Tag Archive for life

Anniversaries of life and death

Humans spot patterns even when there are none.  It’s part of what we do to make sense of our world.  It helps us to feel order.

A few years ago, it seemed like every time I went on annual leave I’d come back to find another member of our team had taken a new job.  Now it’s measured in time since the stroke.

Exactly three months (to the very day) later, I went back to work; exactly six months (to the very day) later, I left said job permanently; and today, exactly nine months on, my boss left my old work too, and a dear person in my circle of friends has died, many decades too soon for my friends to bear.

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Life isn’t fair

No, I’m not whinging that ‘life isn’t fair’, I’m just merely observing that it isn’t.

Bad things can happen to good people, good things can happen to not-so-good people, unplanned things can happen to those that prefer stability, nothing can happen for people who love change.  We can’t control our worlds when sh*t happens, we can only seek to influence them, and chose how to react.

My model for how to act with grace comes from someone called Catherine.  I don’t think she’s reading this, though some of our friends are, and they will know why, even if it was a long time ago.  I have to remind myself to act with as much grace as I can muster on a regular basis and, you know, I usually find it is rewarded (sometimes eventually!) with grace in return.

Why am I waffling? Because I’ve been out of some loops for a little while now and I return to them with slightly fresher eyes.  I have a surprisingly greater tolerance for some things, as a result of time away and what’s been happening, and find I hold some things less tightly than I did a few months ago, and that some things I view a little differently.  Not much differently, but differently.  Nothing has changed, except that it has.

Grace has always been an important concept to me; it’s something I covet even more than patience.  Those of you who know me will know I’ve always wanted patience.  I have a little more now, but only because I still move a little slower, and I suspect that I will lose this slight increase in tolerance shortly.  I just hope the little gap it leaves is filled with grace.

That probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but it’s what’s going on in my head right now, and this is my blog, so I’d love some grace, if you have any going spare.


I can’t be sorry; you have been warned!

Everyone keeps asking if I’m going back to work.  Yes, in January. On 10th.  Or maybe 11th.  Do I want to go  back?  Well… If I could be a paid lady of leisure, then I’d seriously consider not going back.  But I can’t, so I will.

I’ve also had a lot of questions about whether the whole shebang has made me question the way I live my life, and the place I work, and the relationships I have.  And the answer is…. no.  I still feel the same way about work as I did before this happened.  I still feel the same way about my lovely home.  I still have the same friends as I did before this happened: though some friendships are much stronger, and one – or maybe two – I will hold more loosely and invest slightly less in going forward.

I get the feeling I’m supposed to think that tearing up my neck, and having a stroke as a result of that, is the worst thing that ever happened to me.  But it is not.  It was a tad scary for a few people, not including me.  It was inconvenient for a lot of people, including me.  I’ve missed a few things I would like to have been part of.  I suspect there will be some issues catching up and re-integrating where things have rolled forward in my absence, exactly as they should have, but they don’t worry me, because they will work themselves out. And there have been some huge positives…

I’ve met a lot of good people.  I’ve learned a lot of new things.  I’ve been forced to learn it’s ok to – occasionally! – be vulnerable and let other people take over responsibility for things – including, sometimes, me – for a while. I’ve been allowed to see different sides of people I thought I knew very well.  And me being ill scared someone I care about very much enough to decide that life might be too short to waste, and to make some dramatic changes, for at least the next year anyway.  And now, well, now I feel like I’m back to more-or-less the way I was, it’s nice I have a couple of weeks to chill, even if Christmas is slap in the middle of it. I know things would be different if the impact had been more significant or protracted.  But it wasn’t.  And it is what it is.

As some of you know, I had been thinking of taking a 3 month sabbatical from Oct-Dec this year, but a combination of circumstances made me think that wasn’t the best idea and hold off talking to work about it until next Summer, when I’m due to write a dissertation for the MSc.  I guess I got the sabbatical anyway.  I mean, I would’ve chosen to spend it very differently: a lot less hospital and recovery time, and at least one overseas holiday with sunshine.  But I’m told that sometimes we don’t get what we want, but what we need… who knows.  There is certainly at least one thing that I’m glad happened as a result of all this, and so I can’t be sorry that it happened.

But I can still relate to this:

And I am so back on my feet.

You have been warned.



Furious and sad, at 3am

Well, I guess the ‘i can’t really be bothered to be bothered’ phase is over.

I’m furious, and I can’t even tell you why.

There is good advice out there for people like you (who are well) dealing with people like me (who are just about well again having been very sick).  Taking this advice can help you to avoid introducing your friend to what it’s like to feel like they’re not trusted anymore, and strip them of the dignity they’ve already had to fight to get back once.

If you’re reading this because you’re dealing with a work colleague, there’s some good stuff on the Health & Safety Executive’s website.  It includes quotes like, “Empowering an individual to influence their return to work can significantly boost their well-being and confidence,” and “Don’t make assumptions about your employee’s situation” .  They’re a useful reference as googling for this on a friendship basis produces little worthy results… I can find useful stuff like, “Ask the person what you can do to help and listen to their answer. Never assume that what you think is helpful is what they will find helpful,” and “They and their condition are always changing,” (which is true every week post my stroke has been like entering whole new era) but they are not official sites and their advice is a often bit muddled.  However, there is one paragraph that means a lot to me, and is my top tip for dealing with me this week:

What is important is that the person who is ill not lose his or her dignity. Illness carries with it a whole gamut of feelings: fear, anger, disappointment, hopelessness, sadness, grief, perhaps guilt or even shame,,, People often feel dependent and often resentful about that dependence. When you are conscious of these issues, you will more likely respond in a sensitive way.

In the whole time I’ve been sick and off, I’ve not been stressed about it for a second.  Now I’m better I’m dealing with people who seem to be making it their mission to decide they know better than me (or my medics) about what is right for me. I know – I really do know – it’s because they care and they want to do the right thing; they don’t want to be seen to do the wrong thing either.

But you know what, when this first happened my dignity went out the window.  I couldn’t stand up, and then I couldn’t balance so you don’t need too much of an imagination to work out some of the things I couldn’t do by myself when I was first in hospital.  But dignity there was neither required nor important.  Well now I’m back, and I’m pretty much back to being as normal as I ever was, and dignity is both required and important.

Please think carefully when you’re making suggestions to friends (or colleagues) who may be in my position: resuming normal life after a period of sickness that was not my fault.  I’ve worked hard to get to this point, to reclaim my independence and my dignity.  Do you really want to take it away from me?  No, I know you don’t; so please be kind and, most importantly, listen. Don’t make any assumptions or think that you might know best.  Invariably you won’t.  Well, not unless you have a medical doctorate.

(p.s. Be very careful re this in a work situation.  For my sins, I used to work in HR (don’t tell anyone) and the whole thing about not making any assumptions is really, really important.  Now from the other side of the fence, I’d say it was kind too.)

I was reminded today of a very special lady that I was fortunate enough to work with a couple of years ago.  We shall call her N, as I haven’t asked if I can include this (though I am certain she won’t mind as her story is already on the net by her own doing).  N has sickle cell anaemia (have a look here and here for two experiences).  For some, sickle cell can cause much pain and inconvenience their lives to the extent that can severely impair the way they are able to live their lives.  Yet N taught me some amazing lessons that I’m only now realising and valuing as much as I should.   I think they go like this:

  • N is in charge of N.  She’s good at it.
  • We’re not in a position to make any assumptions about what sickle cell means to N: everyone’s experience is different and hers is personal to her.  Don’t assume that because you’ve read the wikipedia entry, you know what the deal is
  • The only person qualified to know if N is overdoing things is N.  And her doctors.  Whom she will consult/visit/ambulance to if she knows she needs to.
  • She doesn’t appreciate being second guessed.  A question is welcomed; concern is touching; your non-medical-trained-advice is smiled at, but asking a question is going to work better for you both

They say that 50% of people who’ve had a stroke suffer depression.  It’s probably higher among younger people.  I imagine mostly this is because if it’s really bad, you have lost more than if you’re older (?? That sounds patronising, maybe I don’t mean that). But in my experience the stroke isn’t the problem.  The problems most likely to send me off into depression were (1) the stroke ward after I got out of the hyper-acute unit, because it was mixed with the geriatric unit, and (2) feeling undermined and second-guessed and by people who I’m quite sure love me but are also thinking that they know better than me.  Despite the fact I’ve been living this 24/7, 1440 minutes a day, for 2 months and 4 days.

I know I shouldn’t blog this one.  But I know the main person concerned does not know that this blog exists.  And I’m pretty sure that none of you know them.  So it’s fine.  I’m desperately trying to come up with a way to let them off the hook; for them to be able to move on – with my information rather than their notions – having not backed them into any corners.  It’s hard when I feel backed into a corner myself, but I have to be bigger than that. If I can’t be, how can I expect that of them?

It’s just utterly ironic that the first time I get stressed about anything, it’s about other people’s issues on preparing for the good bits coming back on line.  It’s sad, and funny, and sad again, because I know it’s done in love, and yet all I want to do about it is cry and scream.

Though tears stream my cheeks as I blog at nearly 3am, so I guess I’m mostly upset.


Can she do it? (Yes she… will find out!)

My life is about to begin again, and I’m looking forward to it.

This began on 11 October.  I left my office for 10 minutes and haven’t been back since.  I haven’t opened an MSc book. I haven’t done a normal ‘go out with my friends’.  I haven’t been any in busy/loud places for any longer than it takes to get out of them.  I haven’t been away (except to hospital).

In the course of the next two weeks, the following is happening.  On Tuesday a friend is coming to stay until Sunday; we will most definitely pace it, but we will not be housebound.  On Wednesday I’m going into work for the morning, to be present at an event that I usually mastermind but didn’t quite get to finish  before I disappeared for 10 minutes.   I’ve a plan for lunch at Borough Market on Friday.  And on Sunday, as my friend leaves, I am departing to do the final MSc residential week.

[click link to see image owner]

Have I mentioned I haven’t read a single book yet (neither non-fiction, nor any of the gorgeous books of stories stacked up in a lovely, chaotic pile of adventures)?  Yesterday, I pulled my MSc papers out.  Today I shall look for the sheets of paper with the essay questions on them.  Tomorrow I will pull old essays so I can draft a page for a group presentation we’re doing at the end of the week.  And I printed out lots of research papers for each essay before this happened; so I will aim to match the papers and books with the essay questions on Monday.  Somehow I don’t think I’m going to read anything much beyond that this weekend… but it’s a start.

I don’t know how this works, all the stuff that happens next, but I’m really looking forward to it.  I’ll blog more on this later, and may include some (anonymised) excepts of some things people said when I first said I was going to do the residential.  I don’t know how this plays out, but I have a feeling it’s all going to be fine.

I’m looking forward to Tuesday very much.  And then I’m looking forward to Wednesday.  And then… You get my point.

In other news, my friend Mark, who made so many posts earlier on (because he’s such a star at showing up at all the right times), fell over on a mountain the other day and banged his head.  The BBC even reported it: “During the operation a rescuer slipped and suffered a head injury.“!!!!! He escaped with concussion.  He assures me he’s home and he’s perfectly fine, bar the concussion… But I just wanted to publicly acknowledge, given our competitive natures, that he wins – hands down wins – on modes of emergency transport.  His helicopter airlift, during a storm that meant they could only touch down a the 4th hospital they tried, utterly trounces land based ambulances.  It’s just a shame your head hurt too much for you to enjoy it.  But I am glad you’re ok.  Thanks for not being too dramatic on that front.  Though I see you’re not listed yet?  Well hey ho… get listed and I’ll link straight to the Central Beacons Mountain Rescue Team donation button…!

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