So a couple of posts ago HERE, I talked about how I felt the NHS had let me down because since my diagnosis was changed from Multiple Sclerosis to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I have had hardly any medical intervention since then and have felt like nobody cared, this started me feeling depressed and lost and honestly I had stopped going to see my GP because I never got answers I wanted and I just put up with worsening symptoms.
So after thinking about it for a little bit, I sent an email to my doctor’s surgery with an explanation and a link to that post. I wanted to see if it would make a difference and I wanted to make sure that this kind of thing did not happen to anyone else. I suspected that I simply fell through the cracks of an already overstretched and underfunded NHS, but I am still a human and it was about time I needed to be my own advocate.
I heard back early the next day from the surgery manager who said they were very sorry about how I felt and the doctor wanted to see me. I got a phone call later that day and I have an appointment to discuss my concerns and hopefully get some of my symptoms treated and referred to the right people.
This really did reinforce for me that I am my own advocate, and though I know the NHS is given a raw deal by the government, and though I used to be on the other side, I deserve to be treated better. I read a lot of blogs run by other chronic illness warriors and I follow them on You Tube and I see the sort of treatments that they recieve and I have been given none of those options. So this week I am going to be researching and printing things off and taking it all to the doctors because I need more than I am getting.
So this was a big lesson to myself, but also I hope that it inspires all of you that if you are not feeling supported or well treated by your medical team speak up! I am going to be taking my husband with me to back me up and I am going to make sure together we are heard…nobody can speak up for you unless you try to speak up for yourself.
So if there is any research or treatments you think I need to look into leave me links in the comments and I will get researching!
Yeah my body right now is painful, my joints hurt, my head aches and I am struggling to get enough energy to keep up with the housework and overall this is what we call a flare! Everyone with chronic illness knows what I mean by a flare, it is when your symptoms get worse and new symptoms even sometimes come to join the party!
When this happens it can be very easy to feel like a useless, painful lump on the sofa and wonder why your loved ones put up with you. I often feel guilty that my wonderful husband has to help me and I can fall into depression which as a chronic sufferer usually gets worse too. However, by using logic and finding ways to make life fun, you can get through to the other side without spending every day crying and feeling like the world would work better without you!
- TV shows – I am a Netflix user and right now I am using my flare and bad fatigue as a very good excuse to marathon all those TV shows in my watch list. Right now we are on season 2 of Stranger Things which is absolutely amazing and we are very much enjoying The Crown! Spending time cuddled up with a loved one or an equally cool friend watching awesome TV really distracts you from the negative thoughts that can start crowding in.
- Logic – I find a great way to fight my depression is to use logic, so when the depression tells me I am useless I think about what a good friend I am and how when I am well enough I do housework. If it tells me my husband would be better off without me, I look at him and see how happy he is with me and how silly he is and it pushes it away. Using logic to counter every negative thought works really well and was something an old therapist told me to do.
- Plan your week – Being organised comes naturally to me and is something I have always done, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. One thing I suggest is planning your week, split your jobs or chores up into smaller jobs you can manage and do them spread out over the week. Yes this can be frustrating, but it is better to do a little every day than to try and tackle big jobs that either do not get done or defeat you and leave you feeling worse.
- Put things away – One thing that comes with high fatigue is the very real problem of using things and not having the energy to put them away. It can leave your home feeling crowded, untidy and overwhelming, it takes a lot less energy to put one thing away than fifty, so next time you need to get up to go to the toilet or something like that, just put things away and tidy up. Keeping my home looking tidy helps me feel better especially if friends or family turn up!
- Be kind to yourself – This is a hard one, but imagine you are talking to your best friend and she said that she felt really sick all week and hadn’t been able to do housework and she felt really guilty about it…now imagine what you would say to her…treat yourself like your best friend. Be compassionate and loving and caring to yourself and always have a treat in the cupboard for emergencies!
- You can cry if you want to – No matter if you do all these things there will always be days when nothing helps, so shout at your illness not your loved ones and let those tears out. Crying is really healthy and not a sign of weakness at all like our society likes to make out. Do not be afraid to put some sad movies on and let it all out trust me the next day will feel better if you do not bottle everything up!
I hope if you are in a flare these help you like they have helped me and I hope things settle down very soon. Please leave me any coping solutions you use when your illnesses flare up down in the comments I would love to find some other ways to help.
So yesterday an old friend from school came round to see me for a cup of tea and a catch up. Now to most people this might seem very boring and not out of the ordinary at all but it meant so much to me and I want to explain why.
First of all, she got in touch with me because she found my blog, and when she did and started reading she was amazed at how similar our symptoms and experiences with chronic pain and fatigue were. She emailed me and we started to talk and arranged for her to come visit, and if you have been reading my articles for a while you will know how lonely I get so this was something I was so excited for!
I was nervous because of the amount of time that had passed since we had last seen one another, but I needn’t have. We chatted away and in no time found ourselves amazed at how similar our chronic illness journeys were and how we both have struggled with accepting our illnesses and having family understand why we are sick.
I started to think about all the chronic illness warriors that I know through social media, you tube and this blog and wondered just how similar our paths seem to be. It in incredible that no matter what our diagnosis, we all walk the same path and it is this fact that connects us all. I started to realise that so many of us are in reality so isolated and alone, spending weeks at times not seeing friends or even leaving the house just like me!
Seeing my friend was wonderful, I felt so tired and in pain afterwards but I have not stopped smiling since because I am so happy! I feel like I am part of a worldwide network of chronic illness warriors who have many different illnesses and yet we all walk a similar path! So if you ever feel lonely or just need to talk my instagram, twitter, facebook and my email all have ways to get in touch with me and I would love to connect with you!
Yes September is here, the leaves are starting to turn, and there are Halloween decorations in the shops! It is my favourite time of the year, so much cosier and I absolutely love the relief of getting away from the heat of summer and the settling down of my symptoms.
As I usually do when there is a big change in weather, I have gone through my wardrobe and got rid of things…and replaced them with things from the sales! Usually I buy a couple of things and leave it at that but this time I have decided to change my style a lot more than I ever have before.
My style is usually grungy and hippy with not a lot of focus on what I wear because I rarely go out and even more rarely ever see anyone! However, after watching people on you tube who wear more of a vintage style and are confident enough to wear more feminine and less ‘fashionable’ clothing that can be found in charity shops and antique places.
Now I have always wanted to dress more 1930s-50s not rockabilly, but more authentic? However, I stand out a lot when I am in a wheelchair or using my walking stick and I kind of always wanted to hide away? Well no more!!!
If you watch my latest You tube video HERE then you will see some of the items I managed to get in sales to start off my collection. I am going to be thrifting and keeping my peepers peeled for cheap places to get this sort of clothing. I love that these pieces suit my hourglass shape more and they will not go out of fashion so I will be able to wear them without worry next year.
I have been changing things up a lot in my life recently and it feels so good to get motivated and get my style and our home looking more like we want it to. I feel so much more inspired and motivated, so maybe if you feel a bit stagnent it is time to clear things out and redecorate a room, or just donate some old clothes that you no longer wear?
So as you might know, if you have been reading my blog for a while, I have been struggling with my depression for a while now. Our living room has felt cramped and clutttered for a while now and so me and my husband thought we would have a change. We cancelled Sky TV because we never watched it, and that meant the TV did not have to be next to the window like it always has been.
We donated some furniture and things and that freed us up to bring down Lee’s grandmother’s rocking chair and use some savings to get a couple of antiques. Now after a couple days of craziness in the living room the space feels bigger and calmer. We both love spending time in there now and nothing beats feeling relaxed and calm in your own living room.
Now it might seem strange, but I have also found my mood has drastically changed since the change round as well! I had not imagined it would make a difference, but honestly I do feel lighter and happier and I don’t know maybe the old addage ‘a change is as good as a rest’ is true?
Now I am not suggesting we all go around changing our whole lives around, but maybe now and then we need to take care of our surroundings:
- Pull furniture out and give it a good clean
- Declutter your space and get organised
- Donate any furniture or ornaments you are not attached to
- paint or recover old furniture to give it a new lease on life
- Get some new throw pillows or blankets/throws to brighten up the area
I hope this new brighter mood lasts, but even if it doesn’t I hope that I can always appreciate the things around me. Buddhism and Christianity teach that we should not hoard things or become too attached to them…maybe that is why I feel so much lighter now?
Over the last month or so my depression has flared, I have had chronic depression since I was 14years old and usually I can battle it, but sometimes it just gets to be too much. I have often fallen into letting my depression take over and stop me from doing the things I love and enjoy. It can even stop me bothering to shower or clean my teeth and that leads to me just feeling even worse!
I have come to realise that this is how depression works, it stops you wanting to do the things that can help you to feel better. So this time I fought back and followed the following steps as a way to stop it taking over totally:
- Eat healthy food: It is easy to skip meals and snack on junk food when you feel depressed, but this time I used an app called Lifesum to track my food and to make sure that I am eating the right things and drinking enough water every day.
- Get enough sleep: Now when you are plagued with negative thoughts and worries sleep often stays away. I have found listening to relaxing music, or podcasts or audiobooks can stop you being able to think and allow you to relax enough to rest if not to sleep.
- Limit time online: These days this can be hard, but spending too long online, scrolling through social media etc, has been shown in many studies to contribute to depression. If you want to fight depression do not give it the tools to bring you down!
- Be kind to yourself: This means something different to everyone, but it does not mean shopping and eating! This means small things like taking a bath, using body creams of your favourite scent, having a little chocolate or watching a favourite movie.
- Fresh air: Getting out of the house for a short walk, preferably in nature if possible, can really help to ease your mind and help you to feel less like a blob on the sofa and more like a human who is struggling but fighting every step of the way.
- Plan your day: Every day plan a few tasks, no matter how small even if it is make the bed, wash my face, take a short walk. Keeping busy and feeling like you have achieved something no matter how small can make all the difference to how you feel about yourself at the end of the day.
- Be thankful: Every night as you get comfortable in bed, say to yourself three things you are thankful for, preferably one of them is about yourself. This helps you to be grateful for what you do have and to see at least one good thing about yourself that can poke through the negative thoughts.
These are the things that helped me, and the depression is now starting to lift off me thankfully. What are the tips and tricks you utilise when you feel depressed?
This week I wanted to talk about fatigue and how hard it can be to just want to get out of a warm, comfortable bed when all you want to do is rest. When you wake every morning in pain, your joints stiff, your head aching and every limb hurting on top of extreme fatigue it is so hard to want to get up and get your jobs done.
I spoke on this weeks Chronic Illness Video (HERE) about how fatigue feels, it is not just being tired, or how you feel if you couldn’t get comfortable at night so check that out if you think it is! Fatigue is deep inside extreme tiredness that makes it impossible to want to do anything.
Now if you have been reading my blogs for a while, you will know that I am a very motivated person and if I set myself goals I will do anything to achieve them. The problem comes, when your body is heavy and tired and you cannot think straight enough that you are still a person who wants to do things and be a human! You have dreams and goals and when day after day you are not well enough to achieve them that can be incredibly demoralising and depressing.
It has taken me a long time to come to terms with this, I have been sick since 2002 and I have just started to be able to do it! But, being patient and not letting guilt take over can be the first steps in accepting what you can and cannot do and then coming to peace with your illness and your goals.
In Buddhism, acceptance and peace are the main goals and applying that to my illnesses has helped me to relax that inner need to do the housework every day and do a yoga routine every day and take the dog out and cook healthy dinners and…..There will always be ‘ands’ but take a breath and remember that being the perfect person is not something we can ever achieve.
I am reading a book called ‘How to live well with chronic pain and illness: A mindful guide’ by Toni Bernhard and to quote her:
“The unrealistically high standard at work here is that we don’t think we should be chronically ill. Even though 130 million people suffer from chronic illness in the United States alone, we live in a culture that repeatedly suggests that, with proper diet and lifestyle changes, no one need be sick and no one need be in pain. When we’re not living up to what we perceive to be that cultural standard, we feel embarrassed.”
For me that really hit the nail on the head, it is society constantly telling us that we should be perfect, loved, and happy if we just eat the right foods, do the right exercise, everything will be sunshine and roses! But when famous people, who the press tell us are perfect and to be like them, are committing suicide, taking drugs and turning to alcohol to cope…can we really expect our lives to be perfect?
I think what I am trying to say is, do not let society make you feel less because you couldn’t do that load of washing, or you were in too much pain to walk the dog! Be prepared to have days, sometimes weeks even months, when all you can do is rest and do not feel less because you need to just sit.
My best advice is to use a slow cooker and have meals prepared in the freezer, have family help you to do things and do not let anyone ever make you feel less because I know you are fighting every day just to want to get out of bed and some days that is enough!
I am feeling a little overwhelmed and tired, and it is all because I want to be able to be a person a normal person and I want to do things and get things done but my body feels so heavy and painful and tired! I sometimes feel like I am trapped in a body that does not want to do the things I do so it tries to hold me back and stop me from doing what I want to do!
For example, today has been a good day I have done a short yoga sequence, cleaned the bathrooms, had a shower and now I want to write and catch up on things…but now I am in pain in the back of my head, my shoulders and upper back. I also feel so tired I keep having to retype words because my hands will not do what I need them to!
Part of me thinks it would be easier to give up and live in a dump let myself get fat and my brain go numb watching daytime TV!!! However, I am not built that way, I need to learn and grow I need to keep on top of my body which is squishier than I’d like, but I can only do my best right?
So, I know this post is a little moany, but to be honest that is how I feel at the moment! My husband is struggling too I think it is the weather! In the UK right now it is cloudy, hot and the air feels heavy. This kind of weather gives me a lot of headaches and my pain is always worse when the weather is up and down like the typical British summer.
Now, if you read my blog regularly you might be wondering how I am going to get myself back to the positive again????
Well, I have thought long about this and I think I am going to tackle things in smaller chunks! I am going to spread my work out through the day so maybe 10-15 minutes three times a day instead of trying to do it all in one? Also, maybe break down my cleaning even more, so if there are a lot of ornaments in a room, maybe clean it over two days? Yes when pain and fatigue get’s overwhelming it can be easy to give up and yes I have a little weight to lose right now, but if I am patient and keep on fighting I can do this!
Yesterday was a big day for me, I love making new friends and going out, but when you have an anxiety disorder it can easily spiral into something you force yourself through instead of enjoying yourself.
I was going out with one of my best friends to celebrate her getting married, we first went out to learn to make cocktails in a really nice bar, and then to a different place to eat a lovely meal. We went out to a big city close to where we live, but it was still an hour each way on the train and walking from place to place though thankfully they were less than 5 minutes walking from one another.
I woke really early and was ready to go a long time before I needed to be, now this is normal for someone with an anxiety disorder. I was ready early because I didn’t want to make anyone wait or let anyone down. But waiting has it’s own problems because then I have time to worry and make up scenarios in my head. To combat this I watched you tube videos on my ipad, they are perfect because they are short and you can watch them without worrying too much about getting caught up in them.
I bought myself a new dress to help with my confidence as well, and though my dress was 1950s style I felt so pretty in it and not like I stuck out. I think that with a little make up really helped me to feel like I could hide if I felt overwhelmed, but my friend and her friends and family really were lovely and helped me so much! Even when a man in the bar made a comment about me looking like his mother because of my walking stick I managed to shake it off and just have fun!
I made sure as well to have a few drinks and to have fun, but to be careful not to go too far and to drink lots of water as I did so. I had such a fun time, I ate well and the best part was going behind the bar and making actual real cocktails! They all tasted so yummy and fresh and perfect for summer I could have stayed there drinking them all night!
The walking has left me with aching legs, however people walked at my pace and looked after me which I appreciated so much I have been left behind in the past and it does not feel nice at all! I also came home early before I was wrecked (thank goodness for adrenaline am I right?) and got straight into my pyjamas and got into bed.
Today I found my energy so low and my head is aching, my legs hurt, my feet are swollen and itchy, and overall I just want to sleep…but it was so worth it! I think going out with friends is just as important for mental health as meditating and I just wish I went out with friends more often!