Battle call. 

Tags

, , , , ,

I am a mother of three children. 

I am a wife. My husband lives abroad. 

I work full time in a stressful job that requires me travel a lot. 

I have a part time job. 

I am a school governor. 

I am learning a foreign language. 

I am writing a book. 

I am all these things and I am also, today, struggling with my mental wellbeing. 

I am tired. I am anxious and I am feeling miserable. I am also making life miserable for those around me. 

I know why I am anxious, and tired and stressed; I only have to look at the list above to see why I feel like this, only I can’t seem to stop it. I take too much on. I can’t relax. I don’t even think I know how to anymore. It’s got to the point where I don’t even know what relaxing is. 

Take today for example. Today is my only day off. I work 6 days a week and today, I don’t work. So what have I done today? 

Well; 7am I was up and off to my Bulgarian lesson which is 30 minutes away and started at 8am. I then drove back to pick up the kids from Paul’s where I stopped for a coffee and took the boys  clothes shopping.

 I then did shoe shopping for the eldest before buying birthday presents and doing the weeks food shop. 

Back home, I put the shopping away, made snacks, put a load of washing on. Did the kids homework (with them, not for them!), then put washing on dryer.

 I baked a birthday cake. Wrapped 6 presents (3 grandparents birthdays in 2 weeks!), put a load of washing on, cooked a roast dinner. Put washing in dryer, got kids school uniforms ready, ironed uniforms, sorted out piles of socks. 

I then Hoovered and steam cleaned the floor (never get shiny white floor tiles, you will live to regret it). Put another load of washing on, emptied dishwasher and finished cooking the roast. 
I then changed sheets and bathed kids and put on another wash. I still need to do so many things, but my mind is buzzing and I’m finding it hard to cope. 

I slept for 4.5 hours last night. About 5 the night before. I’m a terrible insomniac, who struggles to sleep then wakes up constantly. 

I feel guilty because I haven’t visited any family, especially my elderly aunt, who will definitely have noticed that I didn’t go see her. I feel guilty because I want to go see my sisters but I cannot summon up the energy. 

I feel guilty because I have 4 unanswered emails regarding school governor stuff that I really should look at and that’s without mentioning the other 263 that require attention. 

I feel guilty that I have reports to write for tomorrow that I haven’t had time to do. 

I feel guilty that I haven’t spent enough time with my children.

 I feel guilty that I am doing my full time jobs far less than perfectly because I’m trying to cover the jobs of 3 people. I feel that I am letting people down left right and centre and half the time I don’t even know why I am doing it or how not to. 

I feel guilty that I actually hoped that a patient would die so that I could go home and not have to stay late to deal with her. And that’s when I knew that I am on the edge. Because, that is not me. I am not that type of person and yet last night that was the type of person that I was. 

And so I am writing this very jumbled blog, because I know that I cannot go on like this. I need to take a breath. I need to surrender stop trying to do everything and I need to cut down my commitments. But then I look at the list and I can’t see what to give up. I care passionately about all of it and my mind is too confused to be rational. 

But I need to reexert some control in my life. I need to rebalance, to stop reacting and start preparing. Start setting realistic goals rather than think I am superwoman. 

My mental health is not great right now; Today. Tomorrow it might be different and I will have regained my equilibrium. But for today it is ok to be overwhelmed. And it is ok to say that I am not coping. Because I am not, and there shouldn’t be any shame in saying that. 

And this is not a cry for help. I do not need people to offer their help or say I am doing great etc etc. Because this is a battle call; to myself. And it’s a battle I’m going to win. 

Completely unblemished. 

Tags

, , , , , ,

I think today is a safe day to post this. I can’t be sure, as I’ve not really had any time to go on social media to check but here goes anyway, because if I did actually check no doubt it would be another day that passes without me being able to post this for fear of upsetting someone. For fear of someone, anyone, on my friends list thinking it is directed at them. To be clear; it isn’t. 

Anyway, I really need somebody to explain it to me because I’m not really understanding the attractiveness,  in more ways than one! What is this obsession with putting effects on every picture that people seem to take? 

Above: an alien, below: a filtered me. Spot the similarities!


When did it become acceptable or even desired to make your face look like that of an alien  just visiting from out of space? You know; over large eyes, small pointy chin (slimmed, I believe they call it). Slimmed my arse, it’s weird. And it’s not as if anyone believes that that is you, do they? Because it’s not. It’s an exaggeration of a person. You are making yourself look more like a cartoon than a person. 

Am I being overly critical to think that anyone you meet for the first time after having seen a photo of you is highly likely to be disappointed!  Because no one actually looks like that. If you did, you would probably be ostracised and bullied by the very people you seek approval from.  

Am I the only person who looks at someone’s filtered photo on Facebook or twitter and just feel slightly sad for them? What is wrong with their faces that they feel the need to filter out any true reflection of them? Because every single one of my social network that I have seen posting these doctored images are pretty outstanding people in their own right. They are beautiful inside and out, and yet they insist on posting images that don’t resemble them. 

So I have a message to all of you who can’t post a photo on social media without editing it and filtering it within an inch of its life and turning it into an imaginary image: 

There is nothing ugly about being you. Naturally you,  with no editing or filtering or slimming needed. You don’t need to change. 

In 5 years, or 10 or 15 years time you will not be able to look back on photos of yourself and see how you really were, because you no longer exist. You wiped the real image of you from existence and you are comparing a computer generated image to a real one. And do you know what, you are going to feel bad; because you will be comparing yourself to an image that never really existed. Because that is not you!! 

You are a beautiful individual, whose beauty doesn’t just exist on the surface. Your face is a reflection of a tiny part of you, and it’s not even your best part. Your wit, empathy and understanding. Your big heart and terrible singing. Your clumsiness, your messiness. They are the things that make you beautiful and attractive; not larger than life eyes, completely unblemished faces and abnormally small chins!

So please; stop filling up my news feeds and home pages with imaginary pictures, especially if you are not admitting that you’ve used a filter or six!! Everyone of my friends has blemishes and spots and imperfections. Because we are human. 
If I’d wanted alien friends I’d have joined a space program!

The magic of Christmas

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,


I love Christmas. I’m the one who has a minimum of 15 guests for dinner, cooking for hours in the kitchen so that we can sit; parents, brothers, sisters, children, ex husband and current husband, on borrowed tables and over eat together. I save up for Christmas presents every month throughout the year no matter how skint I am, because I know I’ll be more skint at christmas. I start buying presents and decorations on January. As I said; I love Christmas. 

As a kid Christmas was a magical time. It was looked forward to pretty much all year. It was the reason that the cold and dark evenings of winter didn’t matter as much as it should have. Christmas was always a time where we were all together, I remember it as happy; snuggles in the house and warm. 
Advent calendars were exciting. I remember back before we had chocolate ones; the excitement of not knowing what would be behind that thin scrap of paper. What picture would be revealed? Then came the chocolate ones which, for the first year at least was so exciting; chocolate? Everyday? Yes please. However advent calendars somehow lost their charm; they became about a piece of chocolate and not about the unknown. 

And more recently, in addition to this piece of chocolate we have the addition of a new count down, I’m not sure what they are called, it seems to be different in every house. Some call it Ernie, others it’s Pixie or Twinkle, it’s elf on the bloody shelf. And I just do not get it; so some elf, misbehaves making a mess in your house every day, in some houses bringing a gift each day in the run up to Christmas? WTF? Why?  
Yes yes I know that all my Elf on the Shelf loving friends will be shouting at me right now that it’s about the magic, it’s the anticipation, it’s exciting and you will see their little faces light up as they go seek him out each day, but why? Why do we feel the need to make something that when I was a kid was the most exciting day of the year even more exciting? Surely it’s exciting enough?

What does some cuddly toy making a mess in your house everyday add to that? Can we not keep our kids excited without sprinkling flour all over the place, or spilling milk on the floor and sitting a stuffed toy next to it? My kids make that kind of mess everyday, they don’t need me adding to it and pretending it’s an elf doing it. 

And I know that some people will say it’s a way of getting children to behave in December, which does make me kind of think how the hell do they get their kids to behave the rest of the year?  
Nope. I just don’t get it. For me the magic of Christmas is built up by the slow drawing in of the nights. It is the Christmas songs on the radio, the plans of families getting together. It is the cold days. It is the wrapping presents. It is the simple things. And that’s how I want Christmas to be for my boys. I don’t want to ruin it with more expectation. 
Plus I’d never remember to move the damn elf every night!!!

The most valued. 

Tags

, , , , ,

When I mention to people that I work on the ambulances, they always assume that we are forever racing around on blue lights, sirens blaring and jumping up and down on people’s chests until they miraculously come back to  life. 
They think of us like heros, dressed in green, saving lives and turning around hopeless situations. And yes, sometimes we do do that. And it is exciting, and challenging. Most people however, would probably be surprised that in my experience that is not usually the case. Yes, on occasions, we do ride in,  like knights in fluorescent yellow ambulances and bring people back from the dead. But, as any ambulance crew will tell you, it’s not the norm. Even if we do somehow, manage to restart that heart, get those lungs full of air again, in all likelihood it’s just so that relatives can come say their farewells to someone that’s not a corpse. The prognosis after Cardiac Arrest simply isn’t great in the majority of cases. 
So I can honestly tell you that those are not the times that were the most sad, or when I feel that I/we, the family in green, have made the most difference. When I look back on the times that I’ve honestly felt I’ve done something, it’s been when I’ve not really been treating an illness or injury at all. 
It’s the time when I chatted to a man, struggling to breathe his last few breaths, who was terrified and didn’t know what to expect, and so  I sat and talked to him, held his hand, and told him I’d got him. That I was there. That he wasn’t alone. 
It was the time that my crew mate and I picked up an old lady who, due to a horrific disease soiled herself in the ambulance, and, knowing how mortified she was, pretenddd it hadn’t happened until we had the opportunity to clean her up and make her comfortable again. 
It’s been the times we have sat and listened; signposted an exhausted carer to support services. It’s the times that we listen to the overwhelmed young mum and didn’t judge her for her panic when her baby snored funny. 
It’s the times when we build a level of trust and understanding in minutes that the same person wouldn’t have with another person even after years. 

 
Because sometimes the only treatment available or needed, even the most valued, is compassion, empathy and a listening ear  (maybe even a cup of tea!) and you don’t need to be dressed in green with a great big ambulance in order to do any of that. 

Going through the motions. 

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,



Chris has gone away. It’s not permanent, we’ve not split up and it was a decision that we made together. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not been hard. Really hard. In fact, I couldn’t ever have imagined how hard it would be. Perhaps it was the uncertainty about whether it was going to happen, perhaps it was the speed in which it did happen; or perhaps I’ve changed somehow. I don’t really know. The only thing I do know is that at times in the past few weeks, I have been at the edge; of my sanity, of reason, of my ability to cope. 
In honesty I can only admit that I have been a mess. I have cried. I have raged, to myself and to others and then it culminated in an anxiety attack. I was sitting at my desk at work, with a ton of urgent things to do and I could just feel this feeling; it was like a fluttering that kept getting stronger. A feeling that I had to get away. It just got more and more urgent until I couldn’t ignore it any more. And so I got up and I walked out. I went to wash my face, hoping that the cold water would soothe me in a way that I was unable to soothe myself. 

It helped. A little. Enough to get me back to my desk to attempt to carry on. But I couldn’t. The feeling built again and like a child who is overwhelmed I couldn’t hold back the tide of emotion and I fell apart. It started slowly. I could feel silent tears start to drop from my face; then my body started to silently shudder until I couldn’t control it any more and I began to sob. Uncontrollable, violent sobs that baffled me and scared me. 

You see I don’t do falling apart. Well I do, but not in a public way. At home. Alone maybe. Not at work. Not spectacularly.  

But maybe now I do. Because it keeps happening. Nothing is really wrong but nothing is really right either. I have every reason to be happy and for the most part I am. I have my dream job, house, husband and 3 gorgeous children as well as friends and family who have rallied around me; holding me up. But then randomly, I’ll wake up with this pit of anxiety in the bottom of my chest. And the feeling will build and nothing that I do can calm it down. The pique of adrenaline that you get when someone startles you, only it just doesn’t go. 

And the thing is, it’s like it’s catching. The anxiety I’m feeling; I’m passing it on; to Chris who thinks I’m having a breakdown; to my children who can’t understand what is going on. 

And it’s so difficult to understand, how could they possibly do so; I don’t understand myself. On a cognitive level I’m fine. I’m happy with life, I have a job I love, family and friends who have surrounded me with love and support. A husband who loves me and is trying his best to show it from 1000 miles and a different time zone away and yet emotionally I feel different. My emotions don’t match my cognition. In a split second I go from absolutely fine to full blown out of control; for no particular reason. 

And so I’m scared.  And I don’t really know how to stop it. some days I don’t want to leave the house, or speak to anyone; but I do, because sometimes going through the motions is all I can do to remain sane. I’m looking for coping strategies, trying to work my way through it. 

So I’m sharing it, because I know others feel like this too and maybe they aren’t as lucky as me. Maybe they don’t have the support network and maybe they just need to know, like I do, that sometimes it’s ok to be a bit broken. So far I have a 100% record of getting through this, and I’ll get through it again. 

Categorically selfish. 

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Anyone who has been in my company for more than 5 minutes this past week (even more so the past 2 days) knows that I’ve been a complete mess. On the verge of tears constantly and bad tempered to boot! 

From nearly the first time that I met my husband I’ve known that he wanted to be a doctor. He is one of those people; it’s not about a career for him. He is driven by a sense of wanting to be able to do his best to help people and despite volunteering and then training as an ambulance technician, he has always wanted to do more. 

Anyway, when we got together and decided to move in together it was important to me that he didn’t lose sight of that dream. He took on me, and my boys, and my ex husband, and all my family and it couldn’t, I wouldn’t let it,  be at the expense of his dream. And so last year we agreed that he would work part time to study and apply to study medicine. 

He (along with approximately 64,000 of the 71,000 other applicants) didn’t get a place in a UK medical school when he applied last year and so it looked like he would apply again for next year. And then we saw an opportunity to study medicine abroad and three weeks ago he applied and was accepted. So on Sunday he flew to Bulgaria and yesterday he registered. He is a medical student!!! Yay! I was kind of on a high all day. Yes I miss him, but he was enrolled. He was doing it. He was beginning to live his dream; I was excited by it, enthused by it. Happy. 

Then he called me to tell me he had rented a flat and got a new phone number and was generally doing all the things that we’d discussed in the previous week that he would do, and all of a sudden I just wanted to cry. Not because he was doing these things, but that he was doing them without me. In a moment I felt every single mile between us; and they felt eternal. 

I got off the phone and I had a little cry and messaged a friend who immediately rang me and I talked it out and with my brother, and with my colleague, until I realised that I was ok again. 

And it’s only been a few days, and I’ve spent longer than this away from him loads of times, but because it’s not a short trip, or a holiday away, the void feels huge. 

However, I can’t agree with people who say I’m brave to do this, to commit to making this work. I adore my husband. He truly makes me happy in a way I didn’t feel possible. 

And so I am doing this for me. I am doing it because I want him to feel as happy and fulfilled with our relationship as I do; and I know that if I stopped him from fulfilling his dreams, he might  never feel that. He might always resent me a little that he gave up his own dreams for me. So I’m not brave or good for supporting him in doing this. I am categorically selfish. I can’t bear to give him up forever, so I will give him up temporarily. And I will do everything to make this work. 


If you’ve enjoyed this blog please follow it or follow me on Twitter @101madness or find me on Facebook @themadnessthatismylife

Sometimes accidents happen.

Tags

, , , , , ,


I know from the arguments and reprimands that I’ve had on social media today that this isn’t going to be a popular view, but whoa, I’m an honest person and so I’m going to just say it anyway; that kid who fell into the gorilla pit? It could just as easily have been mine. 

So go on start throwing your insults, but first let me explain: 

I am human. I am a mum of 3 and I am human.  This means that I only have two eyes, and I only have two hands. I’m already handicapped when it comes to having 3 children; there’s just not enough of me to go around. I can only physically be holding 2 of them at the same time. I can only see them all if (and this never happens) they are standing nicely together. Normally, I’ve deliberately got the youngest two as far away from where they can annoy each other as possible. This means I get to see those two one at a time. i.e. I have to take my eyes off one to look at the other. And let’s face it, even if I didn’t, I’m a self confessed haphazard parent. I get through my parenting life by the skin of my teeth and occasionally by the seat of my pants; I actually once nearly ended up in my Nana’s grave on top of her coffin due to a particularly difficult moment when my 18 month old decided to do that throwing himself backwards with the force of a baby elephant  thing just as I threw in my handful of mud and rose as we were burying her. It was only the quick thinking of my ex that stopped us both falling 8 ft into the ground and giving my Nana one last shock. These things happen, right? Accidents I think we call them…

All day I have seen on Facebook and Twitter that the mother should have been looking after him properly. That it was her fault. Was it though? Really? 

I wasn’t there, but I find it difficult to believe that this woman stood by and idly watched her 4 year old son climb a small fence with a 15 ft drop the other side. Surely it is more likely that one of her other children demanded her attention in some way, perhaps she was trying to stop that child from climbing the fence, or running away? Perhaps another one of her children needed a drink, or a tissue, or lifting so they could see the animals, and in those moments, when her back was turned, the 4 year old got away from her? 

And by the time she turned back it was too late; he was gone, or maybe he was about to go, and she couldn’t quite get her fingers to him in time to stop him. After all, I’m led to believe there were plenty of other zoo visitors also in the area at the time. Now call me nosey, but if I’d been at the zoo and seen a child, any child mine or a strangers, about to climb into a gorilla pit, I’d like to think I’d stop them. The fact that no one seemed to notice kind of makes me think that perhaps this was something that only took a split second. That, like my son nearly flipping us both into my Nana’s grave, wasn’t really foreseeable and unluckily for her, she had no quick thinking sidekick to stop the nightmare. 

Which leads me neatly on to an imbecilic statement that I saw posted to Facebook earlier; she should have taken additional help with her to supervise all 4 children all the time! Oh yeah, because all those of us who have more than one child shouldn’t go anywhere unless the child to adult ratio is 1:1. Hands up who else would never be able to leave the house?

There’s something fundamentally wrong with that, because even if the ratio is 1:1, guess what, at some point that adult will need to look away from the child!! It’s impossible (not to mention probably mentally unhealthy) to watch a child every second of every minute of the day. I mean what if you need to look at your watch, or scope out where the next animal enclosure is? Have you never needed to sneeze? There’s forced eyes off time right there! And do you know how long it takes a child to slip out of your grasp? Out of your sight? I’ll tell you: 0.00004 of a second, well that’s how it feels anyway!! I don’t know how they do it but mine can literally vanish near enough in front of my eyes!! 

Find me any parent who hasn’t had that moment of absolute panic, when they’ve glanced at their watch, or spoken to another child and turned back to find that the errant child is not where they had last seen them and reasonably expected them to be. I know I’ve done it a few times, per child!! It is terrifying and it is horrible, but I have been lucky enough that the said child was just hidden under a clothes rail (or decided to ditch me and walk back to the car (aged 3 and in a shopping centre!!)). 

What are we going to do? Chain our children to us? Take out two adults for every child so they never have a moment without adult supervision (Bill, I need to scratch my nose, eyes on Charlie for me) , or do we put in adequate safeguards and precautions and allow our kids to be kids? 

I would not expect that a 4 year old could easily climb into a gorilla enclosure, if I had been that parent I would likely have taken my eyes off the 4 year old for a moment. That seems a reasonable thing to do; perhaps the younger one cried, perhaps mum needed a tissue out of her bag, whatever, I’m pretty sure it never occurred to her or the other visitors that day that it would/could happen.

 Parents should look after their children, but there is only so much supervision it is reasonable to give. As sad as it is Harambe was killed it doesn’t make it anyone’s fault. Sometimes accidents just happen.


Follow me on Twitter @101madness or Facebook.com/themadnessthatismylife

The right pair of shoes. 

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

The papers have been full of it lately; headlines screaming out in favour or against taking children out of school for holidays or funerals. The rhetoric (as well as the hefty fines) are intentionally designed to scare parents into compliance; just one week off school can apparently mean that the child can drop a whole exam grade. 

In a recent article I read,  a minister stated that grieving children should only be allowed one day off school; to attend the funeral of the loved one. Never mind that they may be paralysed with grief. Never mind that they may need to process the loss, no it’s back to school they are to go, to study for some useless test, that in 10 years time, in the world of work, will mean nothing; hell, I have a degree but no potential employer has ever asked me what classification, let alone cared that I failed my A levels miserably!  

Holidays, it is professed, when taken during school time, severely interrupt a child’s education. It seems odd then that my eldest, about to embark in his final year of GCSE’s, came home a few weeks ago with a letter for a school trip which will be two days off school. Yes, he will be learning Geography during this time, but he will also be missing 2 days of his other classes as well. He is also going on a 3 day History trip to Germany in September (at the extortionate price of £450, to stay in a youth hostel for 2 nights, but that’s another story). That is a total of 5 days (or a week) out of school. In this time he will have missed lessons in all the other subjects that he is undertaking GCSEs in, however, apparently, this is acceptable? So by their own reckoning he will be dropping a grade in all those other subjects? 

And don’t get me started on all those cases where children as young as 5 are sent home from or excluded from school due to some trivial reason such as having the wrong shoes, or hair cut, or some other minor uniform discrepancy. School attendance is so important that you can be fined for taking your child on holiday for a week where they might actually experience some form of culture, however they can refuse to let them attend for a week whilst their hair grows to a length deemed by some headteacher as being appropriate? Or until a parent can afford to buy appropriate shoes? Because obviously having the right hair style/colour/length really helps to improve their education doesn’t it?!? 

Surely if a child turns up willing and ready to learn it is our duty to teach? To provide them with an education, not deem them inappropriately dressed to learn. 

I’m not implying it’s right to take a child out of school for a holiday, but if it’s not ok for me to do something, surely that has to also apply to the school? Forgive me for appearing confrontational, but it really does seem to be one rule for us, and one rule for them? 

Divorce; doing it right 

Tags

, , , , , , ,

I’ve not got many things right in my life; fewer as a parent, however one thing I have got right, weirdly, is divorce. 

Readers of my blog will know that last year Paul and I decided to go our separate ways, after 10 years and get divorced. We didn’t hate each other, we’d just moved on, grown out of each other and realised that we could probably be a lot happier living separate lives. 

It was difficult at first, we had to find a new kind of normal. Develop a new relationship, set new rules, agree new boundaries. Especially when (pretty damn quickly) we both started dating again. We had to argue, but not as a couple, as two people who’s children were depending on them to do the right thing. 

We had to agree on childcare, money, and a whole lot of logistics such as who was getting what from the house. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. On occasions I wanted to kill him! Did he not realise how difficult this was? But in reality we were both struggling to come to terms with our new lives. 

I think a pivotal time for me was when we first disagreed over money and my Chris said to me “no amount of money is worth your children’s mental health.” And that really hit home. It was true. We could do a lot of damage arguing over stupid things, but at the end of the day what we would achieve apart from upset kids? We had to work out things and we had to do it in a way that was amicable. More important than anything else was that we had to remain friends, which when you think about it isn’t that difficult; I liked him enough to marry him, have two children, he’s actually a good guy. We used to be best friends. 

And so we have spent the last year doing just that; being friends. We have spent Christmas together with our respective new partners, clubbed together to buy the boys presents or school uniform. He has keys to our house, I have keys to his. If I needed someone in the middle of the night and I couldn’t get hold of Chris, I know I could call Paul and (after much bitching and moaning) he would be there for me. 

Last week was our middle sons birthday, and so my Mum and Stepdad along with Chris’s parents, Paul, Chris and I all went out for dinner with the boys to celebrate. It means so much to me that our boys don’t have to choose between us, or feel guilty about being with one or the other of us. 

Paul has come round for dinner because he can’t be arsed to cook and I am cooking, so he’s come to get the boys and had dinner with us before taking them back to his. 

Today I’m at work and Chris has the boys. He will be dropping them off with Paul this afternoon. They have spoken to each other to arrange it. You know, like adults do. Not arguing and hating each other, just getting on. 

Because we get on it makes all those family occasions that bit easier; he still gets an invite, he still bitches about having to go, he sometimes shows up (probably more often than he did when we were together) and all my family still talk to him. His sister, who I love has come to visit me, I’ve visited her. 

And the weird thing is that people seem to find us doing this odd!! I don’t really understand why, after all, we are still a family, linked together through our children, we can’t change that; in truth, I wouldn’t want to. 

If you’ve enjoyed this please read my other posts or find me on Facebook: Facebook.com/themadnessthatismylife or on Twitter @101madness

Sticking plasters

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

  
I love the NHS. I pretty much live and breathe it. I work full time for the NHS and at weekends I work as a contractor for NHS Trusts on front line ambulances.  When I have a day off I am often to be found at the doctors or the dentists with one of the kids.  The NHS is awesome, always there when you need it.  Anyone who has been ill abroad will tell you that the NHS is something to be proud of.  If I am ill , I don’t have to think about whether I can afford to go to the hospital or the GP,  I can just go.  I might have to wait, the hospital or GP surgery may be a bit tired looking, but I know that I will be looked after. 
However good the NHS is though, it is not a lot of things; it isn’t social care, it isn’t a hotel and it most certainly isn’t a miracle worker.  Much as those who work in it would like to work miracles and cure each and every person who walks through the door. 

The NHS is stretched to breaking point everyday. There are a lot of reasons for this but some of them are easy to see. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have been called to patients who aren’t really patients at all. They are desperately in need of help,  but not medical help. They need social care. Or social housing. They need their basic needs to be met,  but they do not really need an ambulance,  it’s just that there is no one else that they can call on a Sunday afternoon when they are at the end of their tether. When the loneliness hits hard and the prospect of not seeing a friendly face for another week is more than they can bear.  Or when caring for their loved one just becomes too heavy a burden to carry for another day, another night.  When they are desperate for a little bit of respite from the ceaseless pressure of responsibility for an old or dying loved one.

In the past this would have been dealt with, perhaps, by ringing another family member, or by a carer or a respite centre to give the family a break.  These days though, families are spread far apart and so with cuts to Local Authority budgets meaning that social care has been decimated,  there is no one to call. There is no relief, no respite in sight for a lot of these people; and so, in desperation, they call an ambulance.  And, in turn, because the ambulance crew can see that the family cannot cope, that it’s just too much,  we have no choice. We take them to hospital in the hope that given a few hours of space the family feel better, more able to continue in the thankless task of caring. We put a sticking plaster over society’s failure. 

And so there goes a hospital bed. A nurse,  a doctor, all of who’s time is taken up, instead of looking after the sick. And there goes that ‘protected’ NHS budget. The one that the government has pledged to increase. Only it’s not really an increase or protected at all, because now, instead of the money being spent on social care, and coming out of local authority budgets, it is coming out of the NHS one. The one that we hold so dear. And all the while the NHS covers up this deficit elsewhere, the worse it will get.

Then there are the lost souls. Those who drift, who sofa surf or sleep on park benches. Many of them mentally unwell but not acutely so; they don’t need a hospital, they just need somewhere to be warm; to be safe. Again there is no reason for them to be taken to hospital, but where else is there for them to go?  It takes a cold hearted person to leave a person on a park bench when you know they have nowhere else to go and it is minus 3 centigrade outside. And so yet again we, the ambulance crew, paid for by the NHS spend our time and your money phoning around charities, forgotten contacts in our patients phone, in the hope that we can find them a warm bed for the night. And if not, due to cuts in social housing, there being by no easy access hostels, we take them to the warm waiting room of the hospital.  And as we sit there sticking plasters on the plight of the homeless, another cardiac arrest call goes unanswered. Another person dies. 

Other patients are just too old; their bodies far too weak.  Sometimes it happens slowly, other times it is quick.  I recently went to a patient who was nearly 100 years old and barely lucid.  Struggling to even open his eyes; despite that, there was nothing significantly wrong with him; if I had to hazard a guess (and as I am helping to treat we have to do an educated one), I’d probably say it was just his time to go.  His body was just worn out.  He was nearly 100! But his daughter insisted he had been fine until he got pneumonia previously and was taken in hospital for a month.  Obviously the hospital had made him ill; before that he had been fine. Before that he had lived alone; was fine. There was no point telling her that maybe it was just his time to go.  That he had lived longer than most people, that the hospital that she was blaming by for the state of her father, probably was to blame, only not in the way that she thought; because years ago, her dad wouldn’t have been taken to hospital to be treated for the pneumonia, that nearly killed him. He would likely have just died. At home. Peacefully in his bed. Instead we dragged him off to A & E,  for more interventions. To prolong his life further such that it is.  And when he isn’t restored back to full health, no doubt his daughter will claim that the hospital killed him.  Because blame, it would seem is easier than the truth; that sometimes we just need to allow people to die.  Not play God and attempt miracles. We all have to die sometime. We all, as individuals and the NHS just need to learn to let them. 

The NHS cannot put a sticking plaster on the whole of society. As an ambulance crew friend once told me: if you just need a plaster, you don’t need us. 

If you’ve enjoyed this blog come find me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/themadnessthatismylife/ or follow me on Twitter @101madness