2013; The good, the bad and the ugly

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The end of a year encourages us all to reflect upon how the year treated us and I am no different. 2013 has like any year that has gone before it seen highs and lows (although neither to an extreme in my mood thank goodness!!!), over all it was a good year, stable and steady.

The highlights of this year for me have included seeing my 87 year old grandmother become mobile again after fracturing her spine last Christmas, she isn’t as sprightly as she was a decade ago but then she is nearer 90 than 18 so I guess that is to be expected. I love my grandmother so much, her home became mine when my mother married again and I was no longer welcome. She continues to inspire me everyday with her stoical take on life whilst still showing that she can accept the changes that the future brings; she was 84 when she learned to text!

Another highlight has been seeing and indeed hearing my daughter who has just turned seven go from a ‘read by following her finger’ sort of girl to seemingly all of a sudden being so fluent and developing a passion for books. I’m hoping in the next few years I may be able to write a passion for literature but however great Jacqueline Wilson is I doubt Tracy Beaker will ever rank alongside Jane Austin or Tess D’Urberville as an equal. She has begun to realise the power that words hold and her use of language amazes her father and I every time she opens her mouth. She listened to my reply to a question she had asked recently and informed me “I sense that if you had written that reply down you would have put an exclamation mark at the end!” She was right. When during a car journey discussing my birthday she spelled out to her daddy “don’t forget we still need to write out the C A R D” as if I wasn’t able to understand in the same way we used to be able to say to each other about taking her for a
H A P P Y M E A L when we haven’t managed to get to the supermarket so I guess her reading has its pro’s and con’s 🙂

At the start of the year I had difficulties with student finance which was tough for a while but fortunately I had a job for a at the time so we managed to get through and when the back pay eventually came we were determined to use it wisely. Our fridge freezer was making a whoooooshing noise and was leaking regularly leaving me mop in hand so we decided to replace that, then we discovered how much it would be to replace the integrated appliance. We weighed up cost of replacing it integrated versus freestanding and decided free standing as it was cheaper and also we don’t plan on staying here for too much longer so at least we could take it with us. Now I’m guessing if you ave read this far you are probably wondering why I am sharing my fridge purchase with you as part of my review of 2013? Was it such an outstanding appliance that it puts the shopping away itself and I feel I ought to share my joy with you? No. You see I still haven’t bought the fridge freezer but I feel I had to set the scene for the hidious situation which occurred in June. My kitchen fell down. Yeah I mean literally fell down.

I worked out that if we spent the back pay on some extra units to expand the kitchen as it is very small then waited until the following month to replace the fridge freezer as a free standing then I’d have virtually a whole new kitchen which to be fair was also needed. So I went to the large chain orange branded DIY store and selected some lovely reasonably priced units and cupboard doors for the rest. It was like 60 minute makeover but without the tens of skilled workers to assemble it. We hired a man who advertised his services and after meeting with him for him to quote on the job and being pleased with the photographs of previous kitchen installations he had worked on, we agreed to pay him at the end once the work was done. All was going well and I was making cups of coffee for him at regular intervals when on the third day he called me through to the kitchen it was finished. It was a thing of beauty and I knew that once w replaced the whoooooshy old fridge next month it would be literally perfect. So at around noon I paid him as he left. I began filling the cupboards again when my world came crashing down. Literally…

My new kitchen units fell off the wall and on top of me smashing the ceramic hob and scratching the new benches on the way down. An evening in A&E and a few angry calls to the workman left us rather stressed to say the least. Anyway the reason I shared this here in my review of the year was to explain the reasoning behind why we we spent the rest of the year broke beyond belief. Ironically the only glassware and crockery that DIDN’T smash into million pieces was a set of champagne flutes and a set of martini glasses… because you need them everyday as a student nurse!

So with this happening in June and school holidays being just round the corner from that we decided to throw all sense we had out of the window and still went on our camping holiday even though we had spent the money set aside for this trying to put our kitchen right. To be honest my camping kitchen was and still is more functional than my kitchen but wow we needed that break. We live in an upstairs apartment without a garden or yard so for our daughter to have the freedom of the campsite is always immense. I described our love of camping and the instantaneous positive impact of it on my mental health in a previous blog, it is better than any medication I take. We really couldn’t afford that holiday and here on 31st December my kitchen still isn’t finished, and my fridge freezer still whoooooshes and leaks but when Eve grows up she won’t remember that, she will remember donkey rides along the beach and her mammy nearly killing daddy when he got up to go to the loo overnight and I thought he was breaking into the tent so set upon him with the camping mallet!!! Happy days under canvas, who even needs a kitchen anyway?

Throughout 2013 I have developed as a person and as a student nurse, qualifying summer 2014 as a Mental Health Nurse now feels like a reality rather than a pipe dream. I was only five months discharged from a lengthy hospital stay for depression when I started this degree which was a ridiculous pressure to put upon myself and I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone but thank goodness it did work out for me and fingers crossed I will qualify in a few months. I am fully well now, my symptoms have been in remission for a long time and the part of me who waits for someone to put their hand on my shoulder when working on placement to say it was all a mistake and I should never have been allowed on the course is subsiding as I believe in myself more. I believe I deserve to be on that course and that I will be a good nurse at the end of it. I see it as a passion and a profession and embrace both of those aspects, in fact maybe that is another blog post for another day?

I worked with another service user in developing a module for student midwives about maternal mental health and this proved phenomenally successful, so much so we have written an article which we hope to have published in 2014 about working collaboratively to ensure the most effective learning outcomes are achieved by students. Hearing those student midwives say how much this exercise will change their future practice made all the hard work worthwhile. It was one of my proudest moments of 2013.

On top of the financial legacy left by the kitchen disaster, being in my final year at uni strangely enough means less student loan, I have no idea why as we are still on placement until August. On top of this as I worked for a few months last year we have had this money take from us this year in the form of tax credits being reduced, all in all the past six and the next six months are financially a bit shit if I’m honest. Prior to Christmas I at least had a reason for my insomnia given that it is usually quite indiscriminate and doesn’t need a reason this made a refreshing change.

I have blogged for over a year now and I guess if you are reading this you have maybe kept up to date with my brain farts on twitter too? I have been open with people more than ever about my history of mental illness, I have even been open about my experiences of childhood trauma and how that has impacted upon my life. I blogged about these disclosures and don’t regret any of them, sometimes people need to be able to understand you and unless they have the full story that will always prove impossible. I looked stigma in the face and blew a raspberry.

Talking about stigma I can’t review 2013 without mentioning how just when I thought as a nation we were doing so well fighting Mental Health Stigma with campaigns such as ‘Time to Change’ it came back with avengence and bit us on the backside. The Sun newspaper kicked things off with a damaging headline informing the country that 1200 had been killed by mental patients, I wondered if they would follow this up with figures for how many murderers have a type 2 diabetes diagnosis or how many arsonists have high blood pressure but alas no it was purely aimed at scaring the public when those of us who bother to look a little deeper know that someone with a mental health condition is far more likely to be a victim of violence than perpetrate it. I could go on and on about this but it would end up a rant and chances are if you are reading this we sing from the same hymn sheet anyway so I don’t need to. Then later in the year as we approached halloween Asda and Tesco produced ‘mental patient’ costumes, seriously, how many people signed those purchases off before they made it to the shop floor? Thank goodness they both acknowledged their error and apologised but it got me thinking, am I naive to believe stigma is disappearing? Apparently I am as Thorpe park was the next to show ignorance in their use of language offering an attraction where visitors could be chased through the wards in their ‘Asylumn’for fun. Language has power and for big organisations to be so lacking in thought when advertising things is just not acceptable. Even the Tyne and Wear metro system has produced a safety campaign where they use the words stupid and insane interchangeably, I am not a militant PC brigade obsessive I just feel I have an obligation to challenge stigma and discrimination. I lost my career due to stigma and even some friends but like suffragettes fought for gender equality and many people fought for racial equality I know I must keep fighting for this cause. Its too close to my heart not to.

I took part in the 2013 Slutwalk to raise awareness of the concept of rape culture an slut-shaming in the same year that Robin Thicke released ‘Blurred Lines’ again another example of ignorant langauage. For goodness sake I thought society had smashed the glass ceiling of misogyny, that my daughter and her friends need only ever know about it as history but apparently not. Some women let the side down as well though, Miley Cyrus is a good example although I wonder if she is simply a pawn in some industry mogul’s game?

Aside from letting women down the likes of Katie Hopkins let the human race down in 2013, what a vile woman she is. Tyler’s of the world beware as Ms Hopkins doesn’t feel you worthy of playing with her children, oh and if you happen to be ginger as well she likely is planning on your extermination so consider your safety as paramount!

Things I have loved this year have been simple ones, I have loved listening to my daughter sing along to the radio in the back of the car, I loved seeing her develop into her own person rather than an extension of us as her parents, I have loved living close to the sea and coming home from walks with tight cheeks from the salt. I have loved my placements at university where I know I have found my niche in nursing, I love that 2013 has taught me about myself and that I am more content than I have ever been.

Things I have loathed about 2013 include having seen some friends in pain physically and emotionally and not being able to offer any resolution to their difficulties. I offered friendship and support and hope that was enough.

As for resolutions I will won’t be making any as such, just to carry on doing what I am doing as the steady, stable life has been just what I needed. I have learned to live with the residual symptoms of mental illness such as anxiety but also learned that it is ok to ask for help when I need it. 2013 may have taught me to act less as a swan and more as the dysfunctional duck I actually am. The swan act has served its purpose and allowed me to give a facade of confidence when I didn’t feel that way at all, when I was serene on the surface and my legs were paddling like mad under the surface but its time to set that swan free and just be honest going towards the future.

I wish you all the very best wishes for 2014 and hope that you are able to move forward with a light heart and emotional freedom. I will hopefully be in full paid employment as a qualified mental health nurse this time next year using the experiences I have had to make me the best nurse I am capable of being offering hope to people when they need it most. It will be a tough year academically and a tiring one but I’m hoping for a good one 🙂

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