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.
So first of all I want to apologise for not updating my blog for a week or so, unfortunately I needed a little time to look after my mental health after losing my Grandmother. She was a big part of my life, in fact I think I talked about her in my last post and I am finding the grief hard.I have taken losing her and my Grandad pretty badly because they were two people who taught me so much and loved me so completely and without conditions.
It is horrible because I have moments where I forget they are gone and I get a idea to call or suggest we visit, but then I remember…
I think anyone who is dealing with grief knows that feeling, like hearing it all over again, and right now it is hard because the funeral isn’t until the end of the month so that is looming over me. Added onto that I have my birthday this week, I am turning 40 and most people I wanted to celebrate with me cannot make it and I think I just have a lot of feelings from childhood parties gone wrong kicking up again!
I think a lot of people who suffer with anxiety and depression know this well, something happens and instead of just wanting to deal with that one thing your brain decides to think of a million other times in your past. Negative thoughts and memories are something I deal with every day and something that I honestly fight with and battle with constantly. Most people who met me would not think that, but even as I smile inside there is a million thoughts and feelings fighting to take that smile away from me. I am in the process of starting therapy again, finally after a life with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Depression since the age of 14 the doctor thought I might need long term therapy wow never would have thought it!!
Opening up to someone new about your past and the issues you have leaves you feeling so exposed and raw, so losing one of my close family at the same time has been very hard. I think it is hard at any time, but talking about it along with retelling my past has left me feeling very small and lost at times.
I really hope however, that I can push through this time in a healthy way and this is how I am going to try and do that:
- Talking – I think it is important to be open and honest about my thoughts and feelings at the moment and I am talking things through with my husband and therapist because I cannot hold this all in.
- Meditation – I try to meditate every day to protect myself and to keep my mind clear, it gives me a chance to slow down and just concentrate on my breathing. I also found some amazing guided meditations for grief on You Tube.
- Mindfulness – Staying in this moment and not getting lost in emotions and thoughts is something that does not come easily, however I find it helps my anxiety, which is thinking about the future, and depression, which is thinking about the past. I have been working on this because I am a Buddhist, but it is also a big part of what my therapists have suggested.
- Keeping busy – Now this one can be difficult with pain and fatigue, both of which are worse because of the grief, but it is important to at least be reading or watching a TV show sitting and thinking is the worst thing for someone suffering with their mental health so definitely bear that in mind.
I hope this post has not bought you down or upset anyone, but I think far too much in our society we are afraid of death and talking about mental health issues and right now that is what is happening in my life. Yes it is difficult, but the more we talk about it the less stigma there will be and more people will be able to get the help they need without worry or fear. Next Monday I will tell you all about my wonderful birthday celebrations and hopefully I will cope with turning 40 without running away hehe
So right now I am struggling with the fact that my Nan is nearing the end of her life, she has been one of the biggest influences on my life. I have been lucky enough to have her in my life for so long and I am thankful for that, however grief is creeping in and I am aware that I do not want to fall into the same depression that I did when we lost my Grandad.
So this time I am concentrating on the good, I am thinking through every good memory I have of times with her and remembering how thankful I am that she was chosen to be a part of my life. She taught me about God and how to have faith, she was always there to listen and she never put me down or made fun of my struggles over the years like others did.
My Nan is amazing and I am determined to follow her example and to hold onto God as I go through this journey with her. She always taught me that if you have your faith you have everything you need, and that is so true. My prayer times have been so sacred to me and have helped me so much to get out my feelings as well as to send love and care to her.
I have also been holding onto the Heal Chronic Fatigue course teachings and remembering to turn each negative thought into something good. Buddhism teaches that we should not try to hold onto people or things because they are not going to always be there. I have been using positive affirmations, good memories and positive thoughts to make sure I stay as positive as possible right now.
However, self care is not just about staying postive and being happy, I let my tears fall when they need to but the difference is I do not wallow in it. I let my emotions flow now I do not judge them like I used to and I am being patient with myself as my mind is very scattered right now because I am trying to wrap my head around losing my beloved Nan. Grief can be overwhelming at times, but it is important to treat yourself well, make sure you eat well and often and give in to comfort food sometimes because it is called that for a reason!
Have you been through grief? How did you cope and what things did you learn from that time?
So it is getting closer to Christmas, with plans for visiting relatives and going out for dinner on the day as well as visiting my elderly Nan are all hovering over me. Of course, my body has chosen right now to get a cold and to hit me hard with fatigue that leaves me laying on the sofa unable to think straight no matter get dinner going!
My wonderful husband has epilepsy and his medications make him drowsy and tired, yet he comes home from work and makes dinner, helps me undress and get into bed and listens to me natter on and on about TV shows and Instagram and whatever else is in my head!
The problem is that I am constantly hit with guilt, I am forever saying sorry to him and that drives him insane! But I do feel so guilty, about him having to cook after being at work all day and I just hate that I feel like a useless blob on the sofa!
So much of our self-worth in society is tied up in what we do for a living, where we live, how we look and if you are unable to keep up, judgement comes from inside as well as from society at large. I find even my mother, who has Multiple Sclerosis, give me looks and makes comments when I ask Lee to pass me something or to help me. So when it even comes from those we think should understand how are we as chronic illness sufferers meant to keep our heads up and not drown in guilt?
I know many of you will understand what I am saying and will probably agree with a lot of points I have said, but my question is if we cannot do the housework and we need to put on family and friends how do we push passed this guilt that comes with fatigue? How do I as a woman who prides herself on having a clean and tidy house, deal with being unable to keep up with keeping everywhere clean? How do I pass jobs on to my husband when he is already tired from work and not feel like the most awful failing housewife?
Usually, I like to give tips and ideas but this time it is me asking for them: How do you keep your self worth going when you are unable to work or keep up with housework? How do you push passed the guilt that comes with times of extreme fatigue? Answers in the comments please? I will hopefully do a follow up to this post soon with some conclusions and helpful ideas to help my fellow Spoonies keep their self worth high!
Well it is that time of year again, I have cards to make, presents to wrap and right now I just want to fast forward to January and be done with it! Now do not get me wrong I am not a Christmas hater and I am not one to be compared to The Grinch at all! In fact, I always loved this time of year and looked forward to seeing my family and giving presents to people I love. I enjoyed the cheesy films and decorating the house….
Then my Grandad died, and my parents split, my Dad now has a new family he is spending Christmas with and my mom is spending it with her friends and my Nan is staying in the home she now lives in for her dementia. This will in fact be my first Christmas not eating dinner with either parent or my Nan, me and my husband are going to be eating Christmas dinner together with our dog in a local pub.
I have decorated our living room, but that was so tiring and the added time and effort it takes to clean now I have extra things to move makes me wonder why I even bothered! I have not yet recieved a single card, and no invitations or planned time with friends leaves me feeling extremely lonely. I feel very lost and nothing feels right and I have this unsettled feeling all the time which is triggering both my depression and anxiety and overall I am just lonely and miserable!
However, I am not the sort of person to give up and I am putting a few things in place to try and keep my mental health under control while I navigate this time:
- Meditation and prayer: I am someone who tries to keep myself centered and I do that by looking to God. I try to spend time every day meditating and talking to God, my faith is something I take very seriously and it really helps me. Now I am not trying to say everyone go find God, but I am saying we all have something that helps keep us grounded whether that is a best friend, favourite song or your faith. Concentrating on and holding onto this really helps in times of trouble so don’t knock it until you try it.
- Exercise: Depression wants us sitting around feeling useless and doing nothing, I find walking around my living room, doing Yin Yoga, or just dancing to a song I like are all things that can really help shake off depression even just for a little while.
- Keeping busy: It literally took me most of today to work up to being bothered to write this blog post, but that is the depression not me who loves writing my blog. It is best to keep busy in order to stop those negative thoughts clouding in and taking over. No matter whether it is learning a new hobby, reading or just planning what next year has to offer try to keep your mind from taking over!
- Mindfulness: Now this is simply taking a moment to concentrate on this moment without judgement. Just stop and take a breath, take in your surroundings and stop those thoughts it really can change everything to just step back and realise we live in this moment and not in the past or future where depression and anxiety live.
- Be thankful: I try every day as I get into bed, to list things I am thankful for over the day. Things like doggy cuddles, cups of tea, being warm, not needing to nap, etc. It really helps to stop looking at what we do not have and starting to appreciate what we do have. This time of year adverts are everywhere, people on social media bragging about buying so many presents, and movies that show the ‘perfect christmas’. In reality, nobody needs 500 presents, kids just want to be loved, and perfection does not exist. Be thankful for what you do have and can do and stop trying to keep up with the Jones’!
- Avoid adverts: This is related to the last one, but I turn off or mute all adverts on TV and you tube, I do not want those toxic 2 minutes in my life! They make me feel like I want so much and none of it is actually needed! Take the pressure off by turning away from adverts and instead take those moments to be mindful, or cuddle the dog!
I hope these small things are manageable for you, and I hope this holiday season is better than you imagined, and if you ever need to talk my emails are always open.
- Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at email@example.com.
- Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
- PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
- Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn’t have a helpline, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information.
- Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
- Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.
So a couple of weeks ago I posted THIS post, in it I spoke of how I feel let down since my diagnosis was changed from Multiple Sclerosis to Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and neurological problems they did not look into. I felt strange doing it, but I sent the surgery a link to the article and soon was called to see the doctor to discuss it.
That appointment was yesterday and I really do not know how I feel about how it went!
They listened to me and referred me to people to try and help I have been referred to a rheumatologist to hopefully take over the care of my Fibromyalgia. I have also been referred to have ultrasounds on my shoulders to check what is going on and why I am getting so much pain and cracking with them.
I have also been referred to a therapist, I think because of my chronic depression which has flared, but I wonder if they are thinking some of my symptoms are in my head? She did say at one point that Fibromyalgia is a ‘dumping illness’ that is used when no other diagnosis can be found and that it cannot be cured.
I sometimes feel as if Doctors being scientists are only interested in illnesses that can be cured or measured. As my illnesses are mainly causing me extreme pain and fatigue neither of which can be cured or measured they really do not know what to do with me!
I sit here before you frustrated but slightly hopeful, maybe something will be found that they can latch onto and that will get me the help I want. Or maybe who I have been referred to will know the latest research and will know how to deal with my neck and shoulder pain which causes headaches and pain without just throwing medication at me???
I will keep you all informed as things progress, I am unsure what to do about the fact the doctor prescribed me Morphine for pain and feel a little disappointed that something else was not suggested…still I am willing to try anything at this point and cling to the hope that next year will bring me some good care.
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?