It's finally warm enough to rain... And it hasn't stopped in 3 days. Be careful what you wish for...
The blog has suffered from a lack of input recently, mainly due to the fact that nothing much of note has been going on. Although my inactivity has definitely brought on laziness as I've had visitors, been out on excursions and had a relatively busy few months - however - I also blew a disc in my neck and trapped a nerve and have been collared up like a sick puppy, so forgive me if I haven't felt like writing much.
My latest manuscript is nearing completion. Words of encouragement from around the globe have helped put a lot of things in life into perspective. Most important (imo) is my writing. Second of course is my health, and whilst it's been a matter of course to go on (and on) about it, I'm trying to put a new slant on that too. Suffice to say, there's input from outside on that as well, which I may go into at a later time...
Who reads this crap?
Sometimes I stop and think about life and its meaning... then I immediately eat something. However, the past few days have made me stop and think a little bit more seriously about it all.
On Thursday morning at 8:15 I had an yet another appointment with yet another specialist about my back/neck/body/brain. I was on the defensive because of the name of the clinic which is "Enh för Psykosomatisk Medicin" - which I roughly translated as "The Centre for IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD, YOU'RE PUTTING IT ON -- FAKER! Medicine". And as with all facilities that concentrate on the 'mind' over 'matter', I was expecting a bunch of tree hugging hippy crap topped off with sentimental bullshit and a suggestion of therapy.
I have never shied away from mental health issues, in fact I feel very strongly about them. I have no doubt that my bouts of extreme happiness and extreme depravity are totally connected to the evil gremlin that sleeps in a hammock in the back of my head. But, you see, when I turn up at these places he is never to be found... he lays in wait until I get home and then he drops the anvil.
Case in point: From about 8:30 until 11:00 I talked with two separate people about everything except my bloody back pain - which really annoyed me afterwards but at the time I was kind of going with the flow. I had filled out a questionnaire the night before and for the first ninety minutes I talked with a very concerned looking woman about why I don't have a social life. But, the answers that weren't there for the questionnaire or for when we were talking were suddenly there when the gremlin decided to wake up. I haven't got any fracking money to socialise! (And anyway, I don't like people...). So now I can only assume that they think the image that perfectly fits me is that bloke that "...kept himself to himself, bit of a loner, never caused any trouble... no idea why he shot the *insert prominent member of political bollocks here*".
The second interview was with an actual Doctor of Medicine, an anaesthetist no less. In fact he introduced himself as a 'Pain Doctor', which I thought was pretty cool. He then talked at me for an hour about other peoples problems (which I gauged as being a test to see if I had empathy or not - and now realise that if I had to think that hard about it, I probably lack empathy... which I must now look up on Wikipedia), and by the end of the hour I was numb to the core. By the time I got home I was gagging for a cuppa, which I promptly made, sat down and within twenty minutes felt so tired that I needed a nap... I never, and I mean NEVER take naps... but I decided that a nap was in order and laid down on my bed and promptly fell asleep for nine hours.
There's a lot to be said about mental fatigue.
Fuck you gremlin...
One of the things I love doing when I'm in the UK is visiting the Apple Store. Even if I'm not buying anything, there's still a sense of awe and wonderment that encapsulates me when I walk into the neon bleached room with its blue-shirted geniuses....
About three weeks ago, Apple sent a message out to all Apple TV owners advising them that the latest iOS version for Apple TV's was ready and that an installation update would be a great thing to do!
History dictates that this company is unsurpassed in releasing updates and enabling the user a new thrill when it comes to finding out those hidden gems they've incorporated into it. So it was without hesitation that I agreed to the update... The update proceeded to 'brick' my Apple TV. Concerned that I had done something wrong I immediately went onto the official Apple forums and found that quite a few people had experienced a similar problem. One had even found a workaround but had lost WiFi functionality upon restoration. Another had lost Ethernet capabilities whilst the majority of people who don't have a MicroUSB cable that fits the box (not supplied with the unit), had to settle with a pretty black paperweight with an Apple symbol on it.
Funnily enough, Sweden's first Apple store opened its doors a few days later and I was tempted to embark on a journey to visit the store. Then after investigating where it was situated, I sat perplexed and confused at their choice of venues. Not inside the major city of Stockholm, but outside in a suburb ... I can see Swedes travelling to this store without a doubt but for me it's a no-brainer... Not a chance. Another reason for not hitting that store was that I bought the box at Stansted airport, so getting them to honour some sort of guarantee or warranty would probably have been rather difficult, and the 130 mile round trip didn't sway me either. And so it was either order a MicroUSB cable from Amazon and see if I could fix it myself, or wait a few weeks for when I could nip into Brent X to see if a Genius there could sort it... I decided on the lazy latter.
So yesterday, I dragged Dad along to Brent X to visit the hallowed halls of Apple and was immediately hit at the amount of people in the store. Then doubly-so when I counted the number of Blue-shirted Genii that where milling about too.
After explaining the problem to one of the frizzy-haired geeks, I had to book an appointment, which was for in an hour and a half... only choice was to go on a wander and drink coffee.
When the time finally arrived to chat with my expert, I was greeted with a gruff, stocky woman (frizzy hair seems to be a necessity) who listened to the problem. Then said she would try and see if the unit was under warranty. My heart sank at this because I had the suspicion that I was going to be told even though it was an Apple update that bricked the unit, I was going to have to either pay for it to be fixed or buy a new one. However, the serial number was not to be found within the Apple database - result! Then, and I can only imagine that it was easier to do this, she said that she would swap the box for a new one.... another result! But not many Apple TV 2nd generation units floating about any more so one would have to be ordered in. Not a problem for me...
So ultimately it paid to wait the few weeks to visit the Apple Store at Brent X and that's cheered me up a bit. But the fact that when I hit the Apple forums and checked how many people had encountered the same problem (many discussions but all have well over a hundred posts in them), I fail to understand why a software release went ahead without in-depth testing. An unusual slip-up by Apple and I for one will not be updating any Apple device in future without checking the forums first to see if anyone has had a problem....
So Autumn is here... the leaves have started to turn and the nights are drawing in, very chilly in the evenings too. I like Autumn in Sweden, it's a shame that it only lasts about a week... Won't be long before the winter tyres are on and the snow begins to fall. Hopefully it won't be too bad this year.
I managed to miss an appointment with my Handler today. She put a letter in with my monthly paperwork (which I never open until it's time to send it all back) to arrange it and so I had to send in an apology email tonight. I always feel so guilty when it comes to her, I know I'm a legitimate case but I always feel as though it's some sort of put on. Anyway, she is bound to give my increasing stress loads some more to deal with, so I pre-empted it by asking if she'd heard from my GP yet. This is something she promised to sort out before the summer. If she could arrange with my Doctor that I can be put onto a different form of income support then my bit would be easy. Plus it would stop her from being my Handler, which is a win-win...
Today is the official start of autumn... Should have told Sweden, think it started a week ago here which means there's a couple of days before winter starts.... *gloomy*
After a couple of days of battered sleep patterns, I pretty much got back to normal last night. But today brought a new problem, allergies... My eyes are killing me, can't seem to focus properly (not sure if this is a prescription issue though) and the corners of my eyes itch so badly that just the slightest hint of pressure on my tear ducts causes a scratch-fest. The eye drops I have aren't meant for allergies but at least they give a few minutes relief, however I don't want to overdo it with them. What I really need is a proper prescription or at least something that's meant for allergies.
Eyes aside, I've been busy with research and I even managed to do a bit of work on the book but I get the feeling that if I keep rewriting the first chapter I'll never get the rest done, it's just that there's something missing from it that I just can't seem to pour out. I know what the feelings are, the anxiety, the stress, the helplessness but putting it into words is just so difficult.
To give me a bit of incentive I downloaded two seasons of Luther and this really helped (albeit stopping me writing...). There's something about watching a well scripted, well acted drama that helps give me a bump. Add to that the opening theme is Paradise Circus and I was quickly playing Massive Attack whilst writing - a real help.
So, it's my last day at Work Training today. I had expected this pointless exercise to last well into the summer - maybe further. I had visions of sitting in this dingy little office whilst the Handlers at the Social were on their summer holidays sunning it up, drinking beer, frolicking in the surf whilst their subjects were left rotting in a shell created to boost statistics, surfing the Internet looking for that glimmer of hope in the digital world that would glean enough self importance not to go to the top of the building and hurl themselves off...
I imagine that the other people in my office will be doing exactly that, and I feel for them but I am being set free! I'm now able to go out into the world and explore the delights that summertime in Sweden has to offer...
I imagine I will stay at home and surf the Internet...
It's been a busy couple of weeks, well, busy for me...
I had a little bit of translation work passed my way last week, and whilst my confidence wasn't exactly high that it would turn out any good, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. The job was given to me via Fredrik, my Physiotherapist whose wife Karin, works for local government as a Project Manager. I have no idea if the information that I translated is supposed to remain secret, so until it's made public I won't go into it here. What I can say is that it was for the local municipality and involved the transport system. The finished product was used in a presentation to a delegation of Scandinavian countries that were here in town today.
I say it was work, which it was, but there was no exchange of funds so once again, I worked for free - which I didn't mind at all, in fact it was nice to put my English skills to use. However, as a thank you I did get a nice bottle of red which I am looking forward to cracking with a nice steak in the very near future.
A day or so after I did the work for Karin, Fredrik called me and asked if I would like to come over to their house for a meal as a way to say thank you. I said it wasn't necessary, but he was insistent, so I succumbed. So tomorrow (Friday) I will be going to their house for a slap up meal and to watch the England v Sweden game. I can't wait...
I still attend the 'Work Training' twice a week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but today I went back in for a third time as it was my second month review. This was another meeting with my Handler and the two guys from AMA Arbetsmarknad and was a pretty laid back affair.
When I was put into this programme I was under the impression that it was to be a 'rolling' arrangement. By that I mean that I was expecting that I would be attending it until further notice as it keeps me off of my sofa... Don't misunderstand me, I don't think that the welfare system is there to give money to people who don't want to work -- and I certainly don't fall into that category -- however I do feel that each person should be treated as an individual and their case should be dealt with properly and by someone with enough compassion and empathy to do the job FOR that person, not for themselves or for their manager or for the bureaucrat that had the great idea of getting people off of their sofas and back to work - even if they're not able to...
The meeting lasted just over an hour and we discussed various things from what I did during my time in the office, to what will I do once the programme ends... Yes, the programme is going to end. Apparently, it was always going to be a three month deal, at the end of which they would rate my ability to go out into the workplace - or not, as the case will probably be. Kent and Johnny were both in agreement that being put in a position of 'proper' work was impossible. My Handler, bless her, was still glass half full. In fact at some point I'm pretty sure her glass was overflowing... I think it pays to be upbeat in her line of work, and I wouldn't want her job for love nor money. She seems to remain positive throughout, but is this is a façade or is she really the only Swede without severe depression..?
However, she is a pain in the arse and annoys the hell out of me...
She told me it was looking like I have two choices
- Apply for full sickness compensation
- Be placed into a work programme that would be subsidised by the state and would probably be part-time.
I didn't want to be negative but I felt that I should make it known that it would probably be a better idea for me to go onto the sickness compensation, thereby moving off of the scheme that I'm on (which was, apparently, only supposed to be temporary but I was left on it and forgotten for about seven years!). Being on full-time sickness compensation would mean there would be no monthly paper trail, no meetings, no programmes, no involvement at all unless it was to see how I was. It would also mean I would receive almost double what I currently receive. My point here is that I would be aloud to travel around the country, take holidays like a normal person and most importantly add meat to my diet. And if I reach the end of the rainbow where the publisher is that wants to publish my book - I would be able to come off of state support and support myself anyway.
So I have to wait. Contact between my Doctor and my Handler are not the best, it seems to take months for them to exchange emails (whereas miraculously I get responses from both within a day and sometimes minutes...), so when my GP tells her what he told me at my last appointment, I think the paperwork can start for getting me onto a proper income support system.
I am not holding my breath...
Simon emailed me the other day and said that he was coming over to Sweden this weekend to do some summer-house hunting. It's been a while since he came to visit, in fact I'm having trouble remembering the last time I saw him. Either way it's going to be nice to have him and Sam over. Of course it also means that the apartment needs its pre-visitor clean, and with the little time I've had this week, between physiotherapy appointments and work training... it's going to be a whirlwind cleaning session tomorrow morning.
On top of all that, it's been Euro 2012 so I haven't had much time to do anything else. However I did manage to get a copy of the Criterion edition of 'The Throne of Blood', an Akira Kurasawa film from 1957... My passion for Japanese cinema is my guilty indulgence and on this particular night I am indulging ... guiltily ...
The last few days I've had a lot of downs to go with very few ups. I can't remember the last time I was so frustrated with my own situation... It was probably nine years ago... If you have read the last couple of posts, you'll know how unbelievably dense my Handler is, well this morning it got so much better...
I received an email at twenty past nine this morning from my Handler. When I saw her name appear in my inbox, I felt a sudden twinge of hope wash over me. I honestly thought for one second she had taken a little bit of notice and was going to give me some good news for a change. Then I read the subject line which pessimistically stated: 'a new suggestion'.
I'm going to quote verbatim what she wrote, because to make light of it, or to 'translate' it would put my shiny VAIO at risk.
Just wanted to add a little thing to your journal! (and as well to do at home)
I want you to everyday write down what has been better with this day than the day before.
I want you to really think about it, and not only write down the same thing every day but something new. Really try to see what has been better with that specific day and write it down in your journal.
OK? Good luck!
I will apologise now for my upcoming language ...
WHAT THE FUCK?
As I write this post, I am curiously at a loss for words, well all words that don't contain four letters... To be my age and be treated this way is so bloody demeaning that I find myself at well past boiling point. And, even though it's probably not a very good idea, I am going to refuse to do this. I don't mind keeping a journal of my experience whilst attending the pointless work training sessions, mainly because it gives me something to do. But to spend my time writing a journal for a person that has little to no understanding of me and my situation ... well, I think my refusal will go through many draft phases before it's sent...
So yesterday I went to see my G.P. to chat about pain management. With my condition seeming to deteriorate progressively as the days pass, and with me having to attend a life wasting two hour session of bullshit twice a week, I am beginning to get a little bit fed up with the whole thing.
After explaining to my G.P. that sitting at a desk for any length of time longer than ten or so minutes ends up with me needing a frontal lobotomy to forget the pain, he said that he would sort this out because there's obviously some underlying problem (!! No? Really? /sarcasm).
He suggested that he and my Handler have a chat to sort out the 'Work Training' situation and then he said that he wanted to do a few more tests. I'm all for tests, me, so I readily agreed to be poked and prodded in the usual places and then he did a reflex test on my arms.
Now, a year or so ago he took my blood pressure and his exclamation of "Wow!" after taking it was one of the more worrying things that has happened to me in a Doctor's surgery, so when that old familiar exclamation of "Wow!" resounded as he tapped my arm with a little hammer-thingy, my stomach cartwheeled - and not in a good way. In his pidgin English he explained that my reflexes were hyper-exaggerated (whatever that means), and there could be some sort of neurological problem. So that means referrals, of which I am to expect two of... to two separate specialists. Oh, the Joy.
After this awesome Doctor's appointment, I had to attend a meeting with my Handler and the two people that run the 'Work Training' office that I attend on Tuesday and Wednesday. I'll be honest and say I had no expectations prior to the meeting, in fact I have stopped expecting anything from my Handler any more.
During the meeting I explained what the Doctor had said, reiterating the point that he thinks that me sitting at a desk is obviously not a good idea. I also told them about the referrals to the specialists and the possibility that I have some sort of neurological damage (again - whatever that means), and the response I got was this, and I have no better way of explaining this other than to transcribe it from my (slowly decaying) memory:
"Let's talk goals," said the Handler, "I think what we should be pushing for here is for you to try and stay for longer and that you should start to say hello to people when you arrive."
"Say hello to people?" I quizzed, and her response was even more astounding than her initial statement.
"Yes, the more you say hello to people, the quicker you will get better."
"Okay... Er, I'm sorry, I'm not really following..?"
"The important thing is to get you socialising..."
This is in response to my Doctor's recent diagnosis that I suffer with a mild form of Asperger's Syndrome, in which my phobia of social situations causes me to shut down. I of course understand what he means, having lived forty years in a body and mind that 'shuts down' in social situations. However, I have survived the last forty years without having to socialise to any great extent so... I really don't see it as a problem. My Handler seems to be on a mission to 'cure' me of Asperger's - of which there is no cure, of course, and this mind-blowing assertion she has now has made me resent the hell out of her even more. I mean, talk about losing focus. Instead of the crippling pain that she's putting me through twice a week (for no apparent reason that I have seen), she's more concerned with me making nice with my 'work' colleagues.
"You should even say hello if they are busy and not looking at you... that's a good thing," she said.
At this point I think I visibly zoned out and just started agreeing with her to get it over with. She obviously has no clue how to deal with nut-cases like me...
Definition of ASPERGER'S SYNDROME
: a developmental disorder resembling autism that is characterized by impaired social interaction, by repetitive patterns of behavior and restricted interests, by normal language and cognitive development, and often by above average performance in a narrow field against a general background of deficient functioning—called also Asperger's disorder - Merriam-Webster Medical