my mass observation day

mass observation day was yesterday, May 12th. here is my diary of the day.

background info.

i am a 49yo woman. i live in tottenham, on the ferry lane estate. i have a garden flat which backs on to the river lea. i have lived here since last september, having spent the last 20 years in the east end. i am single. i have been in a relationship for a year, and my boyfriend, tenyen is often here. i have a dog, a rescued staffordshire bull terrier called poppet. i am not working. i was a lecturer in art and design and have worked in theatre. i became too ill to work 10 years ago. i have fibromyalgia and chronic migraine and am diagnosed unipolar.

12 May this year was the first sunny day in a long while. i have been under particular duress recently because of the govt workfare programme. the night before i was particularly unable to focus, and took morning drugs instead of evening drugs, so only got two hours sleep.


woke at 6am. took my morning medication; 500mg naproxen (pain killer), 75mg venlafaxine (mood elevator), 15mg lansoprazole (to protect my stomach from the pain meds), and 10mg loratadine (antihistamine).

back to bed til 7.40. (gives a chance for the pain killers to work) had a large mug of tea. ten slept in the sitting room last night, which he often does because i go to bed so early. he comes in with me for tea. i have the laptop on in bed and download revenge to watch later on. after i’ve had tea, i take the dog out. ten offers to take her, but i feel ok at this point, and knowing it is likely he will have to walk her later i take the opportunity that having some energy presents.

it’s a sunny day. we see a lot of poppet’s friends, and i take photos of them. i walk round the park with one of my neighbours, paul, and tell him about mass observation day. he tells me that he liked the documentary series 7 Up which followed 14 7 year olds every 7 years from 1964. coincidentally, 56 Up is scheduled for tomorrow night. just before i get indoors i bump into a neigbour, phil, who offers to take a look at my garden for me, tell me what indeterminate plants are weeds, and he tells me he will have his dog, a retired greyhound, put down this autumn, since she has suffered so badly this winter with arthritis.

my next door neighbour, steven, has been away for a few days, so i ring his doorbell, and poppet and i go in to say hello before we go home.

when i get home i have a bath and change of clothes (i tend to do first walk in the day before’s clothes) and have a discussion with ten about sun screen. i wear a vest with invisible support (much more comfortable than a bra), a pair of yoga pants and a cardigan. i am planning on doing some weeding because the last few weeks of rain has left the garden a bit wild, and this is my first chance to get out there. he believes i should have sun screen on, i am not so sure. (i would have given in if i had ended up spending any real amount of time out there, but as it was i went out in short bursts and not for very long).

i go out for about 20 mins, and pull up some of what i know are weeds, and am suddenly very tired and rather shivery. ten tells me to rest, and i go back into bed and watch revenge on the laptop. it’s rubbish, really, but it passes the time very well.

i go back outside until 12.15. chris upstairs is on his balcony, he says hello. and the italian girl and her boyfriend and their 4 dogs stop to say hello to poppet through the fence. we chat briefly about the dogs.

i am too tired to cook, so ten makes the lunch. he’s bought some salmon and broccoli because he went out to shops last night. we are a bit cut off here, so i do a big shop every couple of weeks and we top up now and then. i can hardly sit up at the table to eat, so when i am finished i go back toΒ  bed properly. i listen to a couple of radio shows, radio 4’s all in the mind which is about a prison that is run as a theraputic community, and the life scientific about the guy who invented gaia theory. i had heard it before, but in this state, pretty much just wanted a comforting blah blah blah to listen to. i laid down til 2.15. i’d had two texts, both from specsavers promoting their latest offer. i don’t get as many texts as i used to.

i go through to the sitting room. ten is on a netbook doing emails, and poppet is snuggled up next to him. i join them on the sofa. after a while i rally a little and go out to the garden to do a little more.

i go back into the bedroom and post the pictures i took of the walk on my blog. i am glad i took these photos, because they tell a story on their own, and i am not well enough to write. i had planned to photograph the whole day, but ran out of steam after the walk. i’d been taking quite good notes during the day, but had to check what time i posted the photos – it was 4pm. i tidy away the tools and things. ten has put the weeds in the compost bin he has made.

after that i sit in the sitting room with my laptop, looking at twitter and facebook and reading blogs. ten says he will take poppet on her last walk before he cycles home (in south london) if i sort out my medication in a way which will stop me from taking morning pills at night. i am more than happy to do this, since lying in bed awake but too tired to do anything for 8 hours is not my idea of fun, and it messes up the next few days quite badly too. i have never made this particular mistake before, but have done it twice recently and really mustn’t. it is horrible.

after that, although it is only 6pm, i throw the towel in completely and go to bed properly. i sometimes go to bed as early as half seven, but try to stay up til 9, so this is really admitting defeat. i take my medication (500mg naproxen and 150mg quetiapine – an antipsychotic, which will help me sleep) and fall asleep almost immediately. i don’t even hear ten leave. i wake up at 3 and have to take a sumatriptan for the inevitable migraine. i don’t usually go without meals, but i couldn’t face food and didn’t stay awake long enough to have a complan (vitamin enriched milky drink. i have it with soya milk). even if i had had a meal though, i was unlikely to avoid a migraine. i fall asleep listening to an oliver sacks audiobook. i don’t remember any of it, i will have to listen from the beginning again.


I donate my 12th May diary to the Mass Observation Archive. I consent to it being made publicly available as part of the Archive and assign my copyright in the diary to the Mass Observation Archive Trustees so that it can be reproduced in full or in part on websites, in publications and in broadcasts as approved by the Trustees.


17 thoughts on “my mass observation day

  1. All too often I wake up still half asleep, accidentally take my evening meds instead of my morning meds and spend the day as a Clonazepam Zombie.

    Then I can’t sleep that night unless I embibe large quantities of wine…

    1. i don’t like being out of it during the day, but being awake and anxious at night is just awful. i have migrated back to my old pill box, which is fiddly, but has morning and evening at top and bottom, so harder to mistake one for the other. what i have done very often is simply not known if i have taken my meds, which puts me in a real quandry as to whether it is worse or better to possibly double up or possibly miss a dose.

      1. I have a pill box like this too, as I often don’t remember if I’ve taken them or not when D asks and it’s an easy way of checking (unless I’ve taken Thursday’s dose on Monday of course, in which case he has to remember if he’d topped my pill box up to that day or not).

        Stupid meds. On the other hand I suppose I’d be a lot more stupid without them! πŸ˜€

        1. i don’t know why it’s actually hard to keep the days straight. because i mess up my days as well. didn’t help that my new boxes were off kilter with each other – one box started on a sunday and the other started on a monday. i thought that having a white box for morning and a blue one for night would be really easy to master, but it turns out not to be the case.

  2. Hello Elaine. I read your last post almost as soon as you put it up, but didn’t reply as I wanted time to think things over. As you know, given the past trauma I’m still trying to re-process in therapy I have a lot of anger management issues. Since I’m bristling with rage over the whole WorkFare thing, and in particular (because it is logical that one is inclined to care more for one’s friends than adopt a sort of blanket sympathy for all involved – although obviously I do sympathise deeply with everyone who will be subjected to this horribly unjust, twisted and quite frankly bordering on evil new “scheme”) when I think of what you are going through as a result of this. As if you didn’t already have far far more than “enough” on your plate as it were!

    I’ve confused my panic meds too sometimes and it’s very unstabling and worrying just to realize one has made the mix-up let alone suffer the inevitable effects of taking one’s medication at the wrong times and in the wrong doses for that time of day. I am very angry that one of your few outlets, sources of laughter, friendship, distraction, fun and love (because so many people love you – myself included) is also being limited. Having to lock-down your twitter and blog because these heartless, narrow-minded people seem to think that if someone can tweet then they can work an 8 hour day really is the straw which breaks the camel’s proverbial!

    During my many months of panic and near inability to work, spent curled up in bed in the foetus position clutching my Ernie (sesame st) teddy for dear life, shaking and trying yet failing to cry, I felt on occasion like giving up. I came close once last year. It was around lunchtime. I got out of bed, realised just how many meds I had in the house (because I was so scared of being without that I had stocked up and changes made to my meds by neurologist over the months meant I also had unopened bottles of past panic drugs which I was no longer using as they had been replaced by stronger, anti-epileptics in order to combat the painful muscle contractions I suffer from during panic attacks), realised that I also had an unopened bottle of Grappa (which him indoors had been given by his parents) which is 40 % proof. I suddenly felt a moment of chilling rationality. I lined up all my meds on the table, boxes and bottles of pills and put the bottle of Grappa on there too. I started to panic as I realised that I had, within my grasp, the possibility to quite painlessly kill myself. This was the first time in my life such a thing had happened. Shaking like anything I picked up the bottles (including the Grappa) and emptied them all down the sink, one by one and threw away all the surplus pills. Throughout I had painful muscle contractions and found myself shouting out words (linked to traumatic memories) even though I was alone. I then went back to bed, took my correct dosage for that time of day and shook and shook absolutely petrified until finally the drugs kicked in and I fell asleep.

    The people who have devised and are implementing the workfare scheme clearly have no idea whatsoever of what people suffering from physical and mental illness or both have to do just to try and get through the day. The whole thing is very disturbing.

    However I have been heartened to see what a brave person you are and how despite so much adversity you struggle on daily and are cheerful, helpful and so so kind to all your friends. My friend David (who knows about my past and my current situation) told me last Sunday: “I’ve been watching Alien and suddenly been struck by your resemblance to Ripley. You are strong and you are a survivor. When you feel bad or panic, imagine you have a pulse rifle like Ripley so you can shoot all the bad things and make them go away”. I was moved to tears by his thoughtfulness. You can borrow my pulse rifle for the duration Elaine. You’re strong too and a survivor and I want you to know that I think about you every day and am with you every step of the way. Much much love
    (have to go and wash my face now as I’ve got a bit teary writing this – my ability to cry seems to have returned the last few days. A positive step forward)

    1. thank you for all your kind words. i am glad my suicide bid is behind me, because i need all the support i can get right now, and at least i am on decent meds. it was one of those silly things where i’d been having a difficult time and i asked for a med review, the psych was horrified at the odd assortment of meds i was on and wanted me to come off things. he suggested i started with the sleeping pills, but i soon discovered i needed them to mask the noise where i used to live – lots of drunk shouting at night. so i thought – on my own – that i would come off some other drugs, and came off my mood lifting drug and my antipsychotic. then, of course, i moved house and moved doctors, and it took weeks to see anyone, and by that time i was having a hideous time off drugs, as well as having multiple physical flare ups i was having persistent suicidal thoughts. and of course, i still had plenty of sleeping pills…

      i am so glad i got that side of things up and running before the workfare crap kicked in, because i am having a hard enough time with it as it is. imagine if i was having suicidal thoughts on top of that? doesn’t bear thinking about. there will be fatalities because of this. makes me sick to think about it.

  3. I believe that this will be one of the more interesting MOD entries, I really do. I hope future historians will get much insight from it. I must do one too, but it’ll be less “of its time” as yesterday was just bog-standard parenting.

    Hm, I pick up from your comments that you’ve had blog woes. Sorry about that.

    1. thanks! i find my daily life pretty ordinary myself, but then, that is the whole point of mass observation.

      did you do yours this year, in the end?

      i have locked down what i can, but i am still in two minds about it. i don’t want to lose benefits, but i equally want to play my part in exposing the govt for the cruelty of the workfare programme.

      1. Yes, mine is on my LJ now- like you, I feel that it’s rather mundane, but I think the tiny details are somehow what others find fascinating, and presumably even more so for historians in the future!

        😦 to Workfare. Is there any way I can read those posts or do I need to be a WordPress blogger?

        1. i haven’t locked down my wordpress totally, though i have locked my fb and twitter. i was happy to join in with the #workfare tags and have people read my stuff, but i did lock down this one post where i talk about why i have done what i have done so far, and what i might also do to protect myself. i’ve tweeted you the link and password.

          while i don’t want to be taken off benefits because i am able to tweet, i would still like to be part of the backlash against workfare. so i am in two minds. well, probably more than two minds… it’s complicated!

      2. Oh thank you, I will have a look. 😦 it shouldn’t be so complicated, no. Everyone should have the right to express an opinion without fear. I wonder if there’s room for some sort of anonymous website where people could tell their stories without fear.

        1. hmmm…. well, it wouldn’t take me long to hooch up one not connected to my name.

          unfortunately it’s a bit too late for elaine4queen. cat’s out of the bag.

  4. Dear Elaine,

    If the total benefits to the government of the WorkFare programme could be measured in the distress of the people it affects, the national debt would be wiped out within the hour. It’s beyond cruel.

    Love Dotty xxx

    P.S. Sorry, I didn’t say I like your post and I think it’s a great addition to the archive.

    1. thank you!

      i don’t normally like to blog about my hard luck story, but this is part of my reality right now. today i am off to the workfare people, and intend to give them a letter informing them of my withdrawal of consent for them to store or share my data. it’s stressful just keeping your head down and letting them push you around, but today will be off the scale, coming out as ‘anti’. however, i think it may be better for me in the long run, since consenting to stuff i don’t understand might work out worse. it’s a shock to encounter their paperwork after govt forms, no plain english kite marks there. and it doesn’t reassure me to have something explained. “oh, this just means…” might not really mean that – if i have to have something explained verbally then that’s not what i’m signing.

      still, when today is over it’s over. i will just have to let go and see how things fall.

  5. I met Oliver Sacks briefly, about 20+ years ago. He’s a friend my sister. He gave a talk at the Exploratorium in San Francisco during an interesting exhibit of art produced by Migraineurs. The exhibit featured many of the auras and other visual fetures that the artists eperienced – many more than I have seen, but I recognized the ones I get.

    Oliver Sacks signed my Migraine book. It was a fun read. I’ve since lost the book – probably lent it to some filthy book thief person. May they get a migraine reading it!

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