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Posts Tagged ‘struggle’

This week did really not get off to the best start – after being fed-up last week over my application scores, there’s been further issues in that my parents may have lost my first degree certificate, which I need to have a scan of in order to get more ‘points’ on it when I apply for my job. I definitely left it at home – there’s no point dragging ‘important’ things from flat to flat as a student. It’s stressing me out quite a bit, and my parents are being fairly difficult about looking for it for me.  I’ve also had a lot of problems with the student loan company as they don’t really understand (or so it seems!) that medical degrees can take six years – queue a lot of being ‘on-hold’, which when I’m spending long days at the hospital with few breaks, doesn’t go down well – it’s taking ages to get sorted so I’m getting really quite nervy about finances. Not fun. Then, I’ve been given a pretty rubbish paediatric placement for Nov-Dec which is a shame as it’s the rotation I’ve most been looking forward to for the last three years. I’m with the community team, which yes, in interesting, but it’s a lot of learning disability stuff, and as I’ve done more than enough summers working in that field to not really need any more time allocated to it, I’m a bit disappointed when I could have been at the children’s hospital doing something that would be more new and interesting. I love volunteering in LD – but I was so looking forward to paeds surgery or paeds neurology. Cue a case of the grumps.

I’m also just quite, well, emotional at the moment. Whether it’s because the last few weeks have, by all accounts, been stressful, but I actually missed not having counselling this week (L was away). Whether it’s just because I’m on week 11 of term already, have been doing lots of long days, and am tired, I’m not sure. I sort of just need to vent somewhere. I’m just a little fragile. Next week will be the one-year marker for me going to the GP’s and officially being put on the mental health bandwagon. Next week marks the start (well, in terms of defining the problem as opposed to running from it) of the long way down. A whole year on, I’m still not back to where I was. Sometimes, I don’t think I’ll ever get back. Sometimes I think the rest of my life is going to be a mix of falling apart for a time, and then trying to catch up for a time, then repeating. I kind of feel like I’ve missed a boat and will never get back to the pace I was at. I’m feeling so impatient with it. I’m fed up, as always, of depression and its sequelae. I just want to be past it. I have a feeling I’ll be neck and neck with it for a while yet. Major case of hitting head against wall.

I think part of it is that I’ve overdone things a bit in the last week or two. I really love it when people lower down the medschool get in touch and ask if we can meet for a chat to go over things like examination techniques, or what they need to be thinking about for the coming year of their training, but by the same token, I realised that in the last fortnight I’ve spent five evenings and three afternoons meeting people to give them a hand, a soundboard or a shoulder, and it’s worn me down. I love that people see me as approachable, and I really do love teaching – but it’s worn me out. I did too much. So much for pacing.

However, there have been some things today to pick me up. I did the lecture on ‘life as a medic’ to the new first years – all 240 of them – this morning, and despite being pretty nervous about it (I’ve never had such a big audience for so long as I spoke for an hour), it went well. They laughed in the right places, were interactive, and gave me applause at the end. I feel quite proud of myself. I’ve also found out that I’ll be listed as an author on another academic paper, which is brilliant – the supervisor I did my neuroscience project with is brilliant at acknowledging contributors, and it will hopefully really help me in a few years when I apply for training posts. My choir had it’s first social, and lots of new people came, and its first rehearsal, and I really have missed it over the summer.  My student charity has had over two hundred people sign up, and that’s a lot of potential man power. It’s things like this that remind me that I’m still who I am – I may not be quite as accurate as God at the whole ‘I AM THAT I AM’ thing – but I’ve not completely lost myself.

I’m hoping that all the stuff that’s massively stressing me out is going to sort itself out in the next few days and weeks. I’m just a bit fragile at the moment. Let the weak say, I am strong.

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Tethered.

It’s been a pretty rough week. Generally, I try not to mull things over too much and dwell on the uncertainties brought by last year – but this week, I am, hands-up, being a bit self-indulgent and letting myself be upset and emotional about a few things. I’m tired of ‘looking on the bright side’ and ‘being grateful’ and ‘not dwelling on things I can’t change’. This week, I’m waving a white flag to disappointment, just for a little while.

The reason for this is that I start my application for my first doctoring job next month. Without explaining the ridiculously complicated and oh-so-pointless system in depth, we get a score out of 100 which is broken into a mark on where we rank in our year academically, plus a mark from answering various questions aiming to show that we won’t stab patients or steal from the hospital etc. Based on your score, you then find out which area of the country you’ve been allocated to, and from there, which group of placements you can apply for. Popular areas, and popular jobs, therefore need a higher score.

I found out this week that after spending five years achieving in the top 15% (roughly), last year knocked my marks off enough that my ranking dropped enough to lost me points. Every point counts. Literally. I’m feeling a bit self-pitying to be honest. I’ve worked so hard from day one – and one bad year has reduced the chance of getting a job I really want to do. Small sad man playing small, sad violin, you know where I am.

There is however another way to get a foundation doctor’s job, which is what I’d always intended on doing. The ‘academic foundation’ jobs are for people who want to do clinical research and who are academically sound. You get a much better choice of jobs, time for research, and are always in professorial units, which are usually the best ones in the hospitals. After being ill and having my research project take more wrong turns than a blind person navigating, I couldn’t really apply anymore – I had too much on my plate thanks to a hefty dose of depression. Something had to go. It was upsetting enough at the time letting it go, after so long thinking that it would be the path I would be on. A bitter change of plans.

Today is the day a lot of my friends found out whether they’d got academic jobs, or not. Some of the are excellent students. Others, I realistically was working either on a par, or above them, easily, till last year. Looking at the successes, I think it’s fair to say that I’d have stood a relatively good chance of getting one too, had I applied. I’m jealous. There is no other word for it. Between scoring lower on the academic ranking, and feeling annoyed that the academic jobs are out of my reach, I’m grumpy. Depression sucks. It really does.

I know it’s ugly, I know it’s wrong, but sometimes, sometimes I get so bloody fed up of all of this. I’m fed up of finding excuses every single week to a different consultant as to why I need time off. I’m fed up of having to constantly evaluate myself and my performance and measure it against a scale, and find myself wanting. I’m in mourning that not only did I lose last year to it, it’s still impacting me now. It’s changed my future. It’s still got me, tethered. I know that ‘poor little me-ing’ does no one any favours – but today, I’m upset and annoyed. Today, I’m just wishing that depression never happened to me. Today, I’m just wishing it would bugger off and let me be. I’m sick of struggling to breathe against it. I’m sick of living with it. I just want it gone. I just want to move on.

Magic bullets, this way please!

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I’ve had a nice weekend off, seeing a few friends and chairing the meeting for a new medical school mentoring scheme I’m heading up. I rounded things off with an evening service at church, but found myself not quite at ease as I listened and sang.

I’m back in counselling tomorrow afternoon and it’s been quite tricky sorting my timetable at the GP’s to get the time off – and after spending a few days with them, am not really that keen on being completely honest about why I need it. I’m also just getting completely fed up of having to always, always be thinking about how to get the afternoons off I need, where my next attachment will be (and whether I can get back from it for counselling), of knowing that on Monday evenings, I may well be capable of no more than collapsing in a heap and crying. I’m fed up of having to keep marching to this constant drum. I’m fed up of being constrained, first by depression and now by recovery.

I was sitting in front of a girl in my medical year tonight, and sometimes, I just feel so jealous – jealous that other people haven’t had to deal with juggling depression and medical school, recovery and medical school, counselling and medical school. I get envious about the things I miss out on, as for example, I can’t go to a lot of the teaching hospitals at the moment as I would’t be able to get back in time on Mondays, so am stuck in the city. Recovery, as so many of you will know, takes so much time and so much effort. Sometimes, I really do just get a fit of the ‘poor-little-me’s’ and want to say, why, why is is me that was brought down in this way, why was it my life that had a year, if not more, completely wiped out of it, why is my grades that, after four years of working so hard to stay in the top end of the year, have now slipped, thanks to last year? Why is it my life that was turned upside down, my mind and reason that went AWOL, my body, that didn’t take well to medication? The list goes on.

I know, so well, that it’s pointless looking and envying people. A lot of people, if not all, have significant struggles to work against. A lot of students take a hit from illness of one sort or another. A lot of people go off to counselling and survive to tell the tale. I’m not usually one prone to self-obsession (that would be my older sister). And yet, sometimes, I just feel so frustrated I want to cry. I feel so tired of this ‘journey’ that I want to sit at the side of the road, and not move another inch. I want to hang up my hat, turn in my chips, leave it, leave it all behind. I don’t care, for the reasoning that for all I know, this girl, or anyone in my year, probably has a shedload of stuff going on, behind closed doors. I don’t care, for the reasoning that no one had a clue that I was falling apart last year, so how can I assume things about anyone else? I don’t care, that it’s unfair, unjust, unreasonable to crack out the envy and let it seethe. I don’t care, that having the odd hissy fit at God, won’t get me anywhere. Sometimes, I just have to hiss. I just have to stamp my feet and let it out.

I think part of it is that at the moment, I’m feeling quite alone in all this. Sometimes I wish that I had a family who rallied round and helped me through things, rather than the dysfunctional, corrosive one I have. I get fed up sometimes, of managing on my own. Sometimes, like at the moment, when I’m having a few days of feeling oh-so-vulnerable, oh-so-easily wounded, all I want is someone to take it all away and help me know what to do. Last year proved that I’m not always good at making my own decisions, and as a result, I don’t feel quite as capable or invincible as I did before. Walking wounded. After the whole run in with the substance-misuse doctor the other week, it’s as though all my armour has been stripped away and suddenly, it’s only to obvious to the world that I am defenceless, fragile and not quite as bullet-proof as I’d have it believe. I’m back to square one again. I hate square one. Sometimes, depression feels like a game of snakes and ladders, but with no ladders and extra snakes. It’s hard enough to stay in one place, let alone move forward.

God – please help me stop being so grumpy and ill-thinking. Please help me see the way through this. Please help me keep my eyes fixed on you, and not on things I can’t change. And please don’t let counselling finish me off. Love, Char48.

So – let’s hope that this week isn’t quite as grumpy as the last.

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It’s not been a good day. I was in clinic this morning and was already feeling cross as the junior doctor I was sitting in with didn’t seem to think it was important to tackle the fact that one of the patients was drinking 16 units a day, and had what his GP called ‘unexplained stomach trouble’. You don’t need a medical degree to join the dots, sometimes. It needed sorting out. It’s tough, asking about drinking, especially as ‘problem drinkers’ don’t exactly respond well – but at the end of the day, it’s in the job description. Sort. It. Out.

At lunchtime my current hospital had a talk scheduled from.  one of the mid-grade doctors who was speaking on ‘how health professionals can stay healthy’. Most of it centred on his battle with dependancy on alcohol, prescription opiates, and non-prescription drugs. Let me be clear that I’m so impressed that he’s now off everything, giving back to the abstinence programme he went through, getting his career on track, and is brave enough to stand up and say what he did in front of colleagues – it’s brilliant.

However, what is not brilliant is being taken aside at the end and told I didn’t look as though I was engaging with his talk, and was it because I have the mistaken view that addiction is not a disease, and certainly not one doctors get? Because, you know, it could happen to me too….

Excuse me, for getting angry when he said that although he has not used since the birth of his son, that his son is not why he abstains – his own self-love, is. Excuse me for not wanting to look in depth at his AA keyrings (which are given at certain time points of abstinence – a month/two months etc) when I’ve seen my dad come back with them enough times, and when he falls off the wagon, start over. Those keyrings represent a lot of achievement, but they also represent a family who are waiting on eggshells for someone to start again, at the beginning, and plunge everything back to uncertainty. They represent months of children being neglected as they are less important than sobriety, which is  just one more thing they love more that you.

I’m sorry, but I believe that when you chose to bring a child into this world and raise them, they should be your first priority. Call me an idealist, call me old fashioned, but if you don’t want to do that, give that child to someone who will. Parents should be staying sober for them, over themselves. They should be protecting them. My father loved his whiskey more than he loved us. My mother loved our reputation as a clean living, achieving family, more than she loved us. Yes, you get sober – but the first reason should be for your children and spouse, who’s lives you have turned upside down. Otherwise, you’re just chosing yourself again, as always. This doctor said he stayed sober for himself, not his young son. I have an issue with that.

I know that substance use, misuse and dependancy is something I struggle with, and I have worked to tackle this head on by doing placements, projects and assignments within the field of substance misuse medicine. I do not bury my head in the sand. I tackle my issues head on. Sometimes I learn a valuable lesson. Other times, like today, I get completely incinerated. I don’t need some evangelist for recovery telling me about the difficulties he’s had; I’ve seen it. I’ve come through it. I remember it, every time I see someone drink more than they should, every time I have a sip of wine, and every time I don’t, because I know that it will be too much, too painful for me. Coming off alcohol and other drugs is so difficult. I have a lot of respect for those who manage it, including my dad, and I will correct anyone who claims otherwise, who claims that it’s just a weakness of will, and that  people chose a life of dependancy. Just don’t expect me to congratulate anyone for sorting their life out and leaving their family in the lurch. My dad is sober at the moment, yet I am in recovery from depression not entirely unconnected to his prior habits and am still tethered to counselling. His drinking has left me scarred and scared. His addiction has painted me black, too. It, among with other things along the way, broke me and I still don’t know if I’ll ever achieve that elusive ‘wholeness’. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop bleeding out and hurting. The effects don’t stop when someone puts down a glass for the (yet another) final time. The damage grows and continues. It continues to infect and supporates in quiet corners, in quiet people.

So – I’m feeling pretty fragile today. Strangely enough, this time I didn’t seek it out, the pain just found me. It’s never far away. I know that recovery from depression is a tale of hills and valleys, a trail that we follow for months – but I was hoping for just a few more days in a row without crying. I was hoping for a few less reasons to feel that once again, I just can’t handle parts of this world we’re in. I’m trapped again. I hate that out of nowhere, my issues with drinking spring up and crowd me out. I was upset enough that I left the ward early. I never do that. It got the better of me. It beat me. I can’t, can never, let it beat me.

The odd thing is that the other day, I was back in counselling after a month off and we were talking about drinking, and L (counsellor) asked if I would seek a medical specialty that didn’t have a large number of patients with substance issues – and I said, and stick by it, that although I wouldn’t dedicate myself to it, I want to be part of the solution to this. I want to give something positive back. I want to help people get clean. I want to stop the cycles and the sickness that flows through families. I will not bury my head in the sand. I tackle my issues head on.

Today, though, it was a bit much and I could do with a hug but am home alone.

God, how long is this going to be too much? How long?

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I’m at home for a week at the moment after really needing a break from my university city – at the moment, with the amount of spare time I have, it’s just too full of ghosts from the past year. I needed to get somewhere different, and as the friends in other cities, who I would usually target for a few days, are all away or busy at the moment, I’m home with my parents.

I’m kind of used to feeling like a stranger when I’m home, and a square peg, but this week is tough and although I’ve only been here two days,  I want to be back. I really don’t want to just rant about what it’s like at the moment as  I don’t think that helps anyone  – but sometimes, I sort of wish I had a family unit who accepted me as I am, a family who still stood by me when for whatever reason, they realise I’m not just a pile of academic achievements and good exam results. A family who knew that that’s only one part of me, the most superficial layer, who didn’t make me feel so broken and damaged, so weak and washed out. Sometimes I think that this year of depression isn’t even the real problem, as with time, moods lift and that weight of sadness fades, whereas all this damage  amassed over the years is here to stay. Being home always knocks me back, I know that – but every time, I sort of think it might be different, that somewhere along the line, somehow, I’ll come back to find a house that doesn’t seem to be collapsing in on itself, where secrets lay across the floorboards and cry out whenever you put a foot wrong. I come here and feel myself growing down, feeling once again like the child I was, confused by the drinking and the mindgames, desperately yearning for stability. I feel raw and vulnerable, as though this house strips me of my armour before I come in, and on cue, I shrink and wither. I hate it. I really, really hate it.

Anyway, I hope you are having a better week than I am! I do have another post I’ve been thinking on – it just doesn’t quite fit in with how I’m feeling at the moment. In a day or two, perhaps.

 

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Sometimes I think it’s most unfair that it’s not possible to escape myself for the odd hour or two – I can move locations, switch off my phone, sit in a quiet corner of the library, all sorts of things, to get away from other people, but escaping myself is not quite so easy.

I’m feeling so frustrated and angry with myself at the moment, which achieves nothing, I know, but the feeling still persists. A lot of the time, all I can think is ‘if only, if only’…..if only I had kickstarted my project when I should have done, if only I had been more honest about how serious this depression is, when I was asked, if only I had started counselling earlier rather than later, if only I had kicked up more of a fuss when my medication gave me side-effects, if only, if only, if only, so many if onlys. I know that a lot of this blog has a distinct broken-record feel to it – I repeat again and again, that I’m feeling overcome and overwhelmed, that I’ve got too much on my plate, that I feel  unsure and uncertain, but that’s what I am like right now, how I am tuned in, and living it is exhausting, and this blog is meant to be honest, no false records or impressions. It’s not somewhere else that requires a brave face, or a mask. It’s just me, as I am, where I am.

Sometimes, I feel so full of determination to get through that it’s almost like being myself again – I think, yes, I will come through the other side, I will tick the boxes and cross the t’s and dot the i’s and find my way back on track. I think, yes, this depression is just a phase, a lesson to learn, a height to scale, that I will get over, and why, won’t I be stronger for it? I will look back, and I shall be glad for this challenge. I will look back, and I shall be proud. It’s as though God is pushing me forward, through the resistance, taking the weight. It’s as though He has me in His grip, safe. I think of how it will feel when I am that little bit stronger, harder, older. I think of how going through this will make me better prepared to help others in the future.

And yet, of course, the ground then shifts again and once more I am at sea. I think part of my problem is that I’ve managed to keep up appearances in some areas, such as the student charity I run, and resultantly, when I’m sitting, knowing I have so much academic stuff to do, all I think is that I’m a complete idiot for going off to see patients at the weekends in the hospitals we visit, or going off to buy shelves for the library we’re sorting, or all these other things, when I can’t even manage to get this research project sorted. I feel like such a hypocrite, such a fraud. People tend to see one of two sides to me; to 99% I am the same as always, busy, cheery, and (in medical school circles) endlessly keen, and keeping up appearances can be tough. But the tiny fraction that I trust, they only get the miserable-me, as when I see them, I’m ready to drop from the exhaustion of keeping going, and even with these trusted few, there are still a lot of things I don’t talk about at all, that I don’t ever want to talk about. Everything piles up onto the list of what I should be doing to move forward, that mythical list that never ever shortens or ends. I feel so stupid – if only, if only, if only. I feel so lost, so often, so off-kilter, and so very unreachable. I’m feeling cut off again at the moment, and it’s a horrible feeling. I wish I could get away from my hypocrisy for just a few hours, that I could escape the endlessly critical voice in my head just for an afternoon, and lay down my worries, just for a little while, but sadly, it’s not possible.

I’ve come back to this post to finish it off after starting it yesterday. Today, I went to a meeting of the hospital board, for the unit me and my charity are based on. It was my first time going, and I’m quite excited to be getting involved, as at the moment, their fundraising side isn’t that great, and I do love fundraising for things I care about. My director of studies was there, which wouldn’t have shocked me if I’d thought it through in advance (he’s a clinical lead in geriatrics at that hospital), but did wrong foot me a bit as I didn’t. He’s not replied to the last three or so emails I’ve sent him which is unfortunate as he’s meant to me my advocate at the medical school, and it’s been hard to keep trying with it. I guess I’ll just have to see what happens with that in the next few weeks – perhaps after seeing me in person, he’ll be more likely to help out as he should. I’m excited about a new oppurtunity for my charity too, after getting in touch this week with a new day centre for dementia patients that needs extra volunteers – it’s right up our street (figuratively, not literally), and there’s a lot of scope to improve things. I guess I just have to trust that if God’s going to look after my heart for my community, He’s going to look after me, too.

In many ways, being a Christian is much more about the ‘what ifs’ than the ‘if onlies’; what if Kingdom did Come? What if we didn’t go with the crowd, but just did what was right? What if Jesus were right here, right now? What if, contrary to how it so often feels, God does have us, by his right hand? What if, God is sending good things, what if, this is just a phase that too must pass? What if, what if, what if? Rather than looking at past mistakes, I guess we just have to concentrate on the promises of the future – what if it all turns out ok? What if? It’s a tall order, but, at the end of the day, a good one.

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When I look back at myself, I’m not sure I’ve ever had that strong a sense of self. As a teenager, I was so intent on blocking out the problems my family was up against (for new readers, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, fortunately curable, when I was thirteen, which then kicked my Dad into an unrelenting downward spiral of alcoholism and depression), that I focussed all of my energy on applying to medical school, which at the time, seemed like a wonderful escape route. I didn’t give that much time to thinking about who I was, except as a list of extra-curricular and academic achievements that would hopefully convince someone to give me a place at the university of my choice (the day they did, was the best day of my life). My sense of self worth is highly related to my CV, which started in those years of surviving by ticking the boxes I needed to tick in order to stand a chance at medical school – by focussing on that, I could block out all the chaos at home.  According to my counsellor, this is not exactly a good thing.

That sense of busy-ness as a reaction to stress has never left me. I channel a lot of energy into finding tasks to be passionate about to avoid facing up to things that start to hurt when I’m alone. I give myself projects so that by the time I slow and stop, I am so tired that I have not energy left to think about whatever it is that’s on my mind when it’s not racing.   When my depression has meant that I haven’t been able to refocus onto some task, or list, or meeting, all the things I try to avoid rear up and crowd me out; I can’t escape. It sounds so self-centred and self-indulgent, I know, and I think part of that is true; for the last six months, I’ve had to focus on my own health and well-being for the first time, and I don’t like it. I don’t know how to do it.

When I think of depression, I often think of a force that has stole great chunks of my identity and left me with nothing – I’ve lost that endless enthusiasm that  I am well known (and laughed at) for, I’ve lost my ability to concentrate and push things forward, I’ve lost my ability to put my life on hold and just sit with a lonely, elderly person, and care for them. I’ve lost my sense of connection to others, and my thirst to change things I hate about the world we live in. I’ve lost my confidence, and my organisation, and being able to have ten things in my head, on a prioritised list, and know that I’ll remember to do them. I don’t really know who I am, anymore. When I think of myself, the words that come to mind are apathy, negativity, cynacism, callousness. It’s as though someone crept in when I was sleeping and stole all the souvenirs of my life and left me with an empty shelf. It’s like being wiped clean, all evidence whisked away. It’s as though everything positive has gone into hibernation and just will not come out – Spring might be here, but I am still stuck in endless Winter. It’s disorientating and confusing – when this all ends, which parts of me will come back? What will I need to reject to stop this depression returning? If all of my coping mechanisms are actually maladaptive, if I stop them, what will be left? Empty space.

I wish I could say that leaning on my ‘identity as a child of God’, as the Church would say, was enough – that knowing that God knows me, inside-out, from the moment I was conceived to the moment I die, is enough, but in truth, I still feel lost. L, my counsellor, tries to have me do exercises where I list how friends describe me (cannot even explain the cringe-factor these have), and at the moment I just don’t know – this year, I have not been on-the-ball and involved, I haven’t been that caring, that careful, that charismatic. I haven’t been that enthusiastic, or that driven, or that kind. I’ve mostly just been miserable. I’ve mostly just been a shadow who cancels at the last minute when I’m feeling too weepy to do something who, doesn’t complete tasks on time, and is always grumpy and on a short tether, ready to explode at conflict.

In the hardest months, I felt like so much of me had perished, that I was closer to dying completely than living; so much of me was gone, that it was as though all that was left was a shell with a heart that continued to beat, and lungs that continued to breathe. So much had faded, that the world seemed monochrome, and I seemed invisible. Although I’m mostly through that patch now, sometimes it comes back and I wonder if I will ever regain the ground I lost, and stop being someone who’s primary character trait is depression. I wonder if my soul will wrench itself from hibernation and thaw itself out in the sun, and start to heal. I wonder if as I sit and talk with L, if I’ll manage to fill in the vastness and find resolution, or if as the year keeps turning, I’ll just keep fading until there really is nothing left. My Hallelujahs at the moment are pretty cold and pretty broken. This Easter season has been difficult to navigate; I’m feeling so low at the moment and the concept of  achieving normal, let alone eternal life, seems a little beyond me at the moment.

To finish on a more cheery note, I found out today that the libraries in my city have agreed to donate all of their extra stock to my hospital library project indefinitely – including lots of large print, which has been really quite hard to source (and is useful as all the hospital’s we’re targeting are mainly geriatrics). I’m really pleased – we’ve got enough stock that within two weeks, we should be ready to deliver the books and shelving to the hospitals and kick it off properly – so, there is something to be thankful, and positive about.

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