Spoonie Solutions

Hands up who has #spoonie problems? Me too, I probably whine about them a lot. You’ll know this if you follow my ig stories! So what’s this #spooniesolutions all about? Well it’s turning the hashtag #spoonieproblems on it’s head. Before you cry in protest its not because the problems are not valid, quite the opposite in fact. They matter so much, and need to be highlighted. #spooniesolutions is all about identifying the problems and shouting about them. Then I want to attempt to discover some answers.

This all came about after a combination of discussions, and a personal review of my blog and Instagram. I had a big appointment recently in which I found that, as expected, I have an area of hyperperfusion in my brain. In the appointment I took it in my stride, but as the results sank in I felt very upset. Part of me wanted to jump for joy that I have a positive (as in something showing up not a feel good) result, and part of me was scared and in shock. It explains a lot including migraine, and serious mental health issues, confusion and fatigue. But it broke my heart to think that it is active in the blood vessels in my brain. For my own sanity I had to recognise my upset (spoonie problem) but find a way to deal with it (spoonie solution). For the first week I cried and it still makes me cry now. But I am getting there.

I’m in a position now in which I can reflect on how I’ve survived through the past few years. Yes that’s dramatic but it has been survival. I can hand on heart say that it’s been through living life slowly and taking time to nurture myself by being creative and living a more simple life. I want the solutions to #spoonieproblems to reflect this but also offer a range of approaches that I hope will be useful to me and anyone else that is out there and reading. They’ll include practical advice, campaigning for change, and most importantly opening up the issue for discussion.

As a veteran spoonie I feel qualified to address the issues from an insider’s perspective. But to ensure that the solutions given are thorough and actually useful I will be consulting with other spoonies via the comments here, Instagram and in real life. I will also include resources from medical practitioners, other websites (such as The Mighty), apps (such as HealthUnlocked) and relevant organisations.

I have a few solution guides planned including travel and holidays (vacations), everyday travel, work and benefits, and hobbies. All of these will include parts of my personal story and anecdotes. But I will approach how to deal with them by being creative and living slow.

Please don’t be shy, I’d love to help your share your story and looked at spoonie problems together. Let me know in the comments, via social media or email.

Look forward to hearing from you…

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Diagnosis Murder Part 1

Well I’ve attempted to write this a few times and failed. In the past I’ve been given labels and written about them. And in reality my diagnosis is still fluid and ongoing.

It’s mostly described as a list of symptoms with a few anecdotes/ short stories thrown in for goo measure. I’ll start all the way back in the beginning… take a deep breath and grab a comfy seat, it’s a long one.

The early days

When I was younger I used to have bouts of severe stomach aches, and vomiting. I remember my first one so clearly. As a birthday treat my mum and dad had taken me to London to see ‘Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’. Any 80s child, and closet Jason Donavon fan, will remember the song that was at number one for like forever (sorry if it’s now in your head t… any dream will do…). We were too late to see Jason but starring in it was Philip Schofield of the broom cupboard fame. If you’re too young to get the references then you really missed out. I vaguely remember the show and the t-shirt I got a treasured (until my sister pinched it and vommed all over it whilst travel sick). What really sticks out though is the insane stomach ache I had after the show. We had gone to get pizza and I spent the whole time in the toilet unable to hold anything down.

And so it continued from that point and happened anywhere and everywhere. Always coming on super fast and the most painful thing ever. All the attacks were attributed to an almost ten year grumbling appendix. In reality I think they were Abdominal Migrainesthat were mentioned at the time but not really explored. This was the appearance of my first condition, Chronic Migraine.

Head and occasional abdominal migraines are with me to this day. And no they are not just headaches but they are completely dibilitating and so painful you wonder whether you can cope (if someone gave you a shotgun you’d probably pull the trigger). I have ended up in hospital with mine and take meds daily to stop them. In the last 3 months I have had 5 major attacks each lasting from 7 to 24 hours. Sometimes they cluster and sometimes they don’t. They have a significant affect on my life as are so sudden and viscous. They stop me functioning completely. I’ve tried multiple medications including Propranolol (worked a little bit) and Pizotifen (worked a lot but caused massive weight gain) and my current medication Sodium Valproate ( I have it under review). I also find that sumatriptan is the best medication to use when they start. My latest one has lasted 6 days and although I’ve managed to carry on functioning throughout and stave off the big blow out. It’s been painful I’ve lost my appetite and sleep.

Teens

At 17 I had an enormous attack of stomach pain and migraine. I was supposed to be painting the set of a play and ended up rolling around on the floor cloth in agony, I saw the school nurse and begged to just go home. Looking back I was so used to self managing these attacks that I was convincing to others that I was better than I was. (I still do this now, so if you ever do see me asking for an ambulance, I really need it.) On this occasion the School Nurse must have got me a cab home or something. All I remember was the next couple of days wanting to die from the pain. At some point a GP came out to me and when I wouldn’t let her touch me because of the pain she told me I was being a silly little girl. She gave me pethidine and anti sickness and told me I’d sleep for ages then be ok. I woke up twenty minutes after she left and was back in exactly same pain and vomiting. Eventually I was only bringing up pure black liquid (sorry) and had a circular bruise on my forehead where I’d passed out on a bucket and was still being sick. Eventually another GP came and said it was classic appendicitis. I went off to hospital and had my appendix out.

As a side note, the not being believed by doctors, the self managing of the attacks, misdiagnoses. Plus falling behind at school and teachers thinking I didn’t care has had a huge affect on my mental health and self esteem. In particular feeling as though I had failed and feeling guilt for being ill, or though I was using it as an excuse, is still with me now and it hurts to write it. I remember one of the drama teachers, who was involved in the play I mentioned above, pulling me aside and asking me if I should be doing drama! All because I’d missed the play whilst in hospital and hadn’t finished the floor cloth I was writhing on. Despite getting an ‘a’ in that course, completing a degree, and running a successful theatre company for ten years, I still ask myself the same question and it cuts really deep.

After my appendectomy (still don’t know if it was appendicitis or migraine) at 17 I kept getting flu like symptoms. I had constant fatigue and joint pains. It went on for weeks and weeks, then into months. At the time it was attributed to a glandular fever like virus that my body couldn’t fight off. I dropped back a year in sixth form and began the pattern of doing things at my pace. I couldn’t focus in lessons and would fall asleep on my desk despite fighting it. Interestingly at a similar time my sister was diagnosed with Juvenille Arthritus, and what I didn’t know till later was my mum was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. I think this episode was either my autoimmune trigger or the first signs of activity. Multiple blood tests at the time showed positive ANA and white blood cell activity but it was never explored further.

Also from about 15 years old I began to struggle with mental health. At this time it was suggested I had Anxiety and Depression. By the time I went to University at 19 this was really affecting my life and I asked for counselling etc from my GP. By the time I was in my 4th year of university I was having an extremely difficult time personally, with my degree and at home. All of these contributed to a series of severe panic attacks. These were medicated and I just got on with it.

University

Fast forward a couple of years and I wasn’t coping physically at all. Firstly I constantly had the flu and couldn’t function. I worked really hard and just found ways of coping with feeling so ill. I went to the doctors and was told I was ‘unlucky’ to have had flu nearly every month. This was the biggest insult and I just couldn’t cope. I couldn’t get a full time job but built up my self employed work. This meant I was self managing whatever was going on in my body. I could work around the illness by ploughing on with everything I had when in a good patch and hiding when I couldn’t. This managed everything on the surface but in reality I was chasing my own tail constantly. Friends and others constantly commented on how often I was ill, other less kind comments urged me to just suck it up and stop moaning. I remember having conversations with people saying I think I’m going mad but something in my body is really wrong. I still felt like a fraud and the burden of guilt.

In 2005 I began to get severe chest pains. They were so bad I couldn’t use my arms or breathe. The pain was unbearable. My first reaction was that there was something wrong with my heart so I went to my GP. They thought it was either muscular or even anxiety and sent me away with pain killers. But it kept happening in cycles and I could feel the attacks coming. I saw multiple physios who mostly made it worse through their exercises. Eventually I saw a brilliant physio who wrote back to my doctor. She had seen me for a long time and recognised a number of symptoms pointing to something more than a mechanical problem. My trigger points were wide spread and with the other symptoms she thought that maybe it was fibromyalgia. She wrote a long and thorough report for my GP that took into all my symptoms such as fatigue, confusion, dispraxia, flu like symtoms, migraine etc. I returned to my GP who called in a senior partner and they decided together that this was something more. For the very first time I was being listened to and this GP stayed with me through a lot of the next bits.

Adulting

So I finally got referred to a rheumatologist and felt like everything would finally into place. I was finally being listened to and it was recognised that something was wrong. Within seconds of the rheumatologist walking into the room I was crushed. Before even meeting me or talking to me he looked at one set of bloods and announced ‘it’s not lupus, it’s not RA’. Only then did he examine me or ask any questions. But he never really looked or listened. He avoided eye contact with me, choosing instead to stare into his computer screen. I can honestly say I’ve never met a colder or more inhuman person in my life. By the time he abruptly said ‘you can go now’ I was more confused than ever and in tears. I began to walk out as the nurse barked ‘go get your bloods’. ‘What bloods?’ I said as I broke down completely. Then she explained everything the doctor should have done, and that he was a good doctor despite his bedside manner. I don’t think he was a good doctor and triggered lots of mental health issues. Later I got a mystery letter in the post summoning me to a full upper body MRI and physio. Apparently all ordered by the rheumatologist, I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Nor did the physio it seems. I was dumped in a cubicle with a trainee who took one look at me and said ‘I can’t treat you you need someone more senior’. They’d be in contact,  they weren’t.

The next letter I got was summoning me to hydrotherapy. Amazing I thought something practical I could do to help myself. But this was not the case either. The therapists didn’t know why I was there and asked which physio I’d seen, I never had had a proper appointment with any. So they offered me sessions which I tried. The result was cancelling after three seasons as I was in so much pain I couldn’t breathe, move or sleep. My GP wrote a letter of complaint, I was so let down and felt toutured by the treatement both physically and mentally. Again I thought I was going mad, but this time my GP was behind me and persisted. I finally had someone fighting my corner.

So letters of complaint were written and I chose my next rheumatologist at a different hospital. I decided to give it another go and this time couldn’t have been more different. He listened carefully to my history and family history. He said he thought something auto immune like was going on. The first thing he diagnosed me with, however, was Joint Hypermobility Syndrome. This explained a lot of the chest pains I’d been having, as well as other symptoms in most people hypermobility isn’t a problem but with overlapping symptoms it was reeking havoc with my joints, connective tissue and pain. I was finally referred to a specialist physio who confirmed all the previous physio I had received was more damaging than good. I still see her now and she is part of my ‘magic team’ of experts. Without all the sessions I’ve had with her, including ultrasounds and acupuncture, I wouldn’t be able to move half as well as I can today.

To be continued…

Lets rest here for now because I’m tired physically from writing this and mentally from going through it all. I hope this begins to explain to others the extent of what’s going on. But mostly its been a hugely useful process for me to go through it all chronologically and to realise why some of my behaviours and blocks towards the system are there.

Next up in part two, my thirties…

Creating a bedtime routine

When the clock struck midnight on 2017 I decided to not make a New Years resolution. In fact at the time I was probably drinking a glass of bubbly and wishing I was in bed already 😂. I decided that this year I would focus on my physical health, which as you may know, is problematic. Instead of overwhelming myself I decided that each month I would set one focus to work on. For the first two months l’ve done Veganuary, and tracked my water intake.

For March the focus was sleep and here’s what I learned by tracking and focusing on it.

Medication

In 2016 I wasn’t sleeping for more than 3 to 4 hours a night due to pain and mental health. Being that sleep deprived does bad things to your wellbeing and even worse things to a body coping with autoimmune. When I went into crisis I was prescribed quetiapine which was great as it knocked me out and calmed the mind. The pay off was sleeping ten hours, not being able to wake up, and being in a constant fog. I’ve had huge meds changes over the past 3 months and dropped down in dosage on tablets that help sleep. This means I’m sleeping less but naturally so this focus has really helped me focus on natural sleep.

Undisturbed sleep

So one of my worst habits is waking up at 3am and staying awake till 7.30 am. When you then want to be up by 9 this is no good. I often need to wee in the night and have a terrible dry and painful mouth. This combined with pain in my knees and ankles due to Behcets, or bursitis on my hips that creates painsomnia, means I just couldn’t get 8 hours sleep. The meds above helped but without them I am the most restless sleeper.

Waking up

So I always aim for the average 8 hours to get up around at about 8am daily. I’d usually use the iPhone bedtime alarm on the clock app but often I wouldn’t fall asleep in time, or I’d not feel refreshed from sleep when I did. I have restless legs syndrome so would find I couldn’t get off to sleep in time. I also used my Fitbit this month to track my sleep and found that my sleep was so restless. Not really a surprise, as I mentioned above, my sleep is so disturbed. But I also realised I wasn’t helping myself as when I woke up I would be tempted to watch something on the iPad to help me get back to sleep but it was doing the reverse.

So after all this trying to focus on the problems I’ve decided to try a different approach. I wanted to make a change to the way I get ready for bed so that I set myself up for a good nights sleep and feel more in control of the individual elements. So I created a bedtime routine and thought I’d share it with you.

Making your own personalised routine

So the first thing I did was to pick a bedtime. I chose 11pm so I could aim to wake up at 7.30am ish. Then I worked back in half an hour blocks to create a plan.

10.30 pm

As this is the bit right before bed so you want to be winding down. Take these moments for a last minute tidy, but nothing rushed or intense. Turn your bedroom back into a tidy sanctuary. I put my clothes in the laundry bin and make sure everything is hung back in into place. My clothes are sorted Marie Kondo style so it’s great to keep it this way. I also tidy away any beauty products and clutter from the day. It’s here I take my bedtime meds and then hop/ into bed with a podcast playing. Oh and I found the best thing for right before you settle down, a pillow spray by Feather and Down that helps you get off to sleep. It makes me breathe deeply to inhale the incredible scent which helps with relaxing. Set up your beside table to make this easier.

10pm

I chose this time to try to empty my head. I try to keep it simple and uncomplicated. In true bullet journal style spill your mind out onto a piece of paper > check your journal > make a to do list for the next day > fill in any habit trackers and memories/ gratitude journals. Finally I pack my bag with any books or letters and post needed for the next day. Set up a place to keep your things for the morning including a charging station for your phone and battery packs etc.

9.30pm

Stretch and move. I find a last bit of activity before bed helps to firstly make you feel like your body is tired and secondly helps hugely with restless legs later on. I love yoga with Adriene.

9pmScreen free time! Try as much as possible to cut out your screen during your routine. This is the hardest thing for me to do but it is well known that the blue light affects both our health and sleep patterns so I’m trying really hard. To force me off I use the app Moment. This sets bot a daily limit and screen free time. Try to do something enjoyable in place of your phone so you don’t get tempted. Like reading a chapter of that book you’ve not got round to, or grab that colouring book you were given in 2015 and never completed.

8.30pm

Begin the wind down with a little self care. Take your bath now, I like mine scalding hot so I can feel my heartbeat and my skin turns red. Apparently by raising your temperature in the bath it then lowers your body temperature when you get out and makes you sleepy. If you don’t fancy a bath or don’t have time make sure you take your makeup off earlier in the evening so you’re not too tired and give up when you crash into bed later. I’m also trying to get into the habit of getting my clothes out for the morning, the night before so I don’t have to bother in the morning. I use the Cladwell app to help pick outfits.

So that’s my routine. It’s ambitious I know but I’m dipping into it to begin with. I always go for the slowly, slowly habit learning approach. So maybe pick one of the things to do for a week. Feel free to make it your own and find what works for you. I’d love to hear about your bedtime routines in the comments.

Anxiety girl

Hello anxiety that is making angry, scared and unsociable. Where are you coming from? I know I’ve accidentally missed some important meds and some sleep. I’ve worked quite hard volunteering, and it’s been Christmas, the most anxiety ridden time of the year. But clearly I’m a bad person who can’t manage myself.

I’ve got constant butterflies and I’m trying to do all the things to tell the negative thoughts to go away. But the voice gets stronger and I hear people talking about me and criticising as though they are in the room. I ignore it and carry on but it just gets louder.

Yesterday I didn’t have any sleep because I missed my meds the night before. The meds are the only way I sleep and without them it’s a nightmare of pain and bad thoughts and being fidgety. This combined with a migraine knocked me for six. I tried to take control of it but when the migraine kicked in I crumbled. I ploughed on and went to the cinema with my friends. I fed the migraine with darkness, drugs and caffeine. Eventually the pain subsided and only the tension remained. I felt exhausted and emotional and anything slightly negative made me catastrophise. I couldn’t talk to anyone and was convinced I just pissed everyone off. The wall went up and I teetered with a meltdown.

So I pulled my socks up and went to the pharmacy to get some emergency meds. I did my research and the Nhs website said to try your doctor (they were shut), then your pharmacy, then a walk in centre. I walked to the pharmacy in pain from swollen joints to be met with a pharmacist shaking her head. Instantly she dismissed me and told me she couldn’t help. I pleaded with her that I’d read the Nhs website and this is what it told me to do. She suddenly changed her story and said she could do it if I rang 111 for an emergency script. ‘Are you sure?’ I replied, the Nhs advice didn’t say this at all. But facing another day of suicidal thoughts and crippling anxiety was too much so I complied. ‘If they don’t get you one I’ll do it’ she said ‘but you have to try first’.

Half an hour later I was still sat in Boots. My migraine was returning and I was sat on hold to 111. The bright strip lighting flickered and pounded. I started to feel ridiculously hot and sweat soaked my clothes. My pain meds we’re wearing off. My knees, fingers, ankles, hips and back were screaming. I know I was beginning to fall over fast.

So we begged the pharmacy for somewhere quiet to sit. A super nice pharmacy assistant found us a small room and we sat with the lights off and a fan on. They asked if I wanted to go to hospital. No way Jose was I going just for meds, and a migraine, joint pain and anxiety. I agreed I would if I started vomiting , shaking or fitting.’ I explained that the best thing would be the just get home to bed. The pharmacist then changed her tact and said she’d only accept the 111 prescription and I’d need to go elsewhere if I didn’t get it in time. The inconsistency was a nightmare for my anxiety and I’d been there before to get them so was on their system. I had a bundle of paperwork to prove I was on them but it was a case of ‘computer says no.’ It was as though she was making it as difficult as possible and I was just annoying them.

The assistant, however, was wonderful and we chatted about mental health and chronic illnesses. I began to calm down and eventually spoke to 111 who said they’d get a doctor on it. We then went round in circles for the next 2.5 hours. 111 kept asking if I wanted to go to hospital as my symptoms were alarming. I didn’t want to go, the best place for me was home if only someone would give me the meds I’d manage what I’d manage everyday. I felt like a dick that caused a drama as eventually they tried to get rid of me from the pharmacy and ask me to start the whole thing again with another pharmacy. I felt like a burden and just wanted my bed.

After 3 hours, countless phone calls and giving my details over and over the prescription still hadn’t arrived. The doctor I spoke to was convinced I lived in Norwich. Erm no I said I live in Canterbury and had done for 17 years. I think I went to Norwich once about 12 years ago, it was dark and wet and I didn’t even see the town. So he continued to ask if I was visiting Canterbury. No I explained again, I live here, just like I’d told the two advisers I spoke to. He writes the prescription. Turn forward an hour and the script hasn’t arrived and so I ring them back. Im now in a flap that the store shuts in 15 minutes and I’ve sat here for no reason doing everything everyone is telling me to. I’m trying really hard to sit and be patient despite it making my pain worse. Speaking to the East Kent (not Norfolk) team again I will us to be near the end of the whole sham. Then I was told my surgery was Aldington . Nope I said I’ve given you my details 3 times it’s Chartham, perhaps Aldington is in Norfolk, I suggested!?

Anyway 10 minutes before closing the fax arrived and I was given 6 tablets in a bag by a rude and unsympathetic pharmacist. Lack of pain control and anxiety through the roof I’m a mess, I’ve convinced myself she hates me, all the staff have been talking about me and I never should have said I went to the cinema to hide from the light. I’m not sure who was judging me more, them or myself?

By this point every look, word and action becomes overwhelming. I’d tried to plan a nice New Years Eve with a cocktail menu and funny description bit that means everyone who was coming was included. My friend had rejected it by saying she’d only drink her own cocktail on the list. I knew her reasons were ok, she wanted to stick with one drink to not get too hungover etc. But in this mindset it’s rejection. The menu, lovingly made by me for everyone, went straight in the bin as soon as I got in. I felt as though I’d tried to make a nice gesture then been told I was controlling or had bad taste/ ideas. I was ready to give up and go to sleep and sulk.

Somehow in that moment I managed to pull myself out of it. I put on my dress and lipstick and found some inner strength to have a good night. I rebuffed the negativity and overwhelming thoughts and for the most of it laughed and had a genuinely good time. It didn’t mean I wasn’t squashing the ‘they all hate you’ voice constantly, but as dramatic as it sounds I survived another New Years! I’m proud of myself despite being exhausted because I won a battle.

This morning I’ve woken up with the butterflies. It’s the alcohol I drank acting as a depressant, I tell myself. It’s because you’re ill and tired. I start to work a little on a project I volunteered on. I poured everything I had into it but I feel like a failure. Every time I try to make something happen on it there’s obstacles, politics and I do the wrong thing. Now I’m utterly terrified of the meeting tomorrow and that I’ll be belittled. I can hear the conversations that are going on behind my back and I feel sick with butterflies. But it’s just another day that I’ll get through somehow.

I am anxiety girl and I think I’ve realised at the moment I’m not at my most well. So bear with me, I’m fighting it and it will be ok but I may be a little fragile.

As an after thought. Just like the meme says above I have 99 problems and 86 are in my head. If I’m working with you at the moment, or have been around you it’s more likely my sensitivity and brain than anything that’s real. Chronic worrier here gets all sorts muddled. I’m also excellent at hiding it all, even from myself.

Through the looking glass.

And the world spun on and she disappeared in between the gaps. The mirror looked like another room, but as she stepped through there was no drama or magic. She just slipped, into another place between the glass and out of sight.

It wasn’t a sudden event but had been a gradual process of slipping and fading. She once had burnt brightly and fiercer. She once had maybe been liked or even loved (or maybe duped into believing so). But friends who declared allegiance grew tired of her melancholy and as the dramas faded away, they too stopped calling. They wouldn’t be there with their promises a second time round. Their false declarations of solidarity and support made it feel worse.

Life was old news, just like her. She was unable to move forward, no energy to write a new chapter. Her brightness and glow from inside dissolved. Whilst those around flourished and grew from strength to strength and she wilted. She became a nobodies somebody. 

The world turned and as she did she slipped further into the shadows. Everything she’d achieved and earned burnt away as others shone so bright. The world had robbed her and left everyone else with something whilst she was nothing. 

She can’t do this world. She’s too tired, too lonely, too weak envious, too much, in pain and doesn’t want to anymore. Fed up of pretending, enough was enough. That’s when she discovered that the no place was a real place. A chance to step away and begin from scratch. It was her story, owned by her and she held the pen. She could write something new in a way that was  like no one else’s.

She held the pen and began to draw. The first thing she drew was a boat. Not grand, just a tiny vessel. Nothing more than a board bench and some oars. She climbed onboard and launched into the inky sea, and didn’t look behind even once.


Dear Wolf

It has been a while since we had a little chat. Mostly because I’ve been busy as you know because when I am you sneak in to take a bite or two whilst I’m sleeping.

So it’s been a tough time since not working full-time, trying to manage illness and guilt, both playing off against each other. I have begun to realise that you are a black wolf, the wild cousin of the black dog. You affect me both physically and mentally. We are caught in a perpetual cycle of being ill and tired, or being kind to ourselves then being consumed by guilt for not working or not socialising etc.


My biggest frustration at the moment is when you take up residence inside my head. My head which was once sharp, intelligent, and on the ball. It ran a company, studied and managed large projects. It retained countless random facts and remembered everything. Just lately it’s not even been able to remember simple tasks. 

Most of the time this is amusing, like turning up to appointments a whole day early, despite writing the date out a million times over. Then returning the next day joking how efficient I am. I’ve even tried to lock the front door with the remote for my car and not understood why it wouldn’t work. I laughed at the time I organised an entire road trip to Scotland to visit friends and family. Somehow, despite writing everything down meticulously, I managed to book every visit and every hotel a week behind our actual trip. It was organised chaos on a spectacular level. Luckily, everyone saw the funny side and we managed to find hotels in which to stay. Most things work out eventually so I just laugh it off and rearrange.
Other times though, it is plain humiliating. Like not turning up to a huge schools day on a project I worked on for weeks because my brain just wouldn’t function. I cried when I didn’t see the results and felt like I let everyone down. The amount of tickets booked that have to be cancelled and re-booked because I cant match dates up. Keys permanently left in my front door (yes come rob me) because I forget or get confused. I get to work and they talk about my shift tomorrow and I smile because I had completely not seen that shift on the rota but luckily someone always reminds me (so far). Even as I type this on the train from London to Edinburgh, I redden at the fact the train tickets had to be cancelled and re-booked because, despite checking three times over, I booked entirely the wrong dates and days. Then the ticket collector arrives and I squirm because I cannot find the ticket I was holding just 3 minutes before. It’s humiliating and I can laugh most of the time, but as someone who was so good at life before I feel so stupid now.
The humiliation that has taken me sliding down every rung of the ladder and smashed my face on every step. I still try to see the funny side and always will. 
So Wolf, this week has been one of continuous humiliation, of which I’ll continue my frustrations in my next letter.
At the moment dear Wolfy, I ask that please can you leave my favourite organ – my brain – alone. I’ve always quite liked it and I need it most days…

Learning about Chronic Illness and Autoimmune Disease

About a week ago a book caught my eye: The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook by Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt

For those of you that have been following my journey recently you will know that due to multiple chronic illnesses I have taken a year or so out to live slow and heal. During this time there have been lots of battles in my brain to do with acceptance and grieving for a life lost (My post about diagnosis can be read here). So when I stumbled across the Autoimmune Wellness podcast I was already in. I love a good podcast as they save me when I have painsomnia or on the days I’m too ill to read and sick of screens. In podcast one Mickey and Angie spoke about their own journey and reason behind the book  so I ordered myself a used copy on Amazon. Let my investigation into my body and its quirks begin. I have a very lov/ hate dialogue with my body and chronic illness and for once I feel I may have the space to address this.


To be honest I am a little sceptical. The amount of ‘cures’ thrown at people with Autoimmune and invisible illnesses are huge. Everyone has a method or a miracle cure or the handy advice of ‘exercise more’ or ‘eat better’. What appealed to me here is the fact it’s a DIY guide and not a manual. Not ‘here’s what works’ but a try this journey and see what works for you. Anything I can adapt works for me and they have podcasts and Instagra. Sign me up, I’m a social media sucker!


So the book arrived and it has a pretty cover so I like that ✔️

Then a friendly story about the authors, another  ✔️ for me. 

It explains how it works in simple terms ✔️. 

Then my fave bit, a checklist quiz all about where you are on the spectrum of Autoimmune, I loved this ✔️✔️✔️.


Then I made the big bad mistake of skipping through the book to the section on food. I knew I’d panic when I saw the elimination diet but OMG it’s epic. It literally excludes everything I like. Bad me, I shouldnt have done this but I did. The pleasure of food and eating is one of the things I feel I have left, and the thought of a strict regime makes me panic a little inside. Even if it made my illness manageble I’m so stubborn and I love caffiene, cake and cheese!

 

Even though I don’t think I’ll manage this saintly diet I’m going to stick with the book for now. Those who know me well will know I’m a typical Gemini who follows the next shiny thing so this may be a short lived project. But my intent is to work slowly through the process and get to the diet when I’m ready and less resistent. It’s worth a shot no?

I’ve recently realised that I dont have to be the best at everything, I don’t have to do everything perfectly. I can start things and even if I dont do them to the letter I can extract some good from them. For example I did a smartphone detox a while back and I’m far from saintly, still addicted, but I no longer have notifications on, deleted the Facebook app and am able to  put it down. 3 good things came of that so thats success not failure right?
I’m going to attempt to blog my journey with this tis book so welcome to the adventrue be it long or short…

The snap election that made me snap

On Tuesday I was driving to Bristol to see my sister and her family. On the way down came the news over the radio of a snap election. Oh no, more disappointment and strife. I know that’s dramatic but I’ve been so hopeful in recent elections, and the referendum, to then be squashed and let down. Me stuck in my echo chamber of disbelief that bounces around my nearest and dearest. I didn’t even dare to hope that this may bring a different outcome. I feel defeated, dejected and a little out of fight and it’s not even begun.

But as I listened to Theresa May’s speech about her reasons why she has made an election u-turn I found myself screaming at the radio. It wasn’t anything to do with the fact she’s gone back on her word about the election in general. I get it situations, tactics, and people change.

It wasn’t even the section that declared it was Westminster that was fractured, not the country, that made me snap. I mean that part did make my blood boil. After all it’s your job as a politician to be divided in views and options and to argue and debate these. Oh yeah and the country are clearly are all at odds, hence the split vote of Brexit.

The bit that made me completely snap was this:

“Our opponents believe that because the Government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course.

“They are wrong.

“They under-estimate our determination to get the job done and I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country.”

Sorry, say what?! She is not prepared to endanger the security of working people?! So what, everyone else can be thrown into the sacrificial fire? Children, young people, students, retired, people with disabilities, unemployed and sick, terminally ill you can be endangered, have your security threatened and suffer to save the ‘working’.

To me a prime minister should be saying  I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of people across the country. Because that is the job of the Prime Minister; to be working for her nation. To serve the people and protect them, a nation as a whole, not just the ones you select.

I am fully aware she may have meant protecting people’s jobs when Brexit happens, but life is more than that. It’s people’s health, wellbeing, education, culture, families, freedom of expression, right to live. Brexit is about more than jobs.

I’m about to reveal a big shocker. Sometimes life isn’t black and white! Sometimes things just go wrong and the person that was working suddenly finds themselves in a different place to where they dreamed. I wonder if you have ever experienced that Teresa?

Please take a moment to step into my shoes. I followed the formula: I went to college then to university. I’ve always worked hard and above and beyond. I worked 50 hour weeks as a student and after I graduated. For years I dreamed of setting up my own arts company and worked in all sorts of jobs to make this happen. I’ve always paid tax and N.I. the whole way.

From 17 years old my mental and physical health began to play up. Despite this I carried on and tried to earn a living but always ended up in the renting and credit/ debt game. When I started to not cope and drown in symptoms these loans and debt and renting weighed me down further. I tried to live within my limits and keep on earning. I tried to reach for help to budget and dug myself out of holes. I never asked for help from anyone and being fiercely proud I did it all myself.

Inevitably when my health worsened I sunk. I blame myself for poor choices and being defiant by working in the arts. I blame myself for running a non for profit company to help others. I blame myself for getting ill and wonder if I just pulled my socks up I’d somehow manage to work.

The final rock in my pocket is your prejudice as a Prime Minister Mrs May. Your promise to protect working people leaves me out cold. It’s another albatross of guilt strung around my neck. It’s the nail in the coffin of my self-worth. I hide inside the house a lot, incase I’m showing I’m enjoying my life for not working. The reality is very different. The other day I visited a garden with a friend. I posted pictures of my adventures. What I chose not to post were the 4 hours I had to sleep to regain a little energy. The 3 days of back pain and mobility issue as payment for walking. The looks you get for not being at work when everyone else is. And most of all the boredom and frustration at not being able to have a choice.

Just before the election announcement I was visited by a Conservative Party campaigner. He arrived at the garden gate and stood for five minutes talking loudly on his mobile. I began to stumble trip down the garden to meet him and waited for him to finish his call. Eventually he did and he was pleasant enough. He asked me if I would vote Conservative in May’s local election. I told him bluntly that I never would. His response was ‘what if I said we would reduce your council tax, then would you vote for us?’ To me this was the catalyst to a rant. I politely explained back that I am currently in a system to which I’ve always paid tax and I’m being humiliated and let down. The lack of social housing means I face eviction, court, homelessness, living in a bed a breakfast and still may not get help. I spend hours filling out forms, exposing my entire soul-destroying medical history to strangers. My voice raised and my lip wobbled as I told him I’m doubted and tested and have to fight every corner to gain pretty much nothing. Funnily enough I don’t think we should be paying less council tax, but more to help and care for everyone’s security.

He looked shocked and said he ‘was sorry’ as he was already backing away. I know I may have fooled him as I’m not your typical ‘benefits scrounger’. I live in the countryside and I’m mostly well presented. I’m well-educated, intelligent and speak with a slightly posh accent. Maybe I was in disguise or maybe, just maybe, there isn’t a typical non worker. He couldn’t have got away from me quicker once I revealed my ‘not working’ card. What he should have done if wanting to talk to people face to face was stayed and listened. He could have reported back the faults in the system and cared enough to make a change to all people, not just those of certain income or social standing.

I get that people out there play the benefits system. I get that there needs to be a level of testing. But this does not mean all people who don’t work do this out of choice. I’d literally give my legs or right arm to be able to work (no pun intended). I would love to see my passion and skills put to good use, but I can’t. This has nearly destroyed me inside without the judgement of others from the outside. Save your council tax bribery and your tiny words of judgement.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but that one tiny word ‘working’ made me feel sick. Like I wasn’t worth looking after. Than I am a villain for claiming benefits and it makes me a burden; a cheat, a lower class of person. That cleverly placed word amongst all the others wasn’t a mistake. It was deliberately put there to make people fear and hate those not working.

Make sure when you judge someone for not working you know their story first, or even better? Just don’t judge.

Mother’s Day Fallout

Dear Wolf

Its been a while since we had a chat about things. Mental health has taken prevalence over physical but I think both belong to you. You are the wolf that bites and the black dog that lurks. Mental health and physical health are linked.

Partly this is because mental health is physical. Maybe its nervous system damage or a chemical imbalance. Currently my diagnosis dances between ‘born with it’ and ‘bad experiences’. The old nature or nurture argument. It drives me mad that mental health is treated separately, but more on this another time.

What I really want to have is a little chat about that phrase ‘Its not surprising you’re feeling down with all that s going on’. Nope it really isn’t. Being limited and constrained feels unfair and chronic pain is simply torture.

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day, some say another hallmark day, I like just letting my mum know I’m grateful for her being my mum. But when you celebrate a group of people there’s always a whole group of people excluded. In this case women who are not mothers. My sister captured the feeling in her Instagram stories on the day…

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That shouldn’t be a problem, I hear you grumble, and generally it isn’t. It’s just sometimes it makes us feel sad to be left out. Sad to not have a choice in the first place. I don’t want to go into extensive detail. But diseases like Lupus are common in causing miscarriages, make for a high risk pregnancy and the meds we take are too strong. We are told fiercely by our doctors not to get pregnant. You can read a little more about it here.

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That’s the physical side and mentally it affects you too. I have an innate fear that I couldn’t care for a baby or child when I’m so exhausted all the time. I can’t even look after myself, let alone someone else. Also there’s a part of me which says ‘what if I pass it on’.

IMG_5143For me the most significant part of not being in the club are the questions from others. So I guess this post is a little get out clause for me. HAVING CHILDREN IS NOT A SIMPLE OPTION. And before you suggest giving up meds/ just doing it anyway/ not being so pessimistic/ tick tock time is running out/  when you’re better/ please believe me that these are things we’ve tried ver and over or run through in our heads.

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It just isn’t that simple and on top of the usual worries people have about money/ career/ relationships we just don’t have the choice. That is it really, as with all chronic illness it is being robbed of choice or options.

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So I’ll send my card and appreciate mums everywhere. I’ll ignore the targeted adverts about fertility or baby clothes. Pick my self up and keep on being me (with a little ache inside).

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Reality

For all those that may think my 6 months off is a lark heres a link to a little video. Do you know what it is and it isn’t fun, just like working is and isn’t. This is what most days look like unless I’m off finding a small break in the misery like flying a kite or walking my pup.

Plus I’m broke, on the verge of homelessness and generally a bit of a whinge.

I also carry massive amounts of guilt for not working.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FChronicIllnessOnThemighty%2Fvideos%2F1374582545896823%2F&show_text=0&width=560