Saturday, 16 September 2006

The Icing on the Cake

Top of Page Postscript - Saturday 16th:

Charles Dawson (link on right) has kindly mentioned this post following his blog on abuse: 'Father...', but as what follows is rambling, be assured it gets there in the end/middle. ~ ~ ~

Originally posted Wednesday 13th:

Thank you blogging friends for your kind thoughts and supportive comments, and for visiting even though I was absent. I continue tired and in pain and using the laptop exacerbates both those so I have to limit my blogging life for a time. I am very aware that pain and fatigue are daily visitors to many of you. I have not responded to comments or posts that I would have liked to.

In the very early years of my counsellor training, in role-play, a sample question was: 'what do you eat first, the icing (frosting) or the cake?' - used to illustrate how we prevaricate or reward ourselves. It was explained that someone who eats the icing first, the cake afterwards, may spend all day putting off the hard jobs (the cake) by doing first or spreading out the available time on, the fun jobs (the icing). Simplistic I know.

Hard jobs versus fun jobs - my available energy and available time before pain becomes too much, could no longer be used first for fun (blogging being stimulating, interesting, entertaining and in relationship with others), and after for 'work' because the energy and (relatively) pain-free time ran out before I had achieved the minimum necessary work. As the situation built up I became over-anxious, could not sleep. Something had to change. I was indulging my need for interaction through emails and blogging, rather than using my laptop for essential work. Energy has had to be diverted to home help recuitment; interviewing, then employing and training a new second home help - always very tiring, but she is good, which eventually will make life run smoother. Life has been further complicated by having to gradually move the day of the week I take the neuro-toxic drug Methotrexate that controls Lupus, in order to accommodate a hospital appointment on a Monday, usually a day I sensibly withdraw from the world. So for a few weeks I have unpredictable down days. All this is my version of a complex disabled life. I know life is less 'easy' for others.

In addition to some volunteer work, the term 'work' for me also includes the primary task of managing my cogdysfuncked practical life as an ill and disabled person. I have had to concentrate available energy on the need to keep up with and in control of all that is involved in achieving disabled facilities in my home; all the complexities, all the people and organisations involved, and I manage that on my laptop, the use of which causes pain. The anxiety and pain and sheer physical fatigue built up over weeks ... so I had to be firm with myself and call a halt. Too tired, too much pain - a familiar place for many with health and disability issues to contend with.

There is also that other meaning to this post's title - when something has been topped off, or a final event has brought to an abrupt point some situation, as in 'that puts the icing on the cake'. Yesterday's synchronistic reading of Charles Dawson's blog was such an event. He has written powerfully, empoweringly, about abuse from his own experience. His experience is not unique. His ability to write about it is uniquely Charles Dawson. His post connected, for me, with events in my life in the last few days. His post has brought me back to the world of my blog. Connecting with this important part of my life. The link to Charles is on the right.

Synchronistically Charles's post connected to events in my current outer life. On Sunday afternoon, a young neighbour, in this quiet village lane, was led out of his house in handcuffs by the police, body frisked, and put into one of two police cars which then sped out of the village with sirens blaring. As he was led out to the police car, his wife stood further down the lane with a policewomen. The visible police presence made it a very public event. The sirens seemed to make it more so. A private matter that had needed police intervention. I do not know the details. I cannot know the whys and wherefores*. Whatever their experiences that led to his arrest, it had nothing to do with me, and it did not involve me.

But I was left physically, literally, shaking for the rest of that Sunday until the early hours of Monday morning. The foundation of my safe existence in this village had been shaken, again. For a time I was thrown back into my experience eight years ago (the trauma of which triggered Lupus) when the farmer over the way from here who I had been in relationship with for a number of months, became violent when we went abroad on holiday, away from family, friends, neighbours; where I was isolated from protecting influences.

To the 'friend' who had introduced us, who distanced herself from any implicating responsibility by saying I had not managed him properly and therefore was at fault, I said: how could his violence have been my fault, I was not there (years before) when he took a gun to his wife. It was only after I returned from that disastrous violent holiday and told another neighbour (in this small community) what had taken place, that she told me about his past history. Why, oh why, hadn't she warned me before ! Because it was assumed his past violence was somehow his ex-wife's fault; the woman's fault when a man is violent towards her. I would be better for him. I would manage him better. ?!

Just as the events of Sunday threw me back into my experience with the farmer, the experience of the farmer regurgitated bad aspects (there were some good) of my marriage. And similarly, the bad aspects of my marriage had thrown me back into childhood. Childhood negative experiences of my parents led me to being the adult that did not see odd or dangerous situations as clearly, or in time, as others may have done. Both with my ex-husband and the farmer. Childhood experiences led me into psycho-dynamic counselling to understand what was happening. It works for me. It is not necessary for everyone.

In childhood I was anxious and frightened. Of my father. Unprotected by my mother, indeed sacrificed, so that his moods and arguments were directed away from her onto me. From the age of six months until I left home, at seventeen. Never my sister. Never my mother. The control, the danger, were directed only at me. I was the first born. It was deemed my fault. One of the many legacies of that experience of childhood was to marry a man strangely akin to my father, not physically abusive, but emotionally damaging, from his own damage, his paranoid reactions, his disordered personality, his childhood damage, but projected outwards so that everything was laid at my door. Not at first, but gradually, insidiously, over many years.

I know this post is rambling and perhaps only out of my experience is there a connecting thread throughout related to the title. Charles Dawson's blog was the icing on the cake. The precipitating event, for me, back to the laptop, back to the world of my blog, the world of blogging connections and friends.

Blogging for me, as perhaps for you, is a way to overcome isolation, whatever that isolation may be in (work, relationship, health, community) or may be caused by. So when I was thrown back into past anxieties, I felt cut off from this source of virtual arms around me, by my self-imposed limited laptop use. On Sunday I felt I had made the sensible choice because I needed to keep pain free energy for Monday's hospital appointment, which was always going to be a bad day, and another meeting with Social Services on Tuesday had to be prepared for. So I felt not reading or responding to emails or blogs was sensible in my circumstances. However, reading Charles changed that. So I am back, though in a more limited way for the time being.

The really luscious shiny icing on my cake, in my life, was the good outcome from the feared Monday event. On Monday at the Neuro Surgery Clinic at Southampton Hospital I was given the unexpected excellent news that I do not have to have a hole drilled in my skull, my forehead. There will not be a need for the resulting hole to be covered by a metal plate held in by titanium screws that eventually my skull would grow new bone around; no need for my brain to be at risk (I imagined) of a slip by the neuro-surgeon's hand holding the drill, nor my immune suppressed Lupus condition to be at risk of hospital acquired infections. None of that is necessary. Thank heaven and all the angels for that.

Because of Lupus and Meniere's disability related circumstances, for four years I have been putting off the surgery for removing the skull osteoma - a benign growing lump of bone on my forehead. For fifteen years X-Rays and MRI scans measured its progress and my GP assured me that dramatic changes in my personality from pressure on the brain, would indicate if it had become dangerous. To which I replied; some would say that ....

For four years I have been afraid, since the first consultation at the Wessex Neurological Centre. For four years I have not been able to contemplate managing my life's practicalities such that I could contemplate the surgery and managing during the recovery time afterwards. But it has been getting very painful and I have been worried, so I requested the surgery. Then felt very afraid. In recent weeks the excellent, professional, fount of medical knowledge, Charles Dawson, has provided background email support to my medical questions. Thank you most sincerely Charles.

The consultation on Monday with the neuro surgeon initially confirmed all my fears; it was growing significantly fast, (6 cms x 7cms is way too big) and it needed to be drilled out, the hole would be too big to leave to regrow the bone, so a plate would be inserted. Then the consultant left the room to check the last MRI again. She returned a different woman. "No, we don't need to do that at all. It won't be necessary." ! Huge apology by her on behalf of the department. The specialist registrar I had seen four years ago had been wrong in advising me that the osteoma had to be drilled out. Now I was told that with the form of osteoma I have, there is no need to risk my brain by drilling my skull. Oh bliss, oh joy. Instead, the neuro surgeon will cut and fold down a flap of skin from the top of my head, slice off the big bump (imagine using something like a cheese planner) and the second adjacent nascent one, then staple my skin back where it came from. Not even a visible scar.

If I hadn't been so blummin' chuffed and totally ecstatic with gratitude and relief, I would have been tempted to make a complaint. Because five years ago my GP said it would be a simple procedure ("... imagine something like a cheese planner...") but the specialist registrar in neuro-surgery had said: "Oh no Ms Sally, this is your brain we are dealling with, not simple at all." So, the icing on the cake is the excellent news which I am sharing with you too.

I have done it again; over the two days of writing this I have spent too much time here tapping away on my lap. The pain killers are not working. Nevermind. I am off for a drug induced nap. The rest of the week is quiet, nothing has to be done and nothing needs to be prepared for. Time out. Thank you for reading.

Bottom of Page Postscript (Saturday 16th):

* Inevitably my interpretation of events, and my reaction, is a result of my projections; my projections a result of my past experiences.

My past is complex, like most peoples', so the first projection, and emotional reaction, to the police taking away my neighbour, was that he, the husband, was the guilty party, the male abused the female. Having projected out that layer of my past experience, the next under-lying layer came up. My father was damaged and I feel more compassion for him than for my mother. So, my next imagined scenario has been that the man is the injured party. In real life, over the road at my neighbour's house their two cars take it in turns to sit on their drive, never both at the same time. He has been arrested, quite right - there is never any excuse for violence. However, he has spent the last two years DIYing their house into the 21st century. What if she has got bored with the relationship, wants out but wants the house for herself, to profit from his hard work ? So, get on file that he has been arrested for violence, which will be useful in future negotiations. Some women are calculating. Risky that.


Blogger Lily said...

I'm so glad you're back Sally, I've missed you. You've given me a lot to think about and I am more in awe of your strength in adversity than ever before. Take it easy and good luck with the surgery (bet everyone asks you if you've had botox afterwards!)

Wednesday, 13 September 2006 at 21:06:00 BST  
Blogger The Goldfish said...

And thank you for writing. Good to hear from you Sally and about all this icing (I eat the icing and the cake at the same time, what can this mean about me?).

Sorry you had this unpleasant reminder - hope that the situation with your neighbours is now resolved and the lady can start living again. I thought Charles' post on this subject was absolutely excellent, one of the most powerful things I have read on the blogosphere ever. I imagine that helped a lot of people, not all of whom may necessary wish to say so.

And it is excellent news that you don't need surgery. These things, even when they are allegedly for our own good, can be really menacing black clouds on our horizon.

Wishing you a speedy recovery from this bad patch. You have been missed - but don't think we'll all dessert you just because you go quiet for a bit.

Wednesday, 13 September 2006 at 23:19:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Thank you so much Lily - 'Hope'fully the reading of my response to Charles's post will lead others to his wonderful blog.
My 'strength in adversity' often seems merely the only response I can make, the minimum necessary; whereas others such as the Goldfish (see link on right) seem to soar above their limitations and make a huge contribution to our own paths.
Botox ! I wish, and while I am out could they perhaps perform a little nip and tuck between my shoulders and my knees.
So, Lily, you are a reformed character - and what was probably my best 'one liner' ever, has been consigned to oblivion !

Saturday, 16 September 2006 at 10:09:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Dearest Goldfish
Thank you for your comment, and for the mention and kind thoughts on your blog. I sort of knew I would not be deserted, but there is a responsibility in being a blogger, to explain and also a positive aspect in the disciplining fo time.
The Icing on the Cake - by eating the icing and the cake at the same time, you show yourself to be a perfectly balanced individual, disciplined where required and rewarding yourself appropriately; being strong where necessary as well as kind and loving to yourself and others. All that insight from a piece of cake - and from your wonderful blog!

Saturday, 16 September 2006 at 10:22:00 BST  
Blogger Charlesdawson said...

Sally, your powerful blog has beautifully illustrated two cardinal points about abuse and bullying.

First, the way in which it is passed from generation to generation, creating victims in turn, until someone has the strength to break free.

Second, the way in which bullies (like your farmer) pick their time and place. Let no-one ever think or claim this activity is inadvertent or unconscious.

I am so glad that the operation on your skull will be less drastic than you had been told. I am afraid that you may have been a victim there of the little-recognised medical syndrome: "I must disagree with the previous diagnosis on principle"-itis.

Saturday, 16 September 2006 at 11:53:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Thank you Charles, and thank you again and again for your input of medical knowledge and also your experience on both sides of the health service - I am still scared now Monday's relief has worn off !

The passing on of abuse from generation to generation: for me and others I know, the buck stops here. Thankfully my path led me away from family and onto a solution via Jung.

Saturday, 16 September 2006 at 13:09:00 BST  
Blogger spotted elephant said...

Oh I'm so happy happy happy for you! No nasty and frightening surgery. I'm sorry you still have to have any surgery, but in comparison to what they told you...

That "friend" who said it was your fault for not controlling the farmer was just horrible.

Wednesday, 20 September 2006 at 05:29:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Thanks S.E. and bless you for your kind words, and also for a fantastic Monday Bunny Blogging - that Bumble, what a hoot ! (as in 'hoot with laughter').

Thursday, 21 September 2006 at 20:56:00 BST  
Blogger BloggingMone said...

Hi Sally! Good to read that you do not have to undergo a surgery. Thanks for that post. Sharing experiences of that kind isn't easy, but the numerous comments on your and Charles' post revealed that quite a few people have made similar experiences, but just burried them somewhere in the back of their minds.
If I have a piece of cake I usually eat the decoration (little sugar roses, leaves of chocolate, little sweet cherries and that like) first. Can I have your analysis, please?

Friday, 22 September 2006 at 09:02:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Thanks BM - the surgery that I do have to undergo will seem a doodle in comparison, just the after effects of a general anaesthetic and protecting my slightly immune suppressed body against hospital acquired infections - which kill people !!!
Charles's post on abuse - Charles if you are reading this - please save it from getting lost on your archive list by adding a link, as you have done for your History of Arthritis posts.
Analysing your approach to the 'Icing on the cake' - from my experience of German 'coffee and kutchen' (spelling for cake?) no one can resist those scrumptious cakes served in German coffee houses - so all analysis is suspended while we enjoy.

Sunday, 24 September 2006 at 12:13:00 BST  

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