Why middle aged women wear cardigans

Today is #WorldMenopauseDay and I consider myself an armchair expert as I’ve been stuck in this unpleasant life stage for MORE THAN TEN YEARS! Don’t worry, dear reader, this only happens to a very small number of women.

Anyway, moving swiftly on, I’m sharing something I wrote elsewhere, with a few new additions. I hope it doesn’t scare you too much…

You see the menopause is a bit like childbirth, but without the possibility of a baby once you’re done. Some sail through it with no symptoms and no problems. Some stoical women just get on with life. Some are saved by HRT. Some swear by this potion, or that regime. The rest of us just drink wine. Even though we know it makes our symptoms worse.

Possible Symptoms

(These have been most of mine, I’m sure there are many, many more. One of my friends just blames everything on the menopause. It’s easier that way)

…Severe headaches

…Aching joints

…Night sweats

…Exhaustion

…Confusion

…Irritability

…Anxiety

…Depression

…Memory Loss

…Wrinkles

…Weight Gain

…The Hot Flush.  Queen of all the symptoms.

They will remind you of labour contractions, as they build like a wave…

1. You start to feel irritable.

2. Your ailments become ten times worse.

3. You begin to feel dizzy.

4. You have to stop or slow what you are doing.

5.  You can’t think, you just have to try and breathe through it.

6. You start to heat up, it prickles and burns.  Then you start to sweat.  A scarlet flush may creep up from your chest.

7. Just when you think you can’t take any more, it all fades away.  Until the next one.  Which might be 10 minutes later.

The pluses

It took me a long time to think of these…

…Bigger boobs (whether you want them or not!)

…No more periods.

…A final farewell to spot cream.

…No more fiddling around with bits of rubber.  Or whatever it is you use.  Except you can’t do that immediately, or you could end up with a ‘change of life’ baby.  It does happen apparently.

…You can do as you please, and dress as you like.  Believe me, unless you’re Sharon Stone no-one will care any more (with the possible exception of any kids you may have), and there’s a certain freedom in that.  Time to embrace your inner eccentric!

What you can do

Well I tried everything.  HRT was wonderful, but did not agree with me.  I spent a small fortune on fancy supplements and special foods, none of which made any difference at all.  In desperation I even bought a ‘magic’ magnet that you put in your knickers….what was I thinking?

What does help

HRT: a miracle for some.

Exercise: even though you won’t feel much like it.

A healthy diet: sounds boring, but you’ll probably want to eat more healthily – munch on a burger and it will sit like a rock in your stomach, weighing you down and making you feel worse.

Friends: more important than ever.

Laughter: you just have to laugh at it all.


A little of what you fancy: whether that’s wine, chocolate or crochet.  Anything to keep sane and provide a little distraction.

The great outdoors: perhaps that is why gardening is so popular with older women?  More than ever I crave fresh air and sunshine.

Antidepressants: Sometimes these really do make a difference.

Makeup: the long lasting stuff

Ice packs: the highlight of House of Cards for me was when Claire stuck her head in the freezer as she felt the heat rising.

Clothing: Denim and black hide a multitude of sweaty patches! So do patterns.  Avoid flimsy fabrics and invest in cardigans and anything else you can wriggle out of quickly!

Breathe: Learn to breathe through the hot flushes, and that will stop you panicking. 

There are many people who harp on about the menopause being natural.  So are lots of other horrible things: it doesn’t mean we have to put up with them.

As for me? Well I keep reminding myself that while the menopause is annoying, embarrassing and exhausting, it’s not a disease and it’s not going to kill me, so things could be a lot worse. I’ve managed to shift most of the weight gain through diet and exercise, and some of the other symptoms have lessened over time, apart from the hot flushes. In the meantime, I will just keep adding to my collection of cardigans…

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What’s A&E REALLY like?

The media coverage of the A&E crisis meant that I’d begun saying I’d rather die at home than go there. It sounded like my idea of hell.

So it was with much trepidation that I headed to that exact place on Friday morning with a patient.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived to a quiet, clean and half empty room. All was calm, and we were able to sign in straight away. They forgave the lack of a GP letter, and told us we would be seen as soon as possible.

We we’re triaged after about 15 minutes.

Then the wait began.

Would it be 1 hour, or 48? Who knew?

I was barely able to use my phone, so I spent most of the morning observing those around me: the family chatting and laughing in the back row, the young woman talking loudly on her phone and sharing the details of her life with the rest of us too, one person in tears, and another asked to leave and told to visit her GP instead. Visitors wandering in and out of the door, stressed going out, smoky smelling when they returned.

Gradually the seats filled up and you could feel the stress building in the room. Some – just a few – were called through, and did not return.

After three hours I was getting antsy, from lack of information and lack of coffee. Perhaps we’d been forgotten….

I don’t use A&E, so I was unsure of the etiquette. Can you ask where you are in the queue? Or is that just using up valuable staff time?

Just as I was about to try it, the patient’s name was called.

Off we went through the double doors.

First stop was the emergency consultant. The story was told, tests were done. Then more waiting.

Then we met with a specialist in a consulting room. More conversations followed, a plan was prepared, and finally, FINALLY, we were able to pop down to the cafe and get some coffee.

After 8 hours, we were allowed home.

The day brought into sharp focus the fragility of my support system, and I am hugely grateful to everyone who provided practical help and on-line support too.

It also made me wonder about simple changes that could surely make the A&E experience much less stressful.

Like a sandwich trolley or mobile shop that could visit every hour with coffee, tea and healthy food (not like the crap in the vending machines) as well as other useful items like tissues and newspapers.

And why oh why has no one invented an airport style electronic update board – surely everyone could be given a number when they arrive, and then being able to track their place in the queue would alleviate some of the stress? If it works at busy pedestrian crossings, surely it could work in A&E?

Saying all that, the staff actually were as lovely and caring as everyone says, and my opinion of A&E has improved a little. My fear of being taken there has reduced. But then we didn’t head down there on a Saturday night…

 

Reasons to be cheerful 12.10.17

I cannot tell you how badly I need to find reasons to be cheerful this week, and yet when you look for them, they are always there…

A weekend so packed with activities that there was no time for my disabled daughter B to watch her favourite Britney DVD. I can’t say I minded too much…

Saturday began with another Rabbits and Runners Event in Malahide. This volunteer group provides supported walks and runs for children and young adults with special needs, disabilities and autism.

Rabbits and RUnners

Then there was drama, closely followed by the Rainbow Junior Arch Club.

Sunday included a little light shopping in the morning followed by a trip to the Busker Fleadh, a free event (we love those!) in nearby Smithfield plaza with a huge variety of musical performances. B loved it, of course 😍😍 especially as we met one of her long time friends…

The Sunday Times book section is one of my favourite reasons for getting the Sunday papers – I never get around to reading most of the books that sounds interesting, but I learn so much from reading the reviews, which often include fascinating anecdotes about every subject under the sun.

More walking with one of my other children means a few more photos like this one and happy memories of beautiful places around Dublin.

Rush

Finally on Tuesday I managed to get to most of my Zumba class, good for my mood, brain and pocket: because it’s free!

So those are my reasons to be cheerful for this week, hope you have some too, and head over to Lakes Single Mum for more.

#Budget18 – Loose Change or No Change

I didn’t listen to the budget, I can’t stand the usual self congratulation on apparent economic achievements that rarely seem to improve family life here.

My disabled daughter will be better off by €5 a week, as she will benefit from an increase in the disability allowance. That will probably be swallowed up by her contribution to the household energy budget, as electricity and gas prices are forecast to increase substantially in the next few months.

Apart from the €5 loose change, there was very little in the budget for disabled adults.

To find out the details, I watched a video issued by the Irish Minister for Disability. He’s getting an extra €75 million, and his stated priorities are emergency places, respite places and ‘day care’ for school leavers with intellectual disabilities. Also the upcoming Justice Budget will apparently include enough funding for the Decision Support Service for disabled people. None of these announcements fills me with joy.

Currently my severely disabled daughter B has a great adult day programme of activities, but it is only guaranteed for another 12 months.  The Minister is promising more adult ‘day care’. Excuse me? My daughter does not need an adult crèche, Minister. That may have been a slip of the tongue, but it shows the mind set that is out there. A mind set that HAS to change if disabled people are to be valued as equal members of society.

So no change to that worry.

Emergency places are welcome, but for all the wrong reasons. They are the last resort to prevent adults with disabilities ending up on the streets if their carers die before them. Ideally there should be life time planning with a gradual transition from family home to some kind of independent living. The spectre of ’emergency’ placements means ripping people from their family homes, from everyone and everything they know and putting them in the care of strangers. I dread to think what that would do to my daughter, who would not understand why such a terrible thing was happening.

In the current situation more respite places would be welcome. But based on past policy decisions, it is unlikely that suitable places for those with complex needs like my daughter will be developed. She has had no respite for years. She needs it. She needs to feel safe sleeping away from home, and confident that others can meet her needs. For me, lack of respite means I’m missing an important disability conference next week and the first wedding on my side of the family for 30 years in early 2018. And most family carers would have similar stories to tell.

So probably no change there either.

On the decision-making service, I understand how important that is for most disabled people, but I’m not convinced that it will improve my daughter’s life given her lack of communications skills – instead I see it taking up time that could be better spent actually doing activities that she enjoys.

No positive change there either.

So excuse me if I’m not dancing with joy this morning. My daughter received a bit of loose change, but no real change for her, or for other adults with disabilities.

 

The week my daughter broke Twitter

Me and B

Obviously we’re not talking about Obama-style twitter breaking, but I’ve never experienced anything like it.

It was just an innocent little tweet looking for some advice. I thought I’d get maybe half a dozen retweets, and hopefully a few replies.

This is what happened:

Breaking Twitter

It even trended for a while, and I was actually quite nervous about a tweet of mine being seen by so many people, and nearly deleted it. But so far I’m glad I didn’t, and I have to say a huge thank you to everyone who got behind my dream for my daughter’s birthday.

With all the bad press given to social media, wouldn’t the response restore your faith in humanity?

I received lots of offers, advice, ideas and information. So many that I’m still busy with replies, messages and phone calls to choose the best option.

Then all I have to do is organise a spectacular party to match the fabulous dress and fancy wheelchair costume. And that’s a very cheerful prospect indeed!

Linking up as usual with Reasons to be Cheerful, hosted this month by Lakes Single Mum.

R2BC-badge-2016-1024x683

 

Freedom

While I’m not some kind of anti state neo liberal nutter who dreams of living in a cabin in the woods with a shotgun, solar panels and a stockade, freedom has always been important to me. As a teenager, I vowed that no one would tell me what to do once I turned 18 (unless they were an employer). That didn’t work out so well, as some of you will know. Then I became a carer. And like many carers, it often feels as though my life is completely controlled by others: from the needs of those I care for, to the demands and policies of a state that (sometimes) provides services and supports.

But if I look hard enough, I can still find little nuggets of freedom buried away in hidden corners of my life.

Clear skies and busy streets

I’m back to full time intensive caring, but in a change from the usual pattern, it involves getting out of the house, rather than staying in it. I much prefer this, as you can imagine! So no cabin fever, lots of fresh air and exercise, the opportunity to put things into perspective when you see the troubles of others and freedom to wander and explore familiar and different corners of Dublin.

Poolbeg Chimneys, The Pigeon House, Freedom

Happy Hour

Thanks to needing less sleep than anyone else in the house, that hour between 5.30 and 6.30 am is all mine. Unless my disabled daughter decides on an early start too! Otherwise, I have an hour to catch up, clean up, caffeinate and shower and I’m then reasonably ready to face the day ahead. That hour of freedom is very important to me.

Coming and going

For years trips out in the car with my disabled daughter have had to be planned carefully to make sure there would be parking outside the house when we returned. The opening and closing times of the school just up the road have to be avoided as well as match days at the nearby sports stadium.

But now I finally have a disabled parking space painted on the road outside my house: I applied last November, but it took a team effort led by Ciarán Delaney and Senator John Dolan to make it actually happen. Now it finally has and I am very grateful to everyone who helped. It’s a public disability space on a public road, but it will make it much more likely that our parking issues will mostly be in the past, giving us a bit more freedom to come and go as we please.

Netflix in peace

Currently my evenings are spent watching TV with one of my young adult children,   so I have a lengthening Netflix list of must watch programmes… Luckily the iPad stand and some budget wireless headphones have come to the rescue and if you dropped by my house in the early evening you’ll find me preparing dinner with one eye on a pot on the stove and the other on a favourite show. While my children watch theirs. A bit of freedom for all of us, I guess.

Running fast

I know that running is not for everyone. I know it’s hard and tiring and slow and heavy and even miserable when you start, or start back. But if you can stick with it, running turns into something else entirely. You can hit a sweet spot where you can jog along effortlessly as you chat to friends, or run a bit faster when you want a challenge. And then you see a perfect stretch of path: long, straight, smooth with a slight downward incline. And your legs just want to go. So you do. And you run faster and faster and you feel like you could accelerate indefinitely.

You know what that feels like?

It feels like freedom.

And in a world where we all seem to have less and less control, that’s a very heady feeling 😍😍

So for me every golden nugget of freedom is precious. Search them out and treasure them as I do, it really helps.

Sharing with reasons to be cheerful, hosted this week by Mummy From The Heart.

R2BC at Mummy from the Heart 

The meaning of minutes

I’m sure I read somewhere that the most powerful person at a meeting is the one who writes the minutes. Especially if the minutes are the only record of what was said and agreed.

That theory crossed my mind this week when I received a set of bland minutes from a meeting I attended on Monday night. They cover the facts given and the actions proposed, but say nothing about the words that were spoken. Are all minutes like this? It’s sad really, because the passion and inspiration from many of the speakers is completely absent: the minutes do not tell the full story.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that it was a disability rights meeting. Maybe a little surprised it involved an evening trip across the River Liffey. And perhaps amazed that instead of trying to find a sitter, I brought my two younger children with me. Including my disabled daughter B, even though I guessed that some might consider her vocal contributions disruptive. She should be heard and she should be seen, and I won’t let anything get in the way of reminding people that her needs are important too. Even when those needs may be a little different to those of the general disability population.

It was a small meeting: despite all the publicity, only about 30 people were present – out of the 300,000 or so who are affected by disability in Ireland. It just shows how tired and unsupported most disabled people and their carers feel.

But I really enjoyed it, because there was lots to inspire and digest:

A factual mini presentation about disability housing issues from David Girvan, and an impassioned plea for real change from Aisling McNiffe were among the parent and activist contributions that were preceded by some powerful words from the main speakers of the evening.

First up was Dr Tom Clonan, author, security analyst and busy advocate for his disabled son Eoghan. Here is just some of what he said:

The number of organisations agencies etc is mind numbing and little or no accountability. The situation is getting worse and worse. Disabled people becoming homeless is a policy. Levels of suffering completely unnecessary.

Meanwhile the Government has 44 media advisors. Choosing to ignore us. Because they can.

We need to make this a general election issue, and reach out to the able community.

We can make change against resistance: I know how to fight, and I will spend the next 25 years fighting.

👏👏👏👏

Graham Merrigan is a wheelchair user who lives an independent life and described his issues as mostly in relation to infrastructure, taxis, misuse of parking bays etc.

Local PBP Councillor Annette Mooney raised the issue of the still unratified UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD), and told the meeting her belief as to why it has not happened here, when almost every other country in the world has ratified:

They won’t ratify it because you’d be entitled to things. The main reason for not ratifying is money.

Why am I not surprised by this opinion?

Finally the gathering heard from Senator John Dolan, who is also CEO of the Disability Federation of Ireland.

On the Budget and ratification of the UNCRPD:

State signs the international treaty, and it’s like getting engaged. Ratification is the day of getting married. Ratifying means your starting a progress of implementation. It doesn’t have to be right straight away.

On community living for disabled people:

Some HSE staff are getting people out of institutions , others are putting them back in. You can protect an institution, it can be seen, while cutting a home help is unseen. We’re fighting to get people living in the community but as it stands the community is a very vulnerable place to be.

👏👏👏👏

If you only read the minutes, you’d think that attending this meeting was just a boring duty. It wasn’t. It was a pleasure and it was worth it, and I came away feeling less alone, and more understood. The minutes had no meaning for me. The quotes I’ve shared here give just a taste of what the meeting was really all about.

Note: I typed copious notes throughout the meeting and I hope I have reflected its spirit here. I should also mention that People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett was the MC for the evening.

 

When September Ends

Sadly the September I had hoped for has come to a skittering halt, but at least help has kicked in, and there is still hope, and still reasons to be cheerful. Like these:

Perfect Skin

Well obviously not perfect. At all. But after being told I really needed to get a mole removed – though no expectations of anything nasty – it was a lovely bonus when my skin was praised by someone who really should know what they’re talking about!

Happy Birthday

My beautiful eldest daughter turns 25. Impossible to believe that the little 5lb bundle placed in my arms so long ago is now a strong, confident, clever, energetic and caring young woman who is determined to make the world a better place. Love her so much ❤.

Walk This Way

I predict a lot of walking in the near future, and that gives me the chance to revisit and photograph favourite parts of the city like these.

Fairy Tree, Blessington Basin.png

And maybe even explore the nearly countryside…

Last Weekend

Was filled with running, music, cake and a very happy daughter who enjoyed it all. It’s impossible to feel down for too long when you share your life with someone who takes so much joy in hers.

B at Smithfield

Head over to Mummy from the Heart for more reasons to be cheerful and have a wonderful week x

R2BC at Mummy from the Heart 

Jenga

I was afraid it wouldn’t last, and now it looks as though I was right. That carefully constructed tower of support, structure and progress is getting shakier this week as some of the building blocks crumble away. I’m so afraid it will crash down. Each time the tower starts to fall, it’s harder. Each time my resilience cracks further. Each time I wonder how I will make it through the emotional debris. How I will scaffold the remaining blocks so we can make it through another winter with enough shelter from the storms that life throws at us.

Like a Jenga tower, our lives are already full of holes. Plugged as best I can, with the help of family, friends and services. Like most people, we muddle through, coasting one minute and firefighting the next.

One service came through for me today. I asked for help, and the call was returned. A plan was developed and I was kept busy. But best of all, there was an unexpected follow up call to check that all is okay. There are good people out there, and even when it feel like life is hurling Jenga blocks from all sides, there is always hope that the tower will not fall down completely.

 

 

Dull and domestic details can be cheerful too

Disclosure: I was not in any way paid or asked to include the products on this page, and the photos are my own.

I nearly cried this week when I accidentally knocked a treasured family photo off the wall and smashed the glass, while hoovering. But I didn’t. And while it felt like the last straw for a few minutes, my eldest reminded me how easily it could be fixed. Unlike the problems facing so many other people.

Because so far September is going surprisingly well. A transition from constant fire fighting to dull domestic and disability duties feels odd, but once there’s no disasters, it’s definitely a reason to be cheerful. And yes I went a bit mad with the alliteration there, sometimes I can’t resist it…

The change in the weather will take a while to get used to. For now, I’m mostly frozen. Yesterday I got chilled after a sudden shower of rain, and with a bit of spare time, I swapped my usual 3 minute shower for a reasonably leisurely bath. It was like a reunion with a long lost friend. Wonderful.

Talking of wintry conditions, I’m enjoying seeing all the warmer clothes in the shops and planning what to buy my disabled daughter as her clothes never last long, due to chewing, sitting, spills and stains, and holes from yanking unwilling garments into place. I’m thinking the pink and blue scarf and hat would be be perfect on her.

Autumn clothes

This undomesticated goddess got another boost this week and I could actually kiss those lovely Lidl people sometimes! Mostly when they bring out products that actually work like this limescale remover.

Toilet, Lidl limescale remover

I’m tempted to buy a lifetime supply in case they discontinue it like the chlorine spray that turned grey grout brilliant white again. If you’re reading this, lovely Lidl person, please start stocking it again.

So that’s my reasons to be cheerful for this week: head over to Mummy from the Heart for more.

R2BC at Mummy from the Heart