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…

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.

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

Who am I?

So…

I don’t know where to start this one. But yesterday I was asked who I am. I was floored.

I am Vic.

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But who do I present myself as? For years I’ve been me but maybe not me? Its such a confusing question. Can knowing who I am be the answer? I can’t answer it, partly because its a fluid thing and partly because I just don’t know.

I am Vic. I’m creative, passionate and imaginative.

 

For years I’ve played at being an artist and I did ok at it. I’m creatively inspired by stories true and fictional. I’m passionate about the power of the Arts and working with others. My imagination has taken me on some crazy adventures and projects, all of which I’m proud.

Over the past few years my ability to work effectively has been swallowed up by my physical and mental health. At first I said yes to everything in my excitement to be working in the Arts. I was good at what I did so work came to me and despite the struggle in terms of funding and consistency I was happy. The work grew and my company Wide Eyed Theatre was born. I worked in multiple roles for the company, as a youth worker, sessional lecturing and freelance. All aspects I have loved, and despite being poorly paid, I know along the way I have made a real difference in young people’s lives.

Maintaining this was a struggle and at some point amongst all the anxiety fear, pain and fatigue I stumbled. Something went wrong inside and no matter what I did I just couldn’t keep up or manage everything. Work was so important that the first thing to go was my social life and me time.

I began to reduce my life and cut out the extras that tipped me over the edge. I was stuck in a cycle of working or sick. I gradually got more and more fatigued, I’ve often described it as every day feeling fluey. I’d work then collapse and repeat. I had to take long breaks and nap or I just felt like I’d vomit. Everyday off and every nap carries guilt and I felt lazy and like I’d failed. So I’d go back into it full pelt, desperately not wanting to let people down. It wasn’t working. I began to feel drained creatively too. Partly from not feeding myself imaginatively by slowing down and allowing moments of peace and beauty. And partly because I was giving so much to everyone else and not myself as I was so scared.

So I fought for a diagnosis to understand why I felt the way I do. Why everyday is a struggle and why I let people down. I got used to wearing the label of chronic illness and found it easy to hide behind. In a bad place physically and mentally I also got into a bad place in a relationship and financially.

In 2013 I was diagnosed with Lupus. Since then its bounced around and things have been added and subtracted. I wrote more about the labels here. My current diagnosis stands at

  • ‘Lupus’ like auto immune disease1397203fa8512bc777ae182f1060e702
  • Suspected Behcets Syndrome
  • Joint Hyper-mobility Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Migraine
  • Bipolar
  • Borderline Features
  • Depression and Anxiety

I fought to be recognised as ill and not fobbed off and I feel like a diagnosis means I’m taken seriously and its not in my head. The trouble is that I’ve fought so hard that its consumed me. Lupus and medical took over even back here I was discontent with the Vicki that said ‘Hi I’m Vic I have Lupus’ before anything else.

So when I was asked who I am it jarred and crushed the part of me that has become swallowed by the wolf that is chronic illness. Its my defence mechanism but has made my life so unbearable that I am the wolf.

In 2016 it all imploded and I’ve been left stripped of everything. My mental and physical health is fragile. I’m currently at risk of being made homeless and bankrupt. I’m stepping back from work due to feeling so breakable. I have nothing, yet there is glory in being stripped bare.

Then in this conversation a different suggestion was made. One that may yet have viability. I am still Vic, I have a chronic illness and this is how I manage it. This is how I choose to live with and tame the wolf.

I am Vic. I’m creative, passionate and imaginative. I am fierce and tame wolves.

The Privateers 

This takes me back to long car journeys with Emma. More Bird loving…
Don’t sell me anything 

Your one time offer, so uncalled-for 

You call it peace of mind 
Cause I can see your house from here 

 Now all the leaves have fallen, dear 

I can see you’re just a little privateer 

As your confession draws more near
Time and again, I find I’m listless 

Or rather, fistless 

In time, oh, that’s what I find 
So carry me to Mecca 

With what you may divine 

Take me with you, take me with you 

Don’t leave me behind 
Oh cause I, I don’t want your life insurance 

Home, auto, health, flood, and fire insurance 

Oh, just make, please make this basic inference 

And speak of me in the present tense 
Oh cause I, I can see your ships from here 

Now all the weather’s so bright and clear 

I can see you’re just a little profiteer 

As your confession draws more near 
As your confession draws more near 
As your confession draws more near

We could all be a little kinder…

I came across this list earlier on Buzzfeed

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I love the fact it just asks us to spend a little time on ourselves before we hit crisis. I wish I could take my own advice. Slowly, slowly I’m changing my routine to include breathing and positivity. Todays tasks were to make candles, get the dogs back and watch Bake Off. Tick, tick and almost tick (it’s on in 10 minutes).

A lot of chronic illness comes with a spoonful of guilt. We let so many other areas of our lives slip so therefore believe we don’t deserve self care and kindness if we have cancelled a meeting or been late on an assignment. I know I’ve posted this before but it is so true: You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.

So I’d be interested to know what you do to take care of yourself?

P.S. Today I’m grateful for:

  1. The garden and it’s ability to keep on growing no matter what
  2. Rose – In plant form, scent or lemonade.
  3. The crisis team who are keeping me afloat

 

 

 

The school of life…

It’s a bit quiet over here because I’m on the move. Anyone with chronic illness will no that travel is a killer. Anyway I discovered the YouTube channel The School of Life who make videos each week all about emotional education. Here’s the link to their video on anxiety. I also love their other projects such as The School of Life has a wonderful website full of resources. I’m looking forward to delving into their Book of Life sister website that tracks modern living through all of our major cultural influences.

 

Parenting Yourself

So the last few weeks have been living in crisis. Caused by pain, mental health, relationships, work and income. All at once, in one big lump. Pow, taken out by the world!

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3 emergency hospital trips, 1 breakdown, 1 job lost, 1 relationship ended… It’s so easy to get swallowed into the negative and not see the positive. But the positive moments have been about the friends I have and love dearly.

What it has done is made for a very interesting discussions about life. It’s been useful to surround myself wth my friends and those who have been in the same place.

Today’s post is dedicated to Helen who has been amazing. Having been through the same shit she’s been one of the most resilient people I know. Oh and she’s a reflexologist too. I cannot recommend her enough for any kind of healing!

12068846_939860746086783_403464652320274183_oHer Facebook is here, and website is here

A few of her wise words include:

“So the world currently feels like a very scary, lonely & overwhelming place yeah. It’s all shit, there’s no-one you can rely on and you’ve just not got any more energy to keep fighting it all 😭

I’m not in your head but I can recognise it: I mean, when even your own fucking body seems to hate you what’s the point eh FFS!

But there is a point. It’s horrific right now & you prob can’t see any light.  Let me reassure you, there is a light. It’s called resilience, a strength you didn’t know you had, friends & vague contacts that will step up & help you find a path where you didn’t know there was one. It’s chaos, but out of the storm there’s new horizons, ones you’d never dreamt of before.

I’m not saying it’s easy, that’d be a lie. Trust me Vicki, it’s an ending but also a new beginning. It hurts like fuck. That hurt eventually turns into the determination your new self will rely on. Among my closest friends we no longer call it a ‘breakdown’ but a ‘breakthrough’ because in order to be true to ourselves the pain has to be faced & the old patterns need to be broken.

People don’t understand what it’s like living in pain every damn day. For doing that in itself , AND continuing to work as long as you have, you have a strength that most do not. Be proud you’ve made it this far. And with or without a bloke, your journey is only just beginning.”

These words were my solace in my darkest moment. They became a mantra to cling to. I love the idea that when in crisis experiencing a breakthrough rather than a breakdown. Maybe my list should look like this:

3 emergency hospital trips signs that I need to ask for help with my conditions, 1 breakdown breakthrough, 1 job lost assessment of my career, 1 relationship ended  6 close friendships formed and countless true friendships beginning … It’s so easy to get swallowed into the negative and not see the positive. But the positive moments have been about the friends I have and love dearly.

Today in our feet pampering session we discussed parenting. She suggested writing down all the things we want from our parents (theoretical ones if you are reading this mum and dad). Then you cross out parents and make it a list for how you want to treat your self. So here is goes…

I want my parents to be I want myself to be:

  • Supportive
  • Non judgemental
  • Not to know best for me but accept I know this
  • Kind
  • To listen without an answer
  • At the end of the phone
  • Strong
  • Not pull me into their dramas!
  • Not to take on my illness as something they’ve done or passed on
  • Trust me

Well that was a lot of writing and self led therapy for one day, I’m off to bake a cake!