Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Turkey Day!

To my family and friends across the pond and to all my fellow
Americans in the US & around the world I wish you a very blessed and
joyful Thanksgiving. Eat, drink and be merry - hope no one forgot the
cranberry sauce. We unfortunately don't celebrate Thanksgiving in
South Africa, so I will be giving thanks over a salad or noodles!

I challenge everyone today to find something they are profoudly
thankful for no matter how small it is.

A special shout out to our troops abroad, who are away from their
families today my you be blessed for your service:)

Much love


To give y'all an idea of the size of "Mr Pointy"  I've never had the courage to look at the needle so the nurse took a picture for me:)

I will probably regret this picture....

It has been one HELL of a day!. The doc (aka doc studying to be something specific) was a nice guy but he hurt me badly. Dude jabbed me 5 times before he eventually got the fluid to drain from my spine. And I felt  it acutely EACH time he put that needle into my spine and then moved it around and in and out. It feels like a continuous pinched nerve. But I actually think it was worse for my mother and it really didn't help when she started to freak out and get really pissy with the doctor. You really don't want to annoy someone who has a needle in your back. So most of the time I was distracted with trying to calm her down and reassure the doc. What a circus...

However this time I was impressed, the level of pain today was the same as when I had my first lp last year...but I handled it so much better. Last year I was wailing and hyperventilating, today I was very nervous before going in but during the procedure, despite the horrible pain, I was calm and managing quite well. Right now I'm hurting badly, it feels like someone has kicked me in the back and I'm really stiff and achy. In private hospitals they keep you over night when you've had a lumbar puncture and you can't move for six to eight hours. In a state hospital, they make you get up and walk after 15 minutes to make way for the next patient!.

The pressure was high this time- 28 ( normal pressure is 17) but not nearly as high as we thought it would be. I don't know what will happen now and won't until my next appointment.

Anyway I'm sore and my Mom has to help me up the stairs ( I'm a granny for a day!)


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Night before hospital: have something special to share :)

I wasn't going to make a post today but I was on the Sky news website ( very rare for me) and I came across an article about Douglas H "Wheels" Wheelock- an American astronaut who has spent the past 5 months on the International Space Station. He has also been generous enough to entertain everyone on Twitter with dozens of stunning photographs he has taken from space. Take a look:

The United Kingdom at night- I can actually see where my beloved London is. Aurora Borealis in the distance.

Part of the Space Station and Aurora Borealis

The Isle of Juan de Nova off the coast of Africa- looks like a hat :)

Japan at night

If you are on twitter you can follow Douglas here

What always strikes me about photo's from outer space is just how incredibly small and insignificant we all are. From up where Douglas is you cannot see the poverty that millions of people face every day, you cannot see the the wars or any of our transgressions. All you can see is beauty. Space is a majestic mystery to me and it reminds me that there is something far bigger and complex than our minds are capable of understanding. If you read Douglas's tweets it is clear that he is a man who's life has been changed by witnessing something magnificent and beyond the scope of the human imagination or understanding.

We have to leave at 7am tomorrow to be at the hospital at 8am, hopefully the wait won't be to long so I can just get it over ( again they work on a first come, first serve basis). All day I have been preparing by drinking lots of water and resting as much as I can. I am proud that I resisted the urge to take tranquilizers for my nerves- I can't keep relying on that stuff.  But the consequence of that is that I have been eating everything in sight. It's not like I haven't done this before- this is my 5th lumbar puncture. But it sure as hell doesn't get any better and I haven't had one on a while. Besides...who wants a 7- inch needle shoved into their spine?. This may sound stupid but it has been really great having my wabbits. For some reason hugging something soft, fluffy and warm soothes an anxious heart.

I was thinking I probably won't find out if I need brain surgery until my next appointment- just what I need more suspense, it's like my very own Grey's Anatomy

Wish me luck folks:)


Monday, November 22, 2010

My day at the hospital: Got some bad news :(

Phew!. What a day this has been. Had an appointment with neurology today, so was up at the crack of dawn this morning for the hour’s drive and then the loooooong wait at the hospital. As I have mentioned before my BIH has just been getting worse and worse over the last 2 months. The headaches, nausea and fatigue have been pushing me to breaking point and it has started to affect my vision and hearing again which is serious.

Unfortunately when I did see a neurologist ( well doctor training to be a neurologist or psychiatrist- state health care!) the news was not was not what I expected and actually far worse than I was wanting to hear.

I was diagnosed with Benign Intercrainial Hypertension last year- this is a fairly uncommon condition in which excess cerebral fluid forms on the brain. No one knows what causes it and there is no cure. I had been sick for most of last year with debilitating headaches, nausea and fatigue. Eventually I started to go deaf and blind in one eye and that’s when I sought help. I was told, very gently that I may have a brain tumor and for 10 days my family and I prepared for the worst. Thankfully an MRI ruled out any tumors or lesions and after a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) I was diagnosed with BIH. I talk more about my diagnosis and treatment here

For the past six months it virtually disappeared and then suddenly decided to rear it’s ugly head again. I had thought when I went in today that the doc would just prescribe a lumbar puncture as usual and then I would go on my merry way. But the doctors were very concerned that my BIH has just come back, out of the blue and even more concerned that my sight is deteriorating. They have booked me for another lumbar puncture on Wednesday – the only way to tell if my intercranial hypertension has increased. If the hypertension is high then they will be referring me to a neurosurgeon for brain surgery. You can imagine how shocked we were.

To top off the day they sent me to opthomology to do a visual field test- this is to check my blind spots and I was presented with more bad news. I have two massive blind spots on the outside of both eyes and my optic nerves are swollen again. They still have to do more tests but unofficially it appears that I have started to go blind- this is the long term effect of BIH.

Right now none of this has been officially confirmed. I just have to wait until Wednesday. I don’t know what is worse when it comes to a health crisis- knowing the possibilities and letting your imagination run wild. Or being completely ignorant until you are hit with the cold hard truth.

I am calm and I am so thankful for that, but I have a feeling my mother is freaking out. This is mostly thanks to the idiot head of neurology telling her last year that surgery was the final option because of the risks. When she asked him what the risks were he casually said, “Death”. This was the same dumbo that told me I had to be “strong” to be sick in that hospital. And when I was told I couldn’t have children he “sympathized”, “It’s a shame, you’re such a pretty girl”. It’s a shame he has no proper beside manner!

Anyway, like I said none of this is definite and that horrible man was just presenting us with the worst case scenario. I have said before that I am thankful for the health care I get through the state: It's far from fancy, most times it's inconvenient and disorganised, but if you compare it to the health care or lack of that millions of other people face on the African continent, I actually am very lucky and I will continue to have faith in them ( I actually don't have a choice!). I most likely will have a freak out session at some stage but for now whatever the outcome my be- I am going to carry on with my life- continuing to fight my depression, GAD and daily battle with food, looking after my little girl (that's my next post), my mother and my wabbits and preparing for my future by living in the PRESENT.
Here are some pics that we took during the long wait. Blackberry + boredom = weird photo's
The "homely" looking hospital reception: The Cage!

Neurology waiting area, look might just see how bored everyone one is.

About the 5th time I read this magazine

 Finally home to my sweethearts :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Funny Friday

It has been one of the busiest weeks I've had in ages. Full of  ups, downs, detours, breakthroughs and dead ends. But it has been  good and I am absolutely EXHAUSTED!. There has been a big change in my life and I now no longer have a choice but to get up  everyday and fight my depression. I now have someone else that depends on me. But I will write more about that this weekend.

One thing I learnt this week is how good laughing can be both physically and for the soul. No matter how bad your day has been it can be completely turned around my a good belly laugh. Now and then I would like to put things up on this blog that will make people laugh. Of course each person has a different sense of humor, but hopefully I will get a few people laughing will these videos. One of them and my friends and I in tears and we laughed for an hour straight!

And I apologise if my writing isn't up to scratch in this post...right now I am so tired I can barely see the screen!

* I did some googling on the swinging cat because I didn't want to put anything up of a cat hurt him/herself as being funny. Apparently it was a stunt made for a phone. All the stuff I read said the the cat was okay.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Trouble in Rabbit Land

You know I am beginning to think that I am just not meant to have pets. It's not that anything is wrong with the pets. But at the sight of the slightest bit of trouble I panic. I've had these rabbits for three weeks today and it amazes me how much I've grown to love these two balls of fluff. So what's happening now is actually hurting.

When we first got these rabbits, we were told that they were both female (it is extremely hard to tell when they are so young). But when I brought them home, I immediately started to feel suspicious about the one. The other day I decided to check- not really knowing what I was supposed to be seeing. But even to my very inexperienced eye it was clear- Cornflower is a Basil. Yup..."she" is a HE.

Now this presents a HUGE problem...Buttercup, the other one is and always has been female. Ever heard the phrase "They breed like rabbits"?. If the world were ever to come to an end to due nuclear war they say that cockroaches will somehow survive. I am convinced that rabbits will still be here with them after the apocalypse. Rabbits gestation period only lasts 28-30 days and they can get pregnant again just a few days after giving birth. In fact there is just a couple of days a month when females aren't fertile. Now as Basil and Buttercup are actually brother and sister, they should not breed together- due to the risk of birth defects (besides that it's weird). The real kicker? they can start breeding at 10 - 12 weeks old. They are now 8 weeks old.

So the only  choice I have right now is to separate them. This is very hard because they are very attached to each other- one won't go where the other won't go, they are constantly playing and cleaning each other. And they sleep curled up together. But we cannot have a hundred bunnies with possible disabilities running around and I can only get them neutered and spayed in a few months. That alone is stressing me out- rabbits are known to not do so well under anesthetic.

On Friday they somehow got out of their pen in the garden and went off to explore the big wide world. It took my Mom and I and hour to find them ( it's a BIG mountain garden) and another hour to catch them. I eventually got hold of Buttercup but she started to panic and wriggle I caught her leg very roughly and I was terrified that I had either broken or dislocated it ( that can happen very easily with their back legs). When my Mom found us,  I was sitting in the dirt, with bloody scratches all over me, cradling her and crying because I thought I had hurt her. She was fine, but it made me think that maybe I'm to sensitive to have animals.

Anyway I realise that in the grand scheme of things and compared to the huge problems that everyone is facing- compared the huge problems I am facing- this is nothing. But to me this is a huge deal. They are my babies.

Here are some new pictures of my babies: Buttercup and the newly re- gendered Basil:

Buttercup thinks her bro need a good clean

Giving each other  some love

Playing peek-a-boo with my sister

This cabbage leaf was GONE in less than 5 minutes!

This is the pic that made me so suspicious of Basil that I decided to check him. They look like a real Mr and Mrs here. Surprise, surprise.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


On Monday night after a stern dressing down from my psychologist I went straight to my support group- which I hadn't been to for a months. My Mom and my cousin went with me.

I really wasn't in a good mood when I arrived I felt overwhelmed from my therapy session and worried about the fact that I was sliding into a deep pit of darkness and things were getting quite serious. And I wasn't entirely sure what to do about it.

But that support group meeting turned out to be the most memorable and I learned something very important that I think everyone, not just those with depression should apply to their lives

Our support group facilitator, started by telling us a story of a very well to do family- the father was a famous plastic surgeon and the mother was an anesthetist. They had two children, a son and a daughter. The father, who was ambitious and successful and had high expectations of his children- the big problem being that he would not accept anything but 1st place or an A+.  If one of his kids achieved only 2nd place and a B+, he would not acknowledge it at all.

This was not healthy for their kids-  to become obsessed by perfection and feel like a failure because perfection is impossible. That is when the mother made the introduction of celebrations. The night before a competition or an exam etc, they would have a celebration dinner to celebrate the fact that their child had made it that far and was so good at something that they could compete in a competition or write that exam. Doing this took focus off the result and embraced and celebrated the journey that the child had made.

Often it is not the result or destination that is important but the journey and the struggles we overcame to get there. For depression, I think everyones ultimate goal is to either get better or get to the point where they can live a normal life while managing their depression successfully. But we wouldn't be able to do this if we didn't undertake the journey of heartache , acceptance and learning to get there. And everyone knows as well as I do- it can be a long, painful test of endurance. But what I learnt from my support group on Monday night is to treasure the journey and celebrate even the most simple triumphs- "I got dressed today", " I started painting again", "I finally believe that I can get better" etc.

At the meeting each one of us lit a candle and stated something we were proud of and wanted to celebrate. There was someone there who lit their candle and said " I want to celebrate that I managed to get out of bed two hours ago and come to this meeting and that I feel better". That nearly broke my heart. I lit my candle and celebrated two things: first that I was able to volunteer for the soccer world cup earlier this year. It was a dream come true and secondly I celebrated that nearly four years after my break down I was still alive and I had made it another year of holding the Black dog from consuming me and claiming yet another statistic. I look at all kinds of statistics and realise that I should dead.

So wherever you are in the world celebrate how far who've come- light a candle, have a dinner with loved ones treat yourself because for most of you it's likely that you are stronger than you were yesterday.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How dumb can you be?...oh earth PLEASE swallow me!!

Yeeeeah!!! SO confession time. And this is HARD!. And this post will be long- make some coffee!

This happened to me on Friday but I have honestly felt so stupid and so embarrassed and ( probably worried too) that it has taken me until today to finally pluck up the courage to share with you how I @#!%*** up!. Feel free to laugh because it is funny in some ways and feel free to be perplexed because and the other hand it made me realize how bad things are.

I had two appointments with Dr Shaw last week. One on Monday and one on Friday. This was all fine the week passed by quickly. I wrote in a post last week that I was struggling with some pain due to BIH and severe fatigue due to a combination of BIH and depression. So I was really out of it, the days seemed to run into one another. My mother was away concluding the sale of her business, my father was locked up in his office as always and my grandmother....well, you never go near my grandmother when you have a headache. I remember feeling relieved on "Wednesday" night, thankful that my appointment wasn't until the day after next.

BUT when my mom woke me up on Thursday I learned was actually Friday. WTF? I was dumbfounded- what had happened to Thursday? Where had the week gone? HOW COULD IT BE FRIDAY?!!!. The most comical argument started between us ("no it isn't!"..."yes it is!"..."no it isn't!"..)  I had never been so confused in my life! What was worse is that my appointment was at 11:00...and it was 11:16 and a few seconds later my blackberry started ringing with Dr Shaws number on it. My mom told me to answer it,  I handed it to her and told her to answer it (cue next comical argument). Eventually I covered my head with my pillow and let it ring off. After much pleading with my mom she eventually went downstairs and phoned Dr. Shaw  to apologize and see if I could get a later appointment- yes I know I should have done this myself but I was to occupied with wanting to shoot myself.

In the end we couldn't get another appointment and Dr. Shaw landed up having a loooong conversation with my mom- who was mostly silent except for "hmm", "oh", "yes" and one "That's not good". And I knew that this was not going to go down very well. All my mom would tell me is that Dr. Shaw told her I was resisting and retreating.

When I got to the appointment yesterday (10 minutes late as usual). She opened the door for me and I knew that I was in for it. She told me she was very worried by what happened and gave me a stern talking to about what happened and that it showed her that I am not living in my life, that I am loosing touch with reality which meant that neither she or my church counsellors were helping me. The word "no" slipped out before I could stop myself. But then I told her that it wasn't anything that they were doing or weren't doing. It was actually me. I felt like crap! And I realised that I should have told her what I had written on this blog weeks ago when I first started therapy.

Basically I didn't have the strength to fight anymore, I was burnt out. I had gone so far down the road to suicide before I started therapy and had just taken a step back from it. Yet I feel to exhausted,  to crawl my way back along the road to recovery...yet again. There was also doubt about seeing Dr Shaw- originally my godfather hoped that six sessions would wrapped things up nicely. Both he and my mother hadn't realised that some people spend months....years in therapy before the are finally able to see some light. So there is always the threat that it will be discontinued....again- Dr Shaw is one of many psychologists that I have seen in my lifetime. And that threat really does affect how I feel about getting help and what I do with it. At first I felt I had to put everything I said in keywords to save time because I didn't know what session would be my last session. So I just haven't really taken it seriously yet.

I didn't have time to tell her all this (mostly because  we ran out of time). But the main topic of the whole session is what I could do to pull myself out of this- I didn't have a whole lot of ideas on that one, because I just don't know. But one thing that has been on my mind for a while is for me to start working  at a non- stressful job- to get me out of the house and in contact with people again. I entered the corporate world at 19 and worked my way up in London to a managerial position in human resources for a big company. I was working for a grocery distribution company in America when I had my breakdown. Since then I have been studying and doing menial jobs for my mother's company which she has now sold. Last year I was booked off any work because of my BIH and I decided to defer my studies this year because I was so ill.

So I have been out of the workforce for a while. I don't know if returning to work would be the wisest thing for a person who so very depressed. But if you spent one day in my house you would understand that it is probably the best thing to do. My house is a circus. I live with my mother, who has been supportive but is mostly unavailable because I am not her only problem. My grandmother who is 83 is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's- a fall two months ago fractured her hip and she is now mostly bed ridden needing full time care- the energy she drains out of us all is the biggest problem we face. My Dad is bipolar but refuses treatment and also has heart disease. I need to get away!

One thing I worried about when I was talking about with Dr Shaw about getting a job is 1) my family needs me at home. However she pointed out that what was happening wasn't fair, I had been sick too and had mostly had to take care of myself. There is nothing more I can do for my grandmother. And if my sister and I constantly have to keep making sacrifices in the name of family issues we will never get anywhere, or have our own lives. 2) My family is very image conscious, they will really be concerned about what job I get and where and how it will "look" if someone I know sees me. I am thinking of a simple job in a coffee shop or something but if someone "sees" me the impression will be made that I have bombed out with life and the only success I could make was working in a coffee shop. I went to a well known private school and this makes it worse. Such are the petty circles we move in.

I've gone a little off topic. We also spoke about not letting my parent's attitude and words have any control over me, which is part of what I mention above. That will take a lot of work. Old habits will die hard...

Anyway I've got a huge amount of work to do and it all seems to be overwhelming. By Friday I have to come back to Dr. Shaw with a journal of how I am going to go about getting a job. She has also told me she will give me 15 minutes to be late before calling and rescheduling the appointment- which means a cancellation fee. This is more of a motivation to my mom who drives me to these appointments and has made me late nearly every single time. I guess you can call this a little wake up call even though I still feel like I am sitting in a heavy cloud.

Yesterday wasn't all that bad though, I went to my support group and it had a nice ending which I will post tomorrow.

Still feeling a little sheepish :/ and I'm STILL wondering where Thursday went.... :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I've found it! The perfect Christmas prezzie!

Aaaaaah! Japan!, I've held a life long fascination with this country- there are many reasons but the most prominent one would the stuff that they come up with. They will invent those things that are only in the back of the imaginations of some westerners and are normally found in sentences like, " I wish I had a ..'insert outlandish'.. object for... 'insert outlandish reason'....

Take this nifty little gadget- THE SHOUTING VASE.... it holds in your anger!!!!. Some days I think the best thing for me is to have a big screaming session, this will ensure I don't yell at anybody or take it out on my already frustrated pillow. But because I have always lived with people and lived in a town or city it's not entirely possible for me to go screeching my lungs out- not without someone calling the police...or worst the men in white. So I just hold my tongue. But with this great invention I could scream as loud as I want to into the mouth piece and because of the way it's designed it will come out the other side as a slight noise.

Isn't that just peachy? I could scream everything out and go on my merry way.

And I am being absolutely serious...

Unfortunately, there is no way I would be able to get my hands on this any time soon, so I guess my pillow- abuse will continue.

On the EXTREME off chance that someone actually would want to invest in something like this for themselves here is the link: Scream it out!

Happy screaming people!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I think the sandman has permanently set up camp at my house. I just can't stop falling asleep and the ritual of going to bed at night and sleeping until it's morning is no longer possible- I sleep and wake up at any time. I must be sleeping about 15 hours a day right now. The only reason I get up is to eat, take a bath, feed my rabbits give them a cuddle and then retreat back into dreamland. And when I am awake I am like a zombie. This is a physical sign that things are not going well.

Whether it is because of the way I am feeling right now I don't know but, for the past week I have just had nothing write...nothing to say. Is it possible for a blog about depression to become to er, well.... depressing?. My mom laughed when I told her this "You are worried about a blog about depression becoming to...depressing? don't you think that's a little ironic". I'm also starting to compare my blog to other blogs- I tend to do that with everything I do and blogging is no different. And so a vicious Stephi- cycle has been born. I hate it when my insecurities ruin a perfectly good thing.

So I guess things are not going very well at the moment. The worst is that there is a storm of emotion going on inside my head and inside my heart and I can't cry. There is no way to release these feelings that are trapped inside me. Right now all I can feel is heavy and numb and tired. This is the WORST state for me to be in because it can go on for weeks maybe months. I have deliberately stopped taking my medication at times to try and put an end to it. After a few days of no meds I become an emotional mess but at least I can cry. I cried reading a another blog yesterday -which is very unusual- it was such a huge relief, but not nearly enough to help.

My bed is calling my name....goodnight people x