Yeah so 16th March I turned 40 and I was not exactly happy about it, though with my poor health over the years and my struggles with depression I was determined to enjoy it. This was also my first birthday without my Nan and Grandad I was closest to so I wanted to make sure I made them proud and had fun, so I had to look at pacing for special occasions so I could survive my plans!
I knew I had to do two things so that I could celebrate with both my parents separately and so I decided to spend my birthday, which fell on a Friday, at my favourite museum. The Black Country museum is so cool they have recreated a small Black Country town and it is amazing I just love it and I have a vlog ready to put up on my You Tube channel so make sure you are subscribed!
On the next day I arranged something a little less out in the world and involving so much getting out of my wheelchair, so I decided to go for afternoon tea. I have been doing this for the last few years at Weston Hall and I invited one of my best friends Jess, my mom, her parents and two of her sisters as well as my lovely husband.
I knew that recently I had been working on my fatigue with the Heal Chronic Fatigue Course, so I was wary of letting all that hard work slide by doing too much. I also did not want to end up triggering a flare of my chronic illnesses and I was aware of the fact that my husband has epilepsy. This causes him to be very tired and suffer with headaches and extreme fatigue if he does too much which can trigger a seizure, I have to look after him too.
What I had not factored in was Lee wanting to get a new phone so we ended up going to a local shopping centre on the Thursday and he treated me to some presents because he is so kind. So I went from rarely leaving the house, to being out in the world in potentially loud and anxiety triggering situations for three days in a row. Honestly, I was not sure I would survive, but after resting all day yesterday (Sunday) today I was able to get out of bed and I have noticed I am tired and my pain is up, but it is manageable and yeah…I am pretty amazed so I thought I would share what I did to try and keep on top of everything:
- Utilise wheelchairs when possible – The museum I went to supply wheelchairs if needed which is so useful as I cannot walk far and I struggle with pain which means I need to be able to sit down regularly. However, as this is a living museum I did not want to take my own wheelchair as it would get filthy, so after checking their website I was thankful to be able to borrow one there. Checking this took no time and it saved me so much energy and pain because we could wheel me through all the coal and cobbled streets without worrying about it and I could just enjoy!
- Be prepared for change – Always make sure you are well rested before a group of events are together, no housework, no exercise just rest in the week or so before to save up spoons just in case your husband decides to take you shopping!
- Utilise alternatives – I suffer very badly with social anxiety, so I bought some CBD anxiety tea from my local health shop, when we got home each evening from these things I took a cup. It helped me to relax and rest and it also helped my pain. I also used my heating pad in the evening and massage oils to help my pain and fatigue. We all have different needs, but finding things that help other than tablets from the doctor will support you so much when you are trying to cope.
- Schedule rest – This is so important! On all three days I was in bed by 6pm with my heating pad and Netflix just resting and watching TV. Always make sure you have times when you can walk away and rest, whether it is a little nap while your husband keeps family company at Christmas, or just making sure you are in bed extra early, this is so important! If you have busy days make sure you allow time to rest and making sure family understand it is that or things do not happen is essential to cope with being social and chronic pain and fatigue.
- Dismissing guilt – It is so easy to feel guilty for having fun, I think society makes the disabled and chronically ill feel like they have to just sit on the sofa and do nothing. However, yes I did see friends and family, yes I ate too many calories and yes these things made me feel more in pain and more tired. But I am of the opinion that my life has value and I refuse to be forced to never see friends and to not have fun for fear of not meeting others expectations. I will not let anyone ruin my great memories and fun I had for my birthday which was so hard for me to cope with but it was lovely and yes I am still smiling!
- Be honest – I am lucky, my friends and family understand I have limitations, not everyone has that. So instead of pretending you are well, pushing through the pain and staying up too late so others are happy…be honest. Speak up about needing a wheelchair, or to take a break and grab some tea and extra meds, and do not let anyone make you feel less for needing these things.
- Give yourself a break afterwards – Planning fun activities is harder for us spoonies, but do not forget to look after yourself afterwards too. Yesterday I did not get out of bed until lunchtime and I was back in bed by 6pm, I made sure I got all the water I needed and I rested I made sure I had this scheduled and I did not guilt myself or expect anything. Yesterday was a difficult pain and fatigue day, but so worth it for those wonderful memories!
I hope these tips and tricks I utilised will help you to be more social and to celebrate things that need to be celebrated. So many of us stop being social because of our health, but hiding away is detrimental to our mental health and we will lose our ability to keep friends and lose valuable fun memories if we do not take the time to plan and be careful.