date before it because I’m still alive, or at least I think I am?

*checks pulse*

Yep, still here.

One day there will be two dates because there is no doubt, whatsoever, that I’m going to die.

I try not to worry about that too much.

OK, I’m lying through my teeth. I torture myself DAILY with thoughts of death. But then I suffer from health anxiety, innit?

I don’t fear death itself. Truth be told, living is hard graft when you are autistic and I’ll probably be glad of some eternal rest after a few more decades of life in the shit-lane. NOT that being autistic is shit. It isn’t. It’s the anxiety, that’s shit.

The thing is that death is still a bit taboo. Brits don’t like to think about death until they absolutely have to despite TV adverts encouraging us to ‘plan for the inevitable’. Life Insurance companies give away bribes gifts, like clocks, so you can watch the seconds tick away. Nice touch, Guys.

However, some of us don’t get the opportunity to plan for the inevitable because we get wiped out under the wheels of a Number 48 bus during a spontaneous sprint across the road to buy a pie or the shock of the £250 supermarket bill stops our hearts, literally. Or we succumb to some disease or other. We like to think we’re in control of our own lives but we’re not.

I’m 47 now. How did that happen? It only seems like yesterday I was snogging Nick Rhodes’ face off on my bedroom wall but thanks to an early menopause I feel like I’m in the re-make of Cocoon..

Having a biological age of 103 means I’m already down on the deal and at this rate I’ll be giving The Boy a lift to high-school on the back of a mobility scooter – which he’d probably love. Most women amble gracefully into menopause whereas I’ve been catapulted into it to find the hormone police waiting for me, truncheons at the ready.

‘ELLO ELLO ELLO! WHAT ‘AVE WE ‘ERE THEN? ‘OESTROGEN AND A FULLY FUNCTIONING PELVIC -FLOOR? WE’LL BE ‘AVIN THOSE! AND YOUR SANITY. HAND EM OVER, THERE’S A GOOD MRS. WE DON’T WANT NO TROUBLE NOW DO WE?’

Bastards.

So I’m swallowing all manner of pills and potions in an attempt to claw back a few years or at least slow the process down. It could be a lot worse. Of course it could because as annoying as my symptoms are, they are transitory and by the time I’m 50 (ish) I should be slightly less deranged. So my GP says, anyway..

With the menopause (and bits dropping off me at an alarming rate) I’m more aware of my ‘dash’ than ever. My parents are dead and mortality is slapping me in the face and, yes, it unnerves me. Someone told me that when you hit 40, it’s downhill from then on. They lied. It’s 35.

I grew up thinking that you got old and then you died. Grandma was in her 70s, as was Nan, and Grandad was a respectable 81 when he wheezed through the pearly gates…

That’s how I expected it to be.

Then the unimaginable happened…

A girl in my school died. She was fifteen years old.

Her dash was too brief.

Years later, my nephew died. His dash represented just four years. How sad is that?

My dad died aged 58 and by now I’d realised that ‘three score years and ten’ wasn’t a cert. To be fair, Dad’s dash was a happy dash apart from the last 12 months, which were shit.

I’m not afraid of death itself because I’m one of those lunatics who believe that consciousness survives death. It’s the before bit that worries me because I have the pain threshold of a testicle. I can’t even stand a deep clean at the dentist without having to be anesthetized so what chance do I have with something major?

I want to reach a grand old age (marbles intacto, obvs) where I can gracefully say, ‘Rightio, Death, I’m ready. You may take me now’. Then I want to slip into a Werthers induced coma having watched an entire box set of Ground Force and, seeing as this is my fantasy, Alan Titchmarsh can be the one to take me to heaven wearing nothing but his wellies and a smile.

That’s another thing about the menopause. One day you’re into Duran Duran and sling-backs, the next you’re craving middle-aged gardeners and comfy slippers. Or maybe that’s just me?

Death is going to happen sooner or later because none of us are immortal except for Bruce Forsyth who’s 302. We can always pay to have ourselves cryogenically frozen but it’s out of most people’s price ranges. Not to mention, creepy.

We worry about death but forget that before we were born, we didn’t exist. Get your brain cells around THAT one! We are part of something much bigger than ourselves but we’re all connected right down to the microscopic stuff that we can’t see. There is too much intricacy and beauty for it all to be random or meaningless, so says me. Our bodies become diseased or frail and eventually stop working but the essence which is us cannot die because it’s energy and energy doesn’t die – it just re-groups.

The dash represents our entire lives. We don’t get to choose when we we’re born and the majority of us don’t get to choose when we die. What happens in-between isn’t necessarily our choice but our attitude to any given situation, regardless of how difficult, most certainly is our choice. This is what our eulogies will be about. Not how long we lived, but how we lived.

In this little corner of the internet I make fun of myself because it’s therapeutic. I try to be kind to my fellow human beings even if I don’t understand them very well. My life will always require effort because I’m autistic, not to mention a nervous Nora. But I brought three amazing human beings into this world and that’s what I’m proud of and when the day comes when my dash is complete, I hope their memories of me will make their tears happy ones. Happy as in I’ll be missed. Not happy as in doing the conger round the living room shouting ‘YESSSSS!! THE OLD BAG’S FINALLY CROAKED! WHERE SHE KEEP THE WILL, BRO’S?’

None of us are getting out of this thing alive, are we? All we can do is accept death and hope that when he does come for us, he’s a friend. Most importantly, we need to make our dashes count.

“DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.” ~ Terry Pratchett – Good Omens

 

Beauty and the Menopause

I’m menopausal. Have I ever mentioned that? Think I might have done. I’m 47 but my biological age puts me somewhere in my mid-fifties. This is because Mother Nature can be a flipping cow when the mood takes her. Or maybe it’s to do with genetics? The bottom line is that the menopause changes you.

That’s why it’s called ‘THE CHANGE’.

The menopause is all about maintenance of the body AND brain. Or you can just say, ‘f**k it’ and let yourself go. That’s not an option for me because my mother and grandmother took pride in their appearance and they would haunt the crap out of me if I let myself go. Even when I was in the middle of a breakdown, I went through my routine. I just used a lot more dry shampoo because washing my hair triggered panic attacks but that’s for another blog post..

When it comes to hanging onto our bits and pieces, like hair, skin, nails and teeth, we need to work a LOT harder. We need to be aware of the changes in our body and work with them. Alas, some women are not prepared to put the work in after the menopause.

They allow their leg hair to go feral.

They neglect their toenails.

They allow their teeth to fall out.

They give up on themselves.

This does NOT have to be you.

Here are a few tips to help you stick the V’s up to looking old because if you look old, you will feel old. So grab your reading specs and get comfy.

Bathing

Once upon a time, we were able to soak in the bath for HOURS. Nowadays, we get twenty minutes max before we turn prune. No time for reading or daydreaming about Sean Bean. It’s ALL about BODY-CARE.

Menopausal skin is dry skin. There are numerous reasons for this, like lack of oestrogen, genetics, sun-exposure, alcohol and smoking. At this stage of the game you need to be moisturising the LIVING SHIT out of your skin. If you don’t, you’ll end up looking like Keith Richards, and if that’s not enough to have you sprinting to the skincare section of your nearest Superdrug, I don’t know what is..

Are you still using soap? As in, a normal bar of soap?

If so.

That tight feeling you get after using soap is because it’s removed the natural oils from your skin. If you must use soap, at least use a sensitive one with a low pH. Giving yourself a ‘lick’ with an ancient bar of Imperial Leather isn’t on. Throw it away!

When choosing bath or shower products, you need to look for moisturising ones. Glittery bath bombs? What are you, six years old? I use Sanex because it’s the only brand that doesn’t make me itch myself delirious. It’s also a good idea to ensure that you have a decent bath mat or you’ll be up the A & E with a fracture having face-planted your taps reaching for the loofar.

Oh and don’t forget to exfoliate that dead skin off!

Shaving

Obviously, I mean legs and lady bits although you may also be sporting a teensie weensie moustache by now. What can I say? Men get rogue nostril/ear hair. Women get muzzies.

A problem with ageing is that we may not as supple as we used to be. There are exceptions but mostly we start creaking like old floorboards with about as much flexibility. When it comes to de-fuzzing our legs, we can’t reach around the back as well as we could, so we end up with 6″ hairs which are a bit of a turn off. The days of girlie Bic razors (pastel shades) are gone. You are now in the Black and Decker power range and hardcore action is required to tackle your unsightly, er, premises. However, if you prefer the wild and natural look, you can save yourself time and money.

Nails

I’m autistic and struggle with eye contact so I look at the floor a lot which means I get to see people’s feet and believe me, I have seen some HIDEOUSLY BAD FEET in my time. I’m talking CLAWS, rather than nails. There are certain health conditions which cause problems of the foot but unless you are unfortunate enough to have such a problem, there is no excuse for sinisterly bad nails. If you really can’t be arsed to sort your nails out (or pay somebody to do it for you) then do us all favour and shove a sock over them.

A word about nail polish..

Is my general advice to steer clear of blues, greens and purples if you have varicose veins..

Make-up

Less is More.

When it comes to make-up and ageing, I often think of dear old Barbara Cartland. She was an amazing lady but wouldn’t you have thought that those closest to her would have advised her to lay off the electric blue eyeshadow at her age? In certain photographs she looks positively sinister! Thing is, wear the same make-up that you’ve worn for decades if you like but it will AGE you. If you find that people are stopping you in the street and booking you for children’s parties, it’s time to tone it down a few notches.

IT’S NOT THE 1980s ANYMORE, DEARS!

Look at it this way, teenagers use make up to make themselves look older. When you are older, the opposite applies. You need to wear LESS make-up to look younger.

Teeth

Now is the time that you REALLY need to start paying attention to your teeth.

As we age our teeth become worn and discoloured. Medication plays havoc with our oral health and we suffer bone and muscle loss. If we don’t take care of our teeth, we end up looking like Albert Steptoe. Sounds grim but there is much we can do to keep tooth loss at bay. For a start, brushing twice daily is a MUST. Flossing is a MUST. As we get older, gaps appear and food gets lodged in those crevices which brushing alone won’t remove. Blimey. I sound like an advert for toothpaste. But it’s true. How do you feel about last weeks bacon sarnie rotting away in your mouth? Barfarama, eh?

Thanks to receding gums, you will find that you have more enamel on show than you used to. This is something that I have noticed about myself to the point where I wonder if I should be running in the 2.30 at Goodward? Nothing you can do about this except to keep your gynormous teeth dazzlingly white. You could always offer your services as a mobile side-screen at your local cricket club. How about a Bee Gees tribute act? The possibilities are there, if only you choose to look.

There is a very serious side to gum health though…

How many of you know that gum disease can lead to heart disease, strokes and diabetes? Our hearts no longer have the protection of oestrogen so we need to look after ourselves more then ever, yes?

That’s all for today dears. Keep smiling, eh?

Creative Common Images Via Pixabay

 

 

The Show Must Go On

I’m struggling today. I need to write how I feel because it helps me and maybe in helping myself I can help you too?

The anxiety isn’t as severe as it has been. It’s a manageable 6/10 but my numerous annoying ailments have decided to come out and play at the same time. My neck is sore. My tinnitus is driving me INSANE and I have the beginnings of yet another migraine.

I try to look at the positives. As in, I’m still alive. I wasn’t one of the 151,600 people in the world that died yesterday. I’m still here. Yet it’s like trying to drive on a flat tyre. Only in my case, a new tyre isn’t an option. The tyre represents my brain and I can’t just go out and buy a new brain. Unless Ebay have started selling brains?

A lot of the things I am experiencing today are not actually anxiety symptoms. I’m 47, therefore it’s natural for there to be wear and tear, especially as most of my jobs were heavy manual work. I’m only five foot one with a small frame so I’ve put a lot of strain on my body over the years. What can I say? You do what you have to do to put food on the table.

Due to my autism, these little annoyances become amplified and it has to be said that anxiety, while it doesn’t cause them, DOES make them feel worse. Stress hormones affect the bones and joints and I’ve always noticed that when I go through a phase of increased anxiety – my aliments are worse. Obviously, the answer is to address my anxiety and all these other things should start to improve. This doesn’t mean that I don’t feel pissed off though. I’ve forgotten what it is to feel ‘well’ because it’s been that long since I felt that way. Another thing that pisses me off is that I never appreciated good health when I had it. I used to hear older people say, ‘You don’t appreciate good health until it’s gone’. Too farking true, me dears.

I get it. I’m middle-aged, post-menopausal and slightly mad. How can I expect to feel like I did in my twenties or thirties? I’m lacking the necessary hormones for a start. My body is crumbling like Cheshire cheese. I’m getting older and let me tell you that it comes around TOO DAMN FAST. It seems like yesterday that I was snogging Nick Rhodes on my bedroom wall. Now I can see 50 waving at me (hopefully) and with that comes the realisation that I am well over half way through my life, if the three score years and ten is to be believed? Sobering thought, eh? Enough to make one want to pissed, only I can’t drink because I have ANXIETY.

Another way of looking at it and probably THE best way is not to mourn my youth but to thank my stars that I have a decent amount of life to look back on. Health wise, that is.

I lost my friend to cancer last year. She was one year older than me with so much more to give, especially to her eight year old son. When I think of what she went through it makes me guilty about whinging on about stuff. She’d have given anything for my problems to be hers instead of the cancer which was invading her body at an alarming rate. However, if you are reading this and thinking that her death should have been enough to make me ‘get a grip’, then my friend, you have NEVER experienced anxiety disorder because it is an illness. I’m not talking about the normal anxiety that every human being experiences, like the nervousness before a job interview or those few seconds after you hear a loud bang. I’m talking about the kind of anxiety that’s debilitating and destructive. It’s a very real illness. Just not one that can be seen. It’s effects, however, are visible to all. If you look close enough, you will see the fear in their eyes. You will see the tremor in their hands. You will notice their inability to be still. If you are sensitive enough, you may even smell their fear. These are the outer signs of a body that’s fucked up due to stress.

Thankfully, I know that recovery from mental illness is achievable for most of us and if it can’t be cured, it can definitely be managed to give quality of life. That thought acts as a light when my skies are dark. Another light comes in the form of my children. A funny text or a phone call from my eldest boys. Or today when I woke up to a dark inner sky. A sleepy voice said, “Cuddle me mama?” and some of those dark clouds lifted. Not enough to make all of this sodding crap go away but enough for me to have the energy and will to keep fighting it.

If you are struggling with anxiety, know this. You will win some battles and you will lose some but you CAN win the war. It really isn’t about how many times you fall down but about how many times you get up again. I know you are tired. I know your soul is weary but KEEP GETTING UP. Even when your legs feel so heavy you don’t think they can support you. THEY WILL. They are STRONGER than you think. YOU are stronger than you think. Rest if you need to but then you must get back up.

Life is a show and we must get on with it as best we can because this isn’t the rehearsal. There never was one in this show called ‘Life’. So, do that pile of ironing, even if it you do it sitting down and it takes you ALL DAY. Walk the dog. Hoover up. ON WITH THE SHOW!

The show must go on
I’ll face it with a grin
I’m never giving in
On with the show.

The Show Must Go On ~ Queen ~ Brian May

 

Too Much Information

The internet is a great invention. There is literally nothing that you can’t find out via the world wide web in a matter of seconds and I quite like the fact that I can do my shopping online while wearing my rollers and tea-stained nightie. This means that I don’t have to put myself through the sensory nightmare of crowded supermarkets. I also like how I can keep in touch with people without having to physically write because I HATE writing. However, there is a downside to the internet and that is INFORMATION OVERLOAD.

The accurate term is ‘Cognitive Overload’.

Our brains are designed to take in lots of information but it seems that technology is moving way too fast for our brains to keep up. Cognitive overload can lead to stress and for sensitive people, like myself, it can make you PROPER CRANKY.

Wandering around a bookstore the other week, yes ACTUAL BOOKS, I was amazed (not) at how many relaxation/meditation books there are now with authors urging us to ‘unplug’ and simplify our lives. I came away with a book called, ‘Unplugged’. I was attracted to it because I was overwhelmed. After a four month hiatus from debilitating anxiety, I was hurtling towards burnout stage faster than a seagull after a Harry Ramsden chip on Blackpool pier..

One night I sat up in bed watching the hours crawl by (AGAIN) and I told myself that I would do whatever it took to get myself back to generally insanity, as opposed to ‘AM LOSING IT, DOC’ – insanity.

I realised that the internet is both friend and foe and that my use of technology was taking up the majority of my day, in one form or another. The first thing I did was to put an ‘out of office’ message on my Twitter. I normally just disappear for a few weeks but this time I felt obliged to inform the world of my absence. I suspect many may be praying that I don’t return ha ha.

The thing about Twitter is the volume of information in one hit. It’s a real emotional roller-coaster. On top of this emotional baggery is the news of the day – fires, terrorism, deaths, politics and Trump being a dick. It is an PHENOMENAL amount of information. The brain then has to trawl it’s way through the quagmire of info and somehow make sense of it. Is it any wonder that my dreams have been psychotic, if the last thing at night I am reading is this lot?

I’ve adjusted the brightness on my phone and enabled the night-setting. On my Kindle, I have changed my font to white on a black background which is easier on the eyes. I also make sure that I don’t have my phone by my bedside at night. If it’s there, it’s too easy to open it up and check in with the world because I will be gutted if I miss that Instagram pic of somebody’s ingrowing toenail, eh?

There is also evidence to suggest that Wifi signals emitted from phones and gadgets next to your bed can interfere with your quality of sleep, so if you are sleeping poorly and you charge your gadgets next to your bed, or worse, sleep with them under your pillow – it might be an idea to remove them from your room and see if your sleep improves? Why people sleep with their phones under their pillows is beyond me. Vibrating phones in pockets, I get. But pillows? No.

Its not the technology itself that is making me ill, well, maybe it is when it comes to migraines. It’s more to do with the amount of exposure I am getting and that choice is mine. Nobody forces me to check Twitter or look at pictures of somebody’s pie and chips on Instagram. It’s me.

I knew the amount of information I exposed myself to was hurting me. I was incredibly stressed out and needed to do something before I got back into breakdown territory. I couldn’t go back there again. NO FLIPPING WAY, HOSE!

So, I experimented..

The Experiment: To See If Using Electronics Less Improves Stress and Sleep

Monday

Kindle – 2 and 1/2 hours

Internet – 1/2 hour (e mails)

Instagram – 1 hour

Total = 4 hours

Sleep – 1am until 6am.

Reason I was so late was because ah wes watchin Catherine Cookson on telly an ‘ah forgot abyeut the time. It turk us an hoor tuh git tur sleep, pet. :/

Quality of was sleep improved.

Dreams not exactly sweet but nowhere near as funky.

Tuesday

Internet (e mails & blog) 1 hour 5 mins

Kindle (three hours)

Instagram 30 mins

Total = 4 hours 35 mins

Sleep -10pm until 7am

Woke up a few times in-between but not enough for it to be a problem. Dreams improved.

Wednesday

Internet (e mails & blog) 30 mins

Kindle – 4 hours

Instagram 30 mins

Sleep – 12am- 7.30am

I struggled to get off to sleep, probably because I’d watched another strife ridden Cathy Cookson before bed. I tossed about for a couple of hours but once asleep I pretty much stayed asleep. I had one of my reoccurring dreams where I buy the house where I was born, only it’s a lot bigger than it actually was/is. Also, it’s part house/part social club where you access the magical world of darts, pool and beer via the loft? No. I have no idea where it’s come from either. A pleasant addition to this particular version of the dream was that my parents were in it. My DEAD parents. Only, Dad was telling me I would have to get rid of some of my books.

WHAT?!

That one is easy enough to decipher because we need a new book case as I have too many books! Actually, what am I saying? You can NEVER have too many books!

Thursday

Internet (e mails & blog) 30 mins

Kindle 4 hours

Instagram 15 mins

Sleep – 11pm until 7am.

I had a few dodgy dreams but the one thing I did differently was to read my Kindle until 9.30 pm. *slaps wrist*

Friday

Internet (e mails, blog)  1 hour

Kindle 4 hours

Instagram 10 mins

Sleep = 10pm – 6.45 am

Dreams were NON ANXIETY and representative of what I had done that day.

Saturday

Went on electronics for hours on end to see if it was, like, a placebo effect.

It wasn’t.

I was wired all day and struggled to sleep at night. Stephen King was writing my dreams again and I awake from 5am on Sunday morning feeling like I’d been steam-rollered.

Conclusion

The evidence strongly suggests that my use of technology IS affecting my anxiety, sleep and general well-being and by making a few teensy adjustments I have improved things significantly and I have to admit that I feel better for it.

When it comes to dreams, my brain was starting to decipher actual things in my life instead of random rubbish via the internet and because I was getting more restful sleep, my body was feeling more refreshed on waking. I may not been Julie Andrews first thing but I wasn’t the total Mumzilla, either. I had more energy and my short-term memory was less shit. It was by no means a cure but it was a good enough improvement for me to consider spending less time on electronics for the foreseeable.

If you spend a lot of time on computers and stuff and are struggling with anxiety or sleep, maybe it’s time you unplugged?

Disconnect from technology to reconnect with yourself.

 

 

 

Finding Your Happy in a World That Farts in Your Face

The first five years of my life were happy because I was at home reading my books, doing my own thing, y’know? Then I started prison (school) and my constant state of happy changed to happy that came in moments, none of which happened there. Since then, life has been hard work with a huge amount of effort going into every single day. The world has farted in my face more times than I’ve had inappropriate thoughts about Nick Rhodes and for the last five years it’s been more about existing than living, thanks to my anxiety disorder. You become wary of life itself. Exhausted. Burnt out. Unhappy.

When you suffer with anxiety or depression, it’s hard to thrive. Moments of happiness (if any) are fleeting and hysterical laughter can change into a snotfest of sobbery within a matter of seconds. You can look at something beautiful and be, meh, or you can moved beyond all comprehension. NOTHING is balanced and it shits your family right up cos they think you’re madder than a box of frogs, innit.

You watch the news and see the face of a six year old boy smiling back at you. He has no hair and there are tubes up his nose. He’s dying. Despite everything he smiles THE most wonderful smile and you feel guilty because you’re alive. This child is grabbing every single second of his life and making it count while you’ve spent another afternoon horizontal on your bed having done sod all but binge watch box sets of Life on Mars.

Yes, I’m talking about me.

There is NO shame in having a mental illness. Nobody is ashamed of any other illness so why be ashamed of anxiety or depression? It’s an illness just the same but just as we take steps to get better if we have the flu (or whatever) we have to take steps to improve our mental well-being, innit?

With my ongoing therapy, it’s becoming clear to me that I can’t change the world or the people in it. However, I can change how I react to things they say or do.

I can change how I think.

So, new motto is…

*drum roll*

EFF ‘EM.

There are so many thoughts and memories that make me unhappy. Like limpets on rocks, they are an absolute bugger to prise off. But you know what? I am done with being unhappy because of other people. I want to be unhappy on my own terms, not theirs. So eff ’em, eff em even more and then eff em again. I’m not the problem. I never was the problem. THEY are the problem.

They are no longer MY problem.

*breathes in for four seconds and out for eight* *smiles serenely*

My heart wants to be happy. How do I know? Well, our bodies thrive with happiness but wither with sadness. This is scientific stuff. So doesn’t it make sense to try and find our happy? Hopefully before we die?

My children make me happy.

OH makes me happy.

Books make me happy.

Music makes me happy.

My psychotic lurcher makes me happy.

My friends (online and off) make me happy.

Those who love me, make me happy.

They make breathing in and out worth the effort.

What makes YOU happy?

There are things we can do to combat anxiety and depression and bring ourselves a bit of happy. Yes, I know how hard it is to see the light when your world is so dark but trust me, it’s there.

Exercising ~ Even a short walk will get the endorphins flowing. You will always feel better for it.

Mindfulness ~ Bringing yourself into the present by noticing the world around you instead of focusing on how shit you feel.

Do Something New ~ Trying out something different, like photography. Anything that takes you out of yourself, even it’s for five minutes.

Goals ~ Having something to aim for in each day, even if it’s to get that ruddy great pile of ironing done.

Therapy ~ Go unleash your shit onto somebody who gets paid to listen. Fill your boots. Use ALL their tissues.

Sense of Purpose ~ We all have a place in this world. We all need a sense of purpose to give our lives meaning. Find your purpose, you glorious being, you.

Focus on the Good Bits ~ Life can be EPICALLY CRAP but try and focus on the better bits, no matter how small. I call them, ‘my lights’. Grab those lights and hold them tightly and when the darkness threatens to overwhelm you they will shine all the more brighter, just like stars.

We may not have had any choice in being here. After all, we are the result of our parents having ‘sexy times’ and we were the best swimmers, but seeing as we ARE here, we might as well try and make the best of our time because in the great scheme of things, it’s very brief. Like, blink and you’re dead – brief.

No matter how sad you feel, happiness can ALWAYS be found.

A wise old wizard once said: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

I’m with you, Dumblydore.

mumturnedmom

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Stars