One year on…

Depression, Fitness, Lifestyle, Pain, Posts, Update, Work

It has been just over a year since I last wrote a post, and, in that time, a lot has happened. You might have known that I dropped out of university last year, following a dip in my health over the autumn and winter. I had a bad experience living in university halls and ended up moving into a rented house with my partner. Shortly after, I realised that university wasn’t for me, and officially finished just after Christmas. Around the same time, I had a few new additions to my medication, a couple of emergency trips to A&E, and a major loss in my social circle.

Having lost most of my friends upon leaving university, and generally having most people ghost me due to my fibro, I was left with barely anyone to talk to. The rest of my social circle is either too far away, or just doesn’t really care.  Luckily, I still had my best friend in the form of my partner, Joe, but other than that, I was incredibly lonely.

Well anyway, I decided to take the advice I had been given, and find my company elsewhere. On mother’s day, I became a mother myself.. to two gorgeous little kittens, Cleo and Layla. As therapy animals, I am allowed to have them in rented accommodation, even if it is otherwise not pet- friendly. As my GP had advised it, my Landlord said it was okay.

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Cleo and Layla have literally kept me alive this year, and have been there for me constantly. In fact, they are currently perched on the end of my bed, sleeping as I write up this post. I will definitely be writing more about them soon, as I have been planning to do a service animal post for over a year now and, to be honest, I could ramble on about my fur-babies for hours.

This isn’t the end of my story though, as there has been a lot more that has happened this year.

Joe has settled nicely into a job now, and we have, just about, got a steady income. However, since I can’t hold down a job, we have had a rough time with money troubles this year, too. At one point, we couldn’t even afford a weekly grocery shop, and Lidl seemed expensive. All things considered, we needed to cut down on our expenditure. It’s now nearing the end of our (quite expensive) tenancy, and so our miraculous plan was to move house, to somewhere cheaper. Funnily enough, the house we found is only 12 doors down from where we are now, is even more beautiful, and is £250 cheaper per month (bargain). I’m hoping that these savings will give me the opportunity to start up my own craft shop, and slowly but surely help us to progress.

Over the last year, I also gained a lot of weight. Having dropped out of university, I suddenly wasn’t walking to lectures on a daily basis, and having Joe’s car meant I didn’t have to walk anywhere else, either. As useful as it is to not be losing as much energy over travel, it also meant I wasn’t burning off as many calories, and these started to build up. Over the space of the year, I went from 9 stone to 13 stone, gaining almost half my original bodyweight in fat. Not only is this unhealthy, it made my fibro more difficult to cope with, and made my self esteem plummet even further. It wasn’t until I had to care for the kittens, and started to form a daily routine, that I started to lose it again. Since August, I have now dropped back down to 11 stone, and I am hopeful that I will continue to lose some more.  Before the kittens came along, I spent nearly every day in bed, and only got up for a few hours a day, when joe came home in the evening. I felt that I had little to no reason to exist, so would hide under my duvet all day, feeling poorly. This went on for months, hence why I put on so much weight.

Note to self: hiding under the duvet doesn’t work for more than a day or so. Eventually, you have to come out.

Thats not the only trouble I had this year, either. Say hello to my nasty little friend, insomnia. Although I have always struggled to sleep at night, it has now reached ridiculous levels. I used to need between 1 and 4 hours to go to sleep, but now, I can be still awake when joe gets up the next morning. It doesn’t happen every night, but still occurs several times throughout the week, leaving me to oversleep through the day and make the cycle even worse. Fun.

I am in the process of applying for CBT, and I am also thinking of asking my GP about sleep medication. For now though, I am completely avoiding caffeine, going to bed early, eating healthily, and trying to get as much fresh air and exercise as I can during the day. I am looking forward to moving soon, as it will give me the opportunity to be more active around the house, as we will be packing, unpacking, decorating, and sorting the garden, most of which I will do whilst Joe is at work. Hopefully, this will help me to lose weight and sleep better too, fingers crossed.

For now, I would love to get back into writing on this blog, as I realised today just how much I have missed it. Keep an eye out over the next few weeks for some more posts, as I will definitely be writing again now I have written this.

Let me know if you have any questions or advice, I’m always open to comments and love to hear feedback!

Bye for now 🙂

 

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Explaining your chronic illness to children

fibro fog, Help for friends, family, and significant others, Help for sufferers, Lifestyle, Pain, Posts

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that one of the hardest parts about having fibromyalgia (aside from the obvious) is being able to communicate what it means. Usually, people get the gist if you compare it to something more ‘normal‘, like being hit by a bus, for example. When it comes to kids, however, it gets a bit more complicated.

I find that, being the “cool” and “fun” auntie that I am *winks*, it gets difficult to tell children why I can’t play or pick them up or run around all day. It’s particularly heart breaking when you notice that they stop liking you as much. In general, though, I find that kids are very accepting of me being ill, it’s just a case of explaining why I don’t get better.

Here’s what I have found out:

1. Children struggle to understand long term illness.

If I tell my niece I am poorly, she gets it, but she expects me to ‘get well soon’ (as she wrote on the adorable card she had drawn me one time). It is difficult to explain that this won’t happen, so I try to make it easier by explaining from the start that I always feel like this. Don’t forget, it can be quite distressing from a child’s point of view, to be told that your grown up friend is always unwell- I’ve occasionally been asked by kids if I am dying, or if I am sad. Obviously this is not the case, but it might look like it to them. To help with this, I make it clear that when I am tired, I might look grumpy, but it doesn’t always mean I am, and that otherwise, I am perfectly healthy. Don’t be afraid to repeat this, as children often forget these things, and may not remember that you are okay.

2. A magic kiss or rub doesn’t make it better, but it’s cute that they try.

When my niece gives me a hug to make me feel better, it is important that I say thank you, and let her know that it cheered me up. It might not make my pain go away, but the fact that she tried is nice, and she deserves a thank you for going to the effort to make me feel better. Seeing a positive outcome will also teach her that she is doing the right thing, and being nice to someone really can help a little bit, even in the worst scenarios. This is a lesson that will keep her going throughout life.

3. Being responsible for a child is just as mentally draining as it is physically.

I know that my brain will struggle to keep up with a child’s fast pace, and I have to remember to take a break every now and then, so that I don’t wear myself out. A good way around this is to tell your child that you need a nap, they will leave you for a good half an hour to get some ‘me’ time, as far as I’ve learnt. Kids are very understanding about being tired, since they also need plenty of sleep, and I tend to find that they have no issue with letting you (pretend) sleep. You must also consider that the responsibility you hold for that child is important, so if you do feel like you can’t handle the situation, get another adult to step in whilst you take a break.

4. I’m not as strong as most people my age/size/gender, so I can’t pick them up.

Depending on the ‘format’ of your child, they might be a little on the large size, but still want picking up (i.e; a 5 year old who wants you to play). Since I am a petite 5.2″ female, I struggle with anyone over the age of 4, since they can get rather heavy. I let my niece know this, and she understands that although she is allowed to sit on my knee, I am not strong enough to pick her up all the time. She then runs to her uncle and asks him instead (teehee). Occasionally, she forgets this, but a brief “sorry, I’m not strong enough, why don’t you ask …….. instead?” does the trick.

5. I’ll be sacrificing my whole week if you ask me to baby sit for the day.

I don’t like confrontation, and sometimes, I just can’t say no. However, I know it is important to remember that you do have the right to say no whenever you like, and especially if it will effect your health. As a rule of thumb, I won’t babysit for anyone for more than a few hours, since I know that it will leave me drained. If I have to, I make sure I have the help of another adult, who can take over when I can’t. If a child asks me to spend time with them, I generally give them about an hour or so before telling them I have important adult stuff to do. Remember, it is important to spend time with the children in your life, but don’t over do it if it will make you ill. Likewise, don’t be mean to them, a simple explanation will work just fine.

I hope this helps you to explain your situation to the children in your life, whether they be your own or someone else’s, and for any parents out there, don’t forget to think twice before asking a friend to babysit. It might not be as easy for them as it is for you.

Don’t forget to comment if you have any tips for childcare with chronic illness, and let me know if this post was helpful at all- I love to hear your feedback.

See you soon, guys.

Five things to do when you don’t know what to do with yourself.

Depression, Help for sufferers, Pain, Posts

Sometimes, being tired and in pain can make you feel a bit restless, and when it does, I sometimes find myself struggling to know what to do. It’s times like this when I really wished I had some advice, but, as it stands, I never actually got any. That’s why I’m writing this post today. Here are my five favourite things to do when I don’t know what to do with myself…

1. Build your ‘mind palace’.

As a kid, I was quite an introvert and, being an only child, I often had to find ways to amuse myself. This usually meant making up fictional lands inside my head and filling them with fictional people that had fictional stories. They often resembled the plots of my favourite novels, or the odd movie I had seen. It sounds silly, but escaping into my mind made me feel like I had control over my microcosm, and gave me a certain amount of relief from reality. Not much has changed. Although much more confident and outgoing, I still rely on my own inner sanctuary when I get stressed, bored, or in need of a distraction. You should try it sometime.

2. Eat some food.

You know the drill. You’ve been on a healthy eating craze for the last two weeks, and you’re doing so well, but now you’re miserable, you’ve got cravings, and you need a mega distraction from your current state. Take it from me, everyone needs a break now and then, and giving in to that tub of ice cream in the back of your freezer won’t do any harm as long as you start tomorrow afresh.

3. Talk to your ‘person’.

You can probably agree with me here that most people are lovely in small doses, but then they get a bit annoying. However, most of us tend to have at least one special person (or animal, as younger me would like to insist), and they are the ones who don’t wear you down. It’s pretty obvious that it’s these special people that we need to look after and keep hold of, but it’s also important to remember that they have a purpose in our lives too, and will probably be more than happy to help. When you’re feeling down, give them a shout, send them a text, or plan a night in. Having someone to talk to about how you feel will make you ten times less miserable. It’s like they say; “a problem shared is a problem halved.”

4. Surf the endless pages of the internet.

It’s very easy nowadays to drown under the endless amounts of information available at the click of a button, and nearly everyone can agree that it can get a little dangerous. However, having a vast sea of distractions at your fingertips is the perfect remedy to a case of restlessness. Next time you’re feeling meh, use the time to catch up on your social media, Google any weird questions you have, or dive into an endless array of buzzfeed quizzes. I can guarantee that you won’t he disappointed.

5. Have a Netflix binge.

Losing yourself in a box set, or, if you’re more traditional, a series of novels, is one of the best ways of escaping your current situation. By watching a film, video, or tv series, you don’t have to concentrate much on what’s at hand. This makes it a brilliant way to lose yourself without having to over-process your foggy mind.

These ideas are just a few of the things I do to avoid feeling restless, however there’s many more out there that I’m sure you will have tried. Feel free to comment if you have any suggestions, as I’d love to hear them, and they could help other readers the next time they are feeling naff.

Ten pain- busting tips to try TODAY

Pain, Posts

Now one of the things you should most definitely know about me is this: I am a sucker for a good life- hack. Dont get me wrong, there’s a few things where nothing but the ‘original recipe’ will do. When it comes to chronic pain, however, I think we can all say that we would try anything. Below I will be sharing my list of chronic pain hacks. Short disclaimer: little old me thinks these work brill, but not everyone has the same opinion. Remember to keep your mind open, but please don’t take my word as gospel. That being said, It won’t hurt to try, so go ahead and take a peek at my list…

1. Drink more water.
It sounds pretty obvious, but drinking more water helps avoid dehydration, one of the main causes of your day-to-day headache. I don’t know about you, but my day tends to go significantly better if I ditch the headache, as it gives me more of a chance to manage the rest of my pains. Plus, drinking more fluids helps flush out the toxins in your body, increases your metabolism, and helps you to think more clearly. Sounds pretty good to me.

2. Cut back on caffeine.
I’m not sure on the exact science behind this (although I reckon a little Google-ing here or there could sort that one), however, I’ve been given plenty of advice on this and, as far as I’m concerned, it seems to have done the trick for me. Cut down on coffee, sugary drinks and – the source of all evil – energy drinks. Not only will this help beat those shakes and sweats you’ve no doubt complained about, but it also appears to do some good for your pain. Remember, check out what your consuming, because you would be surprised by the amount of caffeine in some of your usual ‘not-very-caffeine-ey stuff’. Better to be safe than sorry, eh?

3. Swap those cheeky treats for some tasty, guilt-free alternatives.
Like I said before, consuming healthier things just makes you feel better, but it also has another benefit. Getting the vitamins and minerals you need, plus ditching those pesky calories, means that your body can function better. This means that your body has more energy to spare, helping you deal with pain. Furthermore, you’ve probably noticed that your fibro leaves you feeling low on energy, and that reaching for those calories is your first move. The weight that most fibro sufferers gain through this is one of the biggest contributors in making them feel naff, because it means carrying around extra baggage. Not only does this increase the amount of pain you may feel, but it also wears down your energy levels even quicker. It’s a never ending cycle. Cut out the rubbish in your diet and you’ll find that you cut this issue too. Lower calories = lower weight = less pain + more energy. It’s a simple equation. Similarly, those of you who find yourselves losing weight and muscle mass (thus making you weaker and in need of more energy) can plan your diet around this too, building on healthy fats, proteins, and wholegrains in order to build your body mass in a healthy way.

4. Exercise.
I have three things to say about this. Firstly; yes, I know it’s a pain in the you-know-what. I hate exercise too. Secondly, yes, this is the fourth tip I’ve given in what seems like an obvious list, but trust me, it gets better. Thirdly, well, this is where you need to pay attention. Pain makes exercise hard, and so does fatigue, but trust me on this, it pays off in the end. By building muscle mass and burning fat, you can help your body to cope better when it comes to the stress of fibro. Increasing your capacity for activity helps you to last longer, and you release a bunch of lovely endorphins along the way, which make you feel better emotionally too (yay!). It’s even been said that the endorphins that you release during exercise help reduce the amount of pain you may be feeling. Can’t go wrong, really.

5. CBD oil.
This is where is gets interesting. Get your learning caps on guys, were about to have a lesson in biochemistry. So, CBD oil is a plant-based substance that you can buy from your local whole foods retailer, such as Holland and Barrett. It is also known as Cannabidiol oil, and (don’t freak out) is a product that’s derived from cannabis. It’s a type of cannabinoid, one of the chemicals naturally found in marijuana plants. However, there’s no need to panic, you won’t get the ‘high effect’ that you would usually expect from the plant, because this is caused by a separate cannabinoid, known as THC, which isn’t present in this case. This means that CBD is legal, and so is available on the market at low concentrations for around £20 per bottle. Oh, and as far as we know, it is completely safe to use and has little to no known side effects (Woo!).

6. Massage it out.
Getting a massage, whether by a highly trained professional or by your bestie, helps to ease your achy muscles. Adding some fancy smelling aromatherapy oils can also help, giving you some mental relaxation too. Try some calming music or some candles to help set the mood if you’re at home, because a spa day is the perfect remedy for everyone. And if your pain doesn’t ease as well as you would have hoped? Well, at least you feel pampered.

7. A hot, steamy bubble bath.
Again, not only does it give you an excuse to feel pampered, but this actually can help with your pain. Soaking in warm water helps your muscles to relax, easing that annoying ache.

8. Heat pads, hot water bottles, and microwave buddies.
I have a microwaveable cat and believe me, he is my best friend. Using the same theory as above, the heat helps to relax your muscles, so bang it on your ache and hopefully you should feel some relief. Be careful though! Sometimes these can get too hot, so wrap them in a towel if you think you might get burnt.

9. Cool packs.
Put these on your aching joints to soothe and reduce any inflammation. Fibro often correlates with co-morbid diseases such as arthritis and hypermobility syndrome. If this is the case for you, you might find that achey joints can be eased by reducing their inflammation, and the cold temperature of ice packs are perfect for this.

10. Netflix and, uh… chill?
No! Not like that! Get your mind out of the gutter you filthy animal… Now, it might seem silly, but sometimes, when nothing else seems to be working, one of the best things you can do to ease your pain is snuggle up in bed with your fave movie and take your mind off it. I know, easier said than done, but it’s better than being in pain without the bed or the Netflix, right??

*** Please note that no microwaveable cats have been injured in the making of this post. ***