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Lovely Sunshine.

The title of this post could be a little deceiving. Let me clear things up, we have absolutely not been enjoying any lovely sunshine. Nope. It has been grey, cold and raining all day! This title refers to something else entirely…

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been tagged for some blog awards so I thought I would complete the tags :-)

The gorgeous Leelu tagged me for the first award (you can read her post here!) as did the lovely Jessica (her post is here!) and then Lisa Taylor of the Writer’s Block Party blog tagged me in the other (read her post here!).

The rules of the first award are as follows:

a) Link back to those who nominated me
b) Tell you 7 things about me
c) Nominate a bunch of other great bloggers

So here are my 7 things!

1. I love scented candles. They’re just so beautiful and I adore the way the scent fills the room. Something about a lit candle is so magical and scented candles really help to relax me. As well as relaxing me, they also seem to help when I have headaches which is lovely. I currently have two gorgeous candles but I would love some more, I will probably be putting some on my Christmas wish list (yes I’m already thinking about December!).

2.  Although I suffer from both chronic pain and chronic fatigue I dream of one day being able to run. Who knows if it will ever come true but it’s up there on my bucket list. I’m not talking about being able to run a marathon, I’d just like to be able to do a 5k run…

3. Sometimes I daydream about having my own little cafe or cake shop because I love to bake. It would suit me perfectly but I can’t imagine ever taking the plunge. I just like to dream about it, imagining how it would look and the lovely things I would bake.

4. Whilst I love the summertime (ignoring the fact that we haven’t had any summer weather) my favourite time of year is still Christmas. It’s just so wonderful, in my family we have many traditions which I adore and I love the way the holiday can really bring everyone together. I love all of the preparations and the build up. Buying gifts for those I love is something I really like to do so it’s a fantastic time for me :-)

5. Something that may surprise you is that when I was younger I used to be a really pessimistic person. I don’t know if it was just a teenage thing or something else entirely but at one time I immediately saw the bad side of things and never saw things in a positive light. It’s really strange to think about now as I am such an optimistic person these days!

6. Although I don’t know for sure now, the two career paths I can really see myself pursuing in the future are either working with children in some capacity or writing. I don’t know the specifics but I can’t really imagine any other options that would really make me happy in life.

7. I am incredibly open and honest person, I really struggle to mask my emotions. Whilst I know it can be annoying occasionally I am pleased that I am emotionally open, I think it makes me more approachable and easier to relate to. I can’t lie, it makes me feel ridiculously guilty and I’m usually really easy to read anyway!

As a recipient for the Sunshine Award, I have to answer the following questions:

Favorite number: I always think this is a slightly bizarre question but for reasons I can’t really explain I like the numbers 3 and 7. No idea why though!

Favorite Non-alcoholic drink: This is difficult, in the winter I love hot chocolates, in the summer I like to sip on vanilla lattes :-)

Facebook or Twitter: I prefer Twitter although I don’t post much on it, I just love it as a medium to find interesting links and articles plus it’s nice to have the instant connection and communication with people. I have a Facebook but other than the fact that I use it to organise social things I would probably delete my profile.

My Passion: I have many passions but if I had to pick an absolute top of the list it would have to be literature. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while (or have just read the little blurb on the right-hand side!) will know that I study English literature at university and I just love to read. Books are such an important part of my life, they are a lifeline when I’m struggling, they are entertainment, they are learning tools, they are escapism…

Favorite pattern: This is a bit of an odd question but I’ll roll with it. My favourite pattern to wear is either horizontal stripes (preferably in blue and white) as well as polka dots. If we’re talking numerical patterns or something like that then I really don’t know, I’ve always found the Fibonacci sequence fascinating. My room is filled with floral patterns so I clearly love those too.

Favorite Day of the Week: My favourite day of the week is either Monday which I know sounds odd but I love fresh starts and I love making goals and plans for the week ahead, or Saturday because I always have the day free and I often get to spend it doing something fun with Tom!

Favorite Flower: I love flowers so I have quite a few favourites: I really like white or pale pink roses, I love forget-me-nots and snow drops, and I really love lily of the valley because they are so delicate and they remind me of my grandmother :-)

Okay there you have my answers, now here are the bloggers I am tagging!

Danielle 
Emily
Tessa
Alexandra
Christina
Laura
Haley

I hope you enjoyed this post :-)

Tell me a fact about yourself or answer any of the questions you fancy!

Confessions #2.

1. I don’t always stretch before working out. I know, I know, that’s really bad for you and people like me should be particularly careful. The thing is I stretch most mornings and then when I workout I want to conserve my energy for the actual exercise. I stretch afterwards usually…

2. When I was little I wasn’t actually all that academic and I used to hate reading! Until I was about 8 years old I really didn’t enjoy reading, I only liked having stories read to me. I was also appalling at spelling and was even put in special spelling class. Harry Potter, clichéd as it might sound, actually taught me to love reading and after reading the first three books back-to-back aged 8 I never looked back! It’s why I don’t like hearing people slagging off the writing – it may be simplistic but it enthralled me throughout my childhood and I love them to this day.

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3. There are very few foods I don’t like but there are several food-based things that I am incredibly fussy about: I really dislike omelettes – they make me feel physically sick, I hate fatty bits on meat and always cut them off, vinegar and kiwi fruits hurt my tongue.

4. In case you haven’t already noticed, I am absolutely addicted to pasta. Like seriously addicted. I could eat it everyday if it wasn’t for the fact that that wouldn’t be great for my health. I just think it’s such a fantastic, versatile food that can be served in all kinds of dishes.

One of my favourite pasta dishes: tagliatelle, tomato, cream, chili, bacon and Parmesan. It’s so luxurious and indulgent tasting. The ultimate treat dinner.

5. I am becoming a little bit addicted to beauty and skincare products. I’m someone who is incredibly careful with my money and I always have a little internal debate about each purchase I make (in every domain – even with essentials like paper) but at the moment I constantly find myself drawn to the beauty counters in department stores… I think it stems from the fact that the constant fatigue makes me feel pretty rubbish and a bit of pampering here and there really helps me to perk up!

6. I used to be a really indoor kind of girl, I wasn’t very adventurous as a child and I wasn’t keen on getting dirty or anything like that. Since being ill and therefore unable to be outside as often as I’d like I’ve really grown to appreciate the outdoors and I now absolutely love being outside and I see the beauty of nature everywhere. I’m really hoping for some better weather in order to go for walks and picnics in the sunshine.

7. Sometimes I feel like I don’t really fit into a proper blogging “niche”, I’m not really a healthy-living blogger, but I’m not really a food blogger either and nor am I a lit blogger. Does that make me a lifestyle blogger? Hmm…

So there you have some random confessions, I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about me! Have a fantastic weekend :-)

Have you got a confession to share with me?

Big News.

Hey hey there :-)

So, as I promised you all yesterday, I’ve got some BIG news to tell you!

First, let me backtrack a little. As those of you who have been reading my blog for the past few months will know, this has been my first year at university. You will also probably know that it has been a difficult year at the best of times. Over the course of the year my condition has become far worse and I have really struggled to get through it all. Earlier this term, after lengthy discussions with my parents, my disability adviser, my English lit tutor and Tom, I made a difficult but important decision…

As of next year I will be transferring to a university closer to home.

This means that starting September I will be moving back home full-time and transferring to one of the local universities to continue my degree. I am still going to be studying English literature and I will still be going into my second year, just at a different institution. Although I made the decision a while ago, I wanted to wait till I’d been in to see the head of English at my new uni and received my official offer before revealing this to the world.

I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been an easy decision. The lecturers and tutors at my current uni are fantastic and I’ll miss some of their lectures greatly, I’m sad to be leaving a campus and a city that I have really grown to love, and of course I’m really going to miss the brilliant friends I have made! I also have to say that I’m a little disappointed to lose to my independence. If someone had told me, this time last year, that this is how things were going to turn out I would have probably laughed, it is definitely not what I planned. But I really feel that it is the right decision to make – I have to prioritize my degree, and of course my health.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you who have supported me through this year! Your kind words, your advice and your endless support has really really helped me get through this. You truly are an amazing bunch of people :-)

So I hope I now have your support with this change! It won’t be easy to begin with, but I am really optimistic that it will improve my life for the near future.

And Then it was Four.

Yesterday was a very special day for me.

It marked four years of being in the most wonderful relationship with the most amazing person.

Thank you Tom, for everything you have given me, and happy anniversary my love.

You have made my life so much richer and I cannot say how much I am glad I met you.

I love you Tom.

 

An Uphill Struggle – On Fibromyalgia.

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I have started several posts with the sentence ‘lately, I’ve been struggling’ and it’s often true.

In fact, I could quite easily start many more posts with that.

Because it’s true, I do struggle, I struggle an awful lot.

Over the past year I have had to really come to terms with the fact that I have a chronic condition and probably will have for the rest of my life.

Whether it is a chronic pain condition, a chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, or all of these, I HAVE A CHRONIC HEALTH CONDITION.

There, I’ve said it and it’s written in caps lock so there really is no denying it!

For the time being, we’re calling it fibromyalgia which sort of is a mixture of the three. It also sounds nice and official which makes a change after years of having to say ‘well… I have this back problem… the doctors don’t know what it is…’ which never got taken seriously.

So I thought I’d write an informative post about the condition, so that I get it all out there in the open. I have talked about my condition before, if you want to read them (I promise it’s not too depressing) here are the links: Living With Chronic Pain – Part 1, and Living With Chronic Pain – Part 2.

Recently I read this post from Mary’s blog Fibromy-Awesome. It really touched me. And I just felt I had to write this.

Why did I decide to write this post? Honestly, I absolutely promise that it is not because I need a rant, I’m writing this almost for the opposite reason. Firstly many people have asked me questions about my condition and I’ve never really explained the symptoms I have, secondly I feel like I need to write this – it’s like catharsis, and thirdly I want to accept that my condition has gotten much much worse and then move on. Writing this is me saying, okay I have a condition and it sucks, but my life is about much more than that and I’m moving past it.

The NHS website defines fibromyalgia as such:

‘Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome, is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body. 

The name fibromyalgia comes from three Latin words:

  • ‘fibro’ meaning fibrous tissues, such as tendons (tissue that connects muscles to bones) and ligaments (tissue that connects bones to bones)
  • ‘my’ meaning muscles
  • ‘algia’ meaning pain

However, the pain of fibromyalgia does not just affect the muscles, ligaments and tendons, but is felt all over the body. It results in widespread pain and extreme tiredness. People with fibromyalgia may also have:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • headaches
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • muscle stiffness’
What does it all mean in terms of my life? Well here are some of the main symptoms I (and thousands like me) have to contend with every single day:

Pain

Ah my old friend pain. Here is a sad fact about my life, it actually almost makes me cry to think about it, I honestly don’t remember what it feels like to feel no pain. For me, this was the first part of my condition that I experienced. Essentially, I have been in constant pain for the last 3 years and experienced pain everyday for 2 and a half years before that. I wake up in pain and most days this just grows as it goes on. I go to bed in pain. So far, none of the pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc that I have been given have worked. I have learnt to deal with the pain and if I’m honest I think I will be in pain for the rest of my life. Pain seems to be something the body, or at least my body, can’t adapt to. I can’t ignore it, I can’t get used to it, it never goes away. I feel the pain most acutely in my hips, lower back, upper back, shoulders and neck: I have sharp stabbing, shooting pain up my spine throughout the day. My knees, ankles, arms, wrists and hands are, so far, less affected. The whole of my body constantly aches, many days I struggle to walk much, I can’t stand for any length of time at all, sitting upright causes my back huge amounts of pain and even lying down is no longer comfortable…

Fatigue

This is a newer factor for me, I’ve only really had problems with fatigue for the last year or so, and it’s only become serious since starting university. I struggle to sleep but I am on medication for that which does actually manage to knock me out for the night. But when I wake up, which is really difficult with the drugs (you win some, you lose some), I feel as though I haven’t slept. Most days I can gather up enough energy to go about my daily life, some days I actually feel pretty good and manage to live more normally, but some days I crash. I feel completely drained and exhausted, even lifting my arm feels like excruciating effort and I stay in bed for the entire day. This usually leaves me feeling completely weak, I am unsteady on my feet and last term I even collapsed twice – half from the pain, half from the exhaustion. The fatigue often brings on headaches, I usually have 3 or 4 a week (my pain also causes headaches).

Extreme Sensitivity

This is a difficult one to judge because it’s hard to remember what I experienced 5 years ago and differentiate that from what I experience now to figure out what is caused by my condition. I have become much more sensitive to bright light (e.g. overhead lights, bright sunlight, etc), it hurts my eyes, makes me feel tired and gives me headaches. The same goes with loud(ish) noises. I also experience hyperalgesia which is when you are extremely sensitive to pain, banging my toe or elbow is extremely painful and causes my back to jar. I also get cold very easily and the cold causes my joints to be more painful than usual.

Stiffness

I am, as I already mentioned, extremely stiff in the morning when I wake up and this often carries into the day. It makes sitting in lectures or sitting at my desk extremely painful. The stiffness and pain also causes a lot of tension in my muscles which in turn occasionally causes them to spasm which is where they contract tightly. Sometimes when this happens my knees buckle and I stumble, it’s difficult not to fall over. Lately I have also found that my hands spasm pretty painfully when I am writing by hand or typing. If I’m honest, this particularly worries me.

Cognitive Disturbance

This has in a way been the hardest symptom to deal with. Don’t get me wrong, the pain and the fatigue are awful to deal with, they have taken so much of my life. But this has really really affected my work and that is not easy to deal with, either at Sixth Form or at university. When things are particularly difficult I have trouble remembering even the simplest of facts, I have difficulties concentrating, I get dizzy and struggle with balance, my eye sight blurs slightly and my head spins pretty badly. The strength of my medication really doesn’t help with these issues. These cognitive disturbances get referred to as ‘fibro-fog’ (somewhat patronizing in my opinion) and they make reading difficult which I really hate, they also make working and revising very complicated and sometimes impossible tasks. Combined with my inability to sit at my desk too long from the pain and the exhaustion the fatigue brings, doing my work at university has been incredibly difficult and organisation is hard to keep on top of. I used to be the sort of person who did her work the day it was assigned, was super organised and had everything ‘just so’, as such this has been really difficult and hurtful to deal with.


I really don’t want this post to be just about me, and I certainly am not looking for any sympathy. What I want is to raise awareness about conditions like mine, these so-called ‘hidden illnesses’.

The other day I took the lift to go up two floors in Waterstones. I didn’t have my cane as I was with my mum and I could lean on her arm if I needed. As we got to the second floor there was a couple with a toddler in a pushchair waiting for the lift. My mum went past but then as I went past the guy exclaimed, in that loudly obnoxious voice people use when they’re feeling self-righteous, something like “Oh yeah, because you’re disabled!” and then proceeded to complain to the woman with him. Now to be honest, on that day I was really struggling so, unless one of them had a condition like mine, it would have actually been easier for them to carry the pushchair between them (it’s not like they’re very heavy!) down the two flights of stairs than it would have been for me to climb them. So although I wasn’t particularly upset by the experience, I was a little irritated. What if I had been a cancer sufferer going through chemo, or an AIDS patient, or a cystic fibrosis sufferer, a sufferer of clinical depression, or anything ‘hidden’ like that?

It’s just plain ignorance to act like that and it really made me think that we really shouldn’t judge people, you never know what they are going through behind closed doors.

Anyway, I really hope you have taken something from this post. It took a lot of energy and emotion to write and I feel pretty drained now. But actually, I am proud of myself for pushing through this, I am proud of myself for not giving up, I am proud of myself for what I have achieved.

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Tomorrow is my birthday (yay!) and I promise I will be back with a slightly easier to read and more uplifting post!

Did you learn something from this post?
What are your thoughts on ‘hidden illnesses’?
If you would like to, I’d love for you to share something ‘hidden’ that you struggle with!

16 and Beautiful.

Today is a special day.

She doesn’t even think of it as special, she doesn’t really care about birthdays, she doesn’t want a big fuss made.

But I can’t let the day go past without wishing the girl who is the most beautiful inside and outside that I have ever met.

 

So, Happy Birthday to my baby sister, Alice!

 

This  gorgeous girl:

 

She might not see her birthday as a big deal but for me it is such an important day.

It is the day that my best friend was born.

The day that the most special sister came into the world and made my life what it is today.

Alice, I would have been very lonely had you not been born, 16 years ago today. You are always there for me, I know that no matter what time of the night it is, if I’m depressed or really ill, I can call you  (or more likely, chat with you on facebook :-P).

My life has been enriched by your being in it more than I can say!

So today, I celebrate the birth of my little sister, all those years ago. A beautiful, talented, funny, witty, kindhearted girl and my best friend for the last 16 years.

Happy birthday you gorgeous girl, I hope you are having a fantastic day :-)

p.s. It’s my birthday in a week! ;-)

A Lunch and a Reflection.

Hello my loves,

I hope you’re all having a great week so far!

Today is my day off. Every other week I have nothing on a Tuesday and it’s really blissful. Just the thought that I only have to get through another three days and then I can rest properly again gives me the strength to get through the week.

First, today’s positive happenings.

Look at my brand-new, shiny toy:

It’s not really a toy at all. It’s the most amazing chair I’ve ever sat in. It actually moves with you. If I lean forwards it comes with me, if I fancy leaning back a bit then I can just lean away. It has a little pump to fill part of the back-rest with air to support my lower back. Everything is adjustable. It’s wonderful.

Plus the colour is pretty cheering.

I didn’t realise it was going to be quite this bright but I kinda’ love it.

I really hope that it will help writing essays and researching online a bit easier.

Also lovely today was meeting with Natalie and Dan for lunch. These two are the cutest couple I know (after Tom and moi of course).

It was really nice to see the two of them again, it’s always nice to feel free to talk. Although I have some really fantastic friends here, I still feel more relaxed when I’m talking to people from home. People who know me outside of uni, away from the context of my condition, who know what I’m really like.

I bought a pot of pasta and tomato sauce from the canteen and, because I felt like I needed a treat, a skinny vanilla iced latte and a slice of banana bread. Indulgent yes, but delicious also. And we all need a bit of banana bread in our lives sometimes :-)

So this was all pleasant and relaxing.

Then came a chore I have a love/hate relationship with. Food shopping.

If I were a normal person I would absolutely love food shopping. I would love walking up and down the aisles of the supermarket, examining all of the different foods. I would love going into the local farm shop and having a chat with the fishmonger, picking out fresh herbs, buying locally made chutneys. I would love visiting the organic supermarket and gazing longingly at all of the wondrous health foods.

But. I had to take my cane because my knees have been playing up so I can’t push a trolley. Carrying a basket hurts. Bending down and reaching up hurts. Carrying the food in a bag on my shoulder hurts.

Luckily my lovely (I definitely overuse that word) friend Kathryn came with me so she helped where she could. But I can’t ask her to reach everything for me and she has her own food to carry.

Being disabled with any sort of outward visual sign exposes your fellow human beings. It separates the polite, the thoughtful, the caring, and the selfless, from the selfish, self-centred, and ignorant. You can tell a lot about people from the way they interact with the disabled or the elderly.

Honestly, sometimes after a hard trip out like this afternoon’s, part of me wants to give up on people. Especially when they walk towards you, chatting with their friend and neither makes any effort to move. Especially when people actually physically push past you. It really makes you feel like everyone is in their own bubble, self-centred, they’ll only help if it suits them or if it’s in their own interest. I have to work really hard to remember that not all people are like that. Many people are kindhearted. Many people do care. Many people do help.

And then, just one polite and thoughtful person will show you why it’s important to keep faith in people. A lovely, friendly looking man stopped, stood back and let me pass. Even though there probably would have been room for both of us. That’s all it takes.

I hope I was one of these people five years ago.

How do you feel about these sorts of issues?
What makes you lose faith in people?

When was the last time you treated yourself? Go on, you deserve it!