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

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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Cleanse

So as you may or may not know I’m not religious or atheist or agnostic, I just am. I’m moderately spiritual and hold belief in nature, energy and the elements. At times of crisis we need something more to see us through and I have found great solace in slowing down and finding synchronicity with the world. I’ve spent lots of time walking and thinking and observing.

The last few days I have been really on edge, and not surprisingly this syncs with the waning moon. The moon is a huge influence on me and I feel drawn to her power.

Today we had a day of cooking, then walking up at ‘The Devil’s Kneading Trough’ in Wye’s Nature Reserve. After a heady and heartfelt ramble through the forest we were treated to the most beautiful sunset. It marked the perfect ending of one phase and a willingness to start the next. We’d had a fire in the garden earlier in the afternoon and we sat in quiet awe on the hillside with woodsmoke in our hair and talked about feeling present.

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Checking my moon app it said today is ‘a day of creative thinking, it’s holy and magical, but sometimes it lasts just a few minutes. It is the first day of a lunar month, the beginning of a new moon cycle. This is a very clean (pure) day.’

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Back home I fed the fire more until it was so dark I couldn’t see what I was doing. I decided to honour the new cycle by making a smudge stick to fully cleanse the house. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while and today was the perfect day. I found a tutorial here but to be honest its very easy. It does explain their background in Native American Culture so is worth a look.

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Mine is mostly the traditional sage, with a little rosemary, thyme and lavender thrown in.

Processed with VSCO with c2 presetI bound it in twine and lit it with one of my homemade candles before wandering through the entire house allowing the smoke to chase away the dark. Little Bear approved, she followed everywhere meowing.

Processed with VSCO with c3 presetI now feel like a proper witch tee hee. It matches my moon glyph tattoos and here it is with the new moon symbol.

Walking

The trouble with walking so far is getting back.

Every gate I open has to be closed in case I set the beasts free.

Every footprint retrod in a different way.

All the effort with none of the anticipation.

A glance to check only my shadow follows.

The world is big and I am small.

The day has turned tail with me.

I’m back to the safe and known,

I’m back to something new and unknown.

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.

Well hello Autumn 

The trees are finally catching up with life, or maybe life is replicating nature. In other words its all change. And lets face it change is tough but I always have a special place for the summer to autumn turn. The world is a fucking beautiful place and right now it’s showing off

・・・

I recently set up an adventure group on what’s app to protect myself with my friends. This morning in the group chat a collaborative haiku was created:

An autumn morning 

The skies they are sighing 

In a slow grumpy roll

#CapturedInWords

Well done @thecafecat for collecting it.


Today I was super kind and had a massage to heal, made soup from the garden, walked the dogs and went to the cinema. So many anxieties came and went. But I pushed through and spoke with an honest and kind intention to everyone I met, oh and myself too. Instead of hiding in the house I made sure I did things to fill my heart.


Oh yeah the grateful things:

  1. Feet that carry me on adventures
  2. Seasons that show us that change happens and everything is ok
  3. The rspca 

Goodbye 2015…

…and a list of ‘I can’ts’.

A lot of living with Chronic illness is about learning to say no. This is all well and good, but I can’t help thinking there must be a way to say ‘I can’. To live within boundaries and spoons but still be able to do stuff.

Today I felt the pressure of New Years and the forced fun. I imagined getting dressed and going out, drinking cocktails and staying up till the early hours. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do right? And everyone else is doing it. Or are they? When I woke up this morning I was shaking, my whole being ached and everything was swollen and I knew the plans just wouldn’t happen. So we changed them, the girls are bringing over takeout and then slipping off to celebrate leaving me with a duvet and my pjs. Instead of thinking I’ve missed out I can see that I’m just doing it differently thanks to great friends. It’s OK to think you’ve missed out but check and see if you really have. After speaking to people I realised that so may others are doing the same! Do what makes you happy not what you think you should do.

Earlier on today I went for a walk, went too far, got stuck in a muddy field. and Paul had to pull me out. Again I had gone too far, got frustrated and shed a little tear over what I can’t do. On reflection the good thing was that I was able to walk as far as I did and chat to Paul along the way, laugh at being stuck in the mud and the puppy trying to chase birds. Being outdoors is always so healing whether it is just for a short time. So what if I can’t walk as far or as fast, I can walk and enjoy the outdoors that is what matters. The winter skies, crows cawing and being outdoors makes me happy.

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I saw a post earlier that said make a list of what you do every day, then make a list of what you love doing and compare them. I already know that having chronic illness has slowed me down and made me savour the small stuff. When you only have a few spoons spend them on those you love and that list of loved things.

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So my New Years Resolutions are not to take things away but to add more in!

  1. Dates with the boy for my heart
  2. 10 stretches everyday for my body
  3. A meal plan each week for our budget
  4. Oh and my dream of riding my bike again

Happy New Year all, remember do what makes you happy.