Weather Changes and Autumn as a Spoonie

Welcome Autumn and my favourite time of the year. I adore September and October with their golden afternoons, the abundance of foods, and the cosier evenings. I don’t know about you but I don’t fair well in the heat, it exhausts me and the sun irritates my skin. Neither do I do well in the cold and damp, it makes my joints ache and my mood dip. Autumn, however, seems perfect. I love a crisp but sunny morning, or an afternoon wrapped up warm for a gentle walk.  But something else happens in Autumn that leaves us spoonies floored and I’m not sure quite what it is. I’ve thought through a few of my theories here to try and come up with a Spoonie’s Guide to Autumn.

Weather Changes

So every time a season changes we find ourselves having to adapt. I find at these changing points I’m forever saying ‘we’re just not used to this heat/ cold/ darker nights/ humidity/ damp’ (the list goes on). Yes us Brits like to talk/ moan incessantly about the weather, but I’m sure there’s more to it, especially for us hypersensitive beings. And it seems there is actually proof of this.

Auto Immune I remember my clinic lead, Professor Fortune, telling me that changes in season affect bodies on a cellular level and it seems there is some proof. The BBC has a couple of brilliant articles on this. The first looks at facts behind the myths such as:

  • Rain gives you rheumatism – the answer is maybe but theres no conclusive evidence, its more likely power of the mind.
  • Falling air pressure is a pain in the head – I’m migraine queen aka the human barometer so I swear this is true and one study from Japan seems to suggest its true

The second article is much more focused on an in depth study on how temperature change affects our genes and immunology. In brief an international team of researchers conducted a study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to look at how this happens. They “found genes involved with immunity – the body’s defence against infection – were more active in cold months. And while this helps fight off viruses such as flu, it may trigger or worsen conditions, such as arthritis, where the body attacks itself, they say.” 

The study examined how this happens on a genetic level and found that when looking at genes “a quarter showed clear signs of seasonal variation”. The genes that were of most interest included ones associated with immunity and inflammation. Interestingly it wasn’t the degree of cold that was initiating the changes but the temperature changes themselves as ‘During cold, winter months – December to February for people living north of the equator and June to August for those in the southern hemisphere – these genes were more active. When they studied people living close to the equator, where the temperatures are fairly high all year round, they noticed a different pattern. Immunity and inflammation was linked to the rainy season, when diseases such as malaria are more rife.” A change is temperature is all that is needed to trigger flare ups as it directly affect the cells and ‘that increase in inflammation could now be a risk factor for diseases of modern life’ Prof John Todd, Study author. Big stuff hey?

Viruses and other factors are also linked to an increase in symptoms and flare ups for Spoonies. Many reasons have been given to why this season is prime cold and flu season. Maybe it is because we stay indoors more, have more close contact with each other or beginning of university and schools terms mean more people mixing. One thing is for certain and thats for those, like me, who take immuno-suppressants the exposure to viruses, infection and bacteria is a headache all in itself. Immuno-suppresants mean that, surprise surprise, our immune systems are suppressed and do not work as well in fighting things off. So don’t be offended if you have a cold and I  instantly grab for the hand gel. Getting a cold or virus also can trigger a flare up, even if we don’t fully develop the original cold. I get far less colds than other people but my body knows if I’ve come into contact with one. Unfortunately my immune system just cannot tell the difference between the things its supposed to be attacking and my own body. At the recent Behçets Syndrome Society conference in Bristol, Professor Fortune said that she has a date in October circled on the calendar every year for when they have to open up loads of emergency appointment slots as so many of us flare.

So how can we deal with all of this? My answer is be prepared as you can and a little acceptance.

The Nature Communications study above concluded that as well as a genetic change “diseases and other factors, such as nutrition and stress, could affect how genes function.” So lets build some of these into the survival guide.

How to embrace and survive Autumn

Autumn Activities – Try some of these spoonie friendly adventures to help with wellbeing

  1. Get outdoors. Take a visit to somewhere you can take in all the beauty of nature and how dramatically its changing at this time of year. Do what you can, you don’t have to hike for miles across farmland and forests to appreciate the changing landscape. You could take a car ride, visit a city park or sit in the last of the warm sunny days in your garden. Boosting vitamin d levels at this time of year can really help with the impending winter blues too.
  2. Get crafty. There are so many things that are nice to make as we want to spend more time being cosy indoors.
    • This month I am making a wonderful leaf garland, inspired by Hannah at Seeds and Stitches
    • I am embroidering fabrics in preparation for Christmas presents. If you are like me and like to hand make your Christmas presents, start now so you don’t put pressure on yourself.
  3. Get Cosy and warm and hermit without guilt. Get out blankets and hot water bottles ready for colder evenings. Give them a wash and some care before they do into their full winter sofa bound days. Enjoy activities that are away from screens (save those Netflix binges for sick days). Non screen time is much better for you and there are things that can occupy you. I’ve just found a new love for jigsaw puzzles!
  4. An Autumn Feast – Wow there’s food aplenty at this time of year, especially after a long hot summer, heres how to make the most of it. Enjoy homegrown fruits and vegetables. If you’re like me and have a garden then at the moment you’re probably overrun by crops such as tomatoes. When I’ve had the energy I have been picking them in droves and jarring them as passata. A basic recipe can be found here and its easily adapted to include herbs and spices you’ve grown too.
    1. Get to a local food festival and treat yourself to something scrummy. Food festivals re great at finding a huge variety of foods and you’re more likely to come across diet friendly snacks too. Ive been to two in the past three weeks including a chilli festival!
    2. Go on a forage. From September onwards, you can pick a huge amount for free from forests and hedgerows. Pick fruits such as elderberries, blackberries, rose hips and more. I turned my elders into a vitamin c boost spiced syrup and my hips and chillies into a spiced jelly. Theres also other treasures to be found like sloes, bullaces, crab apples, cob nuts, sweet chestnuts, mushrooms and fungi… just remember to only harvest them if you are 100% sure you know what they are!

Autumn is transition, change and drama. In slow living it’s the time to prepare for what’s ahead. Don’t rush it, save your spoons, enjoy the beauty and prepare for the winter ahead.

To find out more about things mentioned in this post visit…

How to find joy

  1. Walk with a dog, more people talk to you than if you walk alone
  2. Use the ‘golden hour’ to take a photo and marvel at your skills 
  3. Wake up just to see the sun rise and do step two. You’re allowed to go back to 
  4. Laugh really really hard till it hurts. Friends and YouTube videos help
  5. Make someone cake for no reason and share their joy 
  6. Show a child ‘wonder’ and watch their joy, it’s infectious 
  7. For slow burning joy plant some seeds and feel joyful each time you see them grow a little bigger, and think ‘I made that happen’ 
  8. Light a fire, indoors or out, and spend time roasting parts of your body till they go red. Decide it’s probably bad for you so sit and stare and getting lost in the flames 
  9. Eat cheese and don’t feel bad
  10. Climb as high as you can to get a really good view

Narrow Margins

I can’t ever get this song out of my head. The words, oh the words, they say my all thoughts. The melody gets me in the pit everytime.

“Narrow Margins”
I can’t live this way

Breaking all my rules again

Choking on my gin

You push ’til I give in

‘Til the loser always wins
Somehow with his beckoning

Bruising with his threads

Confusing what he says

But I won’t live that way

Though I kind of want to anyway

Kind of want to play

With all the pretty and the pure

Well I return to the earth

I return to the dust

No more beauty by the pound

And this I do not trust
‘Cause nothing forgives

Rules and narrow margins

In our lives

It’s rules and narrow margins

But I will slip by
I can’t find the time

I don’t know the future

I couldn’t bring that past back

I waste what little time I have
But I swear I almost touched it

Yet it slipped between my fingers

Sent shivers down my spine

Cut a splinter in my mind
But it wasn’t nothing, again

These rules and narrow margins

But our life

Is rules and narrow margins

But I will slip by
Rules and narrow margins

Rules and narrow margins

But I will slip by
Half Moon Run

Blink and you’ll miss it.

The sun barely shines in the bright cold sky. The cold creeps in every gap and forgotten tuck-in.

The bonfire burns old whilst the smoke writes the memories across the sky. Warming the sun bleached snow as it melts into clear furrows.

The land sighs as it sleeps, turns over, seeing the Sun isn’t shining she goes back to her dreams. The excitement and magic melts away, the only day you wish the sun took leave.

In a day the stream flows. Playing it’s cool melody on the slowly warming rocks. The pond might be frozen but it’s path is too risky to find out.

With fingers wrapped in gloves that make them too cumbersome. Take off the gloves, use your hands briefly before they freeze and become just as clumsy.

The crow carries the sound of winter on its breath, Its black heart never dies.Only chased away by birds of song, shrill and tinkling, dancing in the fragile sun.

All that’s left of the snow is the snagged fleece in brambles; fake snow that sparkles with dew. My fingers bleed on it’s purity as I snatch it from the branches.

Pines that defy the cold breathe their sent into the warming air. Something is afoot, but blink and you’ll miss it.

 

A recipe for bath bombs 🛀 💥 

So this a few weeks ago I had a craft session with my friend Helen. She came up with the idea of creating our own ‘kindness advent calendars’ instead of buying cheap (or overpriced) supermarket ones. Don’t get me wrong, I love the nostalgia of an advent calendar but this seemed like fun and had more purpose. You can see what we did here.

So on day three I dipped into my lucky dip of tasks and chocolate and drew this:

I thought everyone would expect me to give a cake recipe, and I nearly did but I couldn’t decide on just one as my favourite. So I thought I’d share my bath bomb recipe instead. They make great gifts, so get stuck in and make some of you own using my base recipe as a starter, then add your own flare!

To make ‘Lush’ style bath bombs you’ll need: 

  • A bowl for mixing
  • A whisk for blending
  • Measuring cups for measuring ingredients
  • Silicone moulds for shaping
  • A spray bottle for water
  • A saucepan for melting scent and oil

I like to get everything out before I start so I’m prepared, just like when baking.

The base recipe:

  • 1 cup bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 a cup of citric acid
  • 1/2 a cup of Epsom Salts
  • 2 tbsp of oil (coconut, olive, almond etc.)
  • 2 tsp of scent (essential oils preferably)
  • Purified or filtered water
  • Extras like dried flowers, glitter or colouring

The method:

I’ve put together an easy to follow YouTube tutorial here.

Or you can follow these steps:

  1. Measure the dry ingredients into your bowl and give them a good whisk to bland and get rid of lumps
  2. In the saucepan melt or heat your oil. Add your essential oils right at the last-minute so you don’t burn off the scent.
  3. Give the oil and fragrance a good mix before adding it into the dry mixture
  4. Give the mixture a good mix till it starts to clump together
  5. Add any extras such as glitter or dried flowers. You could also colour them with regular food colouring. (Don’t worry you won’t get dyed by it as it is so dilute once it’s dissolved in a bath.)
  6. Spray a couple of sprays at a time over your mixture. Don’t go overboard or you’ll start it fizzing and it’ll be too wet
  7. Test that the mixture holds together by squeezing it with your hand.
  8. If it’s holding together pack it tightly into your silicone mould.
  9. Smooth off the top and leave for at least 24 hours before taking out the mould.
  10. Gift-wrap or enjoy your bath bomb

Tips:

  • I always use essential oils over fragrance as they have more depth and benefits. They are expensive but I think worth it
  • Silicone works well as it peels off the moulds
  • Use simple moulds or the bomb may crumble
  • You could also make them inside cookie cutters that are simple.
  • When using dried flowers less is more. They’re lovely but too many floating in the bath gets a bit yucky
  • I’m the reverse with glitter as I love the stuff and you can never have enough!

So that’s it. I’d love to see some of your creations. What scent combinations would you use? Please ask questions or make suggestions by leaving a comment.

Photography Lesson #1

You may remember that a while ago I asked for people to donate or exchange creative skills with me. I wrote a post all about the adventures I would like to go on. You can read it here.

On Saturday morning I was lucky enough to be offered a beginners lesson in using my camera with Pete Fry.

We got up early, wrapped up warm and headed off to Seasalter. I love the beach in winter with it’s washed out colours. It was a misty morning across the marshland and perfect for some beginner shots.

Pete patiently explained how to use the exposure, shutter speed and ISO on my camera. I just experimented with what worked and what didn’t. How to make changes to get more interesting shots. I still have a lot to learn!

Its just a start but here are my 6 fave shots from the morning.

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Thanks to Pete for his patience and insights. If you would like to swap or donate me a creative experience please contact me below:

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The Art of Slow

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Well I’ve chatted a lot about the negativity of chronic illness, I’ve also searched hard for the positive.

Recently I’ve managed to find myself in crisis, one of those moments when it never rains but pours. I made a list of ‘losts’:

  • My health
  • My work
  • My heart
  • My home

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Pretty huge things and I don’t have much left. But to reexamine the list, stop and breathe has truly been insightful. Despite my stubbornness I’ve been forced to halt and reassess.

  • My health  I do less things and a slower pace. These are things that I enjoy.
  • My work I transfer my skills to find something that fits with the above. Work is about love not money.
  • My heart It’s about time I stop letting others destroy me and love myself. In turn I make room for good people.
  • My home I simplify my home and living to make it work for me and love everything within it

So I welcoming ‘The Art Of Slow’ whatever this means! I’m discovering it day by day as a personal journey. Adapting to the seasons and the needs of each day as it comes. Savouring moments and building them into something special.

To start off I’m going to do a few of these 25 suggestions to savour November

Thank you chronic illness, you gave me the gift of slow…

 

#SeekingBeauty

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Right now I’m no words all emotion. I’m genuinely 💔  for America (and the rest of the world). We are a global community and need to extend our love beyond it’s borders.

My dear friend Beth @wisewordsfest posted her son’s wise words: “If we all stand close to the people that are unkind then they’ll learn from us how to be kind. If we are all a long way away they will never see that being kind works better” – he’s 5 going on a 105 in wisdom.

There’s so much truth and hope in his words. So let’s all take stock and breathe. We need baby steps to figure out this crisis on humanity. As part of my recent breakthrough in recovery I started using the #seekingbeauty. Finding small and beautiful sights and moments in the day. Please use it too and share all these tiny things that make the world a better place in the comments below or with me on instagram. If you use the # or tag me I may share a few of my faves in a future blog post.

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Today

The streets itch with discontent,

The map was off centre all day.

Childish tears threaten to break through the adult face.

The stone walls sweat yesterday’s rain,

I pound the concrete with sticky heat between the layers of my clothes.

The lipstick curdles and I wipe it raw with paper.

 

Fingers bandaged from no fight,

I’m neither citizen or tourist just broken knees.

Guts cramping propel us from cafe to cafe.

Food sticks in my throat as I push it round the plate.

My hands tremble as they try to raise the cup,

Thick black coffee drives my blistered feet.

 

Something is not right in the world, I’m not quite here or there.

It’s ugly criminals saunter like they own the roads.

We ask ‘why are people so cruel?’

Then the man stops to pick up some other’s rubbish.

A women tends the silk and velvet with more love than she knows.

The smile of the woman on the bus is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

 

The flash from no camera, the sky opens and moans.

White then orange makes my heart pound.

‘Don’t walk on the floor with bare feet’ she says.

It makes me want to feel it’s force, to feel alive,

to take off my socks and dance with life on the cold tiles.

I bleed with the sky and prepare to begin all over again.

Sharp enough

A friend posted that they could see me ‘developing an edge sharp enough to cut through this’ and carve a new beginning.

There’s been a lot of soul searching going on inside this skull over the past few weeks. But it’s all felt like a dull bladed knife trying to cut through lead.

You feel that you know yourself so well and can see your path. In a heartbeat it changes. A few cruel words that bring your world crashing down. Everything is bought into question. The smallest of routine, even the way you make tea or breathe.

The problem is all the destruction is so silent. Everything has changed for you yet the world still silently remains. It carries on without you. I’ve been walking the streets with voices muffled and blinkers on, yet inside a war rages.

All the rituals you made no longer have purpose and you carry on performing them till they are redundant and ridiculous. I caught myself hanging your washing on the line and didn’t know why… energy wasted on you. Taking two mugs out instead of one for coffee. Every word spoken has to be corrected. ‘We, I mean I.’ ‘Us, I mean me.’

Midway through crisis I saw ‘Things To Come’.

The protagonist’s life was changed in the moment her husband announced it was over, that there was someone else. A few meagre words to change an existence and send a life into crisis. More and more went wrong yet the film seemed so calm. Her life was disintegrating around her like a mirror of my own existence. Love, death, job all at once. Her existence questioned.

We (not the relationship we but the friendship one) waited for the revenge, the meltdown, the affair to match the inner turmoil. But it never came. She got a cat, smoked a joint, cried alone. Were we cheated because of the lack of drama? I felt it at the time because I wanted the catharsis of watching someone else meltdown then make it again. Slowly I’ve realised that there is no instant fix but we quietly feel the pain in order to change.

Inside all this quiet death of a life is a sea of turmoil.  But that’s just it, it’s on the inside and the world keeps on silently turning around us. We have moments of anger in which spiteful words are thrown to try to provoke the world into anger with us. We have reckless moments to feel alive to match the pain in our chests but the world still remains waiting calmly for us. Standing in the field watching the season change and the ghosts of my self harm race by I finally stopped and listened. The world was changing once again, partly dying and going to sleep before being reborn. I would stand and see the ghosts of others before me and those yet to be.

During this time we have the chance to be anything we want to be. We are stripped bare and our inner selves exposed. I’ve cried and stamped my feet, tried to dull the pain, let the blackness from the hurt slip from my tongue. I’ve tried to move this process on without stopping to breathe.

All this has quietly been sharpening my edge. Discovering a self that’s always been here and can thrive. The problem with a sharpened blade is the danger of using it. I need to find and practice new routines. For the first time they are for me.

So I’ve decided to keep it simple. To slowly take little steps one by one. In crisis I did a personality test and found out what I already knew:

To play with the first I’m trying to capture beauty however big or small.

Today we walked on the hills above Barcelona. The view was immense but my favourite thing was this tiny window with its beautiful succulents. Almost overshadowed by the might of the city, someone had taken the time to make it so pretty. My images when I play this game will be captured with the #seekingbeauty