Too much of a good thing

Too much of a good thing

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One thing I try to live by is a quote from Erich Kästner “Nothing good happens unless you do it”. If I can, I like to help. But when I promised a friend to walk her dog while she recovered from a minor surgery on her toe, I had bitten off more than I could chew – and it was just a week.

One aspect was the time I spent driving between our homes and walking the dog. But  being responsible for a pet I don’t really know was the hardest thing for me. I shouldn’t have worried, our friend’s dog is a wonderful granny (about the same age as our Janet) and much more easier to handle as our Sam for example. When walking her I always felt tense and wasn’t able to enjoy it. The dog on the other side had fun and was absolutely relaxed. Everything went well, but I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself if something had happened.

At the same time my husband was on holiday, we had to do work in the garden and put away the wood for the winter. I wanted to please and help everybody and put myself last. This happens often to me. Panic attacs started to bother me, and after the week I just felt tired and like a failure, because I thought everybody but me can handle such a situation without breaking a sweat.

Luckily this stressful time was too short to cause real damage. I recover slowly. But I should really take this seriously and learn to take better care of myself. I still fall into traps I could avoid. That made me think. But this time I got off easy.

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Baby steps

Baby steps

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(The picture above is not the actual conversation, but a translation into english).
Yesterday I chatted with a former fellow patient from my inpatient stay last year.

Our chat made me see that I am still very impatient with myself. Even days after my husband’s birthday I was quite upset and was angry with myself, because it’s still hard for me to be around the little niece.

But like V. pointed out, I did a few little steps in the right direction. After all there were times where I couldn’t stand being around the little one.

Conversations like this are the reason why I continue therapy at the moment. On my own I wouldn’t see this, and I would still hate myself. And this feeling doesn’t help, I learned that from the past.

I have come so far in the last months, but I still need help. Sometimes somebody needs to give me a push, so I can get things straight.

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Walking your path

Walking your path

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I still meet with a fellow patient from my inpatient stay in 2018. She’s not well, and I am sorry for that. But as someone who is not involved in her daily struggles, I see where she might go wrong.

My impression is, she doesn’t work enough on her recovery. She has lots of help, but feels bad nontheless. She quit looking for a therapist, she didn’t follow her doctor’s advice to try Occupational Therapy and sport.

I made the same mistake in the past myself and did not follow through. It doesn’t help that places for aftercare are rare and waiting periods are long. It would be very nice if patients would be discharged onto a well paved road after inpatient treatment, but mostly they find themselves on a small path, like in the picture above. But adverse conditions doesn’t release us from being responsible for ourselves.

No human is like the other. OT and sport work for me, but that doesn’t mean they are good for everybody. And I think it’s absolutly ok to try something and give it up later in case it doesn’t help. But we have to do something, or things won’t improve.

When I had really bad back pain, we had a housecleaner. Everything was tidy, but being pushed to the sidelines was bad for my soul. Being responsible and doing something is better for me. But like I said, this is my path, and it’s not for everybody.

Because I know help can cut both ways, I don’t force it on anyone. I offer to help when I can, but I would never show up at the doorstep unannounced with a rag in my hand. Self-determination should be respected, even when it hurts to see someone struggling.

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Paperwork

Paperwork

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Chores have to take a back seat this week. I want to do our tax return soon, and I won’t to waste time looking for insurance policies then.

Sadly, I still don’t have energy for everything I want to do. So getting my priorities straight is important. Right now, the house doesn’t have do be presentable, so it’s no big deal if I concentrate on something different.

It’s not new that I have to be careful with my energy, but my attitude has changed. A few months ago this really upset me, today I am more relaxed and think “So what?!” This makes everything so much easier. And in my opinion it’s always better to make a conscious decision, in this case “This week I focus on X, next week Y is my priority.” That makes me feel like I have at least control over some parts of my life.

Tomorrow I can go and talk to my new therapist with a clear head, because I finished the paperwork.

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Self-responsibility

Self-responsibility

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I really appreciate what my therapists say, and I take their advice seriously. But after thinking everything through, sometimes I decide against it.

My OT-therapist didn’t agree with my approach to decide day by day if I am up to family meetings. She was of the opinion I should decide once and for all if I want to be a part of these meetings or not.

Well, I know that I will not always be up to it. This would mean I would never be part of these family reunions again. This would hurt my husband, who wants to spend time with his family and his wife. And sometimes, when I feel well, I just want to party and have this feeling of belonging. Everyone – myself included – can deal with the status quo quite well, so I won’t change anything.

The good thing is that this discussion made me make up my mind. This brought a wonderful feeling of clarity and peace.

In the last years I have come to the conclusion that therapists and doctors don’t know everything. Making decisions and being responsible is always up to the patient. I know there are people that would like to delegate responsibility. I prefer staying in control of my life.

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Facing my fears

Facing my fears

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Wednesday I tried to make the next step. My plan was to meet with the little niece outside the family gatherings, because meeting many people adds to the stress.

My husband and the in-laws really tried to accomodate me. Everybody wanted to make this possible. It was hard for me to accept so much help, but I tried to help them in the past as well. And I am of course aware of the fact that everybody needs help sometimes.

I went through a lot of feelings that day, and I shed a few tears as well. And on the next day I still felt very rattled. But after that, I calmed down. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t handle it. But maybe my goal to at least be a part of the family festivities is realistic. And maybe it becomes easier with time.

My next goal will be to go to the Christmas brunch held by the parents-in-law on boxing day.

The pain that we will won’t have children will not just vanish. But I don’t want it to destroy my life. I will see what is possible. But I will continue to find my own way.

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Aftercare

Aftercare

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Starting outpatient therapy right after my inpatient treatment wasn’t possible. Free places are hard to find. I have so many wonderful people around me, I’ll manage, but without support this situation can become difficult. This first time following the therapy is so important, new patterns have to be established. I know I am not alone with this, there is something wrong with the health system. This week I had another two preliminary talks concerning group therapy, but I still I don’t have a place. It was a stressful time, and I was glad OT had been cancelled.

Friday I visited my former fellow patients on the ward (every Friday afternoon coffee and cakes are served, and visitors are allowed). It was good to meet those wonderful people again, and I was included like I never had been away. A good time was had by all. But it was good to come home as well: Right now I don’t need inpatient therapy.

Next week there will be no preliminary talks. I will have to organize prescriptions at my GP and the pain clinic and pick up my new passport.

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An exhausting week

An exhausting week

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It’s not easy to get a place in a therapy group. My therapist provided me with contact information before I was released from the ward, but of course it’s up to me to do something about it. I was lucky, there is a place available in two groups. So this week the preliminary talks with the therapists started.

It was hard to go through all my problems twice more. And there are no psychoanalytic therapy groups nearby, and travelling was stressful as well. The therapists insist on at least three preliminary talks, so I will have to go through this again.

Our windows were cleaned on Thursday, and I visited my parents on Friday. I had not much time to myself this week, and this added to my already high stress level.

I very much appreciated that my therapist from the ward called me yesterday to ask how I was doing, like she said she would. There was no need to do this, I am technically not her patient anymore. She offered me that I can call anytime if there are problems. That’s good to know, but I hope I don’t need it.

Yesterday evening I was very tired (I can tell the difference, it had nothing to do with depression). After walking the dogs I fell asleep on the couch and just went on to bed a few hours later.

This morning I still felt tired. Today is one of these misty, dark winter days. I just take it easy.

Next week is also full of appointments. There will be more preliminary talks, and on Friday I will talk to my old therapist. I am relieved OT has been cancelled next week.

I just hope everything goes well and I can continue therapy soon.

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Group therapy

Group therapy

It’s good to be home, and I hope it stays that way. But of course many things that happened during my inpatient treatment are still fresh on my mind.

A very important part of the therapy took place in groups – twice a week in small group for ninety minutes each, once a week all patients came together to talk for an hour.

It was interesting that the patients were at different levels on their way to recovery. Those who just started therapy were often at a loss, the old life didn’t work anymore, the new life was still out of reach. But other patients were already better and showed the new patients that a change for the better was possible, and that work will pay off.

Best case scenario: The group works together, so everyone is motivated and tries to support those who struggle. Of course not every session is a success. But a close group can deal with that as well.

Of course there also were difficult situations. And my bad hearing often complicated things further. But we got through this together. I miss this sometimes, now that I have to spend a big part of my time alone. But everything I learned became a part of my personality and will hopefully stay with me forever.

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I did it!

I did it!

I finally finished my part of the mosaic. We started planning this project in January – almost six months ago, and there are still some small things to do.

It was a difficult time. Soon I recognized making a mosaic isn’t my favorite thing to do. I have almost no control over how the glass breaks. And I like having control. This doesn’t match.

There were times when I just wanted to give up. My life is hard enough as it is, I don’t need this on top of everything, or do I? Wouldn’t it be better to focus on the nice aspects of life and save my energy? Another member of he group quit after a few months, and this made me want to throw in the towel as well.

And still. I want to finish what I start. In the past, I often didn’t know when to stop. This lead to lots of frustration, and I try to learn from that and avoid it.

I was so afraid to repeat mistakes of the past, that I almost made a new mistake in the present. I wrote here about how the mosaic became fun, once I let go of my perfectionism.

I learned from that I should be careful when it comes to these kinds of decisions. Sometimes you just need to give things an opportunity to get better after they start poorly.