Well that was a quick month

April seemed to have gone by in a flash. It also seems to have been very sunny, not good for the migraines but good for the mental health when I’ve been able to get out.

Trust the UK to get it’s act together the year we’re in lockdown.

I’ve got to confess I’ve spent the majority of the month sleeping. My ME has taken a huge hit from months of overexerting and a possible COVID-19 infection which I still can’t fight off. I still have a cough. It seems to come in a cycle now though rather than being completely unrelenting. I’ll stop coughing for a couple of days then the cough will return. Under the UK guidance this means I don’t need to self isolate as I’d never actually stopped coughing so it’s not a new continuous cough and I did the initial self isolation when it started. However I am regularly checking my temperature and if I get a fever again I will, as that could be sign of reinfection. I’m also taking essential shopping to mean essential shopping. Not “oh I just want a bar of chocolate”. I have witnessed such interpretations of essential and trying to combine trips where reasonable in terms of my ME to try and limit contact to the outside world just in case.

It’s so much fun not knowing whether immunity is a thing to the novel virus right?

I have spent the month largely sofa bound but doing my best not to decondition anymore. There has been lots of bad migraines, lots of bad pain days, lots of fatigue and brain fog.

My activities have been somewhat limited but I think a lack of energy has stopped me from going crazy during this lockdown. I normally get very cabin feverish very quickly which is why I had never mastered the art of pacing. In the past I’d feel a little better and then I’d leave the house and end up bedbound again.

Now I’m feeling a little better and yes leaving the house when I need to but also thinking of things I can do in the house which are less likely to cause payback. I’m finally learning how to pace. I’m noticing early warning signs of a crash and trying to slow down straight away. Instead of pushing myself when every inch of my body is saying no. I’m still not perfect at it, there are still peaks and troughs in my ME. I’ve not perfected the art of pacing. But by remembering that I will actually have to work full time again soon, despite not being well enough I’ve allowed myself to slow down enough to slowly get out of this flare.

I’ve become addicted to tiktok, follow me @spoonielivingfree if you want some quality content. I’ve refound my love of writing. And not just my blog but I’m kind of working on a secret project and wanted to write fanfiction again. (The actual fanfiction writing has been non-existent tbh)

I’ve been able to dedicate time and energy to reading. Mainly YA fiction because it’s accessible to my foggy brain. I’ve been really enjoying getting lost in fiction again. It’s not really something I can do without PEM after work as my job is so cognitive.

Lots of chocolate has been eaten which isn’t great for my waistline but weight gain is okay!

It’s been a hard month and a socially distanced month and I really really miss my family and I am so ready to go home, although I don’t know when as when the office opens albeit in a socially distanced way I’ll have to be in some of the time. Hopefully not all as some would give me leeway to go home without the guilt of annual leave. I’m kind of contemplating illicitly going home myself once I get a work laptop, if I get a work laptop.  Providing I have enough medication and the office isn’t opening imminently to my knowledge. Technically your allowed to move between households and if I went ideally it’d be for two weeks to limit what I may or may not be spreading.

But it’s not by any means be a bad month. Not every month that you get paid for not working a day. And in this age of adult responsibility and bills it’s not every month you get to make decisions to look after your health instead of running yourself into the ground.

Hilariously despite this entire month of time I’ve still not applied for PIP cause anxiety. Even tho I actually need to… I’m just not good at advocating for myself and I know I would be denied it because I don’t look sick…  and a lot of people with ME are.

I am the queen of procrastination over anything that causes anxiety.

How has April been for you?

 

 

 

 

Brain Fog

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Brain Fog is a symptom of ME, fibromyalgia and many other chronic illnesses. It involves your brain not working and can be one of the most debilitating symptoms of illness for some people. Today I thought I’d share some things that happen to me as a result of brain fog, when reading remember some of these things that they probably happen for healthy people occasionally but for those of us with chronic illness it’s not occasional. It’s often multiple times a day every day.

  • Going into a room, forgetting what I came into the room for, leaving the room then remembering and having to go back into the room.
  • Forgetting to pick up my card on the way out to the shops, only to get downstairs or half way down the road to realise.
  • Forgetting my train of thought
  • Forgetting what someone has just said to me
  • Wait, what day of the week is it?
  • What month is it again?
  • A lot of dyslexia like symptoms despite, as far as I know, not being dyslexic.
  • Not being able to process what I’m reading
  • Blowing on cold food….
  • Not being able to find the words to say to respond to someone and converse
  •  Just not being able to speak
  • How do I math?
  • Making really stupid mistakes when trying to learn spanish
  • Have I taken my meds yet?
  • Almost taking night meds instead of morning meds
  • Forgetting to take meds then wondering why I feel unwell

I’m sure there are many other ways brain fog affects me. What does brain fog do to you?

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?

 

On ME flare ups, Pain flare ups and finding peace through them.

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I’m currently more ill than I’ve been in over a year. Both with pain relating to many a condition and fatigue. I’m feeling weak, my legs just don’t feel right on the ground and all of my will is going into stopping them from giving away.

I’m too dizzy to sit up and use my brain. Asleep more than I’m awake. My eyes stinging and burning. Either feeling really dry or constantly watering. I’m getting  daily migraines and the pressure in my head is oftentimes unbearable. Easily out of breath, from just going to the kitchen and getting some cereal. My extremities going numb as well as my legs.

My body alternates between high pain days and high fatigue days.

I know I need to take it easy to get out of it. But I can’t seem to get out of it. It’s been over three weeks since I started getting symptoms of COVID-19. The virus has pretty much gone but it was the final trigger for the flare that had been going on since the end of January. The flare that despite many a sick day I was only just coming out of.

Although I could rarely walk around my flat unaided when I had the virus. Whatever virus it was, and now I can which is a definite  improvement, I’m still sicker than I have been in over a year.

I’m used to pushing myself as a way of denying it to myself. Of climbing hard to ignore the illness, of showing up at work despite collapsing upon getting out of bed.

And I’ve now been blessed with a time where it’s easy to not. To try and listen to my body and rest. And that can take a lot! Emotionally and physically. It involves feeling all the fear, and sitting with it. Feeling that ounce of health returning and sitting with it. Not suddenly going for a run because you can sit up okay.

The ability to do little enough to get better from an ME flare requires strength. More strength than just pushing through the illness does. It involves coming to terms with the fact doing your best doesn’t mean running yourself to the ground. To the point that you have severe ME for life.

It involves dealing with whatever emotions come up with all the free time you have in which you can’t really do much. Even watch TV or read. I struggle to watch new TV shows and not easy to watch movies due to difficulty following them and can’t follow a book for much more than 10 minutes at a time. It can be quite scary.

Hence why I’ve traditionally boomed and busted unless I’ve had something more important like my degree to prioritise. (Which I did mostly from bed anyway…)

It takes a lot of strength to commit, to go all in. And you really need to find peace with the current you, regardless of your productivity or aesthetics. Or your ability to stay in touch with people.

As the years with this illness go on I’m getting better at that. And this pandemic and this flare has shown me how much better at it I am. At least whilst the world is at a standstill and people aren’t rushing as far ahead of me…

It’s not easy and it involves putting yourself first. Not just yourself now. But yourself in the future.

 

 

 

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?

 

Trial and Error in Chronic Illness

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Living with chronic illness is hard for many a reason, one of these is the constant trial and error. Especially if you have one of those chronic illnesses that is poorly understood by the medical profession.

It’s trial and error with medications and with daily routines. What makes this trial and error so hard is that things change on a daily, if not hourly basis. Symptoms get better over time or get worse over time, and often fluctuate throughout the day. Symptoms can feel the same but your body may react completely differently to your actions on two separate occasions. Not only this but the trial and error of medications is mentally draining. Your body may finally settle down enough for you to start living your life again. You may think you’ve found your perfect cocktail of drugs and then you notice your symptoms increasing. You hope it’s just a flare but it gets worse. Suddenly your back and forth to the GP again, trying to find that perfect cocktail yet again. The potential side effects looming.

It takes time, it takes patience. There’s frustration. It’s exhausting.

Finding the perfect cocktail in the first place is exhausting, it’s frustrating and it is hard to go through without acquiring a mental breakdown.

Life with chronic illness is like going through the whole process again and again and again.

It’s like doing a science experiment on your own body.

However it also reminds you to never take anything for granted.

With a chronic illness you know your in it for the long haul. You know it could always get worse. You know symptoms you thought you’d said goodbye to could always come back.

The trial and error is exhausting, and it may make us snappy at times. But because of this we’re also very grateful people.

 

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?

 

 

 

COVID-19, Self isolation and ME

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I know we are all sick of hearing about it. There is nothing else in the news but this actually quite disastrous global pandemic. Not just disastrous health wise, but disastrous business wise and for individuals job security and financial security. We have seen mass hysteria, panic buying loo roll of all things (Plz send me some if you have some spare) and lots of vague advice. Today I want to write about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on me, and more specifically me and my ME.

So in the UK ME is a grey area with regards to the guidelines for at risk people to self isolate and stay away from busy offices etc. We’re not entitled to flu jabs unless we have comorbid conditions that do entitle us to such flu jabs. But the ME association believe we are included in the vulnerable population that should self isolate (https://www.meassociation.org.uk/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-latest-government-advice-and-what-it-means-for-people-with-me-cfs-17-march-2020/) and recognise the risk of a significant, prolonged and potentially severe relapse if we catch COVID-19 and I know Jennifer Brea has been tweeting her heart out about COVID-19, neurological symptoms and various post virus statistics for previous outbreaks. We know any virus can cause a flare up. A cold has caused one that I’m still recovering from. It’s been over a month. Now Covid-19 is more comparable to the flu than the common cold – we also don’t know how it will effect people with ME and I myself – whilst I can afford to do so (which won’t be long) am not prepared to take that risk.

It  may be a risky decision. A decision that many in my life will not approve of (My family especially). But it was not a decision taken lightly. I have a full time job, a job I’m in probation for and therefore by doing this I may lose it – which considering the likely economic climate come June when probation ends is a risk. The potential loss of income is a risk considering my mad expensive rent and the fact that I don’t know how my parents would react to me deciding to move home in august, work part time and look after my health. (Yes partly my fault because I don’t open up to them).

But my immune system is down, this morning I came down with what I’m pretty sure is an ear infection. You know that classic childhood middle ear infection. I’m 22. My body is weak and I need to acknowledge that. If the conspiracy that coronavirus went round my city in December/January isn’t true and I just escaped because I was stronger then. In terms of my immunity (and L-Lysine which I’m gonna resolve to take every day again because it definitely meant aside from some tonsillitis in November I had a persistent low grade cold instead of constantly getting sick). I’m also not back from the flare from the cold I had end of January/early February (I didn’t cough much I don’t think it was coronavirus. Started with a horrific sore throat and then materialised).  If I get a virus now it could and likely would knock me out. Not just for a week or two but for months.

Health comes first. It’s difficult, it’s scary. Not only because of financial consequences and peoples perceptions . But because being stuck in the house reminds me of when my ME forced me to stay largely in the house and horizontal. There’s trauma there. Trauma that may need to be worked through if I am to stay sane for however long I stay off work. And not only stay sane but come back to work in a mentally stronger place with higher concentration etc. The trauma is the scariest part of this. Never did I see myself willingly largely confining myself to my flat by choice because life is better experienced outside of these four walls. But I also didn’t forsee a pandemic and to protect my current health and my future health it was a decision that had to be made.

 

 

Words from an ME flare

I’m in the midst of an ME flare, something I should have seen coming. Something I should have got a grip on the second I noticed it starting nearly a month ago now. Many thoughts have gone through my head. If only I took a sick day at the time it started. What if this is now my new baseline and even sitting up feels like running a marathon again. What if I lose my spirit, my soul and stop climbing. (Spoiler alert, I won’t. But what if I’m forced to). Climbing is my identity, my passion and my sanctuary. I can’t bare to lose it again.

That aside, living with ME is HARD. Especially in a flare up. When everything is so unknown and you are so unbelievably drained that you can’t even put up a false front anymore. When you feel all the guilt, all the worry that no one believes you and thinks your just trying to get out of life and the fear. It can be hard to not let it take over and mess with your mental health, which is really needed during these times.

It’s hard to go through your body being so drained that you just can’t anything. Living with an illness more commonly known as “chronic fatigue syndrome” when it’s more than just fatigue. It’s impossible for people to understand due to the fluctuations in and dare I say it, the name and lack of research into the illness. No one sees us at our worst and often people see us looking okay when the reality is we feel the opposite.

In these times, when you have 101 things to do and aren’t up to one of them it’s important to have grace and alongside that have faith that it will get better. You can only do so much and sometimes flare ups happen with no reason behind them and no fault of your own. They just happen.

I find my faith helps me. Cheesy as it sounds and I know it doesn’t help some people but god does have a plan. I may not be a practising Christian in the sense that alongside other commitments I do not have the spoons to go to church. Nethertheless, dealing with what life throws at me with grace and having that faith is a key to me coping with this and not getting eaten up by it.

It’s hard and it takes practice but it’s so so necessary to deal with this chronic illness life.

 

 

Why I climb and will continue to do so even if I can no longer work full time

 

I feel like this is round 2 of “if your well enough to do x then you can work.” But god am I angry and upset and generally don’t like my job and no ones even done anything major yet. Also haven’t been off sick despite severe pain because god forbid people see me have a life.

I’m in a really bad pain flare this week. Endo = fibro going haywire and later on will lead to HSD going haywire. I’m also normal person sick which doesn’t help matters and incredibly busy! (Doing things I enjoy and want to do but still.)

So I guess it doesn’t take a lot to piss me off and make me feel out of sorts. Functioning at a v high level I.e being out of the house other than to sleep with 8/10 endo pain is fucking hard and yes makes me easily irritated with peoples ignorance to the realities of living with multiple chronic illnesses.

I once said to my friend that if I got signed off sick I would climb every day and okay. Maybe not every day cause bodies need breaks and only if i wasn’t signed off sick cause I had to have a surgery or something. But near enough. I stand by that and this post will tell you why.

A) I have HSD and H-EDS has been thrown around a few times. One way to combat these illnesses or atleast that part that causes joint dislocations is to be hyper strong. Our tendons are under more stress than the average human because our joints hyperextend. Building muscles helps prevent injury and pain. In addition to this we also seem to start to decondition  quicker. Meaning. I need to climb. Climbing is the only exercise I can do that doesn’t make my ME worse and the only exercise that relives that awful brain swelling feeling that causes so much dizziness. Don’t ask me why don’t ask me how. But it is. Even gentle Pilates will leave me stuck on the bedroom floor. Climbing is my physio. It’s my road to recovery.

B) My mental wellbeing is also important. Climbing makes me happy. It makes life worth living. It pushes me to be accountable to myself. Makes me better at taking my supplements, try  to get adequate rest and eat a better diet. All of these things are hella expensive and take a lot of commitment. I would much rather spend my money on fun but this is the reality and when I climb, I remember how far I’ve come and that I need to do my best to balance everything. Tagged onto this is I need to see people. Life with a chronic illness is incredibly isolating. My gym is very social I love it. It is almost impossible to go through a climbing session without speaking to someone. My view to health is that your physical wellbeing affects your mental wellbeing and vice versa. If you want a healthy happy Hannah she needs to climb.

C) There is a big difference between working 8 hours a day and having a short sesh at the gym or a chill social sesh where you spend more time laying or sitting on the mats than climbing. This is especially true considering the different types of energy. Yes climbing is cognitive but not in the same way as reading and analysing information for 8 hours a day. It can be so easy to be quick to judge as to whether someone is faking or not. I know, I too have been guilty of this in the past. Not necessarily faking but just picking and choosing.

I urge everyone to be more mindful and maybe think a little more before judging. It can be hard to see something from the disabled persons side even if your disabled because we’re all so unique but try and if you need to ask questions, ask ahead.