rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Content note: weight changes, body image
(This one is a bit more fraught for me than yesterday's, but I still want to note it.)
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Today's bird: Shoveler
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
This is articulating a lot of stuff I've been thinking over, especially the last month or so, about my priorities as I start getting "back to normal".

1. Health and fitness
(content note: exercise, weight, mental health)
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2. Immediate family

The children have coped admirably with all the disruption and uncertainty, but they're both showing reaction in different ways. I want to give them lots of security and support and attention and stability. I plan to take a good look at our daily and weekly and seasonal routines with that in mind. 

I suspect some additional goals and tasks will come out of couples counselling.

3. Work

The cliché is that a brush with death provides revelation and motivation to chuck in the job and go follow a long-held dream etc.  My revelation from being ill so long is that I really like my work and I miss my job and my colleagues very much, and I want to go back as soon as I feel able.  Probably in a phased-return way so I don't go from zero to full time immediately.  Anyway, the time to start that conversation with work is probably a week or two into next year when this chemo cycle should be finished.

4. Studying

I'm studying with the OU under transitional fees and the qualification I'm working towards will be discontinued at the end of 2017. It is just possible for me to finish on time if I work hard from now until September 2017, and especially hard for the nine months Sep 16 - Jun 17. I've decided to give that plan a try but drop the workload if it's too much.   If I don't manage to complete by September 2017 much of my course credit is transferable to the replacement qualification anyway.

5. Family, friends and community

The care and support I've received while ill has been amazing and much appreciated.    I've found it too easy to let connections slide, especially when busy.  So I'm going to put some time and effort into maintaining connections (socialising, letters, emails, calls, blogs, even dratted Facebook), and into making that work part of my daily and weekly routines.

Two things notably absent from the list above:

1. Reading.

I won't stop reading entirely, it's too much part of me to read whenever I can. But studying will take up much of the time and effort I'd otherwise spend reading, and that seems a fair trade-off for now.

2. Politics

I'm finding it very hard to engage with politics at the moment: anything more than the most superficial attention to current events leaves me emotionally drained and exhausted.  Maybe that'll improve as I recover, but I don't think the five things I am choosing to prioritise will leave me much time over anyway.
rmc28: Rachel, in running tshirt and leggings, holding phone and smiling into mirror (runner5)
Last weekend Sport England launched This Girl Can, an advertising/social media campaign to encourage more women to exercise regularly, featuring "real women" doing real exercise.  I've ended up on their email list somehow (buying Olympic tickets?) and got sent the breathless press release which seemed to feature entirely young slim (white) women with shaved armpits, to which I had a rather eyeroll response. 

However, the full video is rather more diverse, and there's a woman on a bike "I'm slow but I'm lapping everyone on the couch" and a woman running "I jiggle therefore I am" who both look rather more like me.  The slogans aren't quite right though; mine would be something like  "I'm slow but I feel so much better".

A few days ago, there was the Time to Talk day, "spend 5 minutes talking about mental illness on the 5th".  I was too busy on the 5th (and ironically, too low in mood even to go out and run), but it ties in nicely. 

I use exercise to manage my mental health.  I'm not quite well.  I'm not quite ill.  A bit lot like my RSI and my pelvic girdle pain: so long as I keep up the right habits to manage my condition I can go days, weeks even, and almost forget I have it.   I can do my job, help raise my children, contribute to civil society, and you can't see from the outside when I'm working really hard not to break down crying over trivial things (or my wrists and hands are hurting, or my pelvis is hurting).

I could probably do with making more effort to track my mood, gather more evidence of what seems to help and what doesn't, but when it's good it's easy not to see the need, and when it's bad it's easier not to bother.   What I do know seems to help me stay on an even keel: running regularly, eating regularly and in variety, getting enough sleep, maintaining connection with family and friends, actively pursuing my interests, not trying to do too much, not thinking too hard about food, not getting too stressed.  (yes some of these things contradict each other)

The most recent drop in mood followed a fortnight where: I was ill, my child was ill, I couldn't run, we had a break in routine, we had a large family gathering (and family gatherings are both wonderful and tiring).   I can't point at any one of them and say that's the culprit but I wasn't exactly surprised to note the falling of my mood.  Or to feel it improving again as my routine returned to normal, my child got better, and I could exercise again.

My health is not binary: well or ill. It's not a constant burden - sometimes there's a black dog on my shoulder and sometimes there's a puppy gambolling in the park.  It's a matter of balance and paying attention and being kind to myself when I need it.  Sometimes kindness is chocolate and a good book, and sometimes kindness is making myself get out in the cold and run.
rmc28: Rachel speaking at a lectern with microphone and part of the slogan "Stronger Economy Fairer Society" in shot (speaking)
1. My major leg muscles ache (unsurprisingly) and my upper arms also (slightly more surprising, I must swing them a lot).

2. By serious-runner standards, 3 hours for a half-marathon is hilariously slow. By my standards it was a) the longest distance I've ever covered b) the fastest pace I've sustained for more than 10km.

3. Holy wow my colleagues are generous & JustGiving are right about promoting the fundraising page after the event as well as before. (http://www.justgiving.com/rmcf just fyi)

4. I have the most amazing sustained endorphin-hum (it's a bit lower than a buzz) going on. I just feel very content and happy, even with the aches.

5. Have a photo from before the race, taken by a kind fellow-runner using my phone.

Rachel before her first half-marathon

6. The photo also shows how my hair has been growing out since I last cut it in September (as shown in the LibDem/speaking icon on this post). Nico seems to have grown out of pulling it, so there's been no incentive to keep it super-short. I'm inclined to keep going for now, though I do sometimes miss how fast haircare was at that length.
rmc28: Rachel, in running tshirt and leggings, holding phone and smiling into mirror (runner5)
This is inadvertently topical.

In just under six weeks, I will run my first half-marathon.  I took up running with couch-to-5k to rebuild physical fitness after recovering from Nicholas's birth in the autumn of 2012.  More recently, I've been running in my lunch hour since my workplace moved to a new building last September.

Running has certainly helped me regain fitness after the physical rigours of pregnancy and c-section.  It also helps me manage my post-natal depression, which never entirely went away and gets better and worse over time as these things do.  Running seems to help with it not getting much worse.

So it seems appropriate to dedicate my first half-marathon to Mind in Cambridgeshire, the local branch of the national charity which campaigns and delivers services to "make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone".  I have set up a JustGiving page or you can give me a donation in person, if you feel so inclined.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
On Wednesday morning I saw a GP at my practice: we had a slightly rambly discussion of my state of mind; she noted my counselling appointment; I don't want drugs if I can avoid it, and want to see how talking-therapy works first.  I'm going back in a few weeks to keep her updated.

On Wednesday afternoon I saw my counsellor for the first of 7-8 appointments.. 
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rmc28: (destructive)
In the UK, the health visitor screens mothers with a questionnaire when the baby is about 3 months old.  I ... didn't pass the screening.

It's more a disappointment than a surprise. I am taking the screening seriously and I'm seeking help, with appointments with my GP and my employer's counselling service later this week.

(And the rest behind a cut)

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rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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