Diary Entry 8: Return of the Anxiety Demons

Return of the Anxiety Demons

Did I really think that a few anti-depressants, a bit of yoga and a sugar free diet would be enough to cure four decades of anxiety?

It’s a new dawn; It’s a new day” or so the song goes.  But, unlike Nina Simone, I am NOT ‘feeling good’ this morning.  I don’t even need to open my eyes to know that the Anxiety Demons are back.  The protective barrier which I have been enjoying recently appears to have shattered during the night.

“Has my strategy stopped working already?” I wonder.  “How DEPRESSING!!”

Anxiety Demons just LOVE to get you in the morning.  They surround you while you are still sleeping and defenseless.  They poke at you with their cold hands and fill your senses with black smoke.

Your head feels like a sponge – soaking up the bleakness.  JKR Rowling got it just right with the Dementors she created for Harry Potter.  In their presence, happy thoughts go ‘pooft’.  In their place come thoughts of  death and mayhem; remorse and regret; unspeakable events and catastrophes.  In those waking moments – all of them seem very real.  AND you’ve just remembered the weird little black hairs you found growing on your big toe the day before.

So – Yes; the demons were definitely back this morning.

Although they have not visited for a while, I do have emergency procedures which I can put into place.  But I need to act quickly – and I mean within thirty seconds.  Hubby may well be snoozing beside me, but so too are the demons.  I need to get up and out – FAST!  I need to leap from my bed, jump in the shower, get dressed and then run out into the street and over to Starbucks, or Costa, or any other café which opens early.  Only then can I relaaaaaax.  Once I am out of my own head and back into the outside world, I start to feel better.   The demons dissolve and things veer back towards normality. Phew!

Quick – into Starbucks!

And if I don’t act quickly?  If I don’t leap from my bed within thirty seconds? Well that’s a whole different ball game.  I will simply lie there, paralysed, and let the demons take over.  I will feel so weighed down by my heavy thoughts that it will be hard to imagine ever getting out of my bed again.

Usually I do manage to bolt out from under the duvet – but not this morning.  Today I have been taken by surprise.  I have felt much better this last few weeks and I wasn’t expecting this.  By the time I realise how awful I feel, I have missed the thirty second escape window. The weight of my grim visions forces me into the anxiety trough – and there I wallow.

Now I will come back to this point next week because I am intrigued about why some people suffer low mood and anxiety in the morning, often with no obvious source, and then they feel better once they are up and about.  What is it that does, or doesn’t happen inside our heads during sleep?

Anyway – that one is for next week.  So for now, I reason with myself.  At the back of my mind I know this may just be an off day.  I remember that I am on such a low dose of anti-depressant that they may not be effective.  I was advised that if the effects wore off then I can simply move up to the next dose.  I allow this happy thought to chivvy me out into the day – but I don’t properly cheer up until I have an unexpected near death experience (OK I’m exaggerating but read on).

Death by ‘inhalation of parcel tape’ – that is what the post mortem would have concluded if the events of today had turned nasty.  I was packing up some orders from my online shop and, in a strange combination of events, I managed to bite off the parcel tape and, at the same time, take a sharp intake of breath.  I have no idea why I breathed in so hard but, to my horror, I felt the bit of tape whoosh into my mouth and become lodged at the back of my throat.

“Help! HEEELLPPP! I’ve inhaled sellotape! I’m choking! I’m dying!!! I’m… I’m…..well I’m OK actually…..”

Well the panic!  As you can imagine!  Which way did it go?  I had no idea whether the tape was heading down my windpipe towards my lung or through the oesophagus towards my stomach.  If it went to my lung would it cause an instant blockage resulting in rapid, painful death?  Or would it lie in my intestine for months and turn all of my cells cancerous.  What would Columbo make of it all?  Would foul play be suspected?

In any case I started to plan my goodbyes and pick my funeral music (again).  It was a somber afternoon so when I did eventually cough up the parcel tape I was ecstatic!  I was alive!  I was happy!  In the aftermath of my near demise, the overall sense of gratitude was better than any anti- depressant.

Is this a realistic approach to add to my anti-anxiety strategy?  Along with yoga and a sugar free diet, should I factor in a daily near-death experience?  Nothing too risky but just enough to give me perspective on pointless anxieties and to banish irrational fears.   Something to remind me about the bigger picture of this beautiful life?

Hmmmmm – maybe not!

Next week – What would John Steinbeck Say?



Wine – It’s not for Me; It’s for a Friend

I ask the question for a second time.

Now you’re absolutely sure that there is wine in the house?”

Hubby is ‘100% certain’ that there has only been one glassful taken from that bottle of Shiraz.

“…because I swear to God, if we get back, and there isn’t a glass for me I will unravel”

In terse tones, he repeats his conviction that there is at least 500ml of red wine available, and we do not need to divert from our journey home in order to satisfy my craving.

And there the conversation ends.  I have to trust him that there is wine in the house because…. well….. that’s what we do when we are in a relationship; we trust each other.  We must also avoid irritating our partners by harping on and on.  And we must be sure not to alarm them by sounding like a desperate wino.   We must be casual about these things.

Just not tonight.

So where the FUCK is it?” I scream, on arriving home.

Hubby looks genuinely perplexed.  “Sorry Honey – I was sure we had some left.  We must have drunk it the other night”.  He shrugs whilst reaching for the TV remote.

Bloody bastard – you haven’t got a bloody bastard clue”.  I point at him and speak in low monotone.   “If you had had even the slightest doubt about whether there was wine in the house you should have said

Hubby repeats his apology and asks why it is such a big deal given that I am not usually a desperate wino.  If there is wine in the house I might have a glass; and if there isn’t – well I don’t have a glass.

But there are just some days when you want one – and I find that the older I get, the more likely I am to want a bloody glass of red wine after a hard days work.  Just one glass – that’s all I ever have.  Those who know me will vouch for my complete inability to drink more than one glass without my face going purple.

I huff and puff whilst putting my coat back on and when Hubby asks where I am off to, I give him the obvious answer.

I’m off to get a bloody bottle of wine – from the Spar shop“.  The door closes behind me.

But the Spar shop is closed because it’s after 9pm.  And the convenience store down by the river is also closed, as is the petrol station.

I am a lone figure, standing in the middle of town and my world has frozen for a second.  There is nowhere open to buy a bloody bottle of wine.

There is NOWHERE open to buy a BLOODY BOTTLE OF WINE!

Think; Think; Think

Shall I get a taxi to the 24 hour ‘out of town’ supermarket?  No I will NOT! That would truly be the first step onto a slippery slope of desperation.

Will I return to my home empty-handed?  No I will NOT because I will find no peace with that decision.

Will I wander into that pub/restaurant over there and ask them to sell me a bottle of wine!  Of COURSE I will do that!  What an EXCELLENT idea!  I am smiling to myself while skipping through the doorway.

There are only a few people gathered in the cosy bar area so I am sure they will appreciate this unexpected trade.

Could you sell me a bottle of wine?” I say gleefully.  And in a lower voice “to take away please“.

The barman has some bad news for me.

I’m sorry but we’re not licensed to sell alcohol for consumption away from our premises” he says apologetically.

I try not to show my dismay.  Think, think, think – I can still do this.

I sigh and tell him that its a shame.  “It’s for a friend you see; I am going to visit her and I promised to bring a bottle of wine but I left it too late and now everywhere is closed“.

Barman seems to be thinking about it so I add a bit more persuasion.  In a tinkly voice I add  “She’ll kill me if I turn up without it – you know what women are like when they need a glass of wine – Ha Ha…..”

He sees me.  He sees beyond my mask.  It’s in the eyes and I can read his mind as he tells me firmly that I cannot take a bottle of wine away from this bar. “Don’t give me that ‘it’s for a friend shite'”; he says silently.  “Do you think you’re the only one who’s tried this line in order to secure an illegal off licence sale of wine?  Do you think that I don’t see a trail of middle aged women down here in their ‘post 9pm’ desperation.

But now I don’t care what he thinks, because I have another plan.

I look at him shamelessly.  “Tel me – if I were a customer, would it be acceptable for me to take that cosy seat in the corner and order a bottle of wine?

Another member of staff steps into the bar area. A stern looking woman who I suspect will give the order for me to be removed from the premises.

Everything OK here?” she says.

The barman knows that he has done nothing wrong.  “The lady here would like us to sell her a bottle of wine to take away but I have told her we can’t do that – and now she has asked if she can drink it over in the corner instead“.

I never said that” I choke out the words.  “I accept that I cannot remove an unopened bottle of wine from these premises but I merely questioned whether you would serve me a bottle of wine as a ‘sit in’ customer”.

Stern lady is reading between the lines.  And in the meantime, the other customers are looking over.  Please God do not let anyone recognise me.  All I wanted was one … ONE … glass of wine.  Instead I have brought untold shame on myself.

Stern lady needs more information.  “So are you going to drink the bottle of wine in the corner or are you planning on leaving the premises with the bottle?  I have to open it and serve it you know so it may not be that easy for you to take away – if that’s what you are planning on doing?

The whole bar awaits my answer.  And for me it’s ‘nothing ventured; nothing gained’.  The secret is to act confidently.

I will have a small, quick glass in here and then I will request permission to take the remainder of the bottle away – for my friend – who needs it” I say boldly before trying to distract them with a compliment.

And my goodness me!” I point up behind the bar.   “What a lucky break!  You actually have her favourite wine up there on the shelf.  Yes, that French one!  You don’t see that one everywhere but here it is”.

Stern lady tells the barman that she will deal with this.  The other customers in the bar return to their conversation and now it’s just me and her.  She reaches for the bottle of French wine and then leans forward to speak to me.  Up close, I can see that she is a similar age to me, which may just change my fortunes if…….

I shouldn’t be doing this” her words are like music to my ears.

But I know the feeling when you and your friend just want a bloody glass of wine.  So I’ll wrap it in this bag here but please keep it concealed until you are well away from here.  Strictly speaking I should be opening the bottle too but I won’t.  You can take it as it is

Thank You! Thank You! Sorry – How much?

I am beyond grateful.

Thank you” I whisper.

Now that will be £48 please – do you want to pay with card or cash?”

Christ Alive!  I have never spent that much on a bottle of wine – EVER! I gulp at the cost but I can’t not buy it now.  It hadn’t even crossed my mind that it might be an expensive bottle and that I would be paying ‘restaurant’ prices for it anyway.  I need to stay cool though.  This is a good thing because desperate winos do not opt for expensive wines.  In fact, this purchase makes me a rather classy lady.

I thank her again before strolling back out the door with the booty in my hands and my head held high.

When I get back home, Hubby is up at the door like a shot.

Where have you been?  You’ve been gone for ages.  I was worried

I tell him that my search for wine was longer than anticipated due to the lack of convenient convenience stores.  He looks relieved.  Not only am I back home safely but I also have the bottle of wine that I so desired.

He opens the drawer and takes the corkscrew out.  Then he reaches out to take the wine from me but I turn away and clutch the bottle to my breast.

He looks puzzled.  “Give it here, honey and I’ll open it.  I thought you were desperate for a glass“.

“At £48 a bottle?” I snort.  “You must be joking.  Oh no – this one is far too expensive to drink on a Tuesday night.  I’m saving it for a special occasion.  Now stick the kettle on will you!”

Who needs wine anyway!


Don’t Carry On Worrying – Just Carry On!

When I say that the best road through anxiety and depression is to Carry on Laughing!  I mean it quite literally!  We all have a favourite crutch to support us through bleak times but this one comes with no side effects!

When black clouds start to gather, the more fragile mind may reach for any number of aids!  Alcohol; anti-depressants, Kalms, relaxation tapes, self help books, Rescue Remedy, Yoga, the company of loved ones……. the list goes on.

I have – and still do – reach for all of these in my times of need.  But I have another secret weapon in my emotional armoury – and it NEVER lets me down.  My Carry On Box Set!  If the worries of the world start to overwhelm me I simply open it out and make my selection.

Any one of them will do the trick but we all have our favourites and my top five have got to be Carry on at Your Convenience; Carry on Behind; Carry on Dick; Carry on Abroad; and Carry on Matron.

Its hard to put my finger on why Carry on Films are so good at bringing back some cheer but it’s probably a combination of things.

For one, the Carry On world is a simple, innocent and happy place to be.  In general, nobody dies and nothing bad happens.  You may get a shotgun fired at your backside but it’s only pellets and someone will tweezer them out; You may suffer a head injury but its only tomato sauce – you’ll be fine! And you may well take a syringe-ful of sedative that wasn’t meant for you – but you’ll wake up later!

It is a disturbing feature of modern life that the deepest parts of your body, mind and personal life can be made so public.  And in the Carry On world, there is a good chance that your boobs or bum will pop out at some point or that your undies will be inadvertently displayed.  But that’s it!  The rest of your body and your business will stay private and you will not see yourself on youtube anytime soon!  The Carry On world feels relatively safe!

Having said that, they do contain a lot of material that would be considered unacceptable today.  And yet it still manages to feel OK! At the risk of offending some readers I have to say that there is something comforting about the lack of political correctness in Carry on Films because we can let our boundaries go for a moment.  We are allowed to laugh even though the storylines are, by today’s standards, pretty SHOCKING!

Amongst the cast, there are those doctors who lech at their patients and others who sexually assault junior nurses. There are school bus drivers offering to go ‘all the way’ with teenage girls and there are old men trying to get it on with women who look young enough to be their granddaughters!  And that’s just for starters.

It is a hot bed of stereotypes – from sexually repressed middle aged women to sexually frustrated middle aged men.  There is the battle-axe mother figures, down-beaten housewives and hapless husbands.  The portrayal of ‘non British’ people would barely be tolerated in today’s society.  Putting boot polish on your face and grunting from a jungle backdrop would likely be met with a stony silence.

But these films are a product of their time and it feels OK to laugh at them because the characters are just like us – we don’t always say and do the right things but we mostly mean no harm.

The stars feel like real people; the sort of people you can imagine working with or living next door to.  In fact, when I visit people in hospital I expect to see Hattie Jacques marching down the corridor in pursuit of Kenneth Williams.  If I go camping I want to find Sid James and Bernard Bresslaw in the tent next door (they might even offer to ‘put it up’ for me!).

Yes – these are ordinary human beings in my eyes.  It isn’t like the modern film world.  There are few chiselled men or impossibly flawless women in Carry on Films and yet they have far more charm.  Who can resist the puppy dog eyes of Jim Dale or a cheeky Jim Tanner.  In my mind, the female characters do include some truly beautiful women.  Too many to mention but there is a stunning Valerie Leon; An exotic Amanda Barrie; a cute Sherrie Hewson.  And a giggly, jiggly Barbara Windsor is surely far more appealing than any supermodel.

Unlike other films, I never get fed up of the Carry On productions!  Despite having the box set at my disposal, I still whoop with delight if I see a TV listing for Carry On Up The Khyber on a Sunday afternoon.  I will watch it with the same glee that I watched it on all of the hundred previous occasions.

Carry On films are one of life’s constants.  Part of their therapeutic benefit is that they have been popping up on TV for as long as I can remember.  No matter how mad the world gets, they are a reassuring thread and you can always rely on them to give some relief.   Even more reassuring is that I know they will last forever.  My living will (which I must get round to writing sometime – but treat this as my last request in the meantime), will be that Carry on Films are left playing in front of me when I am on my death bed (and that the box set goes in the coffin with me).

So if anxiety and depression sometimes plague your day; treat yourself to the box set.  If therapists tell you to picture ‘a safe place’ or ask you to create ‘a happy place’ in your mind then I can strongly recommend your choice of Carry On film.  Take up your post in Carry on Doctor; Join a coach or camping trip; venture back in time.  It’s hard to feel down when Kenneth Williams says he ‘wouldn’t fancy a poke with that’ or tells you that ‘it’s high time you got yours’.

Don’t Carry On Worrying – Just Carry On!









Sprout Curry! Another catastrophic failure in the Kate Ritchie kitchen!

Sprout Curry!

You may recall that I made a vague, shame faced reference to ‘sprout curry’ in one of my previous diary entries.  You may have read between the lines and picked up that it probably didn’t work out the way I hoped.  Well today I’m going to give you the horrible detail.  Why?  Because I promised to always be honest – and it may save your own sprout curry recipe one day.

What on earth made me decide to make Sprout Curry in the first place.  I didn’t even know that you could make such a thing – did you?  Well you can!  And it makes sense when you think about it! Lots of people like sprouts (including me) and lots of people like curry (including me) so why would there not be a recipe for the two combined?  And there is!   All I needed to do was type it into the search engine and the world of sprout curries opened before me.

First dilemma was which sprout curry to choose.  There are more than you might imagine but I’m a BBC girl through and through – whether its their World Service or the Shipping Forecast or their Foodie site I always think that the BBC is reliable.  It is supposed to be factual, neutral and, above all, an authority on its subject.  If the BBC says it is so – then it is so (mostly).  So when that bastion of the nation offered me a sprout curry, courtesy of Phil Vickery, I knew my search was over.

With an unfounded, airy confidence I started to build this tasty creation.

And, the first balls up was in not realising that Phil’s recipe was to “Serve 1”.

I did think that 100g of sprouts was going to need a fair bit of padding out in order to feed 4 people but then I realised that it was a single portion – and possibly with good reason, for who would wish to be in company after eating something as gassy and provocative as sprout curry.

Anyway – whilst cursing under my breath, I trudged back into town (thanks for that Phil) and picked up the remaining three quarters of the recipe.  This is Kate Ritchie’s version of Phil’s recipe but if you ever decide to make it yourself, make sure you stick to his experience – and not mine.

Ingredients – Serves ONE!  Multiply as Required

To Serve (or not).

Here goes!……..

  • Phil says “Put a dash of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the Brussels sprouts and blanched potatoes and cook for about four minutes until browned all over:

    Kate Ritchie says : “Pour far too much olive oil (the lid is broken) into a frying pan and add the Brussels sprouts and blanched potatoes and cook for about four minutes after which there will not be a hint of brown on either the sprouts or the potatoes.  Turn heat up to full and fry everything to death for about 25 minutes”.

  • Phil says “Add all the spices and cook for a further two minutes or so, until the spices give off a deep aroma”.

Kate Ritchie says “Add all the spices and cook for a further two minutes or so, until the spices give off a deep aroma (in an unpleasant ‘burny’ sort of way).

  • Phil says “Add the white wine, stock cube, orange juice, red wine vinegar and sesame seeds and cook for a couple more minutes. Stir to ensure the stock cube dissolves fully.


Kate Ritchie says “Add some prosecco (because we are not “white wine drinkers” in this house), stock cube, orange juice, red wine vinegar and forget the sesame seeds (because the ones you thought you had are actually 14 years old and who knows what now lies beneath their shell).  Cook for a couple more minutes.  Stir, in the hope that the stock cube will dissolve fully – except it won’t.  They never do.

  • Phil says “In a separate bowl, combine the coriander and orange”.

Kate Ritchie says “Do NOT combine coriander and orange in a bowl because nothing will complement this foul concoction.  Admit it – your ‘curry’ is nothing more than a weird tasting mushed potato slop – with a handful of black, rock hard sprouts.  Fight the rage which always follows a failed recipe.  Lean against the sink top and breathe deeply

  • Phil says “Pour the curry into a serving bowl and top with the mixed coriander and orange. Spoon over the yoghurt just before serving.

Kate Ritchie says “Stop fighting the rage.  Throw a lone hissy fit about how nothing EVER goes f*cking right in this kitchen. Pour the curry into the bin and eat the yoghurt on its own.  Text someone else from the household and suggest they pick up fish and chips on the way home”.

You may also wish to contact Phil Vickery and ask him how eight minutes could EVER be sufficient time to cook sprouts.   Yes, go on – add up the stages given in this recipe and it is no more than 8 minutes most of which is frying time.  This f*cking recipe was doomed from the start and I fell for it.

“Yeah – apparently she was going to tear me apart – then she realised that she hadn’t cut the sprouts in half! What a Fandango!

You may also wish to consider whether the absolute failure of the dish, including the unwillingness for the sprouts to cook is, in part because you did not cut the sprouts in half, as instructed by Phil.  If that is the case, probably not worth contacting him to complain.

Just move on……….  Next time will be better!




Diary Entry 7: Celebrating Fathers Day – When Dementia Has Stolen Your Dad

Its Happy Fathers Day!  A day to celebrate these wonderful men who do their best to bring up the next generation.  And it doesn’t matter whether they are still here in this life – or if they have passed on.  Because being a Father is about family relationships; its about the influence that men have on their children and grandchildren – and that is something that endures long after a Father’s lifetime.

So while some of us are spending the day with our Dads, others might be raising a glass in his memory.  They both count.

It sounds harsh – but I will be doing both.  Because my Dad is a bit in between.  He is ‘here’ but he isn’t.  He is still my Dad – but not as I remember him.

My Dad has been stolen by Dementia.  And he is not alone.  In the UK there are probably over 300,000 men who are suffering with this heart-breaking condition. They may not recognise their own children on Fathers Day; they may need us to put the home made cake into their mouth;  to hold a straw for them to wash down the wee whisky toast.

It would be easy to get depressed – and I often do get anxious about seeing my Dad disappear – but there is another side to it all.  A surprisingly positive slant which, for me, means that Fathers Day is probably more meaningful than it has ever been!  And here it is.

My dad was a man of his time.  By that I mean that he raised his daughters the same way a labrador might raise its pups.  In other words his priorities were based on making sure that we were warm, fed and out of harms way.  All the other crazy stuff that comes with bringing up a family was firmly left to Mum!

Warm? Fed? Safe? Job Done!

The result of this traditional upbringing was that I was always much closer to my Mum.  I loved my Dad but we had little in common and we did not seek each other’s company in any real sense.   I sometimes felt a bit sad and guilty that we weren’t closer but it wasn’t really an issue – that’s just the way it was.

Our relationship changed dramatically when Dad developed dementia.  I always thought that this condition brought about a slow decline but, for Dad, it came on very suddenly – literally overnight.

When I saw him on the Monday he was in Marks and Spencer, buying something for his dinner and chatting to the checkout girl about what he had been up to.

When I saw him on the Tuesday he was secured to a hospital bed, trying to ‘catch a rabbit’ and rambling the most bizarre nonsense.  I was beyond shocked.  There was a moment of relief when he responded positively about whether he wanted a sandwich – but it quickly passed when I watched him trying to eat it through the plastic casing.

Two years later, I still remember that Monday as clearly as the Tuesday.  On Monday he was his normal self; on Tuesday he wasn’t.  And he was never the same again.

After three weeks he had improved enough to be discharged from hospital but he was no longer capable of independent living.  We refused a care home place and opted for a care package to be put into place in his sheltered accommodation.  That required me to become part of his daily routine.  The very thought of it filled me with dread.  I didn’t know how on earth I could fit this in to my already manic days – and I didn’t know how to be the daughter that my Dad now needed.

OK Dad – lets do this!!

But life is full of surprises and, since then, Dad and I have never been closer.  Its not just the daily company and familiarity that does it – its what we do with our time together.  We get out and about and try to keep things normal.  We look at old papers and pictures.  He can’t remember what he had for his lunch but he knows who everyone is in a photograph from 1953.  And now I know them too.

His inhibitions about what to talk about are lessened so when we unearth some old love letters I realise that my Dad had quite a few girlfriends before meeting my Mum.  I never knew!  There’s lots of things I never knew about my Dad – until now!

And a lot of my emotional boundaries have gone too.

I always said that I would not be able to deal with any of Dad’s ‘toilet’ accidents but what do you do when it becomes apparent that there has indeed been an ‘incident’.  Simple! You get him in the shower and scrub him down before putting all his clothes in the laundry.

I always said that I did not ever want to see any of my Dad’s ‘bits’ but what do you do when you find him buck naked in the hallway at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon?  Simple! You get him dressed.  You let him lean on your shoulder while you get his pants over his feet and you try not to think about the fact that his willie is only inches away.

And what about all the animals and people that Dad thinks are in his flat.  Do you deny that they are there? You may not be able to see the tramp on his sofa, the fish on the floor or the women in his bed (he wishes!).  But he can.  There’s babies in the cutlery drawer, a horse in the bathroom and his dead Mother in the porch.

Unless they are troubling him (in which case I gently persuade Dad that they have left), I just see them too.  I see the world from where he is; I sit with him amidst all the crazy things that seem so real to him.  And he likes that!

“There’s three women in my bed!!”

When your Dad can’t do his own shopping you do it for him. When his dementia robs him of his mobility you get him into a wheelchair and keep up the routine.  When he tries to get ready for his work you have a wee joke with him about how he retired 15 years ago.

And when he cries in front of you for the first time ever – you cry too.  Because, at that moment, you know he’s not confused; it’s worse than that.  He’s having a moment of realisation; he knows that something is horribly wrong with his world.   And he is terrified; he needs you to stay close to him and be in this strange world with him.  He needs you to comfort him and and make him smile again.

My Dad’s dementia has been as much of a journey for me as it has for him.  And it has made me a better person.  I have found a level of patience, tolerance and optimism that I never knew I had.  I have had to slow down to my Dad’s speed but, instead of making me stressed, it has actually made me calmer.  I hope I have always been a kind person but caring for Dad has filled me with compassion and the overspill goes out to everyone in my life.

Dad has now gone into care but this has not lessened the time or love I give him.  Today, my Sister will come over from her home two hours away.  We will bundle Dad into his wheelchair and rattle him over a mile of potholed pavements and into the town.  We will sit in the centre and have an ice cream.  We will watch the world go by and, yet again, I will feel grateful that I  have this incredible, albeit belated closeness with my Dad.

You may think that Dementia has stolen your Dad – but has it really?  Maybe it’s given him back to you.

Happy Fathers Day!



















Kate Ritchie ‘Ecstatic’ over Sugar Free Chocolate Recipe

Sugar Free (ish) Chocolates
Well when I stumbled upon a recipe for sugar free chocolate I naturally thought “what’s the catch?” And the catch is that its all fat and NO (see notes) sugar – but so what? If you’re trying to seek emotional stability and avoid the rollercoaster sugar rush then what’s 150g of fat on your arse?
Oh yes – and it uses ‘stevia’ which is a sugar replacement so I need to tell you a bit more about this.  
Firstly, I do NOT approve of so called ‘sugar free’ recipes which simply avoid refined sugars.  In my mind, ‘sugar free’ means ‘sugar free’ – in ALL of its forms!!  If you’ve stopped shovelling Silver Spoon into your coffee – but you are pouring honey onto your toast then ‘sugar free’ you ain’t!
This recipe uses stevia, which is indeed a form of sugar but apparently this stuff does not whoosh into your blood stream the way other sugars do.  And it is the sugar rush we are trying to avoid!  Anyway lets get onto the bloody recipe – so easy and quick you will be AMAZED!!

  • Place 75g of butter, 75g of coconut oil and a small teaspoon of stevia into a pot. Allow to melt into liquid.
  • Place two tablespoons of cacao powder (not cocoa powder as this is an entirely different product) into a glass bowl and stir some of the melted liquid in. This should form a paste. Then pour in the rest of the liquid and stir well until nice and smooth.
  • Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of desiccated coconut into the bottom of some ice cube trays or mini cake cups and then pour the liquid into each one.  If you want a bit of zing you can add grated lime rind or other ingredient of choice
  • Place in fridge and allow to set.
Important notes!
  • You do not need to leave it that long to set!! None of this ‘allow to chill overnight’ malarkey – you don’t even need a few hours! I was wolfing them down after 45 mins! But I would say they are best to chill for a bit longer if you can manage!
  • If you like to nibble then be wary that the chilled nature (and the oil content) of these little beauties mean they do not fare well in warm fingers. You will quickly get into a terrible mess with them so either put the whole thing in your mouth or have kitchen roll handy!
  • And don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

Diary Entry 6: Three Oms! A return to yoga!

Entry 6:  Three Oms! A return to yoga!

So, I’ve been meaning to go back to yoga for ages but, as we know, making time for ourselves is usually bottom of the priority list.  If you are busy working, caring for an elderly parent and worrying about everything in the world then it is unlikely that you will be saying ‘Om’ anytime soon.

Unless you embark on a sugar free diet – in which case you will urgently need something to counteract the rage and despair.  Oh yes, the sugar withdrawal symptoms have been so terrible that I would have happily agreed to an induced coma; just until the worst had passed.  Sadly, medical ethics have not yet reached that point so it was easier just to drag myself back to yoga.

I am no stranger to this mode of exercise and I have dabbled with it many times over the years.   Strangely though, I find that yoga only works for me when my state of mind is already at peace.  If my head is in ‘tumble dryer’ mode, yoga makes me cry – not because of a failed ‘salute to the sun’ but because my mind cannot deal with being ‘quietened’.  It makes sense when you think about it because a quiet mind must surely be a target for anxiety demons; it is a beautiful empty space into which the horrors can pour.

I have spent many Shavanasa sessions in tears, which is a shame because it all starts so well.  The golden ball of light; inhaling the white energy and exhaling the black.  There is the deep sense of self and that shroud of calm when the yoga teacher whispers for us to ‘let things go’.

And then it starts to slide.  The golden ball begins to fade and I get my breathing all wrong.  I inhale the black energy and exhale the white.  I stop ‘letting things go’ and, instead, I torture myself with bleak thoughts about;

  • the time I pushed in front of an old lady in the Supermarket because I was in a hurry AND in a bad mood (horrible person!)
  • The time I attended a friend’s wedding and had my photo taken with someone’s husband – him biting one end of a very short cocktail sausage and me biting the other end.  The resulting photo was met with stony silence (cheap flirt!).
  • The time I didn’t check on my Dad properly and he lay helpless on the floor until 3am (useless daughter!).

So, despite the risk of revisiting these shameful events, I returned to yoga this week.  And it was fine!  Was it my new anti-depressants that kept the demons at bay?  Or was it the steely resolve that has set in while I do battle with the sugar cravings?  Either way, I got the best from the session. I was too unfit to get my forehead on the floor in ‘child’s pose’ but I felt surprisingly upbeat and, dare I say it – CALM!!

This emerging sense of ‘Zenity’ has been assisted by new developments in the sugar free diet.  You may recall that I was struggling to produce anything healthy or tasty but all of that has changed.  My new ‘Nutribullet’ has saved the day.  While Hubby has continued to turn out dahls, pates and crudites, I have been turning out smoothies like there’s no tomorrow.  Every conceivable vegetable has been turned to mush and consumed with great gusto.  I have taken on a superior edge, smug in the knowledge that the national ‘5 a day’ target for fruit and veg consumption, has been smashed.  I can picture the cells of my body enjoying the equivalent of a spa day.  Each part of me relishing the glut of vitamins and minerals.

I taste better than I look – honestly!

Admittedly, the excess beetroot gave me a shock when I first visited the lavatory but my screams about ‘blood in the stool’ soon give way to giggles when I realised where the colouring had come from.  Hubby also took fright when I absentmindedly blended a whole onion into his smoothie mix but, by and large, we are starting to feel the benefits.

I am proud to relay my progress to the Doctor when I attend my one month review.  I hope she is impressed when she sees that I am not relying on the pills for my emotional well being; that I am embarking on other physical and mind based developments.   I tell her that my anxiety has definitely lost it’s edge and that the main thing I am struggling with is the remorse at taking thirty years to deal with it.

I skip out of the surgery with my repeat prescription. I have another appointment in four weeks time but I feel like I might be cured by then.  From what I can gather so far, treating Anxiety is a breeze!

Or is it?

Next Week – Return of the Demons

Entry 5: Detox Foot Pads – Draw Badness Through Your Sole

Entry 5:  Detox Foot Pads – Draw Badness Through Your Sole

As you know, the quest for inner calm is never ending and, fortunately, there is no shortage of mad treatments out there.  I love them all!  I will try them all if I get the chance!  And on that front, I have exciting news.  As the first of many trials in my anti-anxiety strategy, I can introduce you to my new purchase; the ‘detox foot pad!’

Let me explain the concept.  In simple terms, the footpad is intended to aid restful sleep and to draw inner badness out through the soles of one’s foot!   Put a special pad on and leave it overnight.  Toxins, heavy metals and other terrible things will be drawn out through the soles of the feet leaving you on the road to purity.

It sounds simple, but it also sounds unlikely – even to me who is a mug for this sort of thing. Surely, at a physiological level, we do not shed this level of badness through our skin.  A wee bit of sweat maybe – but heavy metals?  Anyway, despite having a science degree, I have never been one for letting common sense get in the way of good health.  I may be a little cynical but I also feel really excited about getting these pads onto my feet.

Is it bedtime yet?

The day drags but finally it is bedtime.  Hubby looks unconvinced when I tell him about the detoxed world that awaits but, as ever, he has been forced to participate.  We get ready for bed and, with gleaming eyes, open the box of foot pads.

Being a modern woman, I am not normally a fan of instruction leaflets but I do not dare waste any of these little beauties.   I scan the user information and note that we will be able to see the results very quickly.  The foot pads will be brown with filth in the morning – our filth – although we should not get too excited.  Like all expensive, faffy, health things we must use them for ‘a period of time’ to see and feel any ‘discernible effect’ in ourselves.  I can live with this though.  At £26 for a two-week supply, it’s not a lot to pay for a good cleanse – not really……!

And so, with value for money far from my mind, I eagerly tip out the box.  It contains fourteen foot pads, each in their own separate pouch and with an adhesive plaster to hold it on.  I open one of the pouches and the first thing I notice is the horrific smell!  Like old fish wrapping.  My Goodness it certainly catches the back of your throat but anything good for you always smells bad right?  On checking the ingredients I see that it does indeed contain shellfish!  And quite a lot of shellfish by the stench but I’m sure the manufacturers know what they are doing – don’t they?

Merciful Lord – is this a Detox Foot Pad or a rank fish?

After gagging and getting used to the smell, we stick the pads onto the soles of our feet, climb into bed and await a miracle.   Right away I feel much more chilled.  I wake a couple of times in the night but, instead of the horrors which usually invade my nocturnal mind, I feel drowsily peaceful when I think about all the badness just oozing out of me.  Even the thought of it is nice and ‘mind over matter’ is half the battle isn’t it?

When morning dawns, Hubby and I are keen to compare foot pads.  They are absolutely rank!  And I mean RANK!  They are just as brown and disgusting as the box promised and mine is the worst.  Whereas Hubby’s pad is brown and ‘moist’, mine is positively weeping and swimming in gunk.

I don’t ever want to face one again.

I undertake some belated research and find that there is not much scientific evidence to support their use – not that we should always need it, but I would have hoped that some lab tests would have revealed something exciting on a sample used pad.  Apparently there are no such test results.   Requests for further scientific data have, thus far, failed to emerge from producers and proponents.

The only claim, which I have been unable to explain, is that, over time, the level of filth on the footpad is supposed to decrease and this outcome is backed up by some users.  So how would this reduction in pad gunk come about?  Do they work after all?  Hmmmm – I leave the jury to decide.

In the meantime, the quest for inner calm continues! It’s time to go back to yoga!

Next Week – “Three Oms”

Diary of an Anxious Mind Week 4: You are what you eat!

Entry 4:  You Are What You Eat!

Forgive me if I seem a little jittery today.  Apparently it’s withdrawal symptoms caused by our new sugar free diet.  My week has been reduced to gibbering misery and I am convinced that the experts are correct – sugar is not a ‘life giving force’; it is a drug!  We crave it and we behave badly when we are caught in its cycle.  We encourage others to engage in its consumption and we refer to ourselves as being ‘bad’ when we have too much.  Crucially, as with all drug addicts, we wail and beg when it is taken away from us.

I read somewhere that my body would ‘thank me’ for embarking on this healthy path.  In reality, my body seems to be absolutely bloody furious about it.  My soul is tortured; my eyes are like saucers and, whilst I can’t see the axe sticking out of my head, I can certainly feel it!

The inner peace that comes with giving up sugar!

The atmosphere at home is tense.  There is an unusual air of mistrust between Hubby and I because both of us suspect that the other has been cheating.  Granted, it was me who started it by accusing him of foul play.  He dismissed me with a flick of the hand and an animated gesture towards the kitchen cupboards.  His point being that, having watched me empty the house of every last grain of sugar, there was nothing left with which to cheat.  I merely snapped back that I was not his keeper and that he had plenty scope for drinking a bottle of maple syrup ‘on the outside’.

In response, he stated that I had the same opportunity for a secret sugar binge but I merely highlighted my current suffering – clearly brought about by my strict adherence to the sugar ban.  In injured tones, he asked why I thought he had strayed and I admitted that my suspicions were based solely on the fact that he is showing no physical symptoms of sugar withdrawal.  No headaches, no shaking and no endless lament about how badly he wants a doughnut.  Given that I am prepared to leap from the window to end my agony, I find his painless transition to a sugar free life, very hard to take – or to believe.

Perhaps it is just the green monster that is spoiling our relationship this week. Despite me looking ‘knowingly’ at him with narrowed eyes, I do trust Hubby to stick with the plan because he has always been incredibly supportive and co-operative with any of my mad ideas.  I think I am simply jealous that he is finding it so easy and that, if anything, he is even more enthusiastic about giving up sugar than I am.

As an example, he skipped off to the shops and returned with a variety of ingredients and a programme of ‘delicious but healthy’ recipes.  I have always found the notion of such recipes to be something of an oxymoron but, yet again, he has proved me wrong. He has baked butternut squash muffins which are spicy rather than sweet – they are mouth watering.  He has blended avocado and coconut milk to make a bizarre, but yummy, ice cream! And, my goodness, we even have a tray of sugar free chocolates in the fridge – made from butter, raw cacoa powder, desiccated coconut and shredded lime rind – scrumptious!

No sugar? No problem!

What an amazing man; an unbelievable sweetheart.  I have tried to match his love and skill with my own delectable sugar free dishes, but I am floundering.  My paprika roasted almonds were ‘OK’ but they did not have any paprika on them because it all dropped off after roasting.  Don’t ask about my Sprout Curry because I have nothing to say – it went straight in the bin.  And what about my pumpkin seed cereal?  Fine if you like charcoal in the morning.

With desperation, I fell upon the fail-safe dish of the sugar free world – Hummus.  This merely brought myself and Hubby closer to the brink of separation when he returned from the supermarket with dried chickpeas instead of the tinned ones I requested.  I accused him of being the only person in the world who didn’t know that dried chickpeas are a shitty, irritating ingredient to work with.  He questioned their popularity and widespread availability but I dismissed this and suggested that the dried chickpea market was reliant on ‘first time buyers’ who did not know any better (which of course is complete fabrication).

Well, despite suffering from Anxiety, I am still an optimist and, indeed, it is this drive for something better that often keeps me going.  In this case I decided to work with what I had and to use the ingredients at hand.   I soaked the dang things overnight, I simmered them with the timer set for 90 minutes thus losing all value for money with the cost of electricity. I kept a lid on my frustration by fussing with the rest of the ingredients and getting the blender ready.

Do yourself a favour – go and buy the tinned version instead!

If only I had focused on that instead of leaving the kitchen to engage in some final whining about dried chickpeas being a b*stard. Maybe then, I would have noticed that the water in the pot was running dry instead of being alerted to this fact by the smoke alarm.

A casual observer would have concluded that my consequent rage about spoiled hummus was ‘disproportionate’.  I would have to disagree.  Under the circumstances, I now know that the first few days of a sugar free life are mentally unstable and dangerous.

I won’t be thwarted though – I will merely seek calm in another form.

Next Week – “Detox Foot Pads – Draw Badness Through Your Sole”

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