Month: December 2011

We need to talk about my thyroid

Yeah, I'm banging on about my glands again.

Having a broken thyroid is a pain. Not that it hurts physically — it doesn't, although it might be useful if it did — but what it does to you is mentally wrecking. You don't know that your thyroid has packed up. You get slower and fatter and thicker, but you don't ever leap up and say "I don't have enough thyroxine in my system!" like you might with Vitamin C or Marmite.

Instead you just get slower. Your thinking slows down. Your energy levels drop. Your eyebrows and patches of your secondary hair drop out. But beyond that: no clues. Eventually someone notices, usually by accident, and your GP puts you on thyroxine, which is what you need. But two pills a day aren't the same as a natural odd squirt here and there from yer actual brain.

So most of the time you're a bit dull. A bit dim, even. My main symptom is a fear of being asked a question. Any question. I dread having to churn my brain around into making a decision because IT CAN'T. Tea or coffee? Don't ask me. How the fuck would I know which one I want? All I really want is to lie down on this rug and sleep for a few weeks. Right now, if possible.

Sometimes, mercifully rarely, it's the opposite. I'M ON FIRE. Want a decision making? I've made one before you've finished the question. Want something doing? Consider it done because I anticipated your request and did it before you asked. Don't pause before answering me, I need to know NOW. For fuck's sake, hurry up and GET ON WITH IT. For the last week, that has been me. Of course, just to confound the doctors, my eyebrows have dropped out and I've got missing hair patches while on a high, which cannot happen ever ever. The forthcoming low is going to be deep.

Neither high nor low appeals to me but the highs are actually worse. I get so much more done, but the silent times, when I'm not doing something with my brain, are a nightmare. Because my brain is racing away with itself, it comes up old memories, old feelings, old thoughts, and reprocesses them when I'm idle. I spend the quiet times trying not to talk to myself because I'm brimming with old stuff that should fuck off and leave me alone. I remember people and pets who have died, what I was doing when they died, what I was thinking, what I could've said or done differently, all of this crap in a neverending rush. Oh, but it tires your soul. Remember that online dispute you had with someone in 1998 that lasted 5 emails? No, you don't and why would you? Suddenly, I do and I'm reliving it like it was this morning, even though it didn't matter then and does not matter now.

I've learnt, slowly and surely, not to punish the ball and chain for my thyroid highs. He's slow and bumbling and takes no notice of anything and doesn't care… because he's NORMAL. I need to forgive him this flaw. Of course he doesn't want to hear — again — about the things that with hindsight I could've done to keep Graham alive. He doesn't want to know how much I continue to seethe inside about what happened to my pets when Graham killed himself. He would like me to live in the now, like everybody else does. But on a high — not a low, on a low I don't give a flying fuck about anything — on a high I find myself caring deeply and pointlessly about the past.

The bizarre thing is that this mental rush of crap tires me out. So I go to bed and have vivid dreams and wake up at 4am and I'm at work by 7. Work passes in a flash and I'm suddenly alone again with my tiring thoughts and ready for bed… which will see me totally refreshed by 4 hours sleep and raring to go again. No wonder I drink of an evening.

I'd love to end this post with a pithy point, but I don't have one. "Cherish your thyroid gland" is great but insane. "It doesn't matter" is a truism but unhelpful. So I've nothing to end on.

Have your pets neutered.

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more

It must be really easy to be right wing and reactionary. Toss a subject at a committed Tory and they’ve got an instant, knee-jerk answer that they didn’t even need to think about. Immigrants? Coming over here to do jobs white people aren’t prepared to do – send them back! Gays? They’re just trying to make their unnatural sodomy as acceptable as my heterosexual sodomy. The poor? Why do they expect handouts – can’t they pull themselves up like I did with my free education, free university and free healthcare? Taxes? Why should I pay a portion of the salary I earn in my job in insurance into a system that I probably will never claim from?

Being left wing and progressive is far harder. With every issue, you have to sit down and actually expend mental calories on deciding what the best course of action is, weighing the greater social good against your own upbringing and class. Burkas? Well, I deplore the circumstances that would force them on to women, but I’m loathe to dictate what someone can and can’t wear. Overthrowing dictators in far off countries? In principle there’s something to be said for not allowing murderous scum to run a country, but in practice overthrowing them always makes life worse for everybody and smacks of colonialism. Religion? I don’t have one and I don’t appreciate having religion – any religion – thrust down my throat, but if I’m entitled to be an atheist, then others are entitled not to be.

See what I mean?

Today I came face-to-face with one of these dilemmas. As I went into the supermarket, a bunch of holy-looking do-gooders stopped me and pressed a shopping list into my hands. It seems that Wirral has now got a ‘foodbank’ and they’d quite like me to donate to it. I took the list and spent around half an hour standing in an aisle having a mental debate as to whether this is a good idea or not.

There are several problems with foodbanks. First and foremost, since the Second World War, society and government have agreed that it’s the state’s responsibility that no one in the UK should ever starve. Successive governments have tried to shake free of this basic, humane commitment but we’ve never let them. Until now. Now, with the country suffering from the wastrel ways of obscenely rich bankers, we’ve decided to cut the poorest loose to go hungry and die. This is wrong. But if I donate to a foodbank, am I not doing ‘Dave’ Cameron’s job for him? Shouldn’t he be finding the money to prevent people dying of hunger in a first-world nation rather than wasting it on selling nationalised banks at a loss?

Then there’s the problem of foodbank schemes being run by churches. There’s an element of “sing for your supper” implicit in the leaflet they handed me. If you claim from a foodbank, the church is likely to be highly involved – you go there to collect the food, you have a talk with a god-botherer spouting Jesus, you get pressured to start coming on Sundays and pretending you believe. You may be financially bankrupt, but churchgoers are often the first to believe that others are morally bankrupt as well. Your food is going to come with a side order of Jesus and a desert of condemnation and pity. This type of crap was one of the reasons Attlee’s 1945-1951 government took poor relief out of the hands of local vicars and brought it into the machinery of the state – nobody should be forced to pray for their supper, let alone be judged for it as well.

Then there’s the taking away of people’s choice. Yes, that’s a very right wing thing to say, but bear with me. When you get your Family Allowance and Income Support and the other meagre crumbs from the LibCon table, it comes as cash. This lets you choose what you do with it: shoes for little Johnny this week, an extra pint of milk for me tomorrow, a bus ride to his mum’s so she can look after the kids for a few hours… all tiny, but all very important. When you’re poor – and I’ve been poor – your world shrinks. The giro is the only thing that expands your horizons, even if only slightly. Instead, we’re now routinely leaving the least able to cope with no money at all; they go to a foodbank and they get… a bag full of food. Chosen by a middle-class shopper, handed to them pre-packed by a middle-class do-gooder, that tiny horizon is slapped shut – you’ll get what you’re given.

Also, I doubted what the middle-class shoppers of the Wirral would choose for their poorer brethren. And I was right: as I left the store, the modest pile of groceries was all “Value” items – inedible “Value” cornflakes, “Value” packet soups so thin can see the bottom of your cup when you’ve made them, “Value” toilet paper that will tear you a new one. The middle classes of Wirral had spoken: you foodbank users, look at our largess – nasty crap we wouldn’t give house room to, awful shite we would never eat ourselves. Gee, how generous of my fellow man.

So, what did I decide? After half an hour standing there, completely unable to decide whether these points outweighed my general humanity, I decided that the socialist thing to do would be to donate to the foodbank and get angry about it later. So I did. And I bought brand names, stuff that I would choose for myself, not stuff I would choose for others, because that idea stinks. Heinz soups; Colgate toothpaste; Lynx shower gel and so forth – stuff that people, that I, would want.

But now I’m angry. I’m very very angry. THIS IS WRONG. Foodbanks shouldn’t exist because they shouldn’t be necessary. We MUST get these awful, nasty, cruel Liberals and Conservatives out of government next time. And we must send a message to Labour: look to Beveridge. Look to Attlee. It’s time to roll back Thatcherism. We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this any more.