My History of Depression
The last few years have not been the best for me as far as my health has been concerned. In 2016 I was diagnosed with depression. It became clear that I had been depressed for a number of years. The diagnosis came after an operation that caused me some nasty moments. I had been feeling better at the start of this year and was in the process of reducing my medication with a view of stopping it all together. Then I suffered from a stroke (The story starts here). All in all not a good couple of years.
While I have been supported by most people through my depression, totally by friends and family to whom I owe more than I can repay, the same can not be said of all of my colleagues at work. One of the problems with depression is that it is not visible and is easy to forget , or overlook. Most people at work have shown an understanding that is wonderful. Some have asked me how I was feeling at regular intervals, and asked in a way that showed that they did actually want to know. Some shared that they have family members that were also sufferers of depression.
There have been others, though who have not been supportive.
Some people have called me miserable and bad tempered to each other, but not to my face. I have tried to ignore the comments. Such attitudes were the ones that I expected when I decided to be open about my mental health problems. Their attitudes remain hurtful though. I do have one message for those people and that is people with depression are down and sensitive a lot of the time. That is part and parcel of being depressed. The answer is not for someone to tell the person suffering to “man up” or for them to judge them for being withdrawn.
I reached the normal retirement age last year (I know, you would not think so to look at me. I get that a lot – in my dreams) but I decided to carry on. One of the main reasons was that I did not think that I could cope without the structure of having to get up to go to work in my life. Being at home, with nothing to do with depression is not a good recipe.
I was feeling better early this year, the depression was lifting and I was coming off the Sertraline. I decided to retire at the end of this year, telling my boss and a couple of friends at work. The aftermath of stroke became a sort of dry run at being retired! I had 10 weeks at home (I should have taken longer) in which I managed to organise a structure for myself. It was centred on walking into town every day and down to the river most days. As discussed previously the purpose was to get rid of my walking stick (ditch the stick!) and to get to the stage where I was able to walk in a straight line, and not fall over.
The down side of having a stroke (one of the many) is that depression is a common result. So it was for me. The anxiety, panic attacks and feeling of inadequacy all came rushing back. Despite that I decided to stick to my retirement plans. The problem of structure does not seem insurmountable anymore. My retirement structure may not be centred on walking, but that will be part of it. I expect that wood turning will be the main part of my structure, perhaps I really will learn to play the guitar – this time.
One thing is certain, the stroke did not win, neither will depression. Roll on the 19th of December, my last working day!!
More Information about Strokes and Depression
The National Census
Trump and his administration seem to cause chaos where ever its shadow reaches. That, of course, could just be a reflection of how I feel about this embattled president. However, just how is it possible for even Trump to cause confusion about the future of the census? The census first census was in the late 18th century and it has been held every 10 years from 1902. You would have thought that, by now, it would almost run itself. Individuals change, people are born and they die, but the process is the same, surely?
One of the problems this time around is the fall out of the trump administration’s culling of people thought to be “not one of us” when they took over. There is no permanent director at the bureaux. John Thompson jumped ship in early 2017. More than a year later Trump’s nominee has not yet been confirmed. The deputy director was to be Thomas Brunell. But Trump’s choice withdrew after his lack of experience and his views on legislative redistricting were criticised. (UK readers think Gerrymandering, or Dame Shirley Porter – you get the idea).
So, no permanent leader or deputy, what else could be going wrong? Someone has decided that, in this digital age, that the census should be computerised. That is bound to be a good idea, quicker, probably cheaper and no pieces of paper to get lost. In any other country than one that still has to use paper ballots in some of its elections because of the lack of connectivity it would be a great idea. The USA has a situation where 30% of Latinos, African- Americans and some rural areas do not have a broadband connection. (more details HERE) It is also hard to persuade them to go to a centre to register their details. Even harder to persuade anybody that their details will be safe from hackers.
Apparently Congress does not care about these issues. They even cancelled 2 of the 3 full field tests. Really, what could go wrong?
According to two former Census Bureaux Directors quite a lot. Even before the major change to the way the census is undertaken they were warning in the Washington Post (August 2017) that the census was “Under threat by uncertain funding”
This is a new question for the census. It asks “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” There are obvious implications. If someone is not a citizen would they want to tell the authorities that when they know Trump’s opinions? Trump could shout from the roof tops that the information is blind, but who would believe him? The trouble is that if the Trump administration asks a question that they suspect people will refuse to answer and so not complete the census then the census becomes something else. According to the constitution of the USA the census is an “actual enumeration” not a sample, not a guestimate, not a survey it is meant to be a full attempt to count as many of the country’s residents as possible.
According to the New York Times; “Authorizing the first census in 1790, Congress mandated a count of “inhabitants.” Boundaries were porous, and the country was founded on the principle that anyone could move here. “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions,” George Washington wrote in an open letter to recent arrivals from Ireland in 1783. Newcomers haven’t always been made to feel welcome since then, but the census has continued to reflect the recognition that they are here.” Until now.
The Tories are telling lies about the funding increase to the National Health Service.
Philip Hammond is again playing fast and loose with the truth. Double counting, or quadruple counting in this case, is not normal practice for a government, or anyone else. The health budget for NHS England (other parts of the NHS are funded separately) is about £110 billion so an increase of £84 billion seems really impressive. But, the truth is much less impressive.
Through inflation the NHS spending will rise to £135 billion by 2023/24, that is £20.5 billion and that was announced by the government before the budget. It is also where we start looking for this mistical £84 billion.
Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Damned Tory Statistics.
The origin of the £84 billion “increase” in NHS funding is convoluted to say the least. Each year the money spent on health goes up by an estimated inflation figure of between 3.1% and 3.6%. Add each year’s increase together, throw in the inflation increases for the Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales plus a £1.25 billion a year for National Health Service pension contributions and there you have it £84 billiuon.
Or, as the less than straightforward Chancellor said on 1st October;
“We’ve announced an unprecedented £84 billion real-terms funding boost for the NHS, what the NHS says it needs”.
Philip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Do you remember another time Philip Hammond made a rather outlandish claim? Not about National Health Service Funding this time this is the time he claimed that unemployed people are a figment of our imagination!
Would a privatised National Health Service work? See this post for my view.
Don’t just take my word for it read this from fullfact.org.
Police Funding has fallen since 2010/2011.
It is heartening that Nigel Evans, the local MP, has just realised that the police need more funding. It is a shame that he has been voting for reductions since 2010, and yet does not accept that police funding has fallen.
In fact, the funding from central government fell by 30% during the period 2010/2011to 2017/2018. By increasing funding from local sources (i.e. Cuncil Tax) the average overall fall in funding has been 19%. However, the central funding is going to increase this year, isn’t it?
After all austerity is dead. (Isn’t it?)
Well, There was an announcement that police funding was to increase by £460m in 2018/2019. (The whole police budget is about £12.3b so it is hardly an earth shattering increase in police funding). But even with this increase the central grant is going to be the same as 2017. As inflation is running at 2% that means a real terms cut. £280m is going to be raised by allowing the police to raise the amount they can raise through the council tax. £50m is being spent on antiterrorism and the other £130m has been set aside for special grants to meet unexpected costs for events such as terrorist incidents, and for improving the technology used by police forces.
In summary, the Tories have cut the funding from central government by 30% in 8 years. Even when austerity is dead and police funding is going to increase it is not being increased from central government coffers. Most of the small increase will be from council taxes. And the rest is made up of money for counterterrorism. So, valuable money to fight terrorists but not for more bobbies on the beat.
Nigel and his Tory mates are trying to distance themselves from the result of their own policies and beliefs. They are either in denial that they have reduced police funding, or they are just cynical and think that we are all fools.
For the record, police funding increased by 31% between 2000/01 and 2010/2011….
The First Day of My New Life
My stroke was on 13th June 2018. My new life started on the 14th. I did not sleep well on male stroke ward B2 in Blackburn Royal Infirmary that first night. There were a lot of thoughts going round and round in my head, of course. Then there was the noise, the groans and the ramblings. It was a small, modern, ward and there were 5 other stroke patients. The nurses did not stop attending to first one and then another patient. As I lay there it was obvious that they were in a lot worse state than I was. Perhaps Lauren was correct; perhaps I did have the “good” type of stroke.
As the following morning dawned I realised a couple of things. Firstly, I still had double vision. Second, I had been incredibly lucky.
Initial Stroke treatment
The first treatment for a stroke as a result of a clot (an ischaemic stroke) is to give the patient a blood thinning drug. The treatment is called thrombolysis. It thins the blood and so “dissolves” the clot. It is very effective if given within 4 hours of the onset of the stroke.
After thrombolysis, 10% more patients survive a stroke and live independently. Despite its benefits, there is a risk that thrombolysis can cause bleeding in the brain. This happens to about one in 25 people within seven days of thrombolysis, and this can be fatal in about one in 40 cases. The sooner someone is treated, the better their chances of improvement, and the lower the risk of harm. The risk of a bleed in the brain is the reason that I was not allowed out of bed for 24 hours of the treatment. I would be unsteady on my feet after the stroke and could easily fall over. Knocking my head would mean that there would probably be a bleed in my brain, and I would die.
With that sort of reasoning I was happy to spend 24 hours in bed using a bottle. Well, not happy, but using a bottle was preferable to dying.
Onwards and Upwards
When I was in the A&E I had said to Carol that I would be back to work in a couple of days. At that time I had no real appreciation of just how ill I was. One thing I did know was that this bloody stroke was not going to beat me. I would get better, I would return to work, and I would put this inconvenience behind me.
It sounded so easy.
I must say that the early days after my stroke were some of the most life affirming of my life. Every day, every morning and afternoon seemed to be marked with an improvement, (apart from the double vision).
June 14th, 1 day after the stroke
The day after my stroke I had a number of issues;
- I had double vision.
- My left eye would not close.
- My face had dropped on the left.
- I could not swallow.
- My speech was badly affected.
- Super sensitivity to noise.
- Panic attacks.
- I was unsure whether my cognitive abilities had been affected.
- I suffered from dizziness.
Apart from that I was OK.
None of these symptoms are unusual for stoke victims. It could have been a lot worse. Objectively I could see that I was in a far better place than most of my neighbours, either physically or I was more positive.
Double Vision and my Left Eye Not Closing
The double vision was the worst thing. It meant that I could not read, or see what was going on around me clearly. The solution to that was to tape my left eye shut. I was given a gel to put in my eye to moisten it to keep it from drying out and being scratched. With the left eye shut I was able to see clearly. I could read, type messages, and recognise who was talking to me! The solution to my eye not closing did present me with another issue. Taking the tape off my eye resulted in a loss of eyelashes and eyebrows! Still, that they would grow back was reassuring.
Gradually, my eye did begin the close. I can remember the first time I was able to wink at someone after my stroke and how good I felt being able to do something so simple. It took me about a month before my eye would close.
My Dropped Face
Even before the Occupational Health team descended on me I decided that I would need to do something about the fallen side of my face. In my mind the best thing that I could do was to rub my face to stimulate it and to remind my brain that it should be controlling that side of my face. As it happens that is one of the exercises recommended to stroke victims so I got a head start. Improvements began within a few days.
Swallowing and Speech Problems
Swallowing and speech impediment were connected. Half of my mouth and throat did not work. The day after my stroke I called Paul, my manager, to say that I was still alive. I also wanted to tell him that there were a couple of bananas in my desk and that he should remove them before they went off. The trouble was that I could not make the explosive “b” sound. It took hours – well, it seemed like hours – until I could make Paul understand what I was saying! All explosive sounds were impossible. The best way to improve the situation was to practice talking, so I did, I talked to anyone who would listen.
The swallowing function is something that often suffers after a stroke. For me it left me unable to swallow. The best I could do was to use my tongue to shovel the food or drink to the right of my mouth and, with my head tilted, swallow. The problem with being unable to swallow as you have done for all your life is that it is easy to forget that you need to be careful. Food or drink in your windpipe causes coughing but the real concern is that swallowing problems can lead to chest infections and pneumonia.
I was put on food with the consistency of baby food to reduce the danger of infection . Even worse, even the water and coffee had to be thickened to the consistency of sloppy wallpaper paste!
I practiced swallowing the gloopified water and gradually my swallowing improved. I was on unthickened water and thicker baby food within 2 days. As soon as I got home I moved on to “real” food!
I will tell you more about the remaining issues and how they affected me (and still do in some instances.
My Stroke, no It wasn’t a Bad Dream….
So, the story of my stroke, where was I? Oh yes, I had arrived at work after having a couple of episodes of double vision and I did not feel terribly well. I obviously did not look too good as Victoria, a colleague, said that I looked pretty dreadful. As I was having a stroke, I suppose that was fair enough, although it is not a comment that boosts one’s ego. Geoff the first aider came to check me out and immediately asked for an ambulance to be called.
The paramedics arrived and I was still hanging on to the hope that they would say “go home and rest, it’s fine”. I was hoping that but I kn ew that it was a stroke. Oddly I could still hold my arms up, there was no weakness in my limbs, but the other symptoms were there. I could feel my face slipping on one side (at least I think that I could, it is hard to remember now). I also knew that my speech was becoming more and more indistinct. On the other hand my brain still felt sharp. If I had thought about it I would have expected someone having a stroke to feel their brain slipping away. The problem was making other people understand.
After a few minutes the para medics loaded me onto a wheel chair (I wanted to walk to the ambulance, but they were adamant). The only time I felt fear that day was when I was taken down the stairs on the wheelchair. I was strapped in to the chair and if I had been dropped I could have done nothing to protect myself as the chair and I bounced down 2 flights of stairs. Of course, the para medics did not drop me. It did not seem odd to be worried about the wheelchair being dropped but not about having a stroke, just goes to show what tricks the brain plays on you at times of stress.
The Ride to the Hospital and My Stroke Buddy.
If you could plan to have a stroke my main suggestion would be to have a “stroke buddy”, someone who goes to the hospital with you and helps you make sense of what is a confusing time. I had Carol. Carol is a colleague who suggested that I should have someone go with me to the hospital and volunteered to go with me. She stayed with me in the ambulance chatting and not letting me dwell on what was happening. She also acted as a buffer between the para medics and me, helping me understand what they were saying and helping them to understand me.
I am not sure that I thanked Carol on the day but she was of immense help to me. From sharing a secret look and smile when we both saw the nurse with the unusual hair colour, to laughing at my pretty weak jokes, to explaining what was being said when I was distracted she helped me stay calm. I remember thinking that I was calm and being surprised. Looking back I do think that the quiet competence of the para medics and Carol’s presence helped a lot.
The paramedics were great. When I asked about having the flashing lights on because it was the only opportunity I was likely to have they said “yes” and the lights were on, for no reason other than I wanted them on. Top Guys. The ride to the hospital was a time for me to take stock. I realised that my left eye would not close and that the left side of my face was dropping more. Although I knew that I had had, or was having, a stroke I did sort of think that I would be going home that day. I was still holding out for a couple of days off work and back in the next Monday. Carol said that she did not think that it would be that simple.
The A & E
I had never been in A & E before. My experience of A & E was gained from television and Ealing comedies. From the cheeky, heart of gold Barbara Windsor nurse, to the dedicated doctor who has “issues” of Holby General. Judging from my limited experience the truth is that the staff in A & E are professional, a bit cheeky, but they hide any personal issues very well. There were no meaningful looks between the nurses and doctors that I could see, no sly touching or innuendos. (But then was I in any state to notice? Probably not).
Carol kept me going. For some reason I felt the need to appear cheerful in front of her, no idea if I managed. I did not want to let the side down. She was being so supportive I owed it to her not to descend into self-pity. After all people get over strokes every day, right?
So, with the nurses being calm and professional into my life walked Lauren. Lauren was with the Occupational Health team. She was there to tell me what was going on and ( as I found out later) to observe me, gleaning what she could of my disability before I moved to the ward so that the OT team and the Speech and Language Team had an idea of my issues. She often attends a stroke patient that comes into A & E. If not her one of her team does. It was not until later that I appreciated the importance of her being there.
It was Lauren that explained to me that there are 2 basic types of stroke. One that is caused by a bleed into the brain and could need surgery and one that is caused by a blood clot in the brain. I had the latter. As Lauren said that is the good type of stroke.
The term “A good type of stroke” is a relative term.
For more information about strokes visit http://stroke.org.uk
Be sure to check out how to recognise when someone is having a stroke and what tom do here.
No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition, or A Stroke.
My stroke. Wednesday 13th June 2018. A perfectly normal day. I was looking after Meg, a golden Labrador for her mum, Di, had gone on holiday with Jane. I had fed Meg, given her a walk, and then taken her to her house for the day. It was 7.45 and I had half an hour before I had to start work. Just time enough to buy food the evening meal. I was going to have Lamb with smoked aubergine and minty broad beans. I was looking forward to making a new recipe. Driving away from Tesco I suddenly had double vision which cleared after 10 minutes. Although I did not know it, my stroke had started.
I drove on to work, feeling none the worse for the double vision episode. Was I worried? Not at all, I had experienced double vision before. That I put it down to one of the known side effects of Sertraline, my anti depression medication. I drove into work and parked up and the double vision started again. Again, I waited for a few minutes and when it passed I clocked into work, 8.20 5 minutes late, BUGGER!
My Wednesday, it gets worse.
Up the stairs and into the office. “Mornings” all round. Victoria looked up and asked me if I was OK. I said something about me having one of my dizzy and double vision episodes and that it would pass, as it had in the past. Then the double vision returned and I knew that I could not stand up without falling over, this was going to be a bad day. Victoria kept looking at me, obviously a bit concerned. By this time I was as well.
I held my arms out in front of me, no weakness there, so I knew that it wasn’t a stroke and I said as much, laughing, to Victoria. However, the words did not come out properly. I stopped for a few seconds and said to Victoria, ” Is my speech slurred?” She said yes and I said I think that you had better phone the first aider. Even as I said it I knew that it was a stroke and there was nothing I could do to alter what was about to happen.
Everyone Else Looks Worried
Geoff, the first aider was with me within a couple of minutes and almost immediately said “call and ambulance”. He knew that it was a stroke and confirmed that when I asked. He stayed with me, asking all the right questions and keeping me calm. Although I already felt calm. There was nothing that I could do. Besides there were enough worried people in the office without me adding to the number. I wanted to stay calm so that I could tell the para medics exactly what I was feling. They needed to have the right information as quickly as possible. It actually did not occur to me that they probably could not understand what I was saying…..
One of the many bad things about having a stoke is that your brain works (or you think that it does) but holding a conversation can be impossible. The upshot was that I had a list of symptoms and observations in my head but could not make anyone understand. I also thought that it was all rather unfair. I had stopped smoking (with a couple of slip ups) 10 months previously. Very unfair!
At some point I realised that this was going to be a seriously bad Wednesday.
For more information about strokes visit http://stroke.org.uk
Be sure to check out how to recognise when someone is having a stroke and what tom do here.
Why was the Wood Turning Lathe Not Working Anyway?
Well, a couple of weeks ago the drive belt gave up the ghost. It was 13 years old and had begun to stretch, and stretch. Knowing that the end was in sight I bought a replacement. Confident that I could replace a drive belt on a wood turning lathe, easy peasy….
Only it was not that easy or, indeed, peasy. In fact it was diffy pissey… Very Diffy and definitely pissey – or my mood was as I tried with no luck what so ever to get the bloody circlip off. Worse still, even when that circlip was off there was another that I could not even see!!!!!!
Time for the Big Hammer on the Wood Turning Lathe.
I am not a patient person, I am prone to getting irked by inanimate objects that do not play nicely. I get irked by people as well, but I am on medication for that. Anyway if the Lathe was not going to respond to WD40 and circlip pliers I was going to get the lump hammer.
Luckily, I am also pretty disorganised and could not find it.
Facebook Rescues My Lathe, or Not.
Right, the top housing of the wood turning lathe was off. The circlip was still laughing at me. I know, the great online community that is Facebook will come to the rescue. So, I posted a note of my wood turning woes, and nothing.
A few days later I think of Geoff Laycock, a retired engineer and contact him. Yes, he would be happy to have a look at it. The trouble is he is a it busy restoring things and getting ready for the Chipping Steam Fare. So I give the lather housing to Geoff and he agrees to do his considerable best.
Oh yes, FB was not quite a wash out as Matt Pennington phoned to offer his help. Matt is a Good Bloke. GBs are worth their weight in gold as they are always willing to help. Added to that Matt is very practical. I tell him the problem, the circlips have not been off the spindle in 13 years, no sign of any movement. There is an almost audible sigh of relief when I say that the housing is with Geoff.
The Drive Belt is Replaced!
Geoff phoned to say that he had finished and all was well. Hot foot the housing is brought back and the woodturning lathe is put back together. With trepidation I turn it on.
And it works better than ever!
But, the proof of the pudding is in the eating….
The first test is a small, but nice Oak bowl. Not the most spectacular piece, but I am still so proud!
Come to Clitheroe, Pothole Capital
John Lennon wrote about 4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire after reading about the state of Lancashire’s road in a local paper and the number of potholes. If he were alive today he would replace Blackburn with Clitheroe. Clitheroe is now the pothole Capital.
Pothole Slalom, the new sport.
One benefit of having numerous potholes in our roads is that those of us who live in Clitheroe are way ahead in the growing sport of Pothole Slalom, There are graded routes that we use to train on. The junior course is Henthorn Road. This is good beginners course as the holes are continuous and fairly obvious. Have alook at this;
The great thing about this beginners run is that you can practice running along and escaping the holes. The holes themselves vary between 1 standard depth (the International Pothole Slalom Committee has decreed that a “standard depth” equals the size of one British 50p piece, about 1and a quarter inches) and one particularly surprising hole that is about 3 Standard Depths.
The feeder gates into the run also have interesting slalom features. I am taken by both the Speedall and Faraday Avenues. They both use the rippled and flaking obstacles so beloved of the good people of the Lancashire Highways Service.
At the end of the Henthorn run there is a lovely example of deep hole and ripple combination responsible for the unsettling of many a slalom novice.
Although this is a novice level pothole slalom run Clitheroe’s roads have many more advanced pothole slalom obstacles that I will review in the future.
Next In Pothole Slalom Series.
The Sainsbury’s mini roundabout invitational pothole slalom event that attracts many competitors each day!
Goosnargh 22nd April, I am back Wood Turning.
As you may know I began wood turning a few of years ago under the guidance and tuitaledge of Roni, my friend who lives in West Wales. Following an operation and being treated for depression I stopped wood turning.
Now that I am coming out the other side I have started wood turning again. The scary thing is that I have decided to start trying to sell my stuff. I have asked for a stall at the Goosnargh craft fair on the 22nd April.
This promotes a few emotions in me. The first is that I am well aware that a year ago I would not have even contemplated selling (or trying to sell) my work. That makes me pleased that I have come quite a long way from the depths of last year. Another emotion is a deep worry that no one is going to look at my stuff, let alone buy anything. Add to that the feeling that I do not have enough pieces to fill a six foot table and I am wondering whether this was such a good decision.
The Pressure is on, what should I turn?
So the pressure is on. I need to make some stock. What I need to do is to make some mushrooms and light pulls. What did I make today? A bowl.
However, it is quite cute, at least I think so. It is turned from Spalted Beech which gives it those lovely colours.
There are creams, browns, and even blues in there.
I do like Spalted Beech, it is nice to turn and still has life in it. The bowl will move and change shape as the wood dries. The wood has a soul.
A few weeks ago I made another Spalted Beech bowl, I am using it as a fruit bowl, again the same beautiful colours….
So much of me wants Geoff at Craft Promotions to come back to me saying that all the stalls are taken………………..