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…

Happy New Year with Bullet Journaling

So last year I made New Year’s resolutions then as you may know ‘life got in the way’. I have a habit of starting things and not finishing them, I carry a lot of guilt about it. Partly it’s my personality and getting excited about the next new shiny thing that comes along, dropping the old boring thing I started. It’s also having multiple chronic illnesses which tend to dump on everything. Oh, and then that life bit, I’m not the luckiest soul and 2016 was an absolute shocker!

So this year I debated on whether I should do the whole resolutions thing again. I thought about making things realistic, or achievable. But that’s just not me, I need to be interested and excited and reach for the sky. The difference is how I react when I come thudding back down to earth.

Last year I dabbled with some Bullet Journaling and wanted to continue with a brand new journal for 2017. For various reasons I’ve always shied away from journaling ing and committing to paper. A Bullet Journal was the ideal balance between a to-do list and a diary for me. I began with a basic journal based on this article and bulletjournal.com.

So on the 1st I made an Amazon list of fancy pens and a new Moleskine notebook, and then realised I was falling into my old habit of overspending. So I raided my art materials and as predicted had lots of beautiful materials already to work with.

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So here is what I did:

  1. I left a page spare at the front for my index/ contents. Every page is numbered in a bullet journal and every entry is logged on this page.IMG_3635.JPG
  2. I turned the page and thought about 2017 and brain dumped all the hopes and needs onto the page. I didn’t limit myself, I just poured my heart out…IMG_3638.JPG
  3. Next I looked at the ‘cloud of words’ and put them into categories. I wrote them as a list then made these into columns on how much time and effort I wanted to put into them. ‘Being secure’ is at the top of my list, unsurprisingly, as at the moment I feel so insecure. I colour coded them so I could later see how much time per week I was dedicating.Processed with VSCO with t1 preset
  4. I took each category and thought about how I could achieve them. Theres lots of cross overs and you’ll see in the pictures one category feeds another.Processed with VSCO with t1 preset
  5. Into my life, which is chaotic at the best of time, I wanted to introduce a routine. So I began with an easy morning routine to follow everyday. I aim to create a bedtime one soon to go with it. 
  6. I then divided the activities from earlier on into my first to-do list of 2017. This I divided into ‘one off tasks’ and ‘repetitive tasks’ that happen daily or weekly.Processed with VSCO with t1 preset
  7. I then added a year planner to be able to see the whole year month by month.Processed with VSCO with t1 preset
  8. Finally I delved into January. One page for the whole month day by day. Then I transferred items from the 2017 to-do list into the monthly one
  9. Finally I drew out the week by week journal and added a key. I also included a space for tracking my health and daily gratitude. My key is the same as the standard bullet journal key
    • X = Task Complete
    • > = Task Migrated
    • < = Task Scheduled
    • o = Event
    • – = Note
    • * = Priority
    • ! = Inspiration
    • Eye = Explore

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  10. It sounds complex and labour intensive, and in a way it is. But I think it’s worth it to have a practical journal that works for me. I already love and treasure my 2016 journal, as painful as the moments were that fed it. 

I know there are many prettier examples out there, but mine is mine and works for me!

Finally I read a chapter today about beginning a new project or learning something new:

‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in an experts there are few.’ Suzuki Roshi in Pema Chodron’s ‘The Places That Scare You’.

Chodron goes onto say that we all begin somewhere and at every stage of learning or activity we should  be ‘open, flexible and kind’. Resolutions should not be absolute but ever shifting guides to help us learn or steer us. Our life is an experiment and we are not born as experts. She concludes:

‘At the end of activity, whether we feel we have succeeded or failed in our intention, we seal the act by thinking of others, of those who are succeeding or failing all over the world. We wish that anything we learned in our experiment could also benefit them.’

So I’ll be doing just that, learning from the process and not judging myself on the results. I will also share this latest adventure with you…

Somedays

Somedays the world is an ugly place. I know this morning was not helped by the anxiety of returning to England and the early start. Maybe I wore the wrong eyes for viewing it? It was a catalogue of bad sights, smells and tastes.

It started with my bag (too heavy) and a very fast bus ride through Barcelona’s packed streets (the driver was a the love child of Jesus and Otto Mann). Add a dash of concrete pounding and avoiding last night’s dried vomit slicks (the pigeons were enjoying it). Finally to the bus,  despite there being 3 staff, they watched and tutted as both me and my sister (both disabled) couldn’t get my bags in. My hands, which shake all the time now, couldn’t grasp the thin paper ticket (don’t cry).

In the airport I waited by the mobility help kiosk (noted there are no chairs). I watched a man vomiting into a bin for 10 minutes before the cheery Xavi picked me up in a wheelchair (I always book ahead now for mobility and I always ask the name of the person assisting me). When you get assistance at airport you end up in all sorts of corridors and pens waiting, seeing behind the scenes. Once over the embarrassment ( I still get weirded out by crutches and wheelchairs) you get taken in buggies and strange contraptions to get you on the plane. You forget all the normal airport stuff but find yourself saying ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ a lot.

I watched amused as the people fight to get ahead in the plane queue. Almost slinking up the walls to get closer to the front. Then our gate changed and everyone made a mad dash across the concourse. The shoal was so choreographed any dancer in a ensemble would be envious. I trailed behind with the cabin crew, no rush, after all we’re all getting on exactly the same plane and our seats are already allocated. The dance continues as people who pay extra can get to the front of the same queue and other frantically sort through bags after bring too many or ones too large. The panic continues on the plane like a game of musical chairs. Last one seated is off,  I guess that’ll be me then (jokes).

Now travelling does something to my head, it makes me time travel to the past or future. I’m terrible at it. I fret and tremble recalling past pains. I nauseate over details of conversations not yet had. I caught myself in the moment of full anxiety (I’m good at catching thoughts by now). I realised what I was doing and I can only describe it as running down a dark alley with doors that open to the past and the future. You witness times of joy and pain and live events that haven’t happened yet (and probably never will). The alley narrows and it gets harder and harder to turn back. As you are squeezed between the ever narrowing walls you realise you’re stuck. It’s so tight and dark you can only see and believe what your brain is showing you. I held back the tears and swallowed the anger. I realised my brain was back in the place of no hope.

By the time I was in my plane seat I’d died a dozen times in my head. To write it down seems ridiculous. As I was drawn back into the real world again I became aware of a boy behind me. He was possibly 8 and making some curious noises. A sort of cry mixed with excitement then outbursts of ‘the plane is going to go. Suddenly the couple behind the family announced the wanted to be moved. This was loud enough for most of the plane to hear. Most people politely stayed looking at their phones but I’m not very good at that. I swivelled round to see a family with children of different ages. This boy clearly had learning difficulties and was anxious at flying. It came out of him in little bursts like he didn’t know whether this was a terrifying place or the most thrilling ride. He hadn’t done anything wrong, he just said out loud the feelings that we probably all were thinking. I watched as the boy’s mother turned in natural defence of her child. ‘Are you asking to move because of my son?’ she asked half vicious in defence and half shocked beyond belief. ‘Yes’ the couple announced to the plane, ‘we are moving because of your son.’ Every part of me wanted to jump in fierce and wild to stop the pain.

I bit my tongue and caught the mum’s eye, I offered her my row of seats in front away from the couple. The cabin crew swept in and expertly moved the couple away to the back of the plane. The mother burst in to tears. The cabin crew tried to placate them both by offering sweets and a ‘trip to the flight deck’. These frantic gestures were lost so they listened whilst the family explained that the couple had been discriminatory and said appalling things about their son. I felt for the mother in that moment, she had tried desperately to shield her child from the horrible hatred. She was in a state of pure panic. How could anyone do this just because the child made a sound or spoke in a way that is ‘abnormal’ (I personally found him a joy)? Later in the journey I turned and caught the mother’s eye. I wanted to say how appalled I was but just mouthed ‘are you ok?’. She whispered back a thank you and smiled. I didn’t want to save her, but just let her know she wasn’t alone and others were with her.

When you enter the world slightly outside of the normal realm you see how difficult and unforgiving the world can be. My sister has talked at length on her blog about grieving (it’s worth a read and is here ). Its not always about the death of a person but sometimes the death of something else, like your expectations or the life you thought you had. I know I have been experiencing extreme grief as part of my relationship breakdown. With this has come a whole lot more. I’ve experienced the death of my life as I know it. I am unable to work, looking at a future on benefits and no longer able to do all the things I once could. Auto Immune has irreparably robbed my life and I sometimes grieve for what I once had.

So forgive me if I get sad from time to time. I’m trying more than you know to keep my shit together. In amongst these moments I cling on to the small acts of kindness we are all capable of performing. Smile at a stranger or ask someones name, it costs nothing but a little bravery. None of us know what path the other is treading, what came before and is to come in the future. Maybe the couple who had asked to move had been anxious flyers or something else had happened that day. Their actions weren’t the best way of behaving, but we all make mistakes right?

I will continue to fight tis anxiety daemon, its not a linear journey and I’ll bounce around. I’ll also continue to to fight the prejudice and invisible illness in the best way I can, with compassion and kindness. I’m back to start all over again.

I saw this today, which says a lot of my ramblings far more succinctly.

Love, and kindness to you all with the most open of hearts.

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I smile at you.

Today I slipped back into a place I didn’t think I’d visit so soon. All the logic escapes me and I’m left with a roller coaster of raw emotions. Anxiety / sadness/ dispair/ anger – repeat

I just have to remember to wear my smile because as much as you try you cannot take it away.

Let’s Pretend…

Do you ever think we are just playing at life? Being different characters in some elaborate story?

I don’t really know where I’m going with this post because it’s mostly rambling thoughts! Maybe it’s being in theatre that I always see people as playing parts in their everyday life. Of course there’s  Shakespeare’s famous passage from As You Like It...

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And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

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It hints that our lives are predestined, and in terms of ageing they are I guess. But when do we become these stereotypes and copies of our own parents? Just now I overheard my sister’s husband asking her ‘did you find the gravy boat?’. It made me smile, I wonder if he rewound ten years to uni he’d imagine ever uttering this phrase? Then I realised I don’t have a gravy boat, does that mean I’m not an adult yet!?

If we are characters can we choose the parts we play or the dialogues we speak, or do we say certain phrases just 4d2eef3c2201ad1d82e0ce3043a006c8to conform? This is partially true with the relationships we have with others. I’m a people watcher and listener and love to eavesdrop. Over the past few weeks I’ve had 3 hospital visits in which there has been an enormous amount of time to observe. It’s interesting watching the dialogue between patients and health professionals. Sometimes it seemed as though they’re having two entirely different conversations. The doctors hone in and focus on individual areas of the body or conditions. They narrow down and diagnose and defend their decisions from the get go. Maybe this is because the NHS has a focus on cuts and blame and its created fear and narrow practice? But what these conversations do are damaging, they create a dialogue in which the patient feels it’s their right to be healed and the doctor is constantly defending the attack. Neither lead to comfort or healing or 4db5a8f3a5b0b85573115a9dc7cfdd59treating someone as a human. Whilst watching I almost wanted to jump in and direct them like actors to resolve the conflict. It’s even more scary when you find yourself in the same conversations despite having seen them happen five minutes before and promising you wouldn’t. The way we are spoken to lures us in without realising and takes real effort to remove ourselves..

If we can change our dialogues can we then we change our relationships and outcomes? I’m a great believer in the fact we cant change others, only ourselves. Sometimes its good to examine how we speak 39a826434d0482e19e4b342e6b265ec9with others and shift our relationships to something that works better.

More importantly, I think,  it’s how we speak to ourselves that seems so vital. Our inner dialogue is with us every second of the day so if it’s in conflict or defensive it leads us to dangerous places. CBT has helped me recognise this and although its not an instant cure it makes us aware of catching those thoughts that are damaging. Also being able to see the positive lifts changes our gear and puts us in a better place.

Positive thinking is not an easy task to do, especially when drowning in negative thoughts. But the rule of attraction is strong and we can 0ae880eb77832884e8a19c3e3f357953certainly influence our paths by changing our thinking patterns. I love trying exercises and activities that help with this. I like Tiny Buddha’s 10 Tips to Overcome Negative Thoughts

Then there are the times that everything seems totally out of our control. I often wonder about things being predestined. My life has been a roller
coaster of events and emotions. Without being dramatic I’m sure that I’ve endured more than the average person. Sometimes I find myself wondering if it’s something written out for me or some kind of karma. These thoughts happen 81576b699d8a8a514f8f9c01113dfb10especially when I’m down on myself. I genuinely believed that I had a Christmas curse in the past. Just ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll confirm it.

e5c9e117e8a4050b05a4c1d031710423Since being really young I also used to fantasise about being part of a conspiracy. I used to lie on my back and l9979724392b6d1da5b80638e18b720c4ook into the blue sky. Somehow looking into the brightness meant that I could see these little circles that I assume were the shape
of my pupil and iris. In my head they were eyes of bigger beings watching me, not threateningly but there watching my life go by or having a say. I know this sounds a little odd but I guess it’s part of figuring out the world. When years later I finally saw the Truman Show it played on my mind for years days. Even now I get flashes of thinking I’m being watched or there’s cameras everywhere. I did giggle when I discovered it was an actual condition. Not that I need another diagnosis but I’m sure I’m borderline Truman Syndrome

So in conclusion its seems like some of life we can control and other things happen and we can choose how to react. I’m not sure if any is predestined but I can’t think of a better way to say how to manage it than this:

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