Measuring up


I’ve just been to measure up the new house for a cooker.

Well, that was the plan. Except I stayed an hour and a half and my sister joined in too, because the lady I’m buying from is the nicest most helpful person on the planet who is leaving the house spick and span and the garden all neat and tidy too, as well as four pages of notes on how everything works.

But the best bit of all is that tonight I discovered that the fireplace in the living room is real. 

It’s not a gas fire with mock logs as I thought and the agent told me; it’s just an old-school grate and she often has fires in there.

I am thrilled. Thrilled. I was going to save up and put a log burner in. Now I don’t need to! Now I will be contributing to global warming in my own small but meaningful way whilst reclining on the rug with a glass of pink gin, in a state of utter bliss.

And it’s all real. Her stuff is in boxes. The house is really really going to be mine on Friday.

Two and bit days to go. Suddenly it’s all truly happening and not just conceptual. I did measure for the cooker, too…

I’m so excited. It’s – oh! – I’m going to have a house!!

In which I am endlessly exhorted to “stay strong” and it gets a bit annoying


Mr CFS is really pleased to have a sympathetic new correspondent.

He is thrilled! Evidently I’m his new best friend! He must tell me everything, even though I studiously only reply once a day.

Messages from him are so long they take up three screen-lengths of my iPad (Yes. I measured.) and so far I think he has expressed admiration at the number of plates I’m apparently spinning in almost every missive. Then I also get bonus messages tacked on to the end of the main giant message.

All messages are littered with a wealth of smiley emojis of differing facial expressions.

He tells me how well I’m doing and constantly exhorts me to “stay strong”.

I’m not awfully keen on constantly being told to “stay strong”.

I think it sounds “silly”.

He also told me that he thinks he and his wife are past the point where Relate would be useful. (Me: “sorry to hear things aren’t good for you. Relate is extremely good”)

Any idiot can see what that means. I was halfway through typing “you know I’m not the answer to that, don’t you?” when I thought it sounded mean and presumptuous, so I deleted it.

The things I say to empathise a little get blown up out of all proportion (“that must have been SO difficult having a bi polar [sic] husband, no wonder your CFS was so bad, your doing so well, you will get there, stay strong J— and keep smiling its the best medicine <TEN EMOJIS>”)


My ex-husband didn’t make me ill – he was just a pain in the arse (i.e. impossible) to live and deal with, and I’m not inclined to lay the blame for my CFS fully at the door of my divorce.

Sure, it’s all cumulative, but I ain’t blaming him.

I don’t really need a bouncy shiny CFS cheerleader, either. I find it most odd.

My friends give me love and sympathy and kindness when I need it; otherwise the best of them tell me it doesn’t exist until I say so. I just don’t want to constantly think about it or go on about it. Sometimes, yes; the rest of the time, no.

I don’t think of myself as strong – I just try and bloody get on with it. If I want to climb a big hill and I know I’m fit to do so, then off I go. It’s not “strong” and it’s not another fucking plate, it’s just enjoyable and sometimes I need to run away. That’s all I was doing on Sunday – running (not literally) as far as I could. It worked.

It’s just me. It’s just everyday life. Spare me the goddamn pompoms.

He suggested meeting up for a coffee when I’ve got the move out of the way.

I will go once. It is easier to whinge about illness in person, and maybe we could just cram it in then instead of him sending me endless essays about it.

I understand that he doesn’t have anyone else he feels he can share it with, but the level of his comms is not a burden I massively want. He isn’t available for dating, so I’m not going to make an extra effort. Still married, still a no from me.

If the coffee goes nicely and not weirdly then we will see.

I am just not sure on this one.

Legal Impediment


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Why would a guy wear a wedding ring if he’s divorced…?

How about – if he’d got remarried?!

Silly, silly Cots for not thinking about that possibility.

Yup. Mr CFS is married.

Of course he is. 

On what planet would a guy that silently transmitted that he liked me actually be free to do anything about it? Not the one I live on, for sure.

This became apparent after two emails both ways yesterday and following each other on Twitter. Before I went to sleep last night I saw that he’d sent me a private Twitter message, but I wasn’t feeling gracious enough to read another twelve paragraphs about why CFS sucks, so I rolled over and went to sleep instead.

I read it this morning. It was long. There were five separate bits to the stream of messages. He laughed and said I might notice he rambles quite a bit (oh goody).

He wrote that he found it a very lonely illness, without wanting to sound like a sad case. His wife, he said, has her own problems, and he tries not worry his son with it.

I read that bit and thought, here we go again. Why I am such catnip to married men who think I’m nice? Why is it the ones that can’t have me that like me, and the ones that could that never do?

I know all too well where being the one who understands a husband when the wife has troubles of her own gets me – and that is a broken heart. 

I did it once with Mr U. I will never ever do it again.

I’m a nice person, essentially. I’m not going to just drop it there and leave him totally alone just because he has a missus. But the “married” message has been received loud and clear, and so I am not going to be the constant Twitter companion who messages six times a day. He can’t have that. I will be an occasional correspondent instead, and one who will just ask how he’s doing periodically, in a friendly but not excessive way.

He is right. It can be a fucking lonely business, CFS. It can make you conscious that you’re being a misery, which in turn makes you draw away from people for fear of boring them or being seen as perpetually dull and miserable.

But at least he has a wife. I understand that I gave my husband up, that I was indeed once married myself. I had love and I chose not to keep it. 

In fairness, by the time I gave it up the love had gone anyway, it had gone sour.

I’m not good at admitting it to myself, but I’d love to have someone who gave me a hug and a kiss each day, someone I could cuddle up with on the sofa and just feel loved by. I really really would. I’m kind and I’m nice and I am lovely to cuddle, and I’m pretty sure I’m still loveable, I’m not so bitter and spiky that I can’t be loved.

The only people who seem to want to conceivably dish out these things to me, though, are either the utter dullards that I meet who are so far off my wavelength as to be at the other end of the rainbow, or people not in a position to freely give out hugs and kisses. Neither are acceptable.

And everyone has their own problems. Sometimes they fit with yours, sometimes they don’t. I’m damned if I’m going to be a panacea for a lonely married man who has what I don’t.

I just have no faith in love any more. It passes me by. Why bother even going looking for it when anyone I ever like is either unavailable or finds me unloveable? 

This isn’t even maudlin tiresome grotesque self-pity – it’s just tired resignation of how things seem to be. I have my friends, I have my family, and very soon I’ll have a house. I am very lucky and fortunate in other ways. Just not with love.

I keep planning to ask the other person who liked me but turned out not to be available, OF, what the situation is. Is he now single? I keep putting it off for fear of doing it badly and looking like a tit.

Truth is, I’m just scared he won’t be single, or worse, will be but won’t want to go out with me. Every time I put myself out there a little bit, the universe slaps me in the face.

I don’t think my face needs any more slapping. Perhaps it’s just simpler to stay quiet.

My listening face strikes again



I emailed Mr CFS my tracking spreadsheet of intermediate complexity yesterday.

I kept it light, chatty, not too grumbly about CFS  – just trying to be me, not to overthink it or try and present myself in any particular way. I started to write “if you fancy that coffee…” and thought, you know what, I’m not going to. I’m not going to be “continually putting myself forward girl”. I always dare to think guys like me and they turn out not to, so I deleted it and put “you know where I am if you want to grumble” – which wasn’t a great deal better but at least was straightforward and true.

A day later I got a reply.

He was delighted to have heard from me and loved the spreadsheet. His whole email was very effusive, very warm, very very very full of having a bit of a bad day (“to be honest”) and clearly being pleased to the bottom of his socks to have a new chum who understood unequivocally.

I rolled my eyes to myself and wondered just how it was that my bloody Listening Face™ conveys itself over fucking email.

Truly, I don’t mind sympathising about shitty symptoms and laughing about the misfortunes of being tired. I will chat about how it impacts on work. But I won’t fill a whole email with it, because there are good things to chat about too. I’ll do a paragraph of frustration, one of maybe some practical problems, then one about how I’m looking forward to x or y and feeling brighter again.

I suspect my eyes rolled more than they might otherwise have done because in sentence number one was my pet hate…


Doom. Doom!

The email was also peppered with bizarre “J”s at the end of each line. Sure, he used my name twice (“have faith in better days, J—“; errmmm, OK!), but I thought surely there weren’t there deliberately.

In the end I decided that they must be some strange paragraph markers in some random email software that didn’t like my gmail formatting. Weird.

I read down to see what, if anything, he had to say about meeting up or staying in touch. He was very keen for me to find him on Twitter as he doesn’t do Facebook.

That was it.

I sighed and reflected on how I barked up the wrong tree yet again. Or how maybe I didn’t but I picked another one not in a position to do anything about it.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt and replied, and received a reply from him in very much the same style as the first. Delighted to be chatting to me, just wanting to share share share the CFS problems, have a good weekend and look after myself. 

Luckily for him, I can and do.

I seem to have acquired myself a CFS penpal. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind!

“Sleep hygiene isn’t having a shower before bedtime…”


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The man currently speaking hasn’t actually got a Northen accent, but for some reason, whenever he speaks I keep expecting a Bolton voice to emerge. Surreal.

“I work a twelve-hour day [my mind adds “down t’pit”] and just looking at those lists of all them things you’re expected to do – well – I can’t see as how anyone’ud have the time!”

(See? He really should have a Bolton accent… Alright. He didn’t really say ” ‘ud”. Fine.)

This chap is the husband of one of our fellow CFS/ME sufferers, the only partner/friend/relative in the room. The remaining three of us have come for this second support session on our own.

I’m slightly fixated on this man’s teeth when he talks. Mercifully it isn’t too much, as he only appears to have two or three at the front, and they’re a particularly fetching shade of grey to boot. I mentally decide to give him a Yankee Hillbilly accent instead as the banjo refrain from Deliverance starts playing unhelpfully in my brain.

Also, I feel compelled to reply to his comment. Yes, Mr No-CFS No-Teeth, I respect that you’re here to learn how to help your wife, but your phantom accent and slightly chippy attitude needles me.

“It’s very interesting to hear you say that it seems like an awful lot of stuff to do. It is – I agree that it is. But doing all of those things is the only way to get better, so you have to decide what you’re going to ditch in order to do those things…”

The psychologist doctor jumps in and moves the PowerPoint on before we have an actual argument.

I choose not to additionally point out that I work for seven hours out of eight and I still do all the stuff I need to do to keep myself from falling back into the pit of severe M.E. I also keep silent about the fact that it’s the damn fun stuff that largely goes, along with the cakes and the drinking, and that’s the way it has to be for a while if you want to bloody well get better. It’s all a choice

We continue learning about sleep hygiene, about not being on our computers or tablets or phones right before bedtime (although I privately scoffed at the “two hours before bed” suggestion). I’ve got the Night Shift setting on my iPad… job done, right? 

We chat about calm soothing environments, maybe not having TVs in the bedroom, dark, quiet, a snack before bed, having a wind-down routine – all things to get prepared for good-quality sleep.

My own sleeping has been much better since the bad old days of deep and utter fatigue last year. Sleep now refreshes me. Not – perhaps- to the degree to where I spring out of bed in the morning thrilling to the new day and bounding out of bed with endless enthusiasm, but enough that I feel recharged and able to face the day. 

I stopped needing a daytime nap a long while ago, when I realised it heavily interfered with my sleep at night. Sometimes, when I’ve overdone it or really had no choice about a very long day, or my hormones suddenly go bang, I have to have a sleep and there is nothing else I can do because I cannot keep my eyes open. Luckily that is very rare nowadays, and as the therapist said, it’s not a regular thing. Too much sleep is as bad as too little or poor quality sleep. Mindfulness is mentioned.

In the break I chat again to the chap who is most like me – working full-time, trying to lead a full life, not sleeping in the day, trying to make the best of it. We seem to be the “can-do” proactive side of the room, as I very much suspected during the first session.

He offers to buy me a drink as we chat, which is kind though I don’t want one. We have the same worries about work, about being able to get a different job to the ones we have. I count my blessings because he has to travel, and has a few weeks coming up which would be brutal for a person without CFS/ME, let alone someone with. He thinks he is going to be broken afterwards. I privately think that he is right, and I thank my stars again for my 9-5 job where I never look at emails outside of work time.

At the end of the session I think he would be a good person to stay in touch with. Brutally, I don’t want to surround myself with fellow sufferers who don’t share my mindset; I don’t see how masses of self-pity is productive, and I know that I quickly run out of sympathy. Everyone whinges, even especially me at times, but I want to be better so I work things out for myself. I think CFS\ME sufferers are divided into the self-motivators and the not, and it’s probably best to mix with those of the same camp.

I think he feels the same. Certainly he’s keen to see my spreadsheet that I use to track my work and breaks. It’s been enjoyable chatting to him, and he’s a nice guy. 

As we walk to the car park together, I suggest that if he wants to get a coffee and have a chat sometime then that would be great. As I say it, I properly acknowledge the thing that I half-thought last session and thought a lot more this session: he likes me. 

I laughingly run down the checklist from week one: “Major life event? Divorce! Tick!”. He agrees with a “me too”, which I’d worked out from his talking about his son, although he still wears a wedding ring.

I don’t know if two CFS-ers is a good thing or a bad thing. Two moderate to mild sufferers who don’t give in might be OK, or it might be a very bad thing.  

He smells nice, which is always a major plus in my book. Annoyingly he has a short beard. It is very neat and precise and smart, but it’s still a damn beard. Amusingly, he does actually have a hint of a Northern accent, but only a little and he’s got all his teeth.

I take his email address and promise to send him the spreadsheet. When he gets it, he says, we can swap details and sort out a drink. He’s impressed that I’m buying my own house. He uses my name, which hasn’t actually been said today, so he’s remembered it from two weeks ago (as, in fairness, I have his).

I say goodbye, put the roof down on the car to just look that little bit more cool, and drive home laughing to myself that I could come away from a hospital support session with a guy’s details.

Perhaps my inner minx has only been dormant rather than dead – although why she chose to pop out from underneath a cricket jumper whilst in a stuffy hospital conference room is a mild mystery.

This gives me great cheer. I’ve missed my inner minx. However she chooses to reappear and make me feel valuable is fine by me.

A father and daughter driving day


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On Sunday my dad and I took part in a local rally-ette, which, unlike some of the road rallies Dad has done in the past, wasn’t timed, wasn’t competitive, and probably more accurately should be called a fun run.

It was the perfect day for it – sunny, hot, blue skies.

Dad joked that last time he’d done a day with this car group, they’d been unimpressed that his car wasn’t of the brand most of the club owners had. Being a tiny bit protective of my family, I wasn’t prepared for any nonsense: we’d been invited by the organiser and that was good enough for me.

Happily all of the club members were very pleasant. Yes, they were pretty much all retired, and the youngest had twenty years on me. Yes, I was absolutely the only lady driver out of the whole bunch. Yes, I can talk cars with bearded retirees and look like I’m really enjoying it …

People admired our (dad’s!) car and weren’t sniffy at all. To our delight, there were two other cars of the same make as ours, which meant plenty of discussion of engine size and custom features. As dad said, he’d had many of the club cars over his life, but now was the time for something with ABS and power steering (and, indeed, a daughter with mild petrolhead inclinations to do the driving).

It was with a mixture of emotions that I heard my dad chatting about how he wasn’t driving nowadays – pride that he wasn’t now embarrassed to admit it; sad that those days are over for him, sad that he didn’t still have his lovely classic car (which weighed a tonne and had no mod cons…). I was pleased that I got to be pilot and do the fun bit, with the enormous benefit of modern power steering…

Off we went, roof down, September sunshine bathing the countryside. We weren’t timed, there was no formality, we just tried to keep apart so we could have fun following the route instructions. It was a real treat to see some corners of the county I grew up in that I had simply no idea existed. Pretty villages, stunning views, windy lanes – it was wonderful and the sunshine just made it shine.

We only had one detour when we confused left with right and the road had the same name. No harm done as there was no competitive element!

We arrived for our coffee break at an airfield I had never known existed. I was charmed: an old WWII airfield still operational. Light aircraft taking off with pleasure rides, planes taxiing and pedestrians stopping to wait, helicopters taking off and landing mere metres from the café garden. The voice of the air traffic controller over the loudspeakers, that perfect laconic British accent playing lazy chess in the sky.

It was a small piece of noisy unpretentious loveliness – a summer’s afternoon, families mingling, ice creams, green grass, aeroplanes droning overhead – it was something I thought had been lost long ago, all the nicer for not being fancy, crowded, just hangers and old wartime huts now flying offices, an original control tower and a café underneath that probably hadn’t had more than one lick of paint since 1945.

To top it off, a Spitfire taxied, took off, and when we were about to leave, came over with a fly-past and landed. It taxied not twenty feet from us, Merlin engine rumbling, men of a certain age getting all nostalgic, myself mainly pleased with the noise and smell and the iconic design – everyone delighted to see such an important piece of British aviation history alive and well and still in the sky nearly 80 years on.

I’m not what you’d call a history buff, but it was a delightful step back in time.

And so back to the cars, and an unhurried second section.

Dad and I had got the navigation communications cracked. He didn’t mind if I asked twelve times coming up to a specified mileage whether he’d said left or right; I didn’t make a fuss when he told us left instead of right on one occasion. He didn’t tut or wince once at my driving (he’s got what I’d kindly call a bit overly cautious now, and even when he’s a passenger he’s terribly prone to putting on the imaginary brakes if a car comes within twelve feet or pulls out quickly, which of course happens all the time), and I made sure I drove sensibly and calmly so that we could both relax.

The end of the run was at a pub where lunch was booked. The organiser, one of the neighbours, had confirmed three times with the pub dad and my veggie choice. Which, of course, in a massive throw-back to the days of being a veggie in the eighties and early nineties, was forgotten and we had to wait ages.

Dad snapped at the surly lad behind the carvery who had shrugged at us – which made my heart sink in front of a queue of people at the carvery – he doesn’t do quiet snapping. Calm calm polite ANGRY AND SHOUTING. Hmmm. There is no transition phase… and I always have to step in when he shouts, even if I’m cross myself.

Eventually ONE of our lunches was brought out, and I gave it to dad to stop WWIII breaking out. Then there was a disagreement about the garlic bread that was meant to come with it.

I was hot, it was stuffy, there were 40 other retired non-veggie people all enjoying a lovely carvery with Yorkshire puddings and cauliflower cheese taunting me – and I was the only one without any bloody lunch in front of me.

“You have not only forgotten two lunches, you have now only brought one, and we were ASSURED that these came with garlic bread” I said quietly through gritted teeth. The waiter backed hurriedly away and said they’d get onto it, which he did, the garlic bread arriving before my actual lunch.

Of course, the potato and broccoli bake was, in the end, nothing more than boiled potatoes and broccoli drowned in cheese sauce and grilled with more cheese. Sophisticated it wasn’t. Filling and hot it was. Eventually…

We drove home after lunch. I’d had my fill of chatting to retired people who wanted to tell me all about their pregnant daughters and wanted to know what veggie products I liked to use in my cooking. Try as I might to pretend otherwise, lots of chat with strangers falls squarely into my “overstimulating and tiring” category, and I can’t do endless amounts. Dad had equally had enough (half of my antisocialness is inherited…heheh) so we politely excused ourselves and went home.

It was lovely to spend a day out with my dad. We don’t have disagreements, unlike has been sometimes known with mum. We chat about cars and holidays, memories and things that make us laugh, and I felt lucky that I have a dad who I can spend time with and chatter so easily to, as well as stay quiet with in a companionable way.

I suppose as we all get older it comes to mind that I need to treasure the good times with my parents. I guess I feel it more with my dad because his health isn’t as robust as my mum’s, it is more of a present mild worry. I don’t want to look back and think I didn’t make time to do special things together, like the rally.

I want to add to the collection of happy memories and not take him for granted, and funnily enough, most of our father/daughter duo memories when I’ve been a grown-up involve cars! Track days, holidays, cars we’ve had, cars we’d like…

And that suits both of us just fine. It’s exactly the way I’m sure we both like it, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.


Prosecco, being awful, dating applications


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My sister hands me her phone. We are three glasses of Prosecco in, after a strong G&T. My brother-in-law has gone to bed.

“Fill this in NOW” my sister instructs.

It is a much-discussed form for a much-loved dating programme that I have been prevaricating about applying for.

Now, it seems, the choice is out of my hands.

I fill it in, answer the questions, try to supply 250 words on why I’m super-interesting and dateable (“My friends described me in three words as “independent” “intelligent” and “big-boobed” – which frankly will make me look thick as pig-shit)

I pick a recent photo that I like from Facebook, and then, because I’m slightly merry, just click Send and think “fuck it, they’ll think I’m too dull”.

I walk home having laughed a lot and spread the gospel of iOS 10.

As I walk, I think about how bloody undateable I am, how unlikely it is that I’ll get anything back from the application, how my waist and my thighs and my arse and my legs just let me down in every way, how my habit of sharing possibly too much with those I am interested in is a hindrance and not something charming.

I’m too “this”; too “that” – never quite right, never the kissable hot one. I’m reliable and funny and smart and not pig-ugly but never, no never the girl of anyone’s dreams.

I don’t handle disappointment well. I am, at times, painfully self-absorbed. I suffer bullshit less and less; I’m not inclined to pander to nonsense. I get hurt by things beyond people’s control and cannot contain my sense of personal affront. At times I find myself awful; god knows what anyone else must think. I know: I do know – really I do.

I have learned, over the years, that when hurt and disappointment arrive, whether it should be something to really be hurt over or not, that the only way I cope is to pull up the drawbridge immediately and to retreat.

The biggest thing in six years? I want it to go the way it was planned.

A last-minute setback from one of my best friends becomes something I cannot deal with graciously, even if it is beyond their control. A decade of men letting me down and teaching me I can only rely on myself; that at the end of everything there is only me – that is my life lesson, and I hate the reminders that it is still true.

Self-protection tastes unpleasant and I’m sure is completely unpalatable to those on the other end. I know no other way now, the softness is gone for a while. It is a shock to find that awful iron core again: I thought it was buried.

I dislike that it matters. Prosecco and gin and good company ease my hardness and coldness, and I wonder if – say I should be lucky enough to get any further with the dating application – surely the man is going to see what everyone else sees – the hardness underneath the flippancy; the disappointing figure, the girl pretending she is something better and more attractive than what is in front of him – the girl unwilling to let anyone near enough to love her.

It’s not an attractive proposition, alas. Makes the application rather a pointless exercise, really. And yet – and yet! I can’t quite give up hope.

I am utterly ridiculous.

In which I am a total lemon


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It’s an office day. I’ve just emerged from the loo, which after a two-and-a-quarter hour commute tends to be my first port of call.

Standing in the kitchenette outside the loo making himself a tea is none other than Office Fox, M.

Once I get over the momentary flash of weirdness at greeting him fresh from having a (please not audible) pee, I smile and think, “Excellent! This is my chance to oh-so-subtly-but-cunningly find out if he has moved with his missus or is in fact now living on his own!”.

Haha! Thank you Fate!

So I cheerily say “Morning!”

(Great start. Undeniably a classic opener.)

“Morning!” he rejoinders, stirring his tea.

(So far, so good)

“How’s the move going? Did you manage to get any actual moving done this weekend?” I ask, as an opener to my subtle-but-deadly super interrogation technique.

“Yeah thanks, I’m all moved!”

(Use of “I” noted yet again.)

(Come on Cots, he said “I”: now is the moment, just bloody ask – as if it’s perfectly natural to be asking – who he’s living with. Do it. Do it. DO IT NOW.)

“How’s the commute?”


“Not bad thanks, the bus goes from outside my new place. Better than sitting in traffic.”

“Oh yes, I used to get that same bus from C—, lovely now they put the posher newer buses on that route”


Alas I can’t see a way out of this that will get me the intelligence I so desire, so we walk back to the office together and I hope he’s not thinking about how my bum looks awful because I’ve got water retention (or eaten too much rubbish over the years – either or).

If I were a different person, I’d stop in the middle of the balcony so that he had to stop too, and say “Are you living on your own? What’s the deal? Are you seeing anyone?”

But I’m not, and he’s a bit too shy for me to get away with that anyway. We have to work in the same office a bit now (which is obviously lovely) so sensibility reigns.

I settle down at my desk with a sigh, and get amusingly grilled by our team manager about my date with Dr Earnest the other week, so I speak especially clearly when I say “It was okay, but he definitely wasn’t the one for me…” and hope Monsieur Fox is listening…

In which the support session isn’t as horrific as dreaded, and I do not always win at Scrabble


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It’s been a curious week. I’ve had my first CFS/ME support session; I’ve had an attack of the Raging Hormones; I’ve exchanged on a house and I’ve been doing all the bits that follow on from that (including rather excitedly buying a cushion).

The CFS support session wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I have to attend two compulsory intro sessions, where nice healthcare professionals tell us all about having CFS/ME and what changes we can make to our lives to effect a recovery, which for some people is full, for others it is partial.

I immediately felt like the class swot because a) I’d read the book they had on the side table, and b) I have been implementing almost everything they recommended over the last year.

They told us about some of the risk factors for CFS, which interested me.

A history of glandular fever? Tick. Had it at uni, didn’t know I’d had it, showed up in subsequent blood tests.

A major disruptive life event? What, like a divorce…? Tick.

Then they mentioned personality traits. I was curious. How could your personality put you at risk of this stupid illness?

“We find people who tend to be perfectionists, tend to hold themselves to very high and sometimes impossible standards are more prone to CFS…”

Oh shit. I squirmed in my chair and blushed slightly. Hearing the words was a bit of a slap. It brought involuntary tears to my eyes – sadness that my pursuit of high standards for myself had in fact helped to bring me low.

However, having strict expectations of myself not to cry in front of a room of strangers, I kept things under control…

The session was well-done and informative. I got to meet three other people with CFS; two who were very much worse off than me, not working, mostly resting; one who like me was managing to hold a full-time job down, but couldn’t get the rest of his life sorted out.

I suppose it was nice to feel like I’d put myself on the right track and had had the wit to work some of the stuff out myself. I tried not to be an irritating know-it-all when I spoke about what had worked for me. I also felt guilty that other people clearly had it far worse than me and probably resented how much I could do – but that for me has come as a result of working at it slowly and steadily and refusing to take it lying down.

Interestingly the healthcare ladies informed us that too much rest was as bad as too much activity, which was a new piece of information.

Overall it was nice to meet some other people who completely understood what was going on, had suffered the same brain fog, the same random sore throats. It reminded me to be grateful that I don’t hurt all over, that I can work and be independent. It also reminded me to consciously think about what I do, to carefully increase what I do instead of just doing something, to keep on smoothing out the ups and downs to get a steady gentle increase.

I was pleased to hear the word “recovery” used because it gave me hope that this won’t be forever. One of the ladies lives just around the corner from where I’ll be moving to, so I will make sure to see her because she feels quite isolated and we can grumble about our illness without annoying anyone else.

Next session we’ll be looking at sleep and rest and sleep hygiene. Then hopefully we can get to choose to go to sessions on areas that specifically we need help on (diet and exercise are my two – I really want to start dating again once I move).

So it was helpful, not dreadfully patronising, confirmed I’ve been doing the right things.

Two days after the support session I got hit with an ocean of hormones. It happens maybe every three months or so. I never see it coming because I have an IUS which keeps it all pretty much subdued, but every now and then I turn into a seriously grumpy extra-tired human being, and the CFS just seems to magnify the awfulness.

It didn’t help that I had been really really really busy at work last week. I had a day in Bristol then a report to write up by the end of Friday. My boss had a million things on his plate on Friday and was unusually terse with me, which put my back straight up when it just didn’t need to be. I got upset, a very simple thing spiralled into a huge mess, I got more upset and defensive, I went and had a cry, then came back and used every ounce of my willpower to write a calm and breezy diplomatic email to sort things out, when I felt neither calm nor diplomatic, and actually had job search pages open.

Everything had calmed down by the end of the day, just about, and we had a conciliatory phone call, but the evil hormones were still lurking.

On Saturday morning I fell out with my mum because of them, failing to bite my lip when I should have done. I’m only human, I told myself afterwards, as I bought a bunch of sunflowers by way of apology.

On Sunday I went out with FF and her partner and their baby, and I struggled to do lunch and a drive and a National Trust visit. I’d normally be fine doing those things all in one day (progress…) but no, I just felt fairly awful. We ambled and it was good to be out in the sunshine but I did mostly feel like a zombie.

It didn’t help that by the end of the day I had a monstrous headache. Oh, it was awful. Like someone had wrapped my head in a vice and also stuck tampons up my sinuses as a bonus treat. Thudding pain.

I retreated to bed and was amused by my usual correspondent for longer than I thought I’d be able to stay awake for. Mercifully he kept the chat about wondrous dates and perfect women to an absolute minimum, which was fortunate because I couldn’t stomach any more, reliable and gracious friend that sometimes I am not; wondrous and perfect I am never, and occasionally rather sore about it. My ability to deal with that in good humour nosedives proportionally as headaches increase, but happily all was humour and light silliness and amusement, and I went to sleep smiling.

Blessedly the damn headache had shifted this morning and left me with that slightly disconcerting euphoria that follows when a stinking headache clears out. Perhaps it was a migraine? Who shall ever know.

I beavered on with work today, whilst Scrabbling more than I really ought to, to my great entertainment and equal bemusement and bafflement at playing someone who is consistently better than me. It’s terribly good for me, not winning all the time. It makes me work harder and strive a bit, and it’s highly salutatory to be reminded that I am not all-conquering as regards the English language.

My stance on competition is always thus: if it becomes quickly obvious that I will not always win, there is little more rewarding than a worthy opponent. And so it is true.

I also observed a post on Facebook which made me pause.

A friend wrote that “various people had asked what our son would like for his birthday, so here is a link to a wishlist on Amazon”

This doesn’t sit well with me. It seems …a bit …grabby? Sure, I ask my parent friends what their children might like for their birthday, and I’m sure other people do, and they just tell me. If they’d gone as far as making an Amazon wishlist I’m sure they would just verbally tell me about it, where to find it, or maybe even privately email me a link.

Posting it on Facebook looks awfully like “hey! Attention everyone! Buy my child a birthday present!” – even if it isn’t intended that way. It looks terribly greedy.

Luckily for me I’m a selfish bitch who largely ignores the children of people I rarely see (and frankly, I struggle to remember the birthdays of the children I am interested in remembering about), so I will be feeling neither guilty or awkward about COMPLETELY IGNORING the post.

Not relevant! Next! More Scrabble!

There. That’ll do as a round-up, I think. Here ceases the directionless rambling!

Thirty-something Teenage Witchbag


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Lately I seem to be developing the teenage relationship with my mother than I never actually had when I was a teenager.

I was – believe it or not – a polite and friendly teenager. I didn’t have screaming matches with anyone, I respected my parents, and I was smart enough to know that pushing the boundaries too far was going to result in conflict, which was then and remains now one of my least favourite things.

So I kept to the rules (mostly) and had plenty of fun without any shouting matches with my mum.

Now, now I’ve been living at home for nearly nine months.

I’m in my mid-thirties and at home a lot because I have a stupid illness which I hate and gives me galaxies of guilt about pretty much every aspect of my life. My parents are in their sixties and at home a lot because they are retired.

This means, put simply, that I do not have anywhere near enough time on my own to remain sane. I bite my lip and let things sail over my head.

Sometimes, however, I have a bad day at work, and maybe PMT too (because I’m in my thirties and that shit still happens!), and my mum will say something in a tone that I perceieve as slightly lecturing. Or it seems to be that she hasn’t listened to the answer I’ve given her, so I snap, unable to help it, and then I get a proper lecture on how I don’t listen.

Then I get upset and even crosser and then I cry and that makes me even crosser, and then we are both defensive and annoyed, and then that all acts like a giant instant short-circuit on my preciously-horded energy battery and I feel exhausted like someone has thrown a switch, and that makes me cross because I do everything I can to avoid that too.

Want to know why I avoid conflict like the plague? Voi-fucking-là.

It’s so middle-class and ridiculous. Ungrateful daughter snaps at helpful mum who cooks and cleans for ungrateful daughter; both have issues with listening correctly.

The beacon of light on the horizon is that I have finally exchanged contracts on the house I’m buying, and I’m moving in three weeks.

This is one of those space/time illusions: three weeks rationally seems like a short amount of time that will go in a shot. Right now, from my perspective of Saturday morning grumpiness, it feels like about a year away. The curious elasticity of time as seen from different observational points…

But hopefully it will shoot past. I have three weekends to occupy myself for, to stop myself from actually going mad. Maybe my parents will go out for more than two hours one evening. Maybe I will just go and live at my sister’s house. Maybe I will camp in a quiet woodland. Maybe I will just spend vast amounts of time in my bedroom as per usual, mentally planning out where my furniture is going to go and what colour cat I’m going to get.

My friends are delighted that the house is now finally definitely happening for me.

HBF sent me a gorgeous message telling me how proud I should be. The Prof booked his train tickets to come and help me unpack. WBF and Mr WBF were delighted and are planning to come and stay, bringing gin. Cousin Z rang me because she was so excited and thrilled for me and frankly couldn’t contain the excitement. We are both going to be spinsters with cats and pianos – largely we’re pretty good with this, seems agreeable. My sister was chuffed to bits. FF offered her help over the weekend.

It will be an unalloyed joy to have them all at the house that will be mine.

I just need to not kill my mother in the meantime, nor let her run away with making plans for my house or doing things with bulbs she has already bought for me that are not in line with my plans…

… only three weeks to go…