The English Patient


Last Thursday while loading the dishwasher after dinner, I felt faint and dropped onto the machine.  I stood up and hit my head on the faucet.  Then I went backwards, like a felled pine, and hit my head on the tiles.  Teddy said my eyes were rolling in my head and I could not communicate.  He called 911 and within 5 minutes, the fire engine had arrived quickly followed by the ambulance.  By then I was communicating and was aware of leaving the house on a stretcher with ALL the neighbors watching me.  My husband followed in his car to the local hospital.

I remember the trip in the ambulance to the hospital, about 20 minutes away.  Wryly, I recalled the last time I was in an ambulance, after a car accident, and the paramedic said that most people only travel in an ambulance once in their life.  They took me straight to a room in ER and over the next few hours, checked my heart and head (nothing obviously wrong).  My blood pressure had been very low and it’s normally lower than average.  It stabilized and they put me on IV fluids and took a urine sample by catheter.  ER was busy, noisy and I wondered why my husband wasn’t there.  Sometime later another nurse told me that my husband’s heart had started to race in the waiting room and they admitted him to a room a few doors down.  My tired response was, “Oh, for God’s Sake!”  It made the nurses laugh and I hope will set the tenor of this post.  There were many jokes about us having (a very expensive) date night in ER…

The nurses stopped his heart racing and reassured him that I was not dying or having a stroke.  Around midnight, he came into my room with his heartbeat stabilized.  We were laughing at my body shaking uncontrollably.  First it was one leg, then the other.  It reminded me of first dates when I was a teenager.  I would get so excited that my teeth chattered or my body shook which made me laugh.  It must have been rather alluring to those teenage boys who didn’t know how exciting they were.   I told Teddy to go home because they were just waiting for a room for me in the main hospital.  Then came the boredom and humor.  A urinary infection was diagnosed and they gave me IV antibiotics.  The poor, overworked, nurses had to dismantle my equipment and take me to the bathroom every hour since my bladder/brain refused to cooperate with a bedpan.

My head hurt and my scalp was bleeding.  I hurt my right knee quite badly as I went down and inevitably my back was sore.  They gave me a shot of morphine sometime after midnight.  It didn’t help me sleep.  There was an older man with memory issues in the room across from me.   He had some kind of device like a portable Alexa or Siri that was on full volume.  As I was dozing off, he said loudly, “What time is it?” “2.30 am” the machine boomed.  At 2.39 am he asked the same question along with “Where am I?”  The machine could not answer that question.  Part of me wanted to soothe the old man and shout out where he was but I was trapped in bed with IVs.  The other part of me wanted to scream – Shut the **** up!

Then there was the noisy extended family who thought it was okay to talk and laugh loudly at 4 am.  Every 20 minutes a little old lady coughed extensively in the tiniest voice – think Minnie Mouse with Covid.  After 4 am, I asked to go to the bathroom again.  While I was in there, I vomited rather spectacularly and copiously.  It was all over the bathroom and me, socks, nightdress, knickers and hair.  Three staff had to help.  I bet they wondered what I had eaten – it was a home-made organic sweet potato and cashew curry with carrots and cardamom pods.  Agent Orange as far as the eye could see…

I rarely throw up so it was either concussion, anxiety or an infection.  Now I had disposable panties and a hospital gown – the nurse noted that the panties were see through when I went to the bathroom endlessly.  She kept trying to hide my nakedness but I DID NOT CARE!!  I learned to walk with my back against the wall.  They kept promising me a room but one was not available until about 11 am the next day.  By this time, Teddy had turned up and brought some overnight stuff.  By this stage my shaking had transmogrified into Tics so I looked like I had Tourette’s syndrome.  Lord, it was so annoying and I now have so much sympathy for anyone who suffers from Tics.  I tried to be nice to the staff but I was really grumpy – probably because I had missed my regular medication.  Teddy thought it would have been even funnier if my Tics were accompanied by cursing…oh he is such a laugh.

Finally, the young man arrived with the wheelchair and took me to Tower 4 at breakneck speed.  I was already feeling nauseous and dizzy.  The staff greeted me in my room and told me all the rules!  They needed a urine sample and had to observe me because of the fall risk.  I tried to explain that I had an anxiety disorder and this would not work.  They tried a bed-pan, then they strapped a belt around my chest like a dog’s halter and tried to transfer me in a purple chair/torture device.  Teddy intervened and said, “this is not going to work”.  To emphasize that, I recreated the Exorcist scene, and threw up everywhere, all over again.  New gown, new panties, new socks.  All of this happened with hilarious Tics and involuntary movements.

It was unclear if the new antibiotic was now out of my system or had caused the explosion, so they went old school with a penicillin for my urinary infection.  In my new room, I was attached to even more equipment and most had to be disconnected for me to use my bathroom.  My bed also had an alarm in case I took off with IVs attached.  The next battle was getting them to give me my mental health medication.  It was pretty obvious that I was ANXIOUS but not confused.  I really needed a mental health advocate and suggested they phone my psychiatrist, to no avail.  The nurses gave me a little privacy and it helped with the bathroom issues.

One of the pleasures was meeting staff from all over the world.  There is a shortage of nurses after the Pandemic and the world was represented.  The sweetest doctor was from Iraq, and the best nurse assistant from Togo.    My modesty was being protected in my private room with only my husband to view me.  They would desperately cover up the back of my gown but as I pointed out, “He has seen it all before and then some”.  I haven’t got accustomed to the peculiar modesty that exists in the States.  Is it just me, or does no one care about being naked when you are sick?  They kept asking me if I was South African, Australian or English – thus the title.  I was kept in for three days which was three days more than I wanted to be there and there was no real conclusion.  The Iraqi doctor thought that it was an infection and perhaps not just my UTI.

The room service was amusing.  I had to phone and request each meal.  All I wanted was oatmeal and yogurt.  That wasn’t available but there were only two choices at each meal.  Perhaps not even as good as the NHS in the UK.  I couldn’t complain about most of the staff.  What a thankless and tiring job.  Teddy was communicating with most of our cul de sac about my progress.  In the last few weeks there have been 7 visits to ER in our cul de sac alone – we should be getting a street discount.  My mum was a terrible patient in ICU, pulling out IVs and telling everyone that the man across from her was brain dead.  He was not, but his family panicked.  I now understand that it is the lack of control that patients struggle with.

It has been a week since my discharge and I am much recovered.  I still feel dizzy at times and my knee gives way on occasion.  My mood is much better to Teddy’s relief.  He is good, too.  We had planned a little trip away but now it’s all about recovery and improving my stamina. At least it’s stopped me whining about retirement…

PS: 10 points to anyone who knows what the giant green prophylactic is on the table.


Resignation describes the noun resignation as –

  • the act of resigning.
  • a formal statement, document, etc., stating that one gives up an office, position, etc.
  • an accepting, unresisting attitude, state, etc.; submission; acquiescence: to meet one’s fate with resignation.

Last week, after 7 years of working for Destination Management Companies, I resigned from the two companies that employed me most frequently.  There was almost no work during the Pandemic and I enjoyed not working.  It was well paid work that was mostly simple but on occasion stressful.  The expression ‘herding cats’ comes to mind.  Most of my colleagues thoroughly enjoy the work but my brain filled the quiet periods (waiting for clients) with anxiety about every possible scenario that could go wrong.  My favorite role was facilitating in conferences but that rarely happened.  Facilitation was part of my original skill set that I brought from Scotland.

I have an undiagnosed neuropathic condition for which I have been seeking treatment for years.  Finally, a very good neurologist, who was a Professor at Baylor University, sat me down and said honestly, “I think it is a combination of an existing cervical problem and anxiety.”  On the last day of working, my fingers were involuntarily moving as though they had been electrically shocked, I couldn’t feel the bottom of my feet and my neck was spasming.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, I got the tummy bug that is going around the USA.  Thank goodness it was an immaculately clean hotel bathroom that I was unwell in.  My OCD was lighting up like a Neon Sign. My head was screaming ‘GERMS, GERMS, GERMS’ but they were all mine!!  I did make sure I left the bathroom clean.

There is a sense of relief but also guilt and failure.  I have left many jobs over the years and almost always because my anxiety was overwhelming.  Despite my age and wisdom, I just can’t seem to accept that I am not a useful part of society, in a conventional sense.  Then I get irritated at myself because I know I am unwell with a debilitating but invisible illness.  Medication only works so far, in my case.  I feel guilt because I can no longer contribute to the household monetarily and also because I didn’t fully explain my resignation to my bosses.  I can sense that one feels disappointment and the other could care less.  In my leaving letter, I used the phrase, “we are embracing retirement”.  Not true.

This is probably my final failure, in the work world, and now I have to adapt to retirement.  I will receive my UK pension in 5 years.  That will be a good moment, to be rewarded for all those painful years of work.  I often wonder how I would have managed in the world if not for the support of my husband.  One of my cousins in the US, who had a lifelong mental illness, told me how lucky I was to have such an understanding partner.  That’s a familiar refrain from family and friends – it makes me feel more guilty not lucky.  Teddy insists that I have been his backbone and support for the whole of his career.  We are a bonded pair and I am grateful for that.

In time, I will adapt and perhaps acquiesce. To the outside world, I may live a pampered life but I would like them to spend one day in my head and one night in my disturbing dreams.  At the moment, I am in limbo.  Relieved not to be anxious at work but trepidatious about the future.  I have some vague goals about writing and increasing my stamina.  Eventually I will find a new rhythm and may even feel grateful for all that I have.  One bright morning, I took great pleasure in removing my work clothes from my closet to donate to charity.  Then I color coordinated the closets and hangers – a pleasant OCD task that felt wrapping myself in a fluffy blanket.  I have put myself out to pasture but might enjoy the frolic, sniffing the flowers and watching the sunset. 

My first Covid Test

I have been feeling unwell for a few weeks.  Nothing serious, just an irritating cough, sore eyes (again) and fatigue.  I am thrice vaccinated – that sounds vaguely Shakespearian, nay?  It has been another strange Christmas with the Omicron variant and eventually I wondered if that’s what I had.  We have been venturing out a little more knowing that we are likely headed into an endemic from a pandemic but still wear masks most of the time.  There is also a sort of malaise about January with the anticlimactic sensation after the excitement of Christmas.  As you age, the excitement is tempered, but I still like the fairy lights and baubles (chocolate and booze, too).

The test was negative and I am torn.  Part of me would like to get it over and done with (if we are all going to get Covid eventually).  I worked at an international airport for a decade or more.  Travel took me to places with SARS and MERS.  My husband became ill in February 2020 and it was almost certainly Covid but I didn’t so I wonder if I might be lucky enough to be immune.  That aside, what ails me currently?  When looking for answers, I gravitate towards my mental illness despite how much that annoys me when doctors suggest that first.  I know that my anxiety can amplify even a physical ailment.

Last April we had a new air conditioning system installed – the old one was 17 years old and at the end of its life.  It worked perfectly all summer but in October we noticed a mildew smell coming from the vents when we switched it from hot to cold.  The installer was really quick to respond but after several visits (and treatments) the smell persists.  We put a lot of thought into choosing the best system for our house and then got quotes from various installers.  Teddy and I were both stressed at having any problems on such an expensive purchase, made worse by the Pandemic keeping us close to home and at the mercy of the HVAC.  Google has made me an expert in HVAC systems – similarly, I can now practice medicine…

It turns out that there is a fault with the coil and the manufacturer is sending a new one.  The installer thanked me for my patience despite how irritating it has been.  He implied that some of his customers would have flipped.  I am a fairly calm person but I realized that I am actually quite Zen right now.  There didn’t seem any point in taking my temper out on the installer.  We are all a little stressed right now and the last thing I want to be is one of those people who take their angst out on everybody.

There is a syndrome called HVAC sickness and it is possible that the dodgy coil is causing or exacerbating my cough and sore eyes.  The installer put in a free virus/mold killing system that may help the situation until it is fixed.  Or, it could also be one of those regular viruses that we used to get pre-Covid.  Remember those halcyon days when we didn’t recoil when someone coughed? If nothing else, our strange life right now has given me a little more perspective.

I went to a drive-through pharmacy for my Covid test and could sense the pharmacist was rolling her eyes at my incompetence.  Firstly, I couldn’t get the packet open because I had the wrong glasses on.  I dropped them and peered at the packet like Mr. Magoo.  Then I lost the lid to the reagent and couldn’t see where you were supposed to snap off the swap before putting in the container.  Finally, I made Teddy put it in the box for medical samples but had the sanitizer ready for him when he returned to the car.  Well, at least I will know how to do the next test!

The Christmas That Was

Christmas 2019, Fredericksburg, Texas

This was a completely different post a few hours ago. In essence, I revealed how miserable and anxious I was feeling about the upcoming holidays. On reflection, I realized that’s not what I want to share with my friends. Instead I hope you enjoy these pretty pictures from Christmas 2019 which we spent in central Texas with the most glorious weather.

The Christmas Tree and Decorations at Fredericksburg 2019

There will be happy holidays and celebrations in the future. Please keep safe and warm. 🎄

My Enigma

Every time I call the doctor or health insurance of late, there is an extra message to check that my mental health is okay and offering care options.  I feel a little bitterness that it has taken a tragedy for society to take mental ill health seriously – where were you when we had to wait many months or years for psychological help?  Clearly, Covid-19 has challenged even those of us who have not had a pre-existing condition.  My psychiatrist seemed shocked at the amount of patients presenting with psychosis during this time, although I am not.

My diagnosis/mental health had always been an enigma to me, the people I love and the medical profession.  Like many others, my original diagnosis is not my current one.  After years of working in the mental health field (and my own personal experience), it is clear that we know less about this complex field of medicine than others.  Heart bypass surgery has become almost commonplace and much safer, for example.  I was perfectly happy with my original diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It was such a relief to find out why I had to check the gas was off a dozen times or more or check that a plastic bag in the road was not full of cats.  In the back of my mind, I was sure I had separate depressive and anxiety episodes but perhaps it all goes together, I thought.

As much as we would like a clear cut name for our individual illness, for many of us diagnosis seems to be a wavy, mysterious line.  That is not the fault of the medical profession, necessarily.  One of my cousins had very different diagnoses in her later years and she ultimately died of an overdose.  I imagine her doctors were trying desperately to find a medication to make her feel better.  Then there is me.  I present a chameleon personality to both my doctors and loved ones.  At a social event, I seem like ‘party central’ – confident, amusing and fun to be around.  This exhausts me.  My mother was so concerned about my shyness as I child, that she made every effort to bring me out of my shell.  Drama classes in high school and finding a group of peers helped me to blossom.

This pandemic has had the opposite effect on me – my mental health has rarely been better.  Teddy and my doctor express astonishment that I am coping so well.  The truth is I always knew what was best for me – isolation and silence.  After I married at age 21, I followed Teddy around the world for his career.  He was always going to be the major breadwinner with ambition and skill.  He kindly says that he couldn’t have done it without my support – who knows?  My IQ is above average and I have honed my people skills over the years.  As Teddy was pursuing his career as a Geoscientist, I did a variety of dead-end jobs such as cleaner, bar person and fossil picker.  That last job sounds more exciting than it was.  My husband’s company offered me training and a job looking at tiny fossils down a microscope.  I then transferred those of interest to a slide and a micro paleontologist would further assess them – this was all in the pursuit of oil.

It was the perfect job for someone with OCD – timing and precision was critical.  Even though I was smarter than the average bear, I was quite happy to stay in this dead end job.  Teddy persuaded me to push my ambition further and that is how I ended up in the mental health field.  That led to various other jobs where I could use my writing and people skills to their best capacity.  But I was always so stressed, even when I enjoyed the plaudits.  The job I really longed for was Librarian.

So here we are in 2020.  At the suggestion of a doctor friend, I started eating gluten free at the beginning of the year.  This was to try to address my curious neurological sensations in hands and feet.  I have since read some medical journals on the effect of gluten on the brain – fascinating.  It was relatively easy to change my diet – I guess I avoid gluten naturally. At the same time, I stopped working and driving because of Covid-19.  Now I don’t know if the absence of gluten or driving/working has helped but my neurological symptoms have abated considerably.  It’s another mystery – but a silver lining for me.

Turning 60 in 2020 has given me so much time to think about growing older.  Unexpectedly, I have reached an acceptance that I do feel different and a little less sexy.  Teddy disagrees – thank goodness! There is a huge sense of relief that I don’t have to work anymore and I realize how lucky I am to be in that position.  I am perfectly happy cleaning the house, watering the garden and making very short journeys away from the house.  When all this is over, will I enjoy the normal pace of life or need to buy 10 acres of wilderness for peace and quiet?  I guess we will all adapt and realize how strong most of us are, even in the most desperate of situations.

For now, my Enigma remains just that and I am grateful for this moment of stillness in society.

Parasthesia, Prozac and other Poppycock

Parasthesia, Prozac and other Poppycock

This is my third attempt at writing this post; maybe it is the charm this time?  How do I make a post about illness funny or readable?  I thought I would try alliteration and show you the real sign at my front door.  It certainly breaks the ice with new neighbors and solicitors (not lawyers…)   I bought it in Colorado and knew that it was perfect for me.  Life is funny.   As most of you know, I have a mental illness  – variously diagnosed over the years.  It was managed for many years with gritted teeth, therapy and alcohol.  Then we moved to Egypt and I have been on Prozac or something similar since 2003.

For the most part it has been a lifesaver although a much maligned drug.  If it is properly prescribed, it is a fantastic modern medication that my sad mother would have benefited from.  There are side effects, for sure.  The best was stopping my compulsive eating/habits; the worst was ghastly nightmares every night.  Flash forward to late 2018 – I had been having sensations of tingling and numbness in my hands and feet for about 3 years.  I went from pillar to post ending up with an eminent neurologist at a university teaching campus.  Even he could not come up with a diagnosis after three hours of painful nerve tests.

Here is what I do have –

  • An abnormal gait likely caused by an untreated club foot at birth
  • Weakness in my hands and feet
  • Hammer toes
  • Pes Cavus – abnormally shaped feet
  • Tingling and numbness in my extremities – hands and feet
  • A weird mental illness (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, Anxiety)

Here is what I don’t have –

  • Nerve damage in my hands or feet
  • Marie Tooth Charcot
  • Any other obvious neurological condition
  • Any vitamin deficiency

I left his office having been examined by some initially excited medical students who finally looked as perplexed as the Professor.  Did they think it was all in my head?  The irony is that Parasthesia , a sensation of tingling or numbness can be caused by anxiety.  After Googling until my hands went numb (some Parasthesia humor there…) I discovered that it can be a side effect of PROZAC!  Onto my next psychiatry appointment where we decided I would taper off and then quit Prozac while staying on a small dose of Xanax which is an anti-anxiety medication.

It has been bloody awful; not helped by attending a transatlantic family funeral mid tapering.  I didn’t even want to come off Prozac although I don’t miss the nightmares.  It has been a partial success.  The tingling and numbness has decreased although too much or too little exercise can exacerbate it.  Poor Teddy has borne the brunt of my sudden emergence into the real world.  I told him I wanted to stab in the heart when he baited me one day.  He just moved on as though I had made a comment about dust bunnies.  Wise move from a man who knows me intimately.  Road rage overwhelms me, as does life.  It is in vivid Technicolor and I don’t like it without my hazy filter.

With Teddy’s support, I am moving forward slowly like a lizard after winter.  He pointed out that I dealt with the transatlantic funeral, our elderly cat’s slow waltz towards the ever after and some minor household crises.  I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to write anymore but writing the Tumbleweed Fairy was a breakthrough.  Pragmatic is my middle name, so I know that I might have to try another medication or treatment and I am darned lucky to have healthcare.  For someone so unhealthy, I try to keep far away from doctors but I am willing to see one more neurologist to see if we can figure this out.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.  It sounds like a minor problem but imagine it every single day, so debilitating at one point that I couldn’t twist the deodorant tube.  When I worked as manager of a mental health project in Scotland, I was so sympathetic for patients who had physical side effects (tardive dyskinesia) from anti-psychotic medication.  I don’t know for certain what is causing my tingling and numbness but now I have walked a mile in the shoes of many, many people.  On a final funny note, I will never be able to do a sobriety test.  Two doctors had to hold me up while I put one foot in front of the other.  How could I have lived to this age without having known this??  Straight to the breathalyzer for me then…🍾


Hurricane Harvey – please go away

Everyone was rescued, even the cat

I imagine that most of you have seen this photo and your heart sinks. It is hard to imagine but it just gets worse with our reservoirs releasing water to protect their structural integrity.  I, and people around me, can’t help yet because so many roads are flooded and we don’t need to add to the rescue attempts. I got to the supermarket today, less than 5 minutes away, and started asking the staff how they had fared. Quite a few had water in their homes but none devastating. We laughed about how good Gorilla Duct Tape was and wished each other well. I am on the north of the city which is much less badly affected but areas near Lake Conroe have been evacuated and that is further north than us.

As I approached the supermarket, I could see a police car blocking the bridge over Spring Creek which is now a raging torrent bursting over its banks. Our creeks are mostly rivers but they can dwindle down to almost a trickle when there is a drought. You must all feel so frustrated looking at the TV and wondering what you can do. The Red Cross website is hard to access at the moment but your money would be so appreciated. I have survivor’s guilt, stuck in my house, unable to go to and volunteer. This morning I cleared my closets of everything that might be useful. I have towels, sheets, clothes, shoes and even a pet crate to donate.

Kim of Glover Gardens has an excellent series of posts about the hurricane and ways that you can help. As Kim pointed out, we don’t want you to travel here yet unless you are a specifically trained volunteer (Red Cross, for example) and they will start arriving at airports over the next week or so. There may be a need for volunteers in other parts of Texas where the evacuees will go after the immediate triage. Hope is in abundance with people like Mattress Mack, a local furniture magnate and benefactor. As soon as people were being evacuated, he opened the doors of his furniture stores for people to stay. Can you imagine that kind of generosity? Then there was the Cajun Navy and all the boat owners who came from all over Texas.

We have a wonderful phrase in Texas – “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as soon as I could”. That spirit will help us through this. Last night someone with a giant Caterpillar truck came to the rescue and people were helped up ladders into the truck. The news reporter asked the police officer who the volunteer driver was. The policeman said you can ask him but he doesn’t speak English! Actions mean so much more than words right now. Some of our medical facilities have had to evacuate and I felt so sorry for the patients and families. My heart goes out to psychiatric patients and those with dementia. I am struggling to keep my anxiety under control but ironically I am really good in a crisis. Teddy is still in Austin, on his third visit to the doctor. Now he has reacted very badly to some bug bites and sometimes he gets blood poisoning with the red lines going to his underarms. Really, Teddy???

I saved an armadillo today! As I came back from the supermarket, I noticed a disoriented armadillo crossing the road to our subdivision in daylight. I stopped the car and persuaded him to hurry up before he was squashed. Maybe he will be under my deck tonight, safe and sound? Now I have a dilemma. My dead mother made me promise never to give away the teddies we had bought her. Her childhood was teddy deprived but that’s another blog. We are all allergic (including the cat) to stuffed toys so I have had to put them in the attic. Despite my promise, I think I would like to donate some of them to a shelter where the children have lost everything. I am going to sleep on it and if you are reading this from heaven, Mum, send me a message in a dream.

Mental illness is a REAL illness

This is not a political post; I am all too aware that the Affordable Care Act was anything but. Unless something miraculous changes in the Senate, mental illness will no longer be included in the new health plan. So…not only do I have a variety of pre-existing conditions but the one that makes me most ill (and yet is least expensive) will not be covered. For some reason, addiction and mental illness has been put in one category. From my work and personal experience, mentally ill people often self-medicate but they are not the same. I have a clearly inherited condition, much like heart disease, and there was no element of choice. I am not criticizing anyone who has an addiction – there is enough blame to go around.

Let’s take this past week. It started on a high with Teddy’s birthday and then rapidly went downhill. Why? Even I want to slap myself because it was no good reason at all. Our roof has been leaking and the contractor took three days to repair the ceiling, leaving me trapped in the master bedroom which has a large bathroom and closet. Toffee (my elderly cat) and I had to go there so that she wouldn’t escape or get in their way. I had great plans; I would write blogs and binge watch girly TV shoes. Mentally I was paralyzed. Thoughts started spinning in my head about how fat and useless I am. I am neither of those things. I couldn’t watch anything other than old Bones episodes because I couldn’t concentrate. Then the physical pain started to set in. When you sit in an anxious state, you start getting cold and stiff – it was almost 90 degrees outside but the air-con was on for the contractor.

I was determined to do better the next day but the anxiety was rising. My thoughts were, “what do I really need to prioritize in my life?” My ridiculous conclusion was that I would be really happy if I got back to 1** lbs. (about 6 lbs. less than I am now). I joined a free weight loss internet club which told me I was already within my BMI range and that I would have to eat 700 calories a day to lose 2 lbs. a week. This is a glimpse into a world of disordered thinking, especially with eating. Then the sciatica kicked in. I was fully aware that I could have sat in the yard, watered the garden or tidied my filing system but again – paralysis.

By the third day, I had drunk a small glass of vodka with anti-anxiety medication because the paint didn’t match (our ceiling has not been painted in 13 years). I spoke to poor, long suffering Teddy who could hear a panic attack coming on and he agreed that we would ask them to leave. Teddy would finish the painting after our roofs have been replaced in the next few months. As soon as the contractor left, I sprang into action, steam cleaning tiles, polishing our leather suite and assembling everything back in the room. My sciatica really hurt after all that but endorphins got me through. All throughout the 3 days and nights, I had horrifying nightmares that meant that I was really sleep deprived despite being in bed most of the time. My eating deteriorated to almost nothing except snacks and vodka. Perhaps I should revise my thinking about putting mental illness and addiction together?

Now it is all over and I am on the way to feeling better. I ate properly, stopped drinking vodka and went walking to help with the sciatica and general good health. Then, I lost my sunglasses. It felt like the end of the world – I searched the house and garage. It culminated in texting my husband in California to see if he had seen them. Finally, good sense prevailed and I ordered another pair from Amazon at $7 – less than two lattes. I am still hugely annoyed at myself for this whole week. Why couldn’t I just deal with it? This is the true cost of mental illness, a life mostly wasted because of tortured thoughts. Mine are benign, as are the majority of people with mental illness. There is real physical pain, too. The only time I felt happy with an illness was when I was in a full leg cast for almost a year. For once people could ask me what was wrong and not be embarrassed about the answer. Sometimes you need sympathy for an invisible illness.

If the act passes without amendment, mentally ill people will end up in and out of psychiatric hospitals or often prisons because they haven’t been able to access regular help at their psychiatrists, psychologists or doctors. In the end that costs more than a quick visit to the shrink.

Writer’s anxiety

Yellow shrimp plant

Yellow shrimp plant

My current life and the geopolitical world have left me lost for words. I have been feeling anxious about everything, which is part of my diagnosis, and nightmares have exhausted me. There is a short break before I start the Super Bowl work then I will stop feeling anxious because of focus and tiredness. Sometimes writing lifts me up or helps ease anxiety but despite taking more medication, I am like a cat on a hot tin roof, yawning with insomnia.


I have peppered this short post with some final photos from Puerto Vallarta – just to take the edge of my writing. I work alongside people who have immigrated from Iran and Iraq and wonder if their American dream feels as ephemeral as mine. Even at the shops, people are talking in hushed tones about executive orders and I don’t know if they feel happy or afraid. When we went to Puerto Vallarta, we were seriously considering a retirement home somewhere in Mexico but now I doubt that they would want us. Do you think I have enough Mexican ancestors to request entry? Should I print out my Ancestry family tree?


Almost every week I soothe people whose relatives have been detained at immigration. It is usually something relatively minor such as an incorrect visa or a similar name. We were stuck in Egypt until the very last minute, whilst my husband’s employer desperately tried to get a work visa for him to go to the USA. I remember being at the airport in Cairo, wondering if they were going to accept our cats’ paperwork or my husband’s. I have an American passport, so I could go anytime. Nonetheless, it was terrifying, especially since it was during Gulf War II.


I can support passengers and myself by being as helpful as always. A smile can work wonders, for the recipient and the person feeling depressed.

Kerry wears J Crew…

Kerry navy 2
I bought these shorts at J Crew this year and everywhere I go people ask where I got them from, including staff in their competitor’s stores. J Crew haven’t paid me for this although a little gift card would be kindly accepted…(methinks that might not happen after they read to the end).  They are beautifully soft and comfortable for our humid heat. The navy ones have silver embroidery and the white has gold embroidery so they sparkle in the light.

I do have a bone to pick with J Crew’s advertising. They regularly send me a catalog and, to be fair, the models range in age but they are incredibly thin. This is a very outdated way to sell clothes and the strange thing is that their clothing is not just for skinny people. In real life I am a small petite size but I had to take the extra small shorts and even considered the extra extra small pair.  Are fashion stores taking us for fools?  I know we have a problem with obesity in the Western and developing world – I was obese for many years.  It took years of changing not just my eating habits but also my mindset.  Like many other obese people I struggled to both see how overweight I was and could easily be deluded into thinking I had lost weight if the clothing size went down.

On my recent road trip I tried on two dresses by the same manufacturer, both of which fitted me.  One was extra extra small and the other a size 6 (normally I take a 4/6 US size) – how on earth are we supposed to know what size to try on? I just eye-ball clothing now and have my clothes altered to fit me properly.  The gold t-shirt (also J Crew) was very long and hid the lovely embroidery on the shorts, so I had it shortened.  Curiously, as I look at the photographs I still think I look fat despite my objective mind telling me that I am slim.  Just a tiny bit of body dysmorphia that comes free with my diagnosis and that statement is not written lightly despite the humor.  Despite all my criticism, I love my shorts and I am sure they would sell just as well with regular models (age 55) like me!

kerry gold