Reviewing my Journey from one end of the country to the other during lockdown

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You probably think I’ve gone mad at this point or atleast run out of ideas – writing about my travels from one end of the country to the other. But I am, so such is life. And yes I have many other potential blog posts, I’m also thinking about starting a law blog to keep me occupied when I leave my job, unless I’m too busy trying to find a new job because internalised ableism is a bitch. I’m in a weird position with my health right now. Not really well enough to work full time. Unable to walk for 10 minutes without PEM and more than a few minutes without hip issues so would struggle to get to a workplace multiple days a week and work productively for 5 days without an electric wheelchair which I  can’t afford. I am looking into a self propelling one though just so when I move back in with the fam they can push me around. (They’re abelist selves will hate that)  Anyway that’s beside the point.

I had to go back to the end of the country where I work for flat inspections and to pace. Sounds weird that. But I do find my health is better up here as I don’t have the constant noise of my family draining my energy. I eat whatever and I don’t have stairs to contend with.

So where to start. I didn’t rate wearing a facemask, espcecially not an overcized one but it was all I had and it looked cute so I rate that. I feel like going out in things that previously would have faced so much negaitive judgement is easier if you can make the item pretty. The train station in my town was eerily empty but I was able to sit down whilst I waited for the train so can’t really complain. On the train it was only me and a family in the carriage until the end of the journey when a couple of other people got on.

Getting off of the train in London was a weird experience. Many people were wearing the face masks wrong, maybe the government should start sharing easy instructions on how to use a facemask properly. Maybe they already do and I just haven’t seen it. I popped into WHSmith because I didn’t feel browsing boots meal deals for too long was appropriate and I wasn’t that hungry so I just got a Lucozade, some hand sanitizer and mini eggs. I know it’s June. But Easter choc is the best choc.

I have never seen London  so quiet  and as usual the walk to the jubilee line killed me.  But it was nice seeing hand sanitizer points throughout the underground network. Unfortunately I had to stand on the tube as well as I felt too anxious to walk through people to get to seats at a social distance as getting there would break the social distance.

I’m so utterly pathetic. I felt really quite unwell and honestly that’s the worst part of being in London with an invisible disability. Heck even when it’s in some way visible it’s a good day if someone offers you a seat. Although social distancing issues aside I’m normally good at hunting down the last seat if I’m not travelling in rush hour.

I could sit on the second tube I got though and nearly zoned out and missed my stop. I am a liability on public transport. Honestly I’m amazed I’ve never actually missed my stop before.

I decided to sit in the sun for a bit at  as I had just under an hour until my train once I got to the next main national rail station which was really nice although sun makes me super nauseous right now! The train station handed out facemasks to people who didn’t have them which I highly rate as at the time of posting it is now compulsory to wear facemasks on public transport in the UK.

The toilets were open at the station which was great and there were hand sanitiser points outside the toilets which I highly rate and lots of reminders about maintaining a social distance.

The second train was more chilled than it ever is although I was very happy to get off and be back home. Made the very stupid mistake of walking back to my flat despite being in a lot of pain. I was so out of breath despite that 10 minute walk not usually making me out of breath even when carrying stuff so that’s a definite sign that my bodies not where it was at the beginning of the year.

Travelling during this time was a lot less scary than I expected it to be so I hope this helps those who are suddenly realising a need for public transport as the country opens back up after not needing it for a while.

You are sick enough for help: Mental Health Awareness week

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It’s the end of mental health awareness week and honestly we shouldn’t need one but there we go, we still do. Although we have come a long way there is still a significant amount of stigma out there.

Today I want to talk about, well write about how we all have mental health and there is never a point where you are not sick enough for help. Be that therapy, counselling or medication or even just that little bit of extra support from family, friends and collegues.

Mental health is just like physical health. Sometimes it can be good, sometimes it can be bad, sometimes it can be somewhere inbetween and just like physical health we shouldn’t ignore it if we start to feel it going because if we do ignore it, it will likely get worse and have a knock on effect on other aspects of our life. If it gets worse, it’s harder to then get back under control.

Just like physical pain, it’s better to take action when the pains a 3/10 because once it gets out of control more and more needs to be done.

Ignoring your mental health and sacrificing it above all else in life isn’t a badge of honour, it isn’t a way to show how brilliant you are or how hard you try. Your not being pathetic if you take time out, get therapy, take medication that’s okay. You are valid. You are worthy. You are not wasting the time of healthcare professionals. Even if you live in the UK and are reliant on the NHS. If you think you are having enough of an issue with your mental health that simple self care isn’t helping and only you know that you are worthy of help. See your GP, self refer to therapy.

I know living in the UK it can be hard, especially as a teenager because CAHMS often only help you in a timely manner if your on your death bed and even then…. I won’t waste words ranting about CAHMS though.

Many trusts now offer self referral to therapy, although limited in their use for people like me with currently mild/moderate anxiety and depression this can be really helpful  I have a lot more anxiety than depression though! I’ve been really quite anxious these past few days just because my family don’t understand ME but the second I try to explain they start spewing abelist language on me. That’s an anxiety that’s hard to overcome, when the people who are meant to support you most don’t see nor understand your illness but it’s kind of your fault because have you really tried but the issue is your too anxious to try.

That was a tangent…

Although there’s still waiting lists it’s not the 6 months to many years that can be found with other forms of mental health treatment on the NHS.

You are sick enough, you are worthy and you are deserving. Remember it’s better to prevent these issues arising at all, through rest, be selfish once in a while. Self care is important, you shouldn’t burn yourself out trying to be everything for everyone.

Not working in the time of COVID-19

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Hello. I’m sure many of us are not working right now. Many people have been put on furlough or forced to take unpaid leave or like me are getting paid to not work until the organisation can provide the infrastructure to work from home or the office reopens.

At first it was fine. Like I had plenty of things to do (still do tbh) and quite frankly wasn’t well enough to work anyway. But now Easter is over and everyone’s working and more and more people in my organisation are getting laptops to work from home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful to be able to spend the time on my blog, on reading more and on looking after my health.

But there is a sense of guilt. Despite circumstances being completely beyond my control. And the purpose in my life is not what it was last month.

I want to go home and see my family but when lockdown ends, the office will likely reopen and by which point I will be expected to be in the office infrastructure to work from home or not as I’m still in my probationary period.

There will be too much guilt and worry to book the annual leave to go home because by which point I may not have worked for nearly two months.

On what planet do I deserve annual leave?

I also don’t really need it, asides from the fact that home is the other end of the country. So for me to spend a reasonable amount of time at home and ideally limit the damage to my ME I could do with a good few days of annual leave when work requires being in the office.

I don’t know why I feel guilty because this is all out of my control and it is currently illegal to travel home. I can’t. Or I can but I’d be risking a fine and it’s morally wrong.

It’s not like I’ve wasted this time and I could have otherwise used this time to go home or do any of the things that may require annual leave in the future. So it’s all irrational and stupid.

But I think in todays society it is all very natural to have this guilt over not working. Because society would have us believe that our worth is our productivity and that that productivity is somewhat meaningless if it’s not related to a job. That’s not true.

Not in the slightest. We are all have worth regardless of our employment status.

Is anyone else having feelings of guilt?

On Sleep and Chronic Illness

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Sleep. What an interesting and topical topic. Seeing as sleep is essential for the functioning of the immune system and many people are struggling to sleep right now because of anxiety associated with the pandemic, I figured I should write about sleep and how to help with sleep as someone with chronic illness.

I feel like us spoonies struggle with sleep in two different ways. We either sleep too much (hypersomnia) or just cannot sleep (insomnia). Personally I struggle to stick to a normal 9-5 working sleeping pattern due to pain and nausea and because my ME seems to like the hours from 9pm onwards more and hates early morning rising. Many times I’ve gone into work on 4 hours sleep or less. I can easily sleep 10+ hours a night and have naps throughout the day when I’m in a flare. So I guess I go both ways…

Sleep is essential and not having enough of it can make it that much harder to get through the day or make us hyper tired and delerious and then crash later. So if your in the camp that is struggling to get to sleep at night or struggling to get to sleep early enough because your body clock is just against that 9-5 life then here’s a few tips.

  1. Have a wind down routine Although some people can just switch off and yeah I can sometimes, most people can’t. Be it having a hot bath, doing some yoga, reading a book, watching some TV or a combination of the above a wind down routine is essential for a good nights sleep.
  2.  Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. If you work I’m sure you’ll relate to not sleeping great on a Sunday night because you slept in over the weekend. Going to bed and getting up at the same time can have a demonstrable impact on your sleep.
  3. Sleep tea/night tea can help. I drink the Pukka brand of night tea.
  4. Don’t stress about not being able to get to sleep. For some it helps to get up and do something and for others it doesn’t.
  5. If you can,  spend your day somewhere other than your bed, and ideally your bedroom.
  6.  If you have night meds to take that may help you sleep take them in good time. This does two things, helps you fall asleep on time and means you feel less drowsy in the morning.
  7. I listen to podcasts/audio books to go to sleep, I find this helps occupy my brain whilst I’m trying to sleep.
  8. Putting lavender oil on your pillowcase is known to help with sleep
  9.  Try to limit your caffeine intake, especially past early afternoon!
  10. Finally, if you struggle with sleep because of pain try putting pillows under in-between different body parts (For example in-between your legs)

I hope this has proven helpful, there are many other tips and tricks floating around but I wanted to keep it to 10. What helps you sleep?

 

It’s okay to gain weight in isolation

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I’ve seen many a meme about weight gain in isolation. Which although funny and I relate really isn’t okay. Why?

Because these memes make it seem as though weight gain is something undesirable during this time and can be triggering for people recovering from eating disorders such as myself. We’re already in an unprecedented situation which is quite stressful for many people, this in itself can make it much harder for people in recovery from eating disorders to maintain that recovery. Memes, jokes and TikToks about the weight we’re all going to gain in this time simply isn’t helpful and may be enough to tip someone over the edge.

So I thought I’d pop in here and say that it is okay to gain weight during this time. Partly to reassure myself but also to reassure others.

We are going through a collective trauma. It’s only natural to eat more. Eat more “junk food” I hate that term, all food is good food in moderation. And we may be unable to eat as much fresh food as we would like. So yes, when combined with a reduced activity level due to gyms being closed and a lack of motivation/energy because we’re going through a collective trauma we may gain weight during this time.

But that’s okay. We are not defined by our weight. When was the last time you chose your friends based on their weight?

Hopefully never. We are worth so much more than our outward appearance.

From a health perspective yes being obese can give rise to health complications. But our bodies all have a set point, and you are unlikely to go much above that during this time. Furthermore, any weight you have gained is likely to naturally come off once this is all over.

From a health perspective, giving into restrictive eating disorder tendencies is going to be more damaging. Studies have consistently shown that being underweight is more damaging than being slightly overweight and coping mechanisms such as purging can actually be really dangerous and affect your electrolyte levels as well as risk damaging your esophegous and teeth.

It is okay to gain weight. It is okay to stick to your meal plan even if you think your less active and don’t need it. It is okay to eat what you want. There is nothing wrong with that chocolate, those biscuits or those crisps.

All food is good food and you deserve to eat it. Be kind to yourself. Just getting through the day is enough.

 

Living with chronic illness in lockdown

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Many have said that lockdown gives the normal healthy population a taste of what it’s like to be chronically ill. The constant missing of something and the loss of purpose is very similar to what happens when you get a chronic illness. Especially one that causes you to lose your job, lose friends and end up largely housebound.

You could say that us chronically ill folks have been equipped to the challenges of social isolation.

However, social isolation and lockdown can bring up it’s own challenges.

Suddenly the whole world is trying to get fit and make gains by working out at home. Trying to be productive whilst in lockdown.

Doing all the things we wish we could spend our days doing but can’t.

I wish I could bake more than a super simple no mess recipe without payback. I wish I could spend an entire day reading. I can read for 10-20 minutes without having to take a break and can’t sustain that throughout the day. I wish I could delve into a new series and binge it in a day. Actually watching it, following it. Instead of dozing throughout and having it on in the background.

I wish I could spend hours perfecting tiktok dances. Instead one attempt and my chest acts up for a good hour.

Without discussing the fact that atleast in the UK able bodied people can have one exercise session outdoors a day there are so many things able bodied people can do whilst remaining at home.

I can understand the anger of some people in the chronic illness community over able bodied moaning in this regard, because seeing and knowing everything that can be done from home leaves you with the feeling that your yet again missing out.

The rhetoric that we have to learn a new skill, start a business and get fit in lockdown can make us feel like we’re not good enough.

Let alone difficulties some of us have in finding food delivery slots. I’m lucky I have a little Tesco express opposite me. But I would be unable to walk 10 minutes to the nearest supermarket then queue up outside the supermarket and then do my shopping and carry it home right now due to the flare I’m in. That trip was always exhausting without the flare and the queue.

However lockdown has also done good things for people with chronic illnesses. Suddenly we’re feeling more included and more connected to people as the world switches to embracing virtual communication and forms of socialisation.

For some of us, our quality of life has improved because this social aspect has come back into play.  I myself am feeling relived that I don’t have to overextend myself to look like a normal 22 year old. There’s less FOMO and less having to say no or saying yes and paying the price.

The switch to having to work from home and school from home is hopefully going to make lasting changes that lead to the world being more accessible for those with chronic illness and allow us to reach our full potential and I’d  like to think that people are now going to be more understanding towards people with chronic illness. Once they realise that getting to stay at home all day isn’t “lucky”. One can hope for a positive change from all this right?

How are you finding this period of social distancing?

 

The one where my body forced me to slow down

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March has been such a month that I feel like there should be an entire blog post dedicated to it. I think I’ve hinted that I was previously running myself into the ground and March was the month my body said no.

It actually didn’t start horrifically and by that I mean the first couple of days of the month weren’t too bad. I onsighted all the things within my grade range on the autos up at the time. Even a 6b on the continuous overhang. And if you know me you know that the continuous overhang is hell! The pump is real but I stayed calm, focused on body positioning and somehow it happened.

The month then very quickly deteriorated. Both in terms of my health and my ability to climb. Although I did find ways around my bodies extra limitations and was climbing the same grades where it suited and could find a unique beta to compensate! Some things were also going on at work at the end of February which were negatively impacting on my mental health. I hated being in the office and believed by team hated me. I was over it by the second week of March but I do suspect the extra stress didn’t do me any good.

The month involved a lot of pretending I was okay through extreme dizziness and pressure in the back of my head. Through muscle weakness and balance issues. Through a non-existent level of concentration and decreased cognitive function. It took a toll on my work performance (although I will still largely hitting stats…) and meant I couldn’t project and step the climbing up a notch.

It also involved a lot of openly admitting that I wasn’t okay. Sitting on the mats, feeling incredibly dizzy and clearly not looking well. Openly admitting to my line manager and her manager that my ME is flaring and I wasn’t doing particularly great. I found I didn’t have the energy to get up early enough to put make up on anymore and if I did I felt so dizzy that I had to take mornings super slowly.

My mask well and truly gone.

I came 16th in a climbing competition, both in that round and on the overall. Topping 9 problems – which is more than I managed the previous month. I think the setting just suited me a lil better but maybe that’s a sign of actual progress. Had a great time with friends, adrenalined up because my façade is important. Not for other people but for myself.

For one night I was a normal 22 year old.

I got a grade 2 hamstring strain and did some damage to the ligaments in the back of my knee. Climbed with one leg 2 days later because both got too painful. Not for my pain tolarence but because I knew I was injured although at that point had not gone to get it checked out.

March might actually be the month I saw some sense. Yes my body forced me to stop. I was well and truly done. That first sick day and a half. I couldn’t sit through that endometriosis pain for another minute. I couldn’t sit through those ME symptoms for another minute.

But I also saw some sense. At some point something clicked and I was like no.

Health first. (I say this all the time then we swiftly give up)

I got my leg checked out after it hadn’t improved in four days. Something I wouldn’t normally do which is why I still have so many lasting injuries. I’ve had a back injury since the end of November.

I peaced out of the office at 9:30 one morning because my ME was not playing and used some sense by taking the next day off.

I expressed by concerns over the you know what situation and peaced out for a further 10 days.

Ironically I then got a suspected case of you know what that night. If that doesn’t describe ME in a nutshell I don’t know what does. My body finally saw a chance to rest and it got sick.

The last nearly two weeks have been spent trying to be productive and get what I need done, mainly from laying on the couch. They have also been spent unable to walk unaided, collapsing, passing out. Unable to cook, which fortunately for me I had sufficiently meal prepped minus a chilli I had to make. (By make I mean put beans in a pan, put sweetcorn in the pan, put the jar of sauce in a pan and bobs your uncle).

I have ordered pizzas because I’ve not been able to stomach the food I have nor go to a shop to get the food. There’s been lots of naps. Lots of being unable to nap but feeling too unwell to do anything. And I mean anything.

I’ve had many symptoms I’ve not had in a while and it’s been scary.

The world has changed and horrible as it sounds it’s nice to not feel inadequate because of my ME. It’s nice to not have to deal with the “I can’t say no” when I’m invited somewhere that would likely give me payback.

It’s nice to not have to try to be a normal functioning 22 year old yet still falling short.

God has definitely carried be through the times. I’ve got through being sick before. I can do it again, as long as I put the work in. Take the supplements I have, gentle movement, slowly getting more intense as I recover from this virus (I mean slowly). The church. In terms of the physical space doesn’t exist right now for many of us, if not all of us reading this. But we can still find ways to worship and feel gods presence. I’m going to join an online service at 6pm tonight. Can these online services last pls! Faith is how I stay grounded.

This month has been a weird one. For everyone. But we’re nearly through it. The weather is currently glorious, although I’m currently in a dressing gown with my electric blanket on and my heating on… It’s sunny. And hopefully as spring and summer come in there will be more sun to come!

That’s it from me. How’s March been for you?

 

 

 

Finding the positives in lockdown

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The UK has been in lockdown since Monday evening. As I’ve been symptomatic and therefore in isolation. Today, before I realised I still had a fever and so should still isolate I went on an outing.

Only to the pharmacy two minutes from me, to get my prescriptions which I would have otherwise ran out of and to the Tesco opposite my flat to get milk and cereal. I have a food delivery tomorrow so I just needed some easy to eat stuff to tide me over as I’m not feeling 100% up to proper food.

The world has changed a lot in the last 8 days. I knew that, I’ve been watching the news but nothing could prepare me for that first step outdoors. That taste of freedom. Only a taste because fever means isolate past 7 days but bitterness aside…

I live in a city centre, a normally bustling, vibrant city centre. I live next to a pub and in close vicinity to many others. I normally hear people, music, cars. When I go into town it’s normally busy, even at 10am on a Saturday morning it’s busier than it was today.

Today it was pretty much dead. Yes I could see people, and certain people not abiding by the two meter rule but it was comparatively dead. There was tape down and barriers up in boots. No forms to sign when picking up medication.

It was like I got back from work 8 days ago to a normal functioning world. Yeah the situation was getting serious and the climbing walls had closed but the pub was open and busy as ever. The streets were also busy as ever.

And then I came out in some dystopian future. Some alternate universe.

As someone who was largely bedbound for 2 years I do sometimes forget how much of a change this is. But going out today made me realise that this virus has lead to all of us taking huge sacrifices. Huge lifestyle changes and it’s forced us to stop and slow down.

I certainly welcome that. I hope others will to. If I had to go work today because I’d already self isolated for 7 days and didn’t realise I had a fever this morning my body wouldn’t be coping. My body would just get the next virus, the next infection, the next injury. This year I’ve climbed so hard that I’ve had three relatively minor finger injuries, my hamstring and knee ligament injury which will take a couple of months to fully heal, an elbow injury, ankle injuries and many other lil niggles. I’ve pushed through work, tried to become a lawyer and since the end of January I’ve had a cold, a stomach virus, an ear infection, numerous bladder infections and now this virus, be it COVID-19 or not. My immune system isn’t as good as it was pre ME but it’s never normally that bad.

I was running my body into the ground. I haven’t worked a 5 day week all month. More like 3 day weeks maybe 4. This virus. Not just because I may have it but because of it’s effect on the country has forced me to slow down. It’s forced me to give my body what it wants. A chance to heal. A chance to function within my limits and to come back to work revitalised.  A chance to focus on rebuilding my body off of the wall, at a lower intensity and focusing on dealing with muscle imbalances so that when the walls open again I get less injuries.

It’s also given me a chance to reflect. To indulge in my off wall passions and think about what’s really important to me. And funnily enough, I’ve had more time to connect. Connect to people I’ve neglected in the past.

The situation is awful. For everyone. I know I’ve been feeling extra unwell these past eight days. The horrific cough, the breathing difficulties – not enough to need help but enough to feel like I can’t get enough air. Enough to mean I can’t sing or proof read my essay aloud like I normally would. The fever. I’ve also been extra weak and dizzy. I’ve spent the majority of these days horizontal on the couch and have intermittently had to crutch around as my legs have been so weak that I’ve needed to take that weight off them to get to the bathroom without crawling.

We’re all affected by this. Either directly or indirectly. But good will come from it and god will help us through.

Staying mentally sane in self isolation from the self isolation expert.

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The world is currently in an unprecedented state. Countries going into lockdown, boarders closing and asides from those of us who still have to go into work (Me, when it’s safe to do so) we are all being asked to stay inside our houses. What a dream! An actual dream. I’ve definitely been told that when I’ve been really sick with ME and largely stuck in the four walls of my bedroom.

Being stuck. In the confines of your house, or room, be it with family or alone can be really bad for your mental health and your relationships with others. I understand that, I know that. Being stuck anywhere, especially if you are easily bored, irritated, like to move and exercise and benefit from changes of scenery is hard. So as an expert in this field and as someone currently self isolating due to COVID-19 symptoms + I’m at a higher risk than the average person I thought it would be wise to share some tips.

  1. Don’t think of it as being stuck. Change your perspective, think of your home as your sanctuary, your castle, your safe haven. If you change the dialogue around how you feel to more positive dialogue this can definitely help keep your mind in check.
  2.  Try to keep things clean and tidy – tidy space tidy mind. This is something I really struggled with when bedbound and still struggle with but it definitely makes a difference.
  3. Get dressed, shower, make an effort to look pretty – I promise you it makes so much of a difference to your mental health if you make this extra bit of effort even if your not going to see anyone. I’m not saying you need to wear a full suit or a full face of make up but get out of your pyjamas.
  4. Lists lists lists – it doesn’t need to be a full schedule of your day hour by hour if that’s not your vibe but if there’s things you know you need to do write them down on a to do list. It is very satisfying to get them done and will at least reduce the social media time wasting feeling behaviour that I feel we’re all beating ourselves up over at this time.
  5. Stay connected. We may be distant geographically but we can stay together. Use social media to stay connected, find live streamed events and activities, phone your nan.
  6. But be mindful of how your using social media! There is a lot of anger out there right now. Curate your feed. Spread positivity and not hate. Don’t spend hours looking at the news, it’s nothing but COVID-19.
  7. Move your body – if you can. It doesn’t need to be much at all and can be just a few floor based/bed based exercises or if your fit, healthy and feeling it can be much more intense, especially if your able to panic buy workout equipment. Movement is really important for mental health, I find it is definitely helping set me up for my day and put me in a positive mindset no matter how small.
  8. Try something new. Do that thing you always wanted to do but never had the time. Learn that language, learn to draw, read that book, watch that TV show. Having a new hobby that can be done inside the house can fill the gap left by that hobby you are now unable to do for the time being and take your mind of the news.
  9. If you have space make the most of it. If your lucky enough to have a garden use it, if you have separate rooms that you can go into – use them. If you only have one room then try and use different sections of the room (I.e do your best to not stay in or on your bed all day)
  10. Don’t be too hard on yourself! I feel like there is a lot of pressure to be productive and monetize our time in social isolation. To get fit and stay in shape. Don’t give into it. It is only natural to be spending more time on social media in these times, to want to just eat sugar and just not be very focused. Do what you need to do your you, and only you. You are doing the best you can and we will all get through this!