13. Keeping pace with pain support group

Yesterday, I attended a Keeping Pace with pain group at St Andrews Church in Southampton.  It had been suggested by my key worker, that I might find it beneficial in some way.

So I trundled along not really knowing what to expect, and I am really pleased that I did.  I was made to feel so welcome, and they were all very friendly people.

This session had a speaker- Fran Hodgson, who is a chair bound yoga teacher.  Fran, herself is very inspirational and has a very happy disposition.  At first I thought we would be doing stretching exercises, but instead we were chanting.  But these chants were sung rather than spoken, fortunately I found my voice and was quite tuneful!

It was a real eye-opener!  The whole experience was so uplifting, and I felt really good afterwards. 

They only meet once a month, and each session they do something different.  Every person there suffers from chronic pain in one way or another, but the time was not spent talking about it, which was really refreshing.

I will definitely go again!

Sharon Carter-wray

(16th September 2011)

I continued to attend this group, and others that subsequently grew from it, and I still find it uplifting, especially the art group that also meets once a month on a Tuesday.  This group is completely free to attend, and is run purely on donations.  Unfortunately due to ill health I have been unable to attend this year, but hope to start again in January.

If you have any local support groups like this in your area, that may give you social interaction, it’s worthwhile checking it out, if it’s available.  Sx 🙂

(Updated Tuesday 20th November 2018)

12. Retracing my steps

Finally understanding what being ‘burnt out’ hit home, it made me look at my career to date.  I was always after self-betterment, I had always wanted a ladder to climb to achieve things.  But now, I know all my employers had seen that trait in me, and wanted to make the most of me, while they had me.

At the age of 24, I had literally packed a suitcase, and began a new job that took me off on new adventures.  I spent 10 years of my life travelling the length and breadth of this country, doing store openings for Homebase, B&Q & MFI to name a couple of companies.  Each time, staying away from home for months at a time, until the contract was completed, the store was opened or re-opened to the public for the first time; before we could finally return home or go onto the next job.  It was not an easy job by any means, it was very demanding, each contract was 24 hours a day, seven days a week, living in some hotel or B&B.

After a few jobs, I was no longer doing the ground work, I was managing a team of up to 35 people.  I was responsible for making sure that the job was done well and done right on which ever shift I was working on.  I and my colleague who covered the other shift, were accountable if things went wrong.ff44d-humans2bare2bfragile

After a few years I became an account manager, having direct with the clients I began to run the jobs, organising my teams, sorting transport, accommodation, interviewing & recruiting new staff. All this whilst still travelling to do site visits, which was always rife with some complaint or other, which I had to deal with. When I was not in the office, I would be in my car, it became a very lonely job.  The toll that all these hours behind the wheel of a car would eventually manifest itself later in my life.

With a team of core people, plus locally employed general assistants, we worked hard and played hard.

I used to say, it took a strange breed of fish to do the job, either people were running away from something; or they were trying to find something.

I am not sure which category I fell into, but eventually the need arose for me to find a permanent place, where I could finally hang my hat, and empty my suitcase. bad09-i2bcan2band2bi2bwill

This sadly coincided with the death of my brother, who had been very ill for many years.  It was at that point, that I knew that I had to move on.  I had always said to myself, that by the age of 30, I wanted my first home, and real independence, and a month short of my 30th birthday, I finally managed to achieve just that.

It was a huge turning point in my life, and something I was so proud I was able to achieve on my own.  It meant I finally had a home, a space that I could call my very own.

Sharon Carter-Wray

(9thSeptember 2011)

(Updated Wednesday 14th November 2018)

11. Picking up the pieces

When my doctor signed me off for two weeks with depression, his words of advice were:

“People suffer differently. Some will feel better after a couple of weeks or months and for some it could take years or never”.

I remember thinking ‘it’s not going to take that long for me to get over this, I had things to do, I had to work!  How little I knew then.  And here I am 9 years later, still very much depressed, still on pills, but somehow life is better.

Within the second week, I experienced another panic attack, though not as bad as the first, it was enough to frighten me.  Things that I would have been willing to do before, now scared me, and over the years I experienced many more attacks.

Over the next few months, I took a long hard look at myself, and my life to date.  During my silent years, I began the healing process.  I was still very angry, very anxious and very fragile.  It also helped me to understand that I wasn’t depressed from the date of diagnosis, but instead had been depressed for most of my life.

This was a real revelation, as it was from growing up, during my adolescence, and into my adult life, up to now.  And I was reminded of all the things that had been said, done or happened to me.If you aren't true...

My little demons, that I had hugged so closely, and carried around for so long, had one by one re-presented themselves to me, to face, to overcome or to deal with.  It took me a while to understand what I had to do, but then I realised that unless I addressed each and every one of them, they would never go away.

I had been so angry with my ex employers for the way they treated me, in spite of my real tears, and cries for help they overloaded me, and just expected me to cope.  They had continually allowed me to work under extreme pressure, still meeting my deadlines, still producing the goods for them and being the honest spokesperson.

But what they had not expected was that I would fight back.

The lies they told, and the ignorance they hid behind to protect themselves, astounded me.  Each time they called me in for a “back to work” chat, was an opportunity for them to try and knock me back or have another go.  And though I felt physically weakened, my resolve grew stronger, I was not about to let them off the hook that easily. So eventually, after 12 months, I had my last meeting and walked away feeling a minor triumph.

That was the last straw that broke my back.  But in all fairness, I now know that all my previous employers were equally guilty.  As all of them had in one way or another, exploited my skills and hardworking attitude, and abused my good nature.  The trouble was, I always gave 110%, and they fed me with empty promises – that I kept on eating.

Of course, I have my regrets now for being such a conscientious employee, because I am still paying the price for my commitment to them.  But, in truth I can’t change my attitude towards how I approach doing anything, I will naturally give everything my best shot and more, whether the situation demands it or not.  But I do wonder sometimes wonder how different things might have been for me, if my employers had really used my full potential rather than abusing it…

Sharon Carter-Wray

(18thAugust 2011)

Updated: Tues 13thNovember 2018

 

10. What happened next..

I remember it all so clearly.  That morning, as I walked down that long corridor to the office where I worked, I could feel the tension and anxiety building up in me.  I was physically unstable, my heart was pounding, I was short of breath and I knew my blood pressure was sky high, but I also knew something was desperately wrong.

By the time I sat at my desk, I felt exhausted, I couldn’t think straight, and at that point I knew I had to see my doctor.  So, I told to my team leader, that I wasn’t feeling too good and needed to go to the doctors.  I got an appointment for an hour later.  However, as soon as I put the phone down, the panic attack kicked in.  I found myself gasping for air, burning up, with shooting pains in my chest.  I was terrified of what was happening to me.You have everything in you

But my team leader, didn’t get me an first aider, didn’t take me to my doctors, or call an ambulance, she drove me home!  It was then down to my husband to take me to the doctors.

I was in such a bad state, so as soon as we arrived at my surgery, I was wired up and attached to various machines, which thankfully confirmed that I wasn’t suffering from a heart attack.  But it did show that my blood pressure was a dangerous level.

After about an hour, I finally calmed down enough to see my doctor, who diagnosed depression, gave me some strong tranquilisers and signed me off for 2 weeks.

During that time, I got to know my sofa very well.  I hardly spoke to anyone or did anything else for that matter.  I never did get back to work.

That one day changed the rest of my life, and even now when I think about it, it still hurts.  It was a very scary & painful event, but I also have to admit that it was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to me.  As it made me slow right down and take a good long hard look at my life.  For the moment, I was no longer that strong, confident, straight talking woman instead I was a delicate and very fragile being.

After a few weeks of being off, the local authority that I worked for referred me to Occupational Health and also appointed a Counsellor for me to see.  Now, I have completed a Counselling course, and I know the rules about the client/Counsellor relationship.  But my God, that woman they sent me to see broke every single one of them.  She didn’t listen to me, but instead talked too much, she was opinionated and tried to offer advice.  She opened up a whole can of worms and had no idea how to deal with the contents.  I was so glad when the six weeks were finally up and that I hadn’t fully opened up with her.

It took me a couple of years before I before I really started to talk again, I had become so quiet and withdrawn, I hardly recognised myself.  I gave into the idea that if no one actually listened to me, then I had nothing to say.  And the so called do-gooders, who always thought they knew the answer to my illness, was one by one struck off the list of people I cared for or cared for me.

Crying is how your heart speaks...
Only someone who’s felt real pain could have written this!

I didn’t know it at the time, but later learned that depression makes you lose your confidence, and restricts the ability to do simple things like food shopping, driving a car, getting on a train, feeling comfortable with lots of people just to name a few things.  It can also stay with a person for years, can affect anyone young or old, can be caused by a variety of issues, and most importantly takes away your joy and desire to do anything or enjoy anything.

It is like walking around with your own personal black cloud constantly over your head, everything loses its colour and just turns grey.

I hope that maybe some of my fellow sufferers, who may be reading this, will agree with this description, because the list is extensive and this is just a brief overview.  I have often described it as being at the top of a series of steps.  Most people will suffer from some sort of depression at some time in their life, and will only fall down to the first step; so it’s pretty easy to get back up to the top.

When you are clinically depressed, you fall down many steps, maybe even down to the very bottom.  Then it’s a real struggle to get back up, yet alone climb up the first step.  Again, I can really only comment on my experience, but somehow, I believe that others like me are nodding their heads.

Chronic depression is a real illness caused by a chemical imbalance, and so it is important to understand, that when you are suffering, you cannot get over it on your own.  You need to have medical intervention, you need all the help you can get.Be like the blade of grass..

Depression is too common for there still to be stigma attached to it.

And if you do find yourself on medication, don’t be deterred by non-believers, or those who don’t want you popping pills but at the same time have no viable alternatives to offer.

Depression is very much a personal story, so treat yourself like an individual.

Sharon Carter-Wray

(27thJuly 2011)

 

(Updated Friday 9thNovember 2018)

No ordinary woman

I’ve known for a long time, that I needed to be right here, at this moment. Even though this moment took longer to arrive than I had initially anticipated.

As soon as I left my friend in the car park where she’d dropped me off, I felt the mantle of responsibility and obligation to anyone or anything, gently slip from my shoulders and hit the floor.

I felt more empowered with every step, and braver with every mile added to the distance travelled. Doing something for myself and by myself, something not many of the women in my life would ever dream of doing. Ever.

But I feel free again.

And I am only reminded of how brave I really am, have been and have still yet to be. That I’m not an average woman. Something I’ve said about myself for years, I just hadn’t realised how true a statement it is, or the depth of where that truth came.

But, I guess I was no ordinary child either…

Born with health issues from day 1, I make no bones of telling people that I’m lucky to be here, but they think I mean ‘lucky’ in other ways. Much as I know I’m blessed, that kind of luck has never walked the same side of the road as me.

I learned a long time ago, that whatever I achieved in my life would be off my own back. I have never relied on any one, to get me where I am, even through my most difficult times with my ex. It was a message drummed into my head as a child by my father to fend for myself, basically allowing him to shirk his responsibilities from a very young age.

It’s odd that’s the first time I’ve ever thought of it in that way. The truth is more that I can’t actually remember anything really positive that he did for anyone of us, on a personal level. I know he has never stopped spouting off about ‘the things he’s done for us, but I can’t visualise them. I do remember how he used to be quick at doling out punishment, regardless; and to some degree my mother was no saint in that area either.

But as far as he was concerned, he was the ‘King of the castle’ in his own house, in fact he held that opinion of himself in everyone’s house. He liked to hold court, and even today there is nothing he likes better than a captive audience.

Recently close friends, who really know me have taken the time to remind me of my goodness, and what it is they see in me. Being seen through the eyes of others can be a revelation

I know I have digressed, but only slightly, as it all does play a part at some point on this story… The reason why I have needed to literally run away from my life, run from everything, just so I could press pause, take a moment and breathe.

It’s incredible the difference I feel, within so few short hours, to just be good to myself. I am in no hurry and I have no agenda other than to “just be”. And it feels wonderful to be able to finally let go, and do just that. It is now of course when I realise just how tired & burnt out I really am, and just how much I needed to do this. Perhaps I should entertain the idea of doing this for myself every few months, just to lift my soul enough to stop me falling. This isn’t just a quick getaway, this is good medicine…

Sharon Carter-Wray

(29th August 2018)

9. You have to learn…

“You have to learn to get up from the table, when love is no longer being served”.  Nina Simone

Ever have that feeling?

Well it’s not nice.

I have spent so long with one person, just to find years later that love didn’t live here any more.

Worse still, I began to question whether real love was there to start off with.

I looked so deep within myself, wanting to know when I lost my love for him, was it before or after that realisation?  I felt gutted, wounded and let down, each recollection of those words being said and memories of actions that didn’t quite match, only served as another blow to already cheek.

Each time I reeled back from the shockwaves, as I delved deeper into my psyche. Realisation kicked in, in a big way, I had to face the fact that I had been blinded by choice.  It was my choice, that all those niggles about our relationship, (or the things that I was unhappy with), had been pushed to one side.  I had carried on regardless. Boldly bowing down to my vows as a married woman, for richer for poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health etc, etc.

More fool me, when it dawned on me that instead of being loved and cared for, I had been ruthlessly taken for granted, manipulated, used, abused and abandoned.

I guess I always knew that something wasn’t quite right, it all seemed one-sided – I was doing all the giving, and he was doing all the taking.  But I had denied that fact to myself so long, that I almost didn’t believe it.

It was only when I started to look at the woman I had become, because of him, that the true damage became apparent… ‘I was running on empty’.  I felt completely stripped down to the bone, naked of even flesh.  I didn’t know who I was anymore.

I had been craving for the very things that he couldn’t or wouldn’t show or give to me.  I was indeed empty.  The ‘belief’ that he loved and appreciated me, had been based on the frequently used three words, that he used to keep me going.   However, there were seldom any ‘facts or acts’ to support them, they were quite simply just empty words.

The more I thought about it, the more my own true feelings toward him emerged. In my heart I had nothing left for him, and I had no idea when those feelings had left me.  But once again, I found myself in a very lonely place, it was hard justifying my reasons, to those who were also blinded by his charms.

Everything changed after that revelation.

I had woken up!

Finally I accepted that I wanted to start living ‘my’ life over again, but for ‘me’ this time.

Throughout all of this, I had blamed myself, I took on the responsibility, I think maybe because it was easier to deal with that way. After all had I not accepted and allowed his behaviour to continue?   So it was also down to me to stop it.

But all I want right now, is to find my smile and be happy again, because it’s way overdue!

 

Sharon Carter-Wray

(15thOctober 2014)

 

Note:

This was written a week before my Decree Absolute came through, unfortunately, I still had to spend another 6 months under the same roof as the waster I married! Sx J

 

 

 

8. Time to take a closer look

I realised, that I had been unhappy for quite some time, but it was not only because of my health issues.  I had suffered great loss, with the death of both my mum and my sister within two months of each other 5 years ago; the complete breakdown of my marriage, and life in general threw down a few challenges, that I had no choice but to accept.

My life changed again, and in a funny kind of way I was struck by the fact that

“life really is too short”.

The phrase became my mantra almost, I applied it to everything – people, situations, opportunities and arguments.  It was time to face the facts, and stand up and be counted.  The loss of my mum was tragic and unexpected.  The loss of my sister, well though expected, knocked the stuffing out of me.  I was with both of them when they took their last breaths, something I will forever be grateful for.  I don’t know why, but somehow, I was meant to be there, and couldn’t have possibly been anywhere else.Who's going to miss me

For my mum, she took her last breath, having her wish come true, not to die in a hospice where she was literally about to moved, but at the same time she was too ill to be at home.  I was alone with her for her final moments, having contacted all family members telling them to hurry.

They were very precious moments, a time I will never forget for as long as I live.

In a strange way, it was as if she knew, that I knew, that I would be the next in line to fill part of the hole that she would leave behind.  It still pains me so much every time I think of my ma, and even though I have had small snippets of grieving, I know there is a well so deep in my soul, just filled with tears for the person I truly lost, she can never be replaced by anyone.

So many times I ask myself, if she had purposely waited for me to get to the hospital, so she could finally let go.

My dear sister, had been ill for so many years, and she had fought her illness with all her might.  She never complained, or asked why she was chosen, she accepted it with all the graciousness you would have expected of a lady.  And she was a lady to her very last day.  She however, was in a hospice of and by her choice, she had picked where she wanted to end her days, because her home and sanctuary was no longer a piece of her heart.

You will find the need to let goShe gave us time to prepare for her leaving, she pulled us altogether so that we were all on the same page.  Some of us however, were a few pages ahead already.

She had kept her illness secret from my parents and other relatives, only saying what she wanted them to know.  But on the flip side, between brother and sisters, we had been tasked with some kind of strict pact.  We knew more about the depth, treatment and severity of her illness, but were sworn not to reveal anything.  I think she knew how hard it was for us to do so, but we all loved and respected her way too much, so we had to honour her choices.

I sat with my darling sister at her bedside, for 6 days and five nights, being there for every waking moment, and watching her as she slept. Each day, I would sit and make jewellery quietly, and talk to her when she was lucid.  There was nowhere else for me to be, I was right were I was supposed to be, right where I wanted to be.

I remember something she had said to me on one of my previous weekly visits, she knew of my unhappiness, the pressure I was under from having sorted our mums’ funeral.  But yet she said something to encourage and assure me that she believed in me, and that my life would be better.  She also understood that I had a few choice decisions to make, in order to bring about the improvements.

She was a huge part of my life, and God only knows the void that was left in me, from her passing.  From talking to her 2 or 3 times daily to nothing, had such a devastating impact on me.  There are still days now, when I wish I could call her, just to have a chat, and laugh about seeing the funny side of life.  Living this life

There is not a day goes by that I don’t see, think or talk to my ma, sister and brother who passed many years before.  When I am stuck, I talk out loud.  I have a deep conversation with them, telling them my thoughts, asking for guidance or support.  But the truth of the matter is that I feel them, they hold me close, they enwrap me, they are forever watching over me.  They are my angels, the stars in the night sky, and I still miss them all dreadfully, even as I write this I am so choked up and tearful.

I did the best I could for both of their send offs, both were beautiful days for two very beautiful women.

There has been so much to grieve for, including the loss of my husbands’ family, and my life losses.  One day will be the right day, when I can finally release all the grief inside of me, but for now I need to hold it together for just a bit longer.

I know for myself that writing this blog, is another doorway into my future.  I am at last giving myself permission to experience and explore my varying emotions and feelings.

 

Sharon Carter-Wray

(15thOctober 2014)

Note

I wish I could say that I didn’t still miss them, but last year – which was such a transitional year for me, was very difficult to get through.  I so needed their actual presence, but I got through it in the end.  Those who think that grieving is over and done within a couple of weeks are mistaken, it can take many many years to finally get over losing someone, and it is not a process that can be hurried.  Sx 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. All good things must come to an end…

All good things must come to an end…

For something better to begin!

Well. I guess I ought to give an explanation for my previous blog, ‘Journey through a painful body and a depressed mind’, the title says it all really, but that’s who I was, and still am to some degree.

The ‘painful body’ is all about an illness I suffer with called Fibromyalgia, which is a horrible condition to live with, as it entails being in chronic pain anywhere throughout your body.

Basically ‘Fibro” refers to the fibrous tissue surrounding joints and muscles, and ‘Myalgia’ relates to the pain.  But this is chronic pain, not just a few aches.

The severity, duration and locality of pain is different for each person, but things can be so bad, a person can be completely incapacitated or even bed ridden.  There is no cure for this condition, the only relief are strong pain killing drugs, which only dampen the pain down.

The problems are not in our heads, and it doesn’t just affect the physical body, it also grabs hold of your mind, emotions and daily activity.

Other ways it can affect a person:

Forgetfulness – being easily stressed – lacked concentration or focus –
confusion (Brain fog) – clumsiness – lack of sleep – being unsteady on your feet – muscles spasms – lack of sleep – reproduction – blood pressure – being easily tired or exhausted by the simplest of tasks – lack of sleep through constantly waking up – constantly being fatigued or drained of energy

This list could go on and on.

So, how does it affect me?  I suffer with symptoms from head to toe on a daily basis, even in my face, I don’t sleep well, I am always in pain, full stop. I am always worn out, it takes me forever to do things, and it has robbed me of many simple joys in life.  But I have no choice, I have to live with it just like everyone else, who suffers with this.

The last 6 years or so, have been the worse, I now understand that this is something I have probably had for most of my life, but something triggered it off and now it is full blown.  I only received a full diagnosis about two and a half years ago, at least it gave me a name for this monster.

What also doesn’t help me is that I also suffer with recurring Sciatica, I have spinal degeneration going on in my upper and lower back, and a whole host of other health problems.

But to look at me, I am the picture of perfect health!

As for the depression, that really took hold of me about 12 years ago, I literally skidded to a halt, then crashed and burned.  It is a strange sensation when you body takes over the decision making process, when your mind is still wanting to speed along.

I have often said:

“It was the best thing that could have happened to me’, as had I carried on with my life the way it was, then things would have truly ended up being a lot worse”.

In just a short space of time, my life changed forever, I was plunged into the darkness of a sound-proofed arena, where I could hear everything, but nobody heard me. It was the start of ‘My incredible journey’, that helped me revisit my life, my present, my past, my past past, eventually leading me to look at my new future.   I’ve had decisions to make, and many other issues to deal with along the way, but one thing was for sure, changes had to be made.

So here I am, this is where I’m at now aged 49, about to embark on possibly the most exciting time of my life…starting over again.  I am not out of the woods yet, but I can clearly see a bright light ahead of me.

I have stopped writing the other blog, because I decided that, that was not the person I wanted to be anymore, it’s not who I am now, I’m in a whole different place.
All good things must come to an end...

 

Sharon Carter-Wray

(29thSeptember 2014)

Note: Unfortunately, 5 weeks after writing this I was involved in a non-fault accident, which wrote my car off, and pulled the rug from under my feet and my life. Sx 🙂

 

6. And so the story continues.

I hope I haven’t made this whole thing about depression and healing myself, sound as if it were so easy.   Far from it.  What a lot of people don’t understand about depression is that there no magic cure, it is not about “picking yourself up”, or just “getting over it”.

10343534_750725918303441_1962090757916454038_n

People with real depression only wish that they could do just that, but it’s not a choice that we have.  People, who ask:

“What have you got to be depressed about?”, or “I’ve got a “friend” with the same problem and they did this”, or “You need to be getting out more and enjoying yourself”. And so on and so on.  Etcetera, etcetera…

These people, who can voice such incredible words of thoughtlessness, and insensitivity, have absolutely no fucking idea what they are saying to a depressed mind, or in fact to the person suffering.Contollers and abusers

In my life, they were people who knew me, until I realised they knew nothing about me.  And they knew even less about my life.

 

 

 

They merely saw the material things I had gathered all the chattels that should make me happy.

They saw the confidence I held in myself, the way I would always be the one to speak up, and who also always got the job done.

They didn’t see the pain I was in, or bear the pressure I was under, or notice my gradual decline. They didn’t know what was coming and neither did I.

But then one day it all stopped. 

Everything ceased to function. 

Everything shut down.

Not by my choice.  I had nothing to do with it.  My body decided it simply couldn’t take anymore, it was burnt out, exhausted, it needed to rest and be quiet.  And for a while, in such a weakened state I had tried to defend myself against these people and their words.

But, no matter how many times I tried to explain, why this had happened to me, it fell on deaf ears.

10363854_10152367627086413_535147839283016885_n

All they wanted was to find something else to blame it on; buying an new house, building work that was going on, my evening studies and my recent marriage.  Never, did anyone think that they personally, could be even remotely responsible.

That’s when I realised, that I had to emotionally remove these people from my life.  They caused me more damage and more pain than I needed or could cope with, and they used up all of what little energy I still had.

Sharon Carter-Wray

(5thMarch 2012)

 

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