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  • Writer's pictureClaire

5. Moving On...

Updated: Nov 25, 2023

The decision to leave the Police on New Year’s Eve was mine, I wanted to start the new year afresh. It felt right to end what had been an amazing time in work, with some pretty incredible people, on my birthday, It’s not called New Years Eve for nothing! I was ready to put that world and the whole fabulous experience behind me.

It was time to move on and reshape my identity. I had to find out who ‘the new me’ was and find myself a purpose in life. I must be useful and good for something. It was harder than I ever expected. The depression was still rearing its ugly head, flash backs and nightmares were a regular occurrence. The blackouts came daily, and I finally consented to having some assistance. My Social Worker was gobsmacked!! She’d never expected me to accept that I needed help. The wet room was a godsend so I could do my own personal care even though it took a good hour every morning but having someone in to wash and dress me was too much for me to accept. I preferred to call on Pink Sparkly Miss’s stubbornness and muddled along as best I could. Who thought I would come to depend on a bidet!

Wonky hands make somethings very tricky! Despite this I needed a lot of help with cooking and preparing food. I couldn’t hold a kettle or carry things and was living off sandwiches and packaged food. My weight ballooned as a result of my poor diet and the cocktail of medication I was taking. Also, I wasn’t getting any fresh fruit and veg as I found it impossible to prepare. I felt completely disgusting but still refused to admit defeat. My Social Worker set up a care plan for me and I received weekly hours of help with the aid of direct payment. A system that enables you to choose who you have in to assist you. Enter my Boy Friday. He was AWSOME. Fact.

He was with me for 2 years. Yes, a HE. In that time, despite his young age, we had an awful lot of fun. He came in, prepared a big batch of food, portioned it and then froze it. Allowing me to eat properly for an evening meal as well as lunch. I was really surprised how easily I accepted this assistance. I think what made the difference was that he was my choice. I knew him very well and he knew me. I was so very lucky to have him. He is a very intuitive and sensitive soul. He could tell in an instant what kind of day I was having, no matter how hard I tried to hide it. Tikaani loved him, and I think he liked it when he came around because it meant that he was off out for walkies. Despite being a rather antisocial pooch, he enjoyed being out of the house. I think it was a release from his self-imposed carer duties. He loathed other dogs with a passion, except for Diamond, his girlfriend! Tikaani that is not my helper. She came to play occasionally. I think he only allowed her over the threshold because she was a female. He was very much the Alpha!

With the introduction of an assistant (to give him his correct title) a whole new world opened for me. I was able to go out in the wheelchair with him on good days and pick what I want from the shops. On the days when I wasn’t so good, I gave him a list and he went and got everything I asked for. Pretty awesome. We went out for coffee or a hot chocolate at my favourite coffee stop in town, the ‘Miserable Cow’. I loved it initially because of its name, it made me smile, and the first day it opened it really summed me up.. Once we became regulars, the girls would have our orders ready for us as soon as we were rolling down the precinct. Being an outside establishment, you’d expect it to be chilly. Nope, not only did they have space heaters, they also had cwtchy blankets. Another good reason to not go anywhere else. Who doesn’t love a blankie!! Sadly, it was taken over a few years ago. When the new owners came in it just wasn’t quite my cup of tea or coffee. I stopped going once they ruined the experience for me. Rude!

After a warm drink and sometimes a cake, our next stop was generally the fruit and veg man followed by Pete the Spud (Jacket potato man who did the most aaamazing baked potatoes… ENORMOUS!)

I still wasn’t comfortable out of the house for long periods of time. Flash backs were regular and far too frequent for me, leaving me in a bit of a state. Besides which Tikaani howled constantly whilst I was out shopping or at any of my many hospital appointments. How do I know this you may well ask! That would be because my friends and neighbours, who luckily for me, knew me well enough to say. We recorded him one day, howling at a Police siren. They really set him off too. I think he thought it was the call of the wilds. Too funny for words. Well I thought it was funny, maybe the neighbours didn’t find it quite so amusing.

My assistant’s hours were limited and that meant I spent long periods of time on my own. This isn’t good for anyone and, especially for a former social butterfly like me. I loved being around people but couldn’t face them. I was right in the middle of the biggest self-pity party ever.

Blackouts got to a critical level. I would come around on the floor and Tikaani would be lying next to me with his paw on whatever part of my body he could reach. On one occasion, I was out on the floor and friend called, she let herself in with the key stored on the wall outside the house. Tikaani wouldn’t let her near me until I’d come around a little. I think it was a shock for her to find me like that, but I was so used to it happening I was quite blasé about the whole thing. Its thanks to these same friends that I am now able to retell these adventures and mishaps. They have looked after me in some shitty situations and then let me know what had happened so I write down.

Things had to change when I was admitted to hospital following yet another blackout. They said they were concerned that my brain would suffer further serious damage if i continued knocking myself out. I decided I would purchase myself a crash helmet.

This provided greater merriment to everybody. However, they and I, knew I was a bit safer. Falling down the stairs was the catalyst that precipitated this essential purchase. I came around to the dog licking my face, whining and pawing at me. He was clearly distressed. Now, the pawing and the distress I could cope with, but not the face licking! Tikaani was a chronic ‘meat and two veg’ licker. He did this frequently with gusto. While he might enjoy it, I didn’t relish the thought of being licked with a cahoona flavoured tongue. No matter how much I loved that animal!

From that point on I wore the crash helmet every time I left any chair if I was home alone. I wore it up to bed at night and I wore it down the stairs in the mornings. This served two purposes, firstly my brain would be protected and secondly, if I pulled the visor down Tikaani couldn’t lick my face! A win win situation.

My friends, family and Social Worker decided an around the neck hazard alarm would be a marvellous idea. Hmmm really? I don’t bloody think so! I was in my 40’s not 90! Although, I did in fact know several 90 year olds who were far more mobile me. I agreed to the paperwork, and that was all. Too undignified sorry. I didn’t mind being on the floor, you get used to being covered in dog’s hair when you live with a Husky Malamute cross. (hairiest dog I’ve ever come across) So I couldn’t see what their problem was at all. Maybe I was being selfish, they were worried about me. They truly cared about me, which was amazing, but I was still in a great deal of denial. I refused the neck alarm. However, I did contact my service provider and they sent me a signal booster for my mobile phone. I could now have service anywhere I fell in the house and if I really needed help I would have it quickly. That appeared to satisfy most people.

It happens - I had a change of Social Worker. I was upset initially, the one I had was on my wavelength. I’d known her care for quite a few years and she knew me well. Surprisingly the change turned out to be a good thing. On her first visit, she asked me to tell her about myself. Initially I thought that she should have read my damn file. However, her reason for doing so was this; She wanted to find out who I was by talking to me and felt that a file would only show her someone else’s opinion. That method of working was a slight surprise. I tried what I usually do, told her I was fine, and did a grand job of making light of everything. I smiled, I laughed, and I took the mickey out of myself relentlessly.

She took it all on board, nodded her head, didn’t take any notes and asked a lot of questions. Some of which I answered honestly some I didn’t. Then asked me what I did with my day? This threw me. Well, I got up, showered dressed (sometimes) went downstairs and sat in the lounge. I’d try and watch tv, but the constant noise bothered me. I checked in on Facebook, posted a lot of rubbish quotes and generally, that was my only lifeline to the real world. I now loathe Facebook if I’m honest. It’s what I regard as a time waster. I’d spent hours a day just scrolling through other people’s dramas, that aren’t really dramas. The longer I spent on there the more I felt sorry for myself. I began posting and sharing quotes that were frankly just, sad. Nothing positive. Just full of negativity and ‘woe is me’. (Don’t shoot me, but) I feel they were attention grabbing quotes. At the time I felt, because they summed up how I was feeling, it made me feel less lonely to find quotes that spoke to me about pain and not giving up. Don’t think for a minute I’m dissing people who do this. I think it does serve its purpose, it certainly did for me. I have no need of it any longer as my mindset has altered. The positive stuff works better for me. . . From this she deduced that not only did I needed to get out and do things, I was also suffering from PTSD. Oh really? I don’t bloody think so Mrs Social Worker. That’s something our wonderful servicemen and women suffer from. People who have seen and experienced truly awful things in their lives! It something people who have been abused as young children experience. Not me. A roughty tufty cop, who has seen some of the worst things a human being possibly can, and still function normally without a care in the world.

However, I had suffered a massive trauma in the crash and that was the cause of the recurring nightmares and flash backs. Her next question irritated me beyond belief …. ‘was I on any medication’. I knew exactly what she meant but played dull and listed out the substantial number of meds I was taking. Once again, she merely smiled and rephrased the question. Was I taking anti-depressants? Nope absolutely not, I wasn’t depressed, I was in chronic pain, with absolutely no reprieve to it and had lost the career I loved. Anyone would be a little down in the dumps. I think the level of medication was making me delirious. For a change! Hindsight is a wonderful thing, is it not?

I was persuaded by her to visit my GP and ask her opinion. To my total amazement she immediately agreed. I was stunned. I trusted this woman implicitly. She’d been brutally honest with me right from day one, yet had never said a word about what she thought. It turns out she could see it unfolding, but had decided to take the same approach as HR had and let me come to the conclusion - I needed some serious help, by myself. Like I said previously an incredibly wise woman, who I am currently begging not to retire! I began taking anti-depressants to help me cope with the nightmares and flashbacks. She also referred me for counselling. In fairness it came through very quickly, however the counsellor and I didn’t quite gel shall we say. Something that is very important if you are going to bear your soul to a complete stranger!

After being on the anti-depressants I did indeed begin to feel a little stronger emotionally. The new Social Worker began to visit me regularly, and she later told me, the level of concerns she had for me at that time.

On one visit she came bearing gifts. Unusual you would think, or maybe inappropriate? No, not at all, this was yet another incredible gift. One that would be the turning point for me. It was a leaflet. A leaflet doesn’t sound much does it? What that leaflet contained would be the catalyst in my recovery.

It was a leaflet for an organisation called Lifeboat. This incredible set up was run totally by volunteers at the local day centre one evening a week. I was reluctant at first as you can imagine. Going into a room full of strangers was my worse nightmare. What it offered though, was a safe place, a place you could go where people only knew your first name. where you didn’t talk about your issues. Everything but. Definitely not your issues. It was an environment that encouraged creativity as a therapy. I made Christmas decorations, I did colouring, and I even painted with watercolours. Those paints were unsuccessful, so I then tried acrylic paint. I discovered something I had been unaware of for 40 odd years; I could, actually, put something on canvas that was recognisable to the human eye! Who knew that talent was there? I was told all through school I was useless at art. Well, Mr art teacher, up yours!! I was pleasantly surprised at my creations. From that night on, every week I went straight for the acrylics. It became the best escape I could have wished for. The paintings are by no means excellent. They are passable, but the satisfaction I gained from doing them was immense. I even ordered my own paints and canvases and spend most days splashing paint around like a demented four-year-old. Besides all those lovely, amazing craft options. They also offered something I desperately needed. Counselling. It was a free service, given again, by volunteers and it really helped me deal with the loss of my career. There was a bright shiny light at the end of my tunnel at last and it wasn’t a bloody train this time! The added bonus of this wonderful organisation is that it was setup by a wonderful lady who I have known since school. That was something I was totally unaware of, despite all my hours on Facebook!

I had already tried my hand at creating things. I loved to be making stuff. I made glittered glasses but realised that was a no go when I was dropping more glasses than I was painting.

I tried jewellery making, which wasn’t quite as bad, but still not great because the fine work was very difficult. My swearing whilst doing the bead work was atrocious, I couldn't grip the beads , the wires or the tools. I lost count of the number of times my hands went into complete spasm and remained rigid for hours. It did however, thrill me greatly when my now sister in law asked me to make all her bridesmaids jewellery. Knowing my limitations, she also gave me lots of notice so I wouldn’t stress myself out or try and do too much at a time. I was pretty chuffed with the end result if I’m honest. I’d done something that was useful at last. I love her to bits. Despite the fact she is considerably younger than me, she seems to get me. A very unique individual, as is my baby brother, her husband. Special people.

Things were definitely improving. I was meeting people, I had something to occupy myself through the long days, the kids and I were reconciled, I was eating properly, yes I was still wearing a crash helmet for the majority of the day but things were better. Little did I know that things were about to improve tenfold. I was allocated a new wheelchair. An electric one. My god, I’d gone up in the world. This was a life saver. Doris (Yes - D for drivable!) was a total game-changer. I also found myself an incredible counsellor. Who I saw privately on a weekly basis for EMDR and couselling. I have to say she changed my life. I will dedicate a page to this treatment as it was fundamental in my recovery and was worth every single penny!

I now think this post is long enough already. I don’t want to bore you. So, if you’d like to hear about Doris, our adventures (and there are a lot of tales to tell) and the PTSD please drop by later. The PTSD will be a stand-alone as I feel it’s a subject that requires careful writing to ensure the message comes across and also to ensure I don’t come across badly and insensitive.(I will, as always, have my Mr on hand with the editing - my hero). It’s real, it doesn’t just happen to serving military it happens to everyday people. There is so much fun coming to this little blog please bear with me while I get the ugly stuff done and dusted. I am making it as brief as I possibly can. Thank you for making it this far with me on my journey. Much love. Flairey. x

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