It’s May…

 

Almost the end of May, to be exact. This month my little nephew turned one year old (and remains absolutely delicious and squishy and wonderful), my sister turns 23 (how is she so grown up), and I am coming to the end of an utterly exhausting month.

Fortunately, there is a Bank Holiday approaching and being the savvy Annual Leave taker that I am, I had the foresight to book the Tuesday and Wednesday off as well. Heather is off home for Half Term so I have Saturday to Wednesday completely free to do anything or nothing, and everything in between.

In my supervision last week, my line manager and I talked about how I always seem to fill my ‘time off’ with busy things. Case in point – the Easter weekend….

I took the Thursday off (before Good Friday) and travelled home on the train on the Wednesday after work. It has been many years since I got the train home to Devon and I have to say, I don’t really miss the travel into London, getting the tube to Paddington, and then the several hours hurtling through the countryside to Plymouth. However…. the technological developments over the last few years have been great and I actually spent most of the journey watching ’13 Reasons Why’ on my phone, thanks to Netflix and a great data package. 18 year old Sarah is very jealous of 28 (almost) year old Sarah!

So, I arrived into Plymouth very late on the Wednesday night (and promptly nearly broke my ankle with my suitcase so had a fetching bruise for a few days). Mum picked me up and I spent the weekend at hers… bed on the floor in the living room, so very little sleep and no chance of a lie-in!! Nice to be home though.

Mum and I spent Thursday looking after the little boy. (When I say ‘little boy’ I am usually referring to Ezra, although possibly I could be referring to our dog Toby who was the ‘little boy’ prior to the nephew’s arrival. It gets confusing now) I walked the dog in the morning and then Rebecca and Simeon brought Ezra over and went off for a date day while I got to enjoy a date day with my squish! Mum usually takes him to a Nursery Rhyme group at a local library on Thursdays so that’s what we did…so cute. Save the local library!!! Ezra seems to go there at least 3 times a week with each of his grandmothers and sometimes my sister takes him too! Then we went for an afternoon tea (Ezra likes scones, who’d have guessed) and completely wore ourselves out looking at ducks.

Friday (Good Friday) we all went to a place called Antony House in Cornwall. It’s a National Trust property with lovely gardens and grounds, which were used for the filming of the newest version of Alice in Wonderland a few years ago. We had a long walk round the gardens and looked at all the flowers etc, had a picnic, and then looked around the house. Again, exhausting.

Saturday – I went down to Cornwall again to spend the day with my little sister Jessica and my stepmum. We all went to Tintagel (a little village with an old ruined castle, reportedly where King Arthur was conceived…or so the 7 year old told me) We had fish and chips, explored the beach and the caves, had a cup of tea in the café and just generally enjoyed time together. After we went back to their caravan in this sweet little caravan park and played word games until I had to go home…. and then I got lost in deepest darkest Cornwall without a satnav and it took several hours to get home. (I was driving Mum’s car since I got the train on Wednesday)

Sunday, Easter Sunday, we had a roast dinner at Rebecca and Simeon’s (which Mum cooked) and I spent the day reading in the sunshine. It was lovely. Mum did a little Easter egg hunt for Ezra… plastic eggs with dinosaur toys in… he squealed a lot which I think meant he liked it!

Monday…. urgh, Monday. Mum and I (and a million others) drove from Plymouth up country. It took us nearly 10 hours to get from Plymouth to Canterbury. Fortunately we were able to share the driving so that helped a lot. We got home early evening and crashed out a bit.

Tuesday, we went to London!!!! We drove to my work to collect my car, since I was going to be driving into London itself and wanted my familiar car. We did London driving!! Across Westminster Bridge, past Tower of London, near the Houses of Parliament. I was very impressed with myself but internally very nervous about it! The reason for our trip was to have Afternoon Tea at a hotel near Kensington (Mothers’ Day treat) and then go to the Classic FM Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Both were lovely, and we walked round Kensington Gardens too, in the sunshine. I think this could be an annual occurrence but only if we’re on public transport next time.

Wednesday, I had another day off work but we were both shattered so we had a restful morning at home and then met up with my brother and sister-in-law for lunch in Canterbury. It was lovely to spend time with them as well, it’s always good to see them when Mum comes up.

And that was my ‘weekend off’. Back to work on the Thursday, Mum drove back to Plymouth and ‘life’ started again.

Not exactly restful. So, this Bank Holiday weekend… have I learned my lesson and not booked anything?! (Have I heck.)

Well, sort of, actually. On Saturday I am having breakfast at a local café with Jonnie and Kate, who are visiting from Bradford, then I have choir rehearsal followed by afternoon tea later. Sunday I have church. That’s it though. No obligations on Sunday afternoon, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.

It will be nice to rest and recover following a hectic and intense month of May! And maybe one day I’ll finally find the balance between business and restfulness…

-x-

Advertisements

Insomnia…urgh

Insomnia is a big battle in my life. It has been for over a year and a half. I can’t remember exactly when it started being an issue, but it’s certainly been a significant problem since last summer – after I got back from the States. What I put down to jetlag at first soon proved to be more; I was having night after night of not getting to sleep until 2 or 3 in the morning, feeling absolutely shattered and miserable and a little bit like I was going mad.

I love and need my sleep. My bed is a special place of rest and comfort, and constant nights of tossing and turning were making me hate it, and feel anxious about bedtime for fear that I wouldn’t sleep at all…. so I started making a concerted effort to monitor my sleep around the autumn.

I have struggled with PMS since the beginning of my degree, and it has gotten worse over time, and for the last few years I’ve used an App to track my cycle and my emotional ups and downs. It has been extremely helpful to be able to check the App and note where I am in the cycle, and suddenly have it all make sense why I feel sad for no reason, irrational and snappy, or anxious with none of my triggers happening.

I was already using the App to note my moods, and I started using it to keep a note of whether I’d slept well or had disrupted sleep, if i’d struggled to get to sleep or gone off easily.

I matched my sleep patterns up with my App and recognised that my insomnia was waaaayyyyy worse at certain times of the month. I went to see my GP who said that yes, insomnia is another delightful symptom of PMS and suggested I start taking the pill… so I did.

It helped massively with the emotional rollercoaster, but not so much with the sleeping. Having said that; feeling emotionally well definitely helps with managing sleep deprivation!

Then came a bad period at work which really triggered my PTSD, and along with that a run of nights where I would barely get a few hours’ sleep in the early hours of the morning, having struggled the whole night and driven myself crazy with anxiety and all the yuck that comes with PTSD. I spoke to the pharmacist who suggested Nytol as a short term solution to getting back into a good sleep rhythm.

Woah are those things effective… one tablet and I was out like a light within 20 minutes and slept the whole night through! Proper, restful, But, I didn’t like the concept of having to take a tablet to sleep – so I made sure I only took them a couple of times a week, and only if it got to midnight and I was still not asleep (I go to bed around 10pm on weeknights) That way, I got a few good nights’ sleep each week but was still tired on other days and had a good level of actual tiredness that let me get to sleep!

I managed to get into a relatively normal sleep pattern again, and only taking the tablets on a Sunday night (to make sure I could get a good nights’ sleep for work the next day)

I also did some self-analysis into things that helped me sleep or hindered it. I discovered that I can’t sleep if I’m cold, but I also can’t sleep if I’m too hot! (I have three different bed covers right now and use different combinations of each of them depending on how I’m feeling.) I sometimes like a thinner cover but it also needs to have a bit of weight to it! (I am such a contradiction terms) My hot water bottle is my friend!

I can’t sleep if I’m even the slightest bit hungry or thirsty, but I also can’t sleep too soon after eating or drinking. (About an hour before is the best time)

I can’t sleep if I’ve had too much screen time (so no phone or tablet in the hour before bed if I can help it) I’ve been reading my way through the Narnia books instead of watching Netflix or other shows.

I can’t sleep straight after a shower, or if my hair is wet (so I got a shower cap for the times I don’t want to get my hair wet at all, and a hairdryer for the times when it really needs washing – after the gym or whatever)

Other things that work…

Weirdly, I can’t sleep if my feet are too hot, so I have sometimes had to get up and stick my feet under the shower to cool them off and then I’ve managed to get to sleep almost straight away

Another very strange (but effective) tactic is to switch ends of the bed – move my pillows to the bottom of the bed and switch my quilt round and somehow that helps!

I’ve made a blend of essential oils known to help facilitate sleep/good sleep/restfulness/calm which I apply to my neck, pulse points, and feet. I also have a spray version that I can apply to my pillows/bedding.

A lady from church noticed my Facebook statuses about not being able to sleep and offered to pray for me. She’d been through sleeplessness and insomnia herself so knows the awful effects it can have; she sent me a song that she used to play to help her recognise God’s power over insomnia and to remember that He is in control over everything (putting aside anxiety etc) She really encouraged me to pray over my sleeping and I think it has really helped!!

Over the winter, all through to March, I gradually got to the stage where I stopped thinking about whether I’d sleep and just went off to bed with no anxiety or worry at all. Still the very occasional night of little sleep but it’s completely manageable when the majority of nights are good sleep.

Then the flippin’ clocks changed!!! I don’t know if there is any real connection but since then I have had far many more insomnia nights. Thanks to knowing what helps and doesn’t, I feel like I’m managing this ok – but I am also taking the herbal version of Nytol maybe twice a week to help. Not a long term solution but sometimes you have to do the thing that helps you right now.

Do you have any ideas or solutions for insomnia?

-x-

 

 

I turned 25 two days ago, on the 2nd June.I had a lovely birthday, but the two days since have been full of stress and worry and anxiety. What’s worse is that I have completely let it overwhelm me. I had a panic attack yesterday (and one last week) which freaked me out as it’s been years since that last happened.

I just feel completely swamped and crushed under the weight of a whole lot of responsibility at work.

But my God is bigger. I don’t quite know how to resolve this heavy feeling in my heart without Him. All I can do is draw close and wait for His help. I know He will respond, because He loves me

Day 3/5 of Ofsted – or – I am BLESSED

I have been a social worker for 3 years now. I was with the Agency where I am now employed as a student for a year before I qualified. So that makes 4 years of fostering experience. There have been many times in those four years where I thought “surely this [incident/event/situation] is as stressful as it’s going to get. Once I’ve got through this, it’ll be a piece of cake…”

And then Ofsted came.

Having every teeny part of my work – our Agency’s work – scrutinised, is exhausting. I think I’ve spent about 15 hours with the inspector over the past 3 days.

Last night on the way home I prayed for today’s meetings with the inspector, that God would give me wisdom and peace in it all, that our staff morale would boost (scrutiny is stressful) …and then I remembered something…

My salvation is not affected by this inspection

Jesus died for me. His opinion of me is never going to change.

Irrespective of what this inspector says about the agency I work for, or even about me specifically (good or bad) I am saved. This is what God says about me:

I am a child of God.
But to all who have received him–those who believe in his name–he has given the right to become God’s children … (John 1:12).

I am a friend of Jesus.
But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father (John 15:15).

I have been justified and redeemed
But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

The Holy Spirit dwells in me…
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 6:19)?

…and helps me.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my [Jesus] name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

I am BLESSED
…our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

And so, in conclusion – for now…

Yes, Ofsted is very scary and intimidating and exhausting and time-consuming and emotional and I don’t really like it…

I know that I am blessed…and it will be okay.

 

Tired. Just tired.

This is me. A sleepy little pug who needs a cosy warm bed, but could equally fall asleep on bare floorboards right now.

I have been on call for the past two weeks. In the midst of that, I found out my sister has cancer and went home for 4 days – but I was still on call and dealing with emergencies.

In the past 14 days I have had to manage 3 missing person incidents, four emergency placement moves, two incidents involving the police: one for criminal damage and one for assault, and a child protection investigation.

It’s been so wonderful.

I have no idea what is going on with my kids, or their carers, but I hope something settles down soon. We are due Ofsted any time now and I don’t think my poor little anxiety-girl heart can stand anymore stress.

In good news, I’m getting a back/neck/shoulder massage tomorrow and I am looking forward to it in a way that words cannot even describe!

-x-

My sister has cancer

There’s a scene near the end of the film “Sweet Home Alabama” where Reese Witherspoon is ditching Patrick Dempsey at the altar. He stands there, numb, and says “So this is what this feels like”

That scene made sense to me yesterday, when my little sister Abigail (who is not so little; 19 years old and 6 ft 2) called me up after work and told me that the series of lumps she found in her neck six months ago are in fact, thyroid cancer.

goofysister

I don’t know about you, but when I hear of horrible situations happening to people I know, my mind wanders a bit and I wonder how I would cope in that situation. I wonder how I would feel.

As it turns out, there is no way to prepare for news like this, and more than 24 hours later, I still don’t know how I feel.

Today I was such a scatter brain that I managed to spill a nearly full cup of tea over myself. First thing in the morning. While wearing a white t-shirt. Idiot. The rest of the day I had the attention span of a gnat. Oh, and I almost poured boiling water over myself whilst trying to make a cup of tea later in the afternoon.

Right now, I am focusing on the things that I know – rather than the things I don’t. I’m resisting the urge to Google…once I know the official name of it, I’ll do some research but until then it would just be too weird.

Things I know
Abigail has thyroid cancer which is also affecting her lymph glands
She is having surgery to remove it on 2nd October
After that, she’ll be having radio-iodine treatment to eradicate any further cancer
God is in control

loveneverfails

I know that lots of people, when faced with awful situations, will rail against God and blame him. Millions of people use the fact that there is sickness and suffering in the world as an excuse not to believe in Him. Not me. I know that God is in control and He has this whole situation in hand. More than that, He’s been preparing us for this.

How?

Abigail has a friend called Jess, who earlier this year had a stroke and later found out she had leukaemia. Jess is a good friend of Abigail’s and they work together, so Abigail has seen her at her best and worst through her own illness. Jess’ consultant is called Dr Malik. Dr Malik is also Abigail’s consultant. When she was waiting for her results, Abigail sat down with Jess and Jess was very lovely and explained exactly what it’s like to have cancer. Abigail then felt reassured that she knew what she might be facing – even though none of us wanted it to be this. What an angel Jess has been.

This time last year, our family’s support network was very small. It was basically just the immediate family; eight of us, a rabbit and a dog. Yesterday when I spoke to my mum and my sister, there were about a dozen non-family people that we could think of who will help us through this – my mum’s new friends that she has met through a course she attended and a lovely friend from work, my brother-in-law’s family, our friend Penny who lives in the village… we have people.

This time two years ago my Mum and Abigail both suffered from severe depression. Both of them still have depression, but nowhere near the extent that they did before. While this has knocked us all for six (daft expression) it is not going to beat us down.

So while I do still feel unprepared for news like this; I know that God has prepared us for this – and I can, and will, turn to Him throughout this time.

Tomorrow, my sister and brother in law are driving back to Plymouth from Wales, and after work my brother and his girlfriend and I are driving down as well. We are all assembling, like the Avengers, to talk and hug and watch Disney movies. This is what we do.

Abigail has started a blog – of course – because she is a fighter and wants to document her journey. You can read more here: http://mylife-cherryblossom.tumblr.com/

There may be blog-silence for a little while. There may be blog overload for a while. I don’t know really.

But what I do know?

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me

On and one and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains

In death and in life I’m confident and covered by the power of your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that can separate my heart from your great love

(One Thing Remains; Jesus Culture)

262601_10153050100880475_1197029165_n

Could I possibly be more tired?!

Image
Tired puppy has nothing on me

I am so unbelievably tired of this week…of this fortnight, actually. Now that I am feeling a bit better, I realise just how sick I was last week. I still have a stuffy nose and nasty cough which feels like it’s rattling my brain, and gets worse throughout the day (it’s like my lungs get tired of working or something lame like that) I also seem to be temporarily deaf in my right ear so I get worried that I am shouting at everyone because I can’t hear them.

The sad thing is, even with a three day Bank Holiday weekend (where I spent pretty much the whole of Saturday in bed, and did virtually nothing on Monday) I still feel completely wrecked. Like I could do with a couple of days’ extra sleep. I was hoping to have a restful weekend this weekend, and celebrate my birthday on Sunday with friends and peace and quiet, but I have to supervise a contact on Saturday afternoon, I am on-call after probably the most horrifically contentious and busy fortnight of my career so far, and I can’t have Monday off because I have another big paperwork deadline which has crept up on me due to the aforementioned business [and sickness – which I am sure is connected] of the past two weeks.

(I do have Friday booked off…apart from 3 hours or so in the middle of the day where I have a meeting…but Friday seems such a long way away)

Despite being so tired, last night I had an unbelievable case of insomnia which resulted in me getting up at 1am and watching Gilmore Girls on DVD until I felt vaguely sleepy. Which wasn’t until 3.30am.

And then…I woke up this morning and checked my phone…and saw it was 8.19am! I usually get up at 7!! Cue major panics, no bath, getting dressed in about 3 minutes, shoving my hair in a messy ponytail and grabbing a banana for lunch. I got from bed (asleep) to my colleague’s car in 6 minutes flat.

But why was my colleague was picking me up for work, I hear you ask?! Well, because…as if being sick, and overworked, and tired, was not enough –

Yesterday my gearstick broke, while I was driving on one of the busiest roundabouts in Canterbury, during rush hour!!!

 Image

I just couldn’t believe it. Only a few weeks ago I was talking to my mum and saying I was saving up to get my car serviced and sorted out – and I said that as long as it didn’t conk out in the meantime (because I have no money until the end of this month as a result of paying off my moving costs) everything would be fine. So what does my car go and do…?!

But do you know what? I am not freaking out. Actually, more to the point – I am CHOOSING not to freak out.

It would be so easy to curl up in a ball on my living room floor (or potentially in my bed which is cosier and slightly less like a psychotic break) and cry and moan and rant and demand to know why God hates me and why my life sucks and why things are so hard…and I’m not saying I didn’t nearly have a little weep about it all…but:

I am choosing to trust God; my God who loves me, and is in control, and only does good things in my life, and never gives me more than I can handle, and who doesn’t let me down – ever, and who provides everything I will ever need, and who protects me, and who knows exactly how this will all work out.

Did you know that one of the most frequent commands in the Bible is to “FEAR NOT” ?

There is no point in me worrying … because God has it all in hand. He has ME and my life in hand.

Matthew 6: 25 – 34 … Do Not Be Anxious

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow.”

 

It will all be ok…because God loves me and my hope is in Him.

-x-