Tag Archives: depression

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The grey has descended once more.

I thought I had it sorted, I thought I had fixed it. Just a couple of days ago I asked my GP if I could start weaning off my citalopram. I thought it was a good idea. He disagreed and now it seems with good reason.

Just a couple of days ago I thought I was coping with all that life has to throw at me. I was content with my little family, plodding along.

I was feeling better mentally and physically, settled.

Alas, it was not to last. Slowly but surely the black dog returned, along with his good friends that are the grey clouds and rain showers.

I should have known really, it never does. I should have been forewarned but I was not.

The sensible, more aware part of me tells me that low points are normal, that everyone has them. Another part of me answers back, arguing that I am too weak to handle them. It is just life.

I’ve spent most of my adult life being medicated. The last time I wasn’t medicated was during pregnancy and a short period post-partum. Before that, I cannot recall the last time I wasn’t popping one anti-depressant or another.

There have been very short periods, a week or so when I have stopped myself. Those periods never end well and I know I want to avoid that.

But how am I to know if what I feel is part and parcel of normality? How can I differentiate between that and actual depression? I don’t know any more.

The wine aisle in the local shop whispers my name. Asking me “What harm will one glass do?” but I know the answer to that. I can’t have just one glass. I can’t have enough. So I avoid it, remind myself that alcohol and happy pills and pain killers and beta blockers do not mix. So I pick up the chocolate instead, slightly recoiling at the price; when did that get so expensive?!

I snap at my beautiful, happy son for no reason other than he is being a four year old boy, one who is fiercely testing how much independence he can have and is curious about the growing world around him. The same little boy who crawls into my bed in the early hours, whispering he can’t get back to sleep because all he wants is a cuddle from mummy, reminding me he is still my baby.

I know what it is like to be on the peripheral of life, to not want to be here, to feel life is pointless and I know I am not there, yet.

I don’t know, or perhaps just can’t remember life before the happy pills were dished out, why I started taking them in the first place. I can’t seem to reach the depths of my memory that are needed to recall that. Perhaps I don’t really want to. Or maybe there was no real reason at all. Maybe I am just unable to cope with real life.

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The low tone, barely a whisper “Mummy, cuddle me” wakes me from my sleep. I cuddle him like a submissive servant obeying her master. The rush of love brings me to life, reminding me of the reason for my existence. I slowly come to, trying to work out how I feel this morning as I reach for my phone to find out the time. Light streams through the gap in the curtains as I realise that, for now at least, I feel content and excited for what today might bring. Today Lady Anxiety and her good friend Sir Depression have stayed away. The black dog has not paid a visit and relief surrounds me as I smile to myself.

Not every day is like this. There are many times, probably half if not more, when my body feels heavy with dread and doom. When I realise I will need to rely on the husband’s gentle tones of encouragement to even get washed and dressed. The days when it will be up to him to meet Harry’s requests for a trip to the park, an ice-cream for the corner shop, a kick about in the field. When even meeting his basic need for fuel feels like a task as challenging as climbing Everest. The days I fail as a Mummy to the most wonderful son.

It’s not because I don’t want to. I want more than anything to be able to take him out every day. To be able to watch his face light up in wonder at new discoveries. To hear the excited cry when he spots an aeroplane high in the sky, leaving white streaks across the cornflower blue sky “Look! It’s a space rocket going to the moon!” But wanting isn't enough.

I don’t want to miss hearing him asking all the questions in chatter that only a small child can. “Why is the grass green? Where has the blossom gone? Dogs should wear nappies, then they wouldn’t leave poo. Why don’t they wear nappies? What is that man doing? Why is that baby crying? Where is the lady going? Why can’t I walk on this road, look there are no cars? Why can’t we just take that car when no one else is using it? Can we go to the seaside now? Now, now, now?” Barely stopping to take a breath such is the exciting journey of discovery he is on. I don’t want to miss them but sometimes I do. Sometimes the fog is too heavy to shift, the sadness too great to push away.

Having anxiety or depression isn’t as simple as feeling a bit anxious or a bit down. It’s feeling like a heavy fog is hanging over you, weighing you down. It’s feeling sick at the thought of the short walk to nursery and back. It’s trembling when you are home alone and the doorbell goes or the telephone rings unexpectedly. It’s feeling sad when you know you have everything you wanted; a warm home, a beautiful and happy child, an incredible husband and the best family and yet something is missing, something you know money can’t buy. It’s going to bed each night and not knowing if you will sleep or how you feel in the morning. It’s turning down social occasions because you can’t leave the flat without your husband by your side. It’s thinking everyone is laughing at you, judging you. It’s feeling tired but unable to sit still, feeling agitated yet unable to function.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week from 12-18 May 2014. This year the focus is on anxiety. You can find out more here.

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My head is pounding, my nose is streaming and I still haven't pulled myself out of the dark hole. The pain doesn't seem to come to an end and I feel it from the strands of my hair through to the soles of my feet and everything is sore.

I shed silent tears of pain as I sit bedraggled in the surgery waiting room, glancing up at the screen every time I hear that familiar beep and yet making every effort to avoid eye contact with an actual person only to notice that my name still hasn't come up.

My name flashes up and I hobble along the corridor carrying my heavy body and of course I get the duty GP (the irony of the one that knows my history is on long-term sick is not lost on me) and so obviously I have to head to the furthest office in the building. I mumble something about needing another Fit Note to excuse me from actively seeking employment and that the painkillers aren't working and oh can I have some more antidepressants as well, thank you very much. I ask, as I have every month for the last four months since we moved here, for a referral to pain management and am told there are still lots of combinations that we haven't yet tried, that these things take time.

Prescriptions and Fit Note issued, I head to the pharmacy next door and the wait is a minimum of 45 minutes so I decide that I will collect the new pills tomorrow before slowly hobbling home again where I quite literally collapse onto the sofa because I am just so exhausted.

"Are you better Mummy? Did the Doctor fix you?"

"Not yet sweetheart."

"I will get you something." And with that Harry turns around and heads into his bedroom, bringing a blanket, pillow and Ernie on his return, telling the husband "Daddy, Mummy needs a coffee now and I will give her a cuddle" and he climbs onto the sofa next to me, stroking my back as if something so simple could take the pain away.

If only, Harry, if only. But thank you so much anyway.

All the Small Things - MummyNeverSleeps

 

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I am on familiar territory, a place I have been before, that which I hoped I need not visit again but here I am.

My life feels like it is falling apart once again. I am no longer in control in of what the immediate or long-term future holds. The hopes and dreams and plans I had just a few short weeks ago are shattered into pieces of glass. ...continue reading

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As I sit and write, the weather outside is grey. Which rather reflects my mood and that of the husband. We are not feeling at all festive. We haven't watched any Christmas films yet. I am still reeling that Elf is only available on Sky Movies and we don't have a DVD player at the moment. We don't yet have a tree up as we are still disagreeing over whether to blow our budget and purchase a real tree or just use our old plastic one and in any case, none of our sets of lights work and we seem to be missing about half of our decorations.

Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On the one hand, I keep telling myself I need to get my backside into gear. After all, there are still cards to be written and posted, gifts to be bought and wrapped and food and drinks to be bought (although we will be spending Christmas Day with family).

On the other hand, next week, the full week before Christmas is a really busy one for us. On Tuesday I have an ATOS assessment. My appointment is at 9 am, 1.5 hours away by public transport with a "normal" walking time. My own walking time is approximately double that of most healthy adults. So I shall get a taxi. I will have to attend a place I have never been to, meet people I have never met by myself as, clearly Harry cannot be left at home unsupervised and children are not allowed. Just the thought of actually going there makes me anxious and fills me with dread, never mind the actual assessment.

The husband has a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, which will mean me getting Harry ready for pre-school, getting him there and back by myself. I know this isn't a big deal to many people but the way I feel right now, it is a big deal to me. Anxiety is fun right?!

Thursday is Harry's pre-school performance. I am really looking forward to this. He is a King and keeps singing the songs, at least he tries to! He currently only knows one in full but I am guessing most of the children will be at a similar point and the whole idea is just for them to have fun. Harry certainly does and I cannot wait to see him it; I just hope I remember my camera and box of tissues.

Then Friday. Friday is operation date. I will undergo surgery for my hydrocephalus. As I have a blockage rather than simply excess fluid around my brain, I will be having a procedure which will involve an incision in the floor of my third ventricle as opposed to a shunt. This procedure will, hopefully, mean I will not require a shunt but of course we don't know what the outcome will be. We are hopeful I should just spend the one night in hospital but clearly we won't know that until post-op.

I trust my surgeon and I am confident that I will be in the best of hands. Mostly I am not looking forward to having to get to the hospital for 7.30 am on no coffee or breakfast as I have to fast from midnight.

So right now, grey sums up not only the weather outside by my mood. I have tried listening to Christmas songs to no avail. Tomorrow we will replace our lights and get new decorations, put up our plastic tree to Christmas songs and I might even purchase some Bailey's, or at least a supermarket own version. If that fails to get me in the Christmas mood I don't know what will.

So, let me know dear readers of mine. What sends you from grey to cheery? I think I need some help and I need it quick!

 

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I am absolutely honoured to host the anonymous guest post from a fellow blogger. One who wanted to share some of her own story but felt unable to on her own blog. I am, quite frankly, amazed at all this lovely lady has been through and continues to battle with her daily life. Please do show her some love in the comments.

10 years ago now my family was complete ( so I thought) I'd been married ten years and we had just sold our tiny flat and moved to a much bigger house in a cheaper area. Far from home.

It was going to be the start of good things.

But not long after we relocated things changed.

I was busy settling the kids into new schools and making our house a home while my husband was busy having an affair with a new colleague.

We split up not long after. 

I was alone in a new place with no support and an ex husband with no interest in helping with the kids.

Two years after we had moved I got into a new relationship , purely casual. It was a neighbour that had been doing jobs around the house for me. I fell pregnant ( by accident) and told the father, I made it clear that he had no obligation to stick around. 

But he changed. He became possessive of me. He wanted my be his side all the time. Didn't like me to sit by the kids. Or hold hands with them. I tried to break it off. 

I didn't want my kids to live like that!

He became aggressive and threatening.

Telling me if I finished with him he would hurt me and himself.

I stood my ground , but then one night he came round to talk and smashed all my possessions. Then he hit me.

The next day I asked my ex to look after the kids and I took an overdose.

I couldn't see any other way out.

The kids weren't safe. I wasn't safe and the baby I was carrying wasn't safe.

I began to feel really unwell and realising what I'd actually done I called an ambulance.

It turned out I hadn't taken enough pills (thank god).

I was kept in hospital for a few days, I had to have lots of meetings with the psychiatrist and couldn't leave till he was sure I wasn't going to do it again. I was discharged and in the morning I took my kids, left all our stuff behind and got a train out of there.

I went home. 

To my mum.

She took us in , but she made it clear that she was angry with me.

Coming home tail between my legs single with kids and no home.

I didn't tell anyone I was pregnant.

We had to apply for temporary housing as mum didn't have room for us.

And when I took the kids to visit their dad he told me he was keeping half of them till the house was sold (to get half the money).

He tried to make me choose between the kids. I couldn't.

He kept 3 of them.

We would be 200 miles apart.

I was living in temporary housing, with depression (diagnosed after the overdose) and now I had to fight to get my kids back.

I still hadn't told anyone I was pregnant!

At the first custody hearing my ex was told to give the kids back, and told there was no way they would be removed from me. He appealed. Which meant another 8 months apart while social services did checks and reviews.

I was getting more pregnant all the time but I couldn't connect with the pregnancy. How could I look forward to a new baby when my children were so far away from me?

When I was 8 months and very visibly pregnant mum confronted me and made me go to the doctor. I was given a scan to make sure baby was ok and flagged up for depression.

It was Christmas when the baby was due. After getting a court order to have the kids for Christmas I had to go 200 miles by train to collect them. Just a few days before Christmas Day. My GP warned against it but I had to have the kids with me. 

I went into labour the next day.

I was out shopping for presents at the time. I had to go to the hospital alone as my mum had the children.

Labour was difficult. I was alone and still felt no connection to the baby. 

I was scared that I couldn't love it.

That changed the moment he was born as soon as I held him I loved him. Although I was and still am saddled with guilt over the fact that I had been completely disconnected from the pregnancy.

I had the kids for two weeks over Christmas. It ripped my heart out letting them go back. The guilt was huge. Sending them away while I had a new baby.

In January all the social worker reports came back, all recommending the kids be returned immediately to me.

On the day of the custody hearing in February, at the court my ex stated that he no longer wanted to appeal for custody. 

The sale of the house had gone through and his new wife was pregnant.

All those months of heartbreak were for nothing. 

I got the kids back a week later!

Having us all back together was one of  the most happiest moments of my life.

We settled down quickly and for  6 years we've lived in the same house in the area I grew up.

I'm now closer to my mum than ever.

Although initially she had been angry she is ultimately very very proud of me after all I went through and survived.

The guilt will always be with me. I didn't love my last baby till he was born, I overdosed while carrying him

But he is loved, he is loved so so much.

Not just by me but by his siblings and my mum. He is my silver lining.

My point in writing this post was a few reasons : to say that if you are in an abusive relationship getting out of it will be scary. Terrifying. But do it. 

Get help. Get out. It may seem like the hardest thing you will ever do. But do it. Get out.

If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, fear, don't go through it alone. Don't be ashamed to ask for help, to tell what you are afraid of. Do it. 

I didn't do it. And things could have been so much easier if only I had. I could have had support throughout my pregnancy.

If you come to a point where you feel like you can't go on get help call a relative , a friend , your doctor , the hospital , an ambulance. Call someone get help.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Things can get better!

I went through the absolute worst year of my life. I hit rock bottom. I wanted to end it. I struggled with a pregnancy I couldn't  connect to.

But now we are stronger and happier. 

Life throws crap at us but I know I can deal with it. I know I can ask for help.

I got out.

If I'd asked for help sooner it would have been easier.

Never be afraid to ask for help.

 

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It is a very strange feeling to me. Feeling content.

For the first time in a very long time I feel content. Happy even with the hand that life has dealt me. I have become quite the domestic goddess and housewife. I enjoy taking pride in our home, keeping it fairly tidy (there is only so much a naturally untidy person can do when they have a 3.5 year old child!), cooking nice meals when well enough. Certainly with the colder evenings demanding good old casseroles and stews it is a heck of a lot easier physically; to just throw stuff into a large pot or the slow cooker and wait. No standing over the stove for what feels like an age. With nursery being an easy, short stroll in 10 minutes even with me and Harry, I have even been doing my fair share of those as well.

I guess a lot of my contentment comes from feeling secure in our home but a lot also comes from feeling like I am doing my bit around the flat as well, I feel I have a purpose again.

It is funny how you don't notice these things until you are in a better place. I hadn't realised I felt I didn't have a role until I had one again.

Yet despite this I still have the anxiety and depression, lingering in the background, teasing me almost.

anxiety
Image courtesy of Frame Angel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just a couple of weeks ago I decided to stop my medication. Now before you all tell me off I had already had my dose halved by my GP a couple of months ago so was on a fairly low one anyway. Yet within a day or two, the husband noticed just by my mood and asked me if I had run out. He then gently probed and suggested that whilst I may have felt I could manage without, for him to notice within a day or so perhaps I still need them for a little longer, so reluctantly I requested a repeat prescription.

I know that no one can be happy all of the time. I realise that every person on the planet is entitled to have a down day or two every now again. The problem I have is I worry that feeling low is a sign of returning to the dark place that I would like to never visit again. The anxious moments make me wonder if I need CBT again. I struggle to find where normal behaviour ends and the mental illnesses resurface. Will I ever know where that line is?

I am pretty sure it cannot be normal to get upset, in tears almost, when your 3.5 year old occasionally requests cuddles with Daddy instead of Mummy. I am convinced it cannot be normal to get upset at times over friendships broken months ago. It definitely isn't normal to assume that the fellow parents on the school already decided they don't want to become friends when you've never so much as said hello.

I just wish there was some klaxon in the sky that went off to warn me when things hit a crisis; at least then I would know and wouldn't be endlessly questioning myself, waiting for the black hole to come.

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I thought it may be helpful to try to explain the illnesses that I have and the treatments that I am hoping to have.  This is in no way intended to be a "woe is me" as I do know there are many people who are far more ill than myself.  However, I thought I would quite like to use my own, tiny corner of the blogsphere to raise awareness and give some information.

This post has taken some time to put together as I wanted it to be medically correct, rather than simply my own experiences.

Chiari Malformation

This is a fairly rare illness, probably the least well known one that I have and what has caused the other two.

Chiari malformations (CMs) are structural defects in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. Normally the cerebellum and parts of the brain stem sit in an indented space at the lower rear of the skull, above the foramen magnum (a funnel-like opening to the spinal canal). When part of the cerebellum is located below the foramen magnum, it is called a Chiari malformation.

CMs may develop when the bony space is smaller than normal, causing the cerebellum and brain stem to be pushed downward into the foramen magnum and into the upper spinal canal. The resulting pressure on the cerebellum and brain stem may affect functions controlled by these areas and block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)— the clear liquid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord—to and from the brain.

Chiari picture 2There are several different types of Chiari and I am not entirely sure which one I have.  I was initially told I had Type I because it is the only type where you don't become symptomatic until adolescence or adult-hood, if ever.  My current Neurosurgeon stated in his most recent letter that I have Type II, so I don't know.  Symptoms include dizziness, insomnia, depression, hearing loss, migraines, headaches made worse by coughing, sneezing or straining and balance issues.  I have each of these and have done ever since my early teens, although my hearing loss is from birth.  Whether that is related to Chiari or to my traumatic arrival into this world we don't know and are unlikely to ever know.

There is no cure for Chiari.  The best we can hope for is quite major decompression surgery which involves removing a part of my skull to make more room.  Recovery from this can take anything from a few weeks to several months or even a year or more.  This is not a cure, it is merely to prevent symptoms worsening, possibly ease the current ones and to prevent paralysis.  There is even a risk of paralysis or death in having the surgery.  However, given the rate my symptoms are progressing and the inevitability of ending up in a wheelchair, I feel it is a risk worth taking.  I can hope the surgery will ease my symptoms but this is only a 50/50 chance.

Hydrocephalus

The term hydrocephalus comes from two Greek words.  "Hydro" meaning "water" and "cephalus" which means head.  It used to be referred to as "water on the brain".  My hydrocephalus is thought to have been caused by the Chiari.  This is because that has caused a blockage which prevents the flow of CSF to the spinal cord.  Effectively the vast majority of my CSF is around my brain.  CSF carriesnormal-hydrocephalus-comparison nutrients which are essential for the function of the brain and also carries waste products away from the tissue in the brain.

The brain is usually very good at maintaining the right balance between the CSF that it produces and that which it absorbs.  Hydrocephalus occurs when there is an imbalance between the amount produced and the rate at which the brain absorbs it back.

It is most likely caused by the Chiari which blocks the entrance to my spinal cord.

For hydrocephalus, it is normal to insert a shunt, which drains the fluid away from the brain to another part of the body where it can be re-absorbed.  However, since these are mechanical devices, prone to failure, my own neurosurgeon would like to perform what is called an endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV).  Here, he will make a small cut in the base of my third ventricle which should then enable the CSF to flow more freely.  If this doesn't work, I will need a shunt.  All of this is assuming I can have surgery in the first place.  I had my pre-op assessment a number of weeks ago and it has been decided that I need to have a heart scan and see a cardiologist, hopefully I will then get the all clear!

Syringomyelia

The spinal cord is usually solid, passing down the back, inside the spinal canal.  It connects the brain to the rest of the body, passing signals to and fro, enabling an individual to move his or her limbs at will, to feel objects and to control various bodily functions.  Within the spinal canal, the cord is bathed in CSF.

Syringomyelia is a disorder in which a cyst or cavity forms in the spinal cord.  The fluid from which these cysts or cavities are formed  is similar to CSF.  Over time, syringomyelia can lead to paralysis.  Otherwise it can cause pain, weakness and stiffness in the neck, back and shoulders.  A a person with syringomyelia can also lose the ability to feel extremities of hot and cold, particularly in the hands and feet.

My own cavity is pretty much the entire length of my spinal cord.  As such I have very little protection of my spine and have now been advised against white knuckle theme park rides (which I love!), sky diving (on my Bucket List), bungee jump (also on Bucket List) and trampolining.  My NS advised that even a relatively minor shunt in a car accident could cause a huge amount of whiplash, or worse, to me.

Diagnosis is HARD!

I think part of the reason it is extremely difficult to get diagnosed with these conditions is because the symptoms and the impact they cause varies so much.  Not just from one patient to the next but from one day, week to the next for each patient.  From personal experience, I can be totally fine (well fine for me) one day and will spend that day doing normal activities; chores, the nursery run and a trip to the park.  I may also do dinner that night.  Then the next day it will take all of my energy, teeth gnashing against the pain, to do something as simple as go to the toilet.  Having just one good day, wanting to make the most of that, can then mean I am confined to our room for days on end.  Perhaps I shouldn't push myself so much on the good days but it is hard not to when you want to make the most of those good days.

I hope this has given you just a bit more information and knowledge of this thing that is Chiari.  Most of us Chiarians will have  at least one, if not both, of the other disorders too.

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So, I guess you all know I suffer from depression.  It is largely under control with the help of medication and a supportive family.  However, there are times when I get bouts of anxiety too.  And it all becomes just a little too much.

Today was one of those days.

We woke this morning to a misty start and I knew that once that mist had lifted, today would be a nice, bright day.  A taster of the Spring that is sure to arrive soon.  One of my favourite times of the year.

It all started so positive.  There is something about the Spring sunshine that brings out the best in me.  I had decided that we would all head out together, either to the local park or farm to make the most of the sun.

A lazy morning followed and then I announced that I thought it was a good idea to go out for a couple of hours.  Except I forgot something.  We had planned (and we were looking forward to) a roast dinner.  Which we hadn't yet started preparing, never mind cooking and it was already 1pm, having just finished a light lunch.  In seeing my positive mood, the husband suggested I take H out and give him some space to prepare dinner in peace (not something he would have suggested had he suspected I didn't feel up to it).  To which I agreed and started getting myself and H ready.

Then it hit me.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

The nausea.  The sweating.  Within seconds of putting the keys in my pocket a fear gripped me.  Although I suppose in reflection fear is probably too strong a word to use but I couldn't bear the thought of going outside without my husband.

I am not as mobile as I used to be and I worried about H running off and losing sight of him.  Sure, I could take him to the park in his pushchair but once there he'd need to be let out.  I panicked about what other people would think about me.  Why I think complete strangers would give me a second thought I don't know, but I did.  I worried that I would have to speak to other people for some reason and frankly I am not great at speaking to people I don't know.

And now?  Now I feel silly.

I let my son down today and I let myself down.

I know I struggle with depression still but I do hope that once we have a more permanent home, a place we can call home, that I may slowly be able to come off my medication but the anxiety, that hasn't happened for a long time and frankly, I am gutted.  It came as such a bolt from the blue.

Tomorrow I shall pick myself up and try to make it up to H.  I shall take him out tomorrow instead and we will go to the farm to feed the pigs and the ducks, maybe even have a cake in the coffee shop and today will be forgotten.  I hope.

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Sometimes life throws you a curve ball or two and it can be difficult to see through to the positives.

It is how you deal with those curve balls that shape who you are, who you become right?

As a family we have had a huge amount to deal with in the last year.  Redundancy, illness, relocating, illness, new job, losing job, illness, debt, more debt, illness, losing our home.  And so it continues. ...continue reading