Levavi oculos meos in montes, unde veniet auxilium mihi?

It was a wonderful week for my part of the Festival of the Scorpio. My workmates took me out for coffee and cake, I had a fantastic dinner on Friday with Good People that I’m very happy to have in my life, and I had tradition birthday High Tea with an incredible bunch of ladies (and Hywel). I topped it off by watching The Arrival with another new friend I adopted about a month ago, and made it home around 11 last night.

And then I learnt something about myself.

At 12:02am my bed started to rock gently. I don’t usually feel earthquakes in my apartment so I made note of it, and waited for this one to settle down, as they usually do. Only, this one didn’t. It got more insistent, my bedroom roller blind shot up and there was a sort of thump before all hell let loose. This was the first time I’ve lunged for the doorway. The shaking was so bad that I was actually flung backwards into hallway wall. I managed to steady myself in the doorway for what seemed like an eternity – staring outside and waiting of the quake to finish. I watched the beautiful blue lights flash high up in the clouds above the Hutt Valley, and then the green flashes along the Petone foreshore as the transponders all shorted – leaving darkness behind them. Then the shaking stopped, but I didn’t stop shaking. Not for another 5 minutes anyway.

One always wonders how you would act in case of emergency. I know now. While I was braced desperately in the doorway in terror (I’m not afraid to say that – I was terrified), the 12 storeys of apartment block groaning above me and the noise the walls were making, there was a very clear, very lucid part of me that was assessing the situation. It was making a note of where my wallet and passport were, how close was I to my shoes, that I had a backpack just around the corner (in fact I could have reached it with my foot) with water and some energy bars in it. That I had my walking gear in the cupboard near my left hand and a torch next to my bed. It also sighed internally and said I really don’t want to do that walk to Paremata again. And that part of me turned to thinking about my people in this part of the world, and if they were all okay. You can tell a great deal about who you think of first in such situations. I surprised myself. And then I grabbed the phone at 12:04am and called my mother: waking my parents up in time for the earthquake to roll through the Bay of Plenty.

There wasn’t much sleep last night. I think I managed about 4 hours all up, waking up with sandpapered eyes to the sounds of people examining the staircase and lobby on the other side of my front door (the joys of ground floor living). It took a little while to survey the scene. The support struts that dominate my hallway (I have the Harry Potter apartment) have new cracks, and some of them had clearly shifted. There’s a significant crack inside my built in wardrobe and there was a howling gale whistling through it. It looks like there’s a wee bit of structural damage to the external walls (some of them are now weeping in the rain) and there’s a fair bit of cracking around the place. It’s made for a nervous day with the countless aftershocks. The damage to these same struts that also run along outside and into the lobby looked far worse for wear than the parts in my flat. The significant cleaning that was taking place in the lobby made sense when I went out to look.

But I did the Long walk home last weekend. I managed 42km of the 50 before the marshals bundled me into a car and dropped me off at the nearest railway station (Paekakariki). In case of emergency I wouldn’t need to walk all the way to Kapiti: Titahi Bay or Paremata would suffice, boats can launch from either. The point of the exercise was an earthquake drill for those living in Kapiti who would need to get home from Wellington, should something like last night happen when they were at work. I did it because it would be good to know how to get out of Wellington if/when a mass evacuation will take place. People were encouraged to take their emergency pack with them on the walk, so they would know what it would be like.

That is probably why I was flicking through a mental inventory last night while the earth groaned. I put it all in a bag today: the things that can stay there in case of emergency. When you really think about it, it’s amazing what you would take with you. I had all last weekend to think about it, and today to clean up the broken crockery (I lost a few plates ), plaster, and bits of stuff I had lying around. Spoke to Apartment board members, took photos and submitted them to my rental manager, and felt generally frazzled, feeling horror at the stories coming out of North Canterbury and the epicentre. And then I saw the photos. I hate feeling helpless – I wish I could go down south and do something: dig trenches, clear trees, look after sprogs so their parents can rest, cook meals, anything. And in this weather I just hope things settle down soon – but with three hot spots playing tag, I don’t think that’s going to happen soon.

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Peter Rabbit, my trusted stuff toy for 28 years.

And now the wind is howling and I realise the windows may be leaking too with the horizontal rain and the almost constant aftershocks. But I have power, and hot water; friends who care, and my lovely mother and brother on the other end of the phone when I need to be distracted.

I pleasantly surprised myself with how the rational side of my brain took over before the hysterical wobbly side was let loose once I realised I wasn’t in any danger. I’m happy to know that I would have the ability to act should I ever be in such a situation again – and that I have a go bag prepped now.

I hope I will get some sleep tonight. I’ve been running on adrenaline all day and feel it. One thing is for sure though: my toy rabbit, Peter, is keeping me company tonight.

On the right side of the looking glass…

In my never-ending quest to get better (the road of continuous self-improvement is a different post, but will probably hijack this one because the two are so interrelated), there’s been so much self-reflection and analysis (mental and physical), faltering baby steps, prioritisation and brutal honesty and actually letting go.

That last bit is the hardest. Letting go of expectations, perceptions, emotions, places, people, dreams. I’ve spent a lot of time working through this this year. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I won’t say “reverting to type” but will quote Polonius again, as I have done several times since I started blogging many moons ago, “to thine own self* be true”.

I was put onto a really fantastic podcast a few weeks ago – one of several actually. This one, You Are Not So Smart reaffirms that I really should have done psychology (and computer science) at university. While it is squillions of episodes long, I’ve been dipping in and out of them – looking at topics that take my fancy, and learning about others that I hadn’t really thought about before. I do find it odd how they explain some topics and perceptions like its all revolutionary, when it’s something so ingrained in academics that it’s our bread and butter (and so ingrained in me that I still refer to myself as an academic, even though I left that life behind a long time ago). But it’s that whole idea of perception – that’s what this series is about, and it’s fascinating.

Anyway, that segue aside, it – and several other things/exercises/aspirations/reevaluations  – have thrown things into stark relief. Taking emotion out scenarios, and reexamining things from other angles is also quite handy. (This is where I envy those who can operate in such a thoroughly rational manner. I find it so draining, but illuminating, but draining). Being consciously mindful is something I’ve always aspired to, getting the hang of it and putting it into practice does take baby steps, but I’m on that path and I know its the right one.

How? Because the mental self-improvement makes the physical self-improvement much easier. It means that while I still fight myself to physically get up in the morning, I am able to put my body and mind through their paces (gym, language classes and other mad adventures), and not end up a quibbling wreck of physical and mental exhaustion come 3pm in the afternoon. Well, I’m less of a wreck than I was 6 weeks ago, but I digress again. It means that after years (in some cases), the puzzle pieces are beginning to fall into place. That I can solve my own problems for once. It’s quite empowering.

So letting go and being true to yourself. Two of the oldest clichés, but also two of the most important aspects of self-awareness and self-acceptance (of course there will always be arguments for self-delusion and cognitive bias here too, but they are also important parts of who we are – as we see ourselves, and we perceive others to see us). This post has already turned several shades of philosophical and circuitous in its dialogue, but the real tl:dr is to do both is terrifying.

Yes, I am being Captain Obvious here, but to actually do one, let alone both, is incredibly hard and takes you so far out of your comfort zone that not many people want to apply themselves in this sort of way. So of course I would jump headlong into the concepts with some wisps of not letting go to be found in my tightly clenched fist.

Why?

Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown.  Fear of  being a disappointment. Of not living up to the expectations you’ve built up for yourself and of others. And guilt. So much guilt.

As somebody who suffers from acute and sometimes crippling anxiety – these fears are constant. And they are detrimental to one’s health, emotions, interactions and relationships. All too frequently those who battle anxiety know how its effecting them and those around them, which feeds a vicious cycle, which can become a negative loop… I hate that space so much, but it becomes self-repeating.

So what do you do? Things that make you happy. Being kind to yourself. Forgiveness. Patience. Leaps of faith: of yourself and from others.

My inner (and constant) cynic tells me that now I’m just regurgitating things that you see in self-help books and magazines, and it’s all really stupid. And maybe it is. None of this is cookie-cutter stuff. But you have to try and see if it works. If it works for me, hooray! If it doesn’t work for you, then try something else. Chalk it up to experience. Live.

I got in the pool today. I was so terrified that things would go pear-shaped and I’d be crying in a shower cubicle desperately trying to warm up. The memory of having to do that months ago is still etched in my mind, and I have been so fearful of repeating that experience. But I must be doing something right with my diet and correcting imbalances. I was able to be in the water. And have fun. And laugh, and swim, and just enjoy the moment. And it was such a relief. I let go of that fear, and took a plunge, literally.

I know there’s a long way still to go. But I’ve made some progress. In theory, I’ve accepted that I’ll be starting many things from scratch. In practice, I know that’s going to be very difficult for me to start from scratch. There is evidence of this littered through the entries in this blog. I think I may actually be okay with it this time. Mostly okay with it.

I’m still working on that though. There’s years of unravelling I still need to deal with.

*After re-reading Persuasion (I adore Captain Wentworth), I can’t help but notice how often we use certain words when discussing a concept of a topic. Austen does it often in her works. Despite my best efforts, I find I did it here: not intentionally as Austen did, but this isn’t a novel. I also have the ponderings of a podcast on the Self I’m mulling over. Freud has a lot to answer for. #teamJung

Life without Music would B♭

A case for classical music. Live.

It won’t come as a surprise to those who know me that I love music. I mean I live for for my music. As somebody who feels too much (hello HSP!) music can be an absolute sanity saver when I need it. And while some music can be waaaaaay too much for me to handle, others just make life better. And what’s the perfect way to listen to music (other than with amazing open headphones that have an incredible sound stage, or decent headphones that give you clarity and bass)? Live music.

And what’s some of the best live music to listen to? Classical. Symphonic. Orchestral. In a hall with amazing acoustics and a plethora of instruments. its magical for several reasons:

  1. you’re going to get a different (but equally amazing) performance depending on where you sit in the auditorium
  2. no two performances are ever going to be the same. The atmosphere and energy of the musicians and the audience changes, so does the sound
  3. there is nothing like being surrounded with sound.

I have never been able to understand or comprehend why people find classical music/recitals boring. Is it because you have to sit and be quiet, or is it the idea that it’s all boring and stiff? Is it that old elitist idea that you have to be all classy and snobby to go to the orchestra? If this preconceived notion is true, it saddens me.

There is nothing like having music wash over you. The hum of the strings, the peals of the brass and flute, the earthy notes of the woodwind, and the silver cascade of the harp and piano (technically percussion) against the beat of drums and chimes and cymbals in a soaring melody.

Live music can change your world. From the moshpits of the rockers and metalheads to the sultry voices of lounge and jazz, to the earnestness and honesty of folk, to the musical paintings of instrumental works. It moves your soul. (Hell, one of the pieces I listened to a few weeks ago was by a DJing composer who wrote a Violin Concerto about a dinosaur. It was actually an incredible piece. I was apprehensive at first, but what a ride! Anne Akiko Meyer played it for us as well. She is stunning.) Even Metallica have an appreciation for classical arrangements

I just wish more people weren’t so afraid of classical music. Here in New Zealand we’re lucky enough to have several Sinfonia, as well as the NZSO (with the most amazing 2017 Season), the Aussies have some wonderful state orchestras (the SSO (featuring in one of my favourite arrangements of an incredible song), MSO (check this out for novelty), and ASO to name a few… while those in Europe and the UK are smothered for choice. All of these have options and heavy discounts for those under the age of 30 (and luckily in NZ, under 35) to go and experience the wonder of live magic.

I’d love to challenge those who read my blog to take the plunge and go have a night at the orchestra. If you’re not sure what to start with or where to go, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll point you in the right direction. You don’t need the backstory for the piece or even need to have studied music. Just a love for sound and a willingness to close your eyes and enjoy the adventure.

Do it, go on. I dare you.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars…

It’s funny. Well, I’m sure there’s another word for it, but I’m going to use that term anyway. I’m sitting here, knitting, looking up things to do to get better. Be better. Beat the fatigue. Beat down the frustrating little niggle that takes you back three steps for every two you battle forward.

Daylight savings has come and gone. I walk out of evening appointments and still feel slightly startled that it’s still light at 7, or even 8 at night. My body’s refused to play by these rules through. I may try be in bed by ten and awake at 6, but it’s having none of that now. I wonder why? I’m not the only one still feeling it this year. Is it because we’re all getting old, or too wired on caffeine (still on the decaf. It tastes like ashes. The ashes of hopes and dreams), or just too plugged in? Last year, well… last year my lungs were still shot. Oh wait. Technically they still are. The vampires took more blood to sample a few weeks ago, and I had to do the spirometry test again. It was… deeply disappointing.

Between that and my utter inability to deal with the cold/water, I’m really having to face some hard decisions and realities. I’m fairly certain that in high summer in a 5mm wetsuit and constantly moving I’ll be fine – but training to even get to 5m – let alone 10 (and there are catfish I’m going to slay at those depths) – may be a slight problem. Getting in a pool still doesn’t work. I’ve tried a few times now, and, I’m not sure how much more disappointment I can take. The spirit is willing but the circulatory system is weak. What do they say is the definition of insanity again?

What do you do when you fall in love with a sport, a community, a lifestyle… and then you physically can’t do it anymore? I always said I would judge before I competed. And I achieved that, and I love judging. But I look around, and there’s not a lot for dedicated judges in the sport in this little corner of the world. They’ll always take the senior judges first, and there’s now a good deal in Aus as well who need the experience. And in NZ… Shrugs.

At what point do you stop having to justify your position, your ambition, and your desire to make things better, and just leave? Is there weakness in quitting in such a way? Should I even be thinking like this? (I know several who chide me for not having left a long time ago). When does the frustration get too much and it all become too unhealthy? I love the people. Seriously, freedivers are some of the most amazing, insane, but fantastic people you’ll ever meet. And I have so much time for all those who I call my friends. What a community! There is something magic in the water, and all these people are a part of it.

When does one love it and leave it and cherish the memory? I don’t think I have it in me. But I’m have to have that conversation with my Self almost constantly now.

The conversation to be brave and enjoy things I can do. Learn more, participate in other sports and communities. Teach and help in ways where I am valued and can be productive. Be a part of an amazing group of other people. Be in other tribes. Refine my craft and skills. Learn another language or two. Tick off half marathons and walks. Gain the skills to defend myself and get better situational awareness. Give up that mermaid tail and focus on dry land.

I’ve been looking for the face I had before the world was made. Looking at who I used to be. A long time ago. Before I lost myself. Who was I? What did I like before I shaped myself for other people? For relationships I shouldn’t have been in? And look how those invisible scars shaped how I would deal with next relationships, with myself and with others. Where the strengths and weaknesses are. Perception and presentation.

How very deep of me, eh? You can only grow when you take stock of what you’ve done, and been through, and acknowledged faults. And learnt and changed for the better for it.

I bought a beautifully lettered version of the Serenity Prayer from Covent Garden in 2008. It hangs framed in my lounge. Along with Desiderata and the first four lines of Blake’s Auguries of Innocence. They spoke to me back then. They spoke volumes. And they still do. The Serenity Prayer certainly does get glanced at often. Those are wise words:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can, and

Wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t care who your god is. This is a very honest appeal to life and the way we live.

So I’m trying to apply that now. I’m trying to change the things I can. And some of that will take time. Serenity to accept… well… working on it. Anger is a secondary emotion after all. I’m looking at what’s causing the anger in the first place, and acknowledging and dealing there. And knowing the difference? That comes with trial and error, I suppose. That’s how we all gain knowledge. And wisdom.

Hello world, remember me?

I’m the girl I thought I’d never be.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve grown up and got myself a permanent job (it’s a godawful photo). I’ve scratched a  few more things off my bucket list. Fought the Black Dog. Am continuing to fight my immune system. Gone on more adventures. Met people. Lost people. Found myself. Invested in self-reflection. Knitted. Cuddled babies and toddlers and dogs. Had some eureka moments. Listened to music. Ate. Drank. Have been merry. And tired. (I say tired because saying bone-crushingly exhausted tends to make people jumpy, I can’t imagine why).

I’ve learnt to ask for help and not feel guilty for doing so. I’ve learnt that people can make mistakes, and can be forgiven. I have forgiven, but not forgotten. I am practising the art of “this too shall pass.” I’m getting indignant about a male dominated society, angry about invisible diseases, and learning to be kind to myself (although that’s not always easy to be).

I’ve been thinking about you for a couple of months now. But you know how it is… it’s been so long since we talked, and I didn’t know what to say. Or how to say it. But I think it’s time we got a hot beverage and we started talking again. I’m doing some cool stuff in work and play. (I’m afraid I’ve been having an affair with Pinterest, it’s definitely more easy on the eyes). I’ve been listening to podcasts (I know!) and reading some good books. And experimenting with some good food. So it would be great to let you know what’s happening at the edge of the world. I know I’ve said I’ll keep in contact before. But this time, I mean it. Because I said I would.  And I need some selfish time to write about things. I may yet write some more on Medium and post to Instagram as well…

It really was another world.

When I was still sliding into the depths of darkness, and hadn’t quite figured out there was something very wrong a few years ago now, I went to New Caledonia with some special people to visit some other special people. I wish I could go back and experience it again, without the veil that covered most of the trip. Maybe it would have been less stressful for the others too… Maybe.

One thing that I have kept with me though, was the feeling of freedom when exploring the reefs – we got a water taxi out, and would go explore, and then go back to Noumea. And on the Friday, it was a catamaran to Phare Amédée and a swim around the island. It was the sound the parrotfish made while eating the coral – the pufferfish, angelfish, and clownfish, the tricot raye, the swimming with various sharks, turtles, giant travelly… And they were some of the best days I’ve had. It was a calm in a storm I wasn’t quite aware of yet. I could hear the thunder, but wasn’t sure how close it really was. I just can’t help but wonder how much more vivid they could have been?

Anyway, its been quite a few months. I’ve had to start from scratch back at the gym… and we’re not even going to talk about the pool. My lungs really aren’t what they used to be, and it turns out pneumonia takes a very long time to recover from – and some people don’t. I can’t wait to get into open water though – I’m hoping that may make training more enjoyable. But that the same time, I’m keenly aware of how quickly I still tire. I should be used to this level of frustration by now, but somehow, I’m not. I guess I’m always going to expect myself to be better than I am. Go farther, lift more, train harder. I love the drive, the accomplishment, the serotonin. The fact that I am going to continually be limited is something I want to ignore, but need to be mindful of.

So I’m keeping busy in other ways. I’ve judged a couple of rec grade freediving comps, worked on comms and sponsorship for some athletes. Built some more websites, and just carried on carrying on. It’s coming up to the end of the year and things are about to get very interesting across several levels. I can’t talk about them all yet, but it’s going to be a fun lesson and great personal development.

There are projects on the needles and yarn in baskets. A pile of books sits next to my bed. David Gilmour’s Rattle that Lock and Elbow’s Seldom Seen Kid are frequently on my playlist. I have a post I need to write about music, moods and those songs that hit you between the eyes. Next time.

For now, I’m listening to cricket (SA vs India), and remembering what it was like to swim with the fish. I can’t wait to do something like that again.

July, July!*

It’s amazing what a week of sleep and blobbing can do. And being sent home. And taking the hint. And relaxing. My natural propensity towards the nocturnal has also recalibrated itself. This is going to make rejoining the workforce properly interesting, because it’s also July. The Ashes started last night. And there’s Le Tour (which I’m about extol. Again), and next week, The Open. I mean, look at this video. Look at the passion, and the pride. This is why I love golf. And when golf comes home to St Andrews… that’s always very special.

But while July late nights of sport mean I’m not too anguished about being unable to do anything, I’m not coughing up furballs all that often. I was able to take a full, deep breath yesterday for the first time in about 5 weeks. I have managed to get through the last 2 days without several naps and have actually managed to be productive. Things are starting to look up. Even sitting here with my heater, hot water bottle, quilt and tea while it snows on the hills opposite makes me smile. I’m not sore all the time. It’s a relief.

Of course, I have had some distractions. I’m not going to lie. I’ve been watching the second season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. again. And there has been the League of Legends Champions Series Summer Split (yes, I watch LoL – have you seen these guys? I even have favourite teams). And my beloved Le Tour de France.

Having Le Tour on has made me insanely happy. I’ve missed it. I was up all night watching the cobblestone stage, and I can’t wait for the mountains again. Tourmalet and Alpe d’Huez this year. Hooray!

Of course, with Le Tour, there must be the KAL (knit along). After my pity party for one last week, I decided I really wanted to knit something for me – and I had just picked up this beautiful skein of Fyberspates Vivacious sock yarn in a colour called Pebble Beach. No photograph does it justice. But it had to come with me. It’s friend Verdigris nearly did too, but I was restrained. Anyway, Pebble Beach has been calling to me, and since I wanted something for me, and it was Le Tour. I answered her call. And she was going to be socks.

No photo will ever do this colourway justice.
No photo will ever do this colourway justice.

Then came the question. Which pattern?! I went through all my sock books and ravelry, and then had a good look at my yarn cake. There was only one pattern that could so this justice. Back in 2008 when I first learnt how to knit socks, I rewrote a pattern of a sock I really liked to knit it from the toe-up, and then I attempted to knit it. Surprisingly, the mod worked, and it has become my old faithful. It looks good in semi-solids, variegated and solid yarns. And it was made for this colourway.

So on I cast during the Prologue, and I finished the first sock last night during Greg Lamond’s recap of the cobblestones. It really is just so pretty. It also helps having something where you can actually see your progress. And because it’s the TdF (and I really want another pair of socks), there’s no worry of Second Sock Syndrome (SSS) here. I may even get something else finished out of this year’s TdF. Who knows?

One sock down, one to go
One sock down, one to go

But for now, I need one more nap, as I dream of venturing out in weather warmer than this. See you next time.

*Because I’m in a The Decemberists Mood.

Feeling sorry for myself.

So this week hasn’t been a complete failure. I managed to get into the office for a couple of hours each morning (and slept all afternoon). Today is just a rest day. It’s also a wallowing in self-pity day. (I am self-aware enough that I am, but the situation being what it is, I can’t exactly snap out of it. Yet.)

Bear with me while I have a mini rant about being stuck in a body in which I cannot be active. Those who have followed this blog for a while know how much I love walking, that I dabble in watersports and feel quite at home in a yoga studio. Imagine my frustration when a 100m walk to my bus stop makes me want to sleep for 3 hours. And don’t get me started at basically being banned from pools and asanas. Being (hyper)active has kept the Black Dog at bay. All those happy endorphins and serotonin levels keeping my depression in check. But now… maybe this is just anticipating the worst and it won’t be that bad – but I am genuinely afraid of backsliding without the ability to be active.

Of course, this isn’t permanent. Getting ill the your body’s way of saying slow down. Maybe I have been too frenetic and my poor immune system freaked out completely. Maybe. I am as patient as a saint with others, but I don’t afford myself the same graces (sound familiar?). How does one actually begin to teach yourself to do that? Clearly, there is no silver bullet or instant solution. But I’m sure I have learnt to be more mindful of me since the Dengue fiasco of 2013. So why does the prospect of needing to be sedentary for a few months terrify me so much? What is it about being unable to do activities you take for granted that causes such despair? I am still mobile (although at 25% of my usual speedy pace); I can still think, communicate, and reason; my brain has stopped being fuzzy so I can read, and write – although concentration levels are low (doesn’t help the knitting either)… it’s just the being able to get up and go places and do things and be social and explore. Without the painful lungs and the need to cough up furballs constantly, the tight chest and the light-headedness. I cannot wait for the day when this all ends.

Yet I am endeavouring, stubbornly, to still improve myself. Unfortunately there’s 20-odd pages of Sagan I’m going to need to re-read because it just refused to go in. But in light of a tragedy I’ve been following for the last few years, I have finally ordered myself a copy of The Art of Asking. From what I’ve read about this book and seen of the TED Talk, this may be a little bit of a revelation to me. I also ordered Tessa Dunlop’s The Bletchley Girls, as I heard the interviews about it on Radio NZ a few months ago and it sounded fascinating. A different perspective of life and existence is always healthy.

So here I sit, hot water bottle on my back to ease the muscles tired from all the coughing. Watching the rain hit the windows, the wind blow and the birds outside in full voice. I know life isn’t that bad. 80 years ago, this pneumonia would have killed me. Now, I’m warm and dry and convalescing. I’m not in hospital, and I almost have my voice back completely. I have several people constantly reminding me to take it easy. I’m drinking Lapsang Souchong and eating the last of the box of chocolates my team at work bought for me as a get-well-soon present. A very good friend in London pointed me in the direction of Serial during an emergency talk-me-out-of-a-meltdown last night – so that may be my afternoon. And maybe finishing some knitting. If I can pay attention for long enough to do so. If not, my Pinterest will certainly get more love. And so will my pillow as I’m due another nap soon.

Thank you, dear reader, for putting up with my self-pitying wallow. I love the comments I get from my tweet stream and on the blog. You’re all a brilliant bunch and I ought to comment on those with blogs I follow instead of lurking like I am.

Keep warm if you’re in the southern hemisphere, and I hope it cools down if you’re in the north. Until next time, with hopefully a more upbeat post. ~S

An ode to Pneumonia

So that, “we caught it before it became Pneumonia” spiel? Not so much. You see, they were looking in the wrong place. My pneumonia didn’t act as it should. Oh no. Instead of starting in the bottom lobe of the lung (right lung as 3 lobes, left has 2), mine had to start in the right top lobe (which has quite a bit of surface area) and spread into the middle lobe. It also had to ignore all types of antibiotics that *should* work as though I was having sugar pills.

So when I had a coughing fit that ended up with me seeing stars, I decided something wasn’t right. And went and saw my GP. Again. She looked bemused until she checked my oxygen saturation levels. Then she just looked panicked. And called an ambulance. So my saturation levels were 77. No wonder I was feeling very light-headed. I actually couldn’t get enough oxygen in to function.

So I had a fun ride in the back of an ambulance and two awesome paramedics poking me full of needles and giving me oxygen. To add to that 77 sat level, my resting heart rate was 115. 5 hours in ED isolation, another chest xray (apparently I looked too healthy to have pneumonia, according to one of the registrars), and a dogged theory that I had Whooping Cough TB, and I ended up admitted “for the night” so that they could do a CT scan in the morning. (My blood tests seem to contradict everything the doctors assumed. Amusing).

The nice thing about being possibly contagious (even though you really aren’t) is they put you in an isolation room. Private bathroom, relatively quiet. You can cough and doze without bugging anybody and having anybody bug you. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. Especially with the coughing and struggling to breathe and you’re far away from the nurses. Still, the doctors were adamant I had pneumonia and TB (I’m from Africa and why else would the medications not work?!) Finally, they were forced to concede that I did not, in fact, have TB, only atypical Pneumonia and that my body just isn’t going to do what they expect.

So that one night turned into 5. The isolation ward turned into a single room in a different pod. There was a stunning asthma attack (the spray disinfectant they were using in the corridor caused my throat to close up in spectacular fashion) – at least I gave the doctors something to do at 10am on a Sunday morning – more nebulisers, steroids, inhalers, chest xrays… It was all quite painful and a little exhausting. But the cocktail of antibiotics they put together started to work, and I managed to escape on Monday afternoon.

Mom’s here, which is a godsend. I’ve spent most of these last few days passed out. In fact, that is probably what is going to happen again today, and for the foreseeable future. I value my lungs so anything I can do to fix them…

It is frustrating talking to the doctor’s about what to expect. With pneumonia as widespread as this, it’s going to take weeks before it is all clear. And months before my energy and lung capacity is back to normal. I’m sure you can see my headdesking even now. So frustrating. Looks like it’s going to be a while before I can even make the 15 minute walk to work without causing damage. Baby steps.

In saying that, I can take this opportunity to actually work on my diving and swimming properly. From scratch. This is a good thing. Well, that’s what I keep telling myself.

And the knitting and reading will get more attention then. But I just don’t have the energy now. All my WIPs are calling me. But I just want to sleep.

So keep yourselves warm. Look after your lungs. And stay tuned for the further adventures of Shelley the accident prone.

Pressure on my chest

Chest infections are the bane of my existence. I can pinpoint the start of the whole sad story to o’week in my hall of res during my first year at uni. I was there when they were still hazing people, and I got ‘fresher flu. It took 4 months and a trip up north to see a doctor who would actually listen to my chest rather than dismissing me to get the antibiotics to clear the damn thing up. (No, I’m still not bitter – Dunedin Student Health – you ruined my health for the rest of my life). Only, it never cleared up. As my GP a home was sorry to tell me, I was going to have a crackle in my lungs and need an inhaler for the rest of my life. She continued, I’d always have a propensity to now get a chest infection. And so it goes. And she hasn’t been wrong on any count yet – 14 years later – and it still stands true. Mind you adding a compromised immune system to the mix is never going to make life easier.

So here I am. No voice to speak of, struggling to breath, and cursing my tired and aching lungs. This one hit me fast. Last Tuesday I felt odd. By Wednesday – there were shivers. Thursday I was home from work early, and Friday was spent in a fevered daze. So come Monday, when I finally make it to the doctor, she listens carefully to my lungs, takes blood pressure, and my blood oxygen saturation. “You’re lucky”, she said, “we caught it before it became pneumonia. Just.” Got the trusted antibiotics and a medical leave note which she said I was to use, and sent me home.

The last time a doctor told me I was “half a sandwich short of pneumonia” it was 2011 and there was a world cup on. I was sick, but I still did stuff. I went out. I watched games. Which is why there was 6 weeks off work. I wasn’t taking it seriously. This time, sitting up is akin to running a marathon. Breathing is a fine balance of shallow and considered (as to not start a coughing fit), and any thought of even going outside is enough to make me break into a cold sweat. Well. That’s happening anyway, so I guess that’s moot. I wonder now if the Dengue really has messed my system up enough to lie me low for what is going on a week and a half. The antibiotics and my body as still in negotiation as to how they’re going to resolve this problem, and I’m left a sleep-deprived and uncomfortable battleground. I mean really, I’m too old for this sort of thing, but I feel like it’s only going to get worse in from here.

There’s no knitting (brain too fluffy – when you’re messing up stockinette – you know you’re in trouble), no reading (eyes too sore – also difficult to keep a place when coughing up a lung, or, at least something bronchial). So there’s been a brain on some serious wacked out sleep-hungry scenario walk-throughs (attendance has been mandatory), some docos, a few movies, and staring mindless into space. I hate being sick. I’m not a good patient. I’m not actually given a choice here (maybe my body has learnt from previous experiences…)

I’m mildly concerned I won’t be anywhere near well enough come Monday, and we’re hitting crunch time at work because suddenly everybody is sick. What is this next week going to hold? It’s also frustrating because I’d just worked out some gym circuits to do to help with the swimming and I was planning to get in the water and you know? That’s going to be knocked back 4-6 weeks which is a real blow.

And I was supposed to Wagner tonight. Am quietly devastated that I won’t be. I think I will be lamenting that for a long time to come. There was just no way I was going to make it through a 2 and a half hour performance without being lynched for coughing while Brunhilde warbles.

Still, I’ve been able to catch up on some really interesting history docos on the Tudors and the Stuarts, and some amazing stuff on Al Jazeera too. Tonight will also hopefully see a less dreadful game of cricket played by the Black Caps.

But what do you do when you get sick? I mean well proper sick? Do you plan your next escape in your head, or ponder life’s mysteries in that gauzy daze you get when you’re not well? Do you try sleep through it? Drink tea and will yourself better? How do you cope with being sick?