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.

This is ME

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I’m gonna use this time of self isolation to raise awareness for ME/CFS. This COVID-19 shit and especially the UK vulnerability criteria and how mine and my GP feel about it has made me realise how little people know about this illness. It’s kinda like the UK doesn’t care that we’re at risk of significant and serious relapse because we won’t die. GPs are also seeming to ignore what the ME association and Action for ME believe about the interaction between COVID-19 and ME/CFS. It’s not hard to google kids.

The sad thing is many GPs are not at all educated about this condition and there was a recent study showing some shocking statistics about what GPs believe about the illness and the people with the illness.  If even GPs believe we’re lazy, we need to exercise more and that it’s not a real illness then how are we supposed to get help and treatment? Now in my personal case it probably doesn’t help that I’m awful at advocating for myself and I never push to get what I want or tell the full story.

But telling the full story is hard. It’s hard to explain what’s wrong when in essence it sounds like everything is wrong.

My ME affects me in a myriad of ways. I get numbness, tingling and even burning in my feet and left hand. It leads to difficulty controlling my hands and my legs will oftentimes forget how to be legs.  I have seizure like shakes which hurt. It’s like a full on core workout. I can’t move throughout them and I can’t stop them. But I’m aware of them. I’m dizzy, even when laying down. I feel intense pressure in my head. Struggle to breath, get heart palpitations. Easy muscle fatiguability, I struggle to keep my eyes open. Nausea, Cognitive dysfunction and full body pain. I have a chronic sore throat and cough and often have a low grade cold. I’m sensitive to light, less so noise and smell but it does happen. My glands swell, my chest hurts. I have visual disturbances, most commonly in my left eye.

Yet I function, or atleast look like I function as the normal healthy adult. Yes I’ve had a lot of sick days lately. ME flares suck. Now I’m self isolating (by choice, sorry finances) and hilariously last night developed coronavirus symptoms. I was coughing more than usual and this morning I spiked a fever so absolutely no work until next friday! I get fevers a lot, and I don’t think it’s COVID-19 but can never be too careful in a global pandemic.

But for 6 years of ME, having never had a sick day from a job until 2 weeks ago is impressive.

What they don’t see is how much I have to push myself to do these things. How unwell I feel doing these things and the state of my flat. They don’t see how unwell I am when I wake up in the morning and the difficulties I have showering and washing/brushing my hair. The difficulties I have cooking or doing a form of exercise that isn’t climbing.

Yes I am well for someone with ME. I’m lucky right now… But it’s still significant. It’s still a significant daily battle with all of these symptoms at varying degrees. I’ve heard that most people with ME who can work full time only feel occasionally ill. I am not one of those people. I push and I fight, because there is nothing worse than feeling like a burden on the world and feeling misunderstood or feeling like your not enough.

There is progress being made in understanding this illness. It just hasn’t reached the mainstream yet and it needs to. We need proper education, proper research and as always more awareness.

 

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.

 

 

When I say I’m tired…

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This is a difficult one to write but an important one in order to raise awareness for fatigue causing chronic and mental illnesses as your average muggle just does not understand what we mean when we say that we’re tired.

Let’s just start by getting our understanding of tiredness correct. Tiredness can be relived by sleep, rest or even a coffee. Tiredness may even be relieved by a cold shower in the morning or a nice morning run (or climb).

When I say I’m tired that’s not what I mean.

I mean I’m dizzy. My brain is just not doing anything for me, and I struggle to understand the simplest of things.

I mean that I’m getting an intense pressure in the back of my head and neck and that is making me dizzy. I am struggling to stay sitting up. Let alone using my brain and working or engaging in a conversation.

I mean I have a debilitating headache or I’m just getting sensory overload for no apparent reason so please shut the fuck up.

I mean that I am in so much pain that no amount of distraction is helping. I need to either go for a climb or just lay in bed with whatever heat/ice combination and some reruns of greys anatomy.

I’m not just tired I’m exhausted. My muscles feel week and heavy. I’m struggling to coordinate myself, I can’t feel my legs. I’m having random muscle twitches and seizure like shakes.

When I say I’m tired, I mean I’m so tired that even if I lie down I feel like I’m about to fall. I can’t tolerate using a pillow. I can be completely flat and still feel like I need to be laying down more.

I don’t just mean I’m tired.

I mean my body is done and it needs a break.

What do you mean when you say your tired?

Lots of learning, subluxations and theatre.

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It’s time for another week in the life. I’m definitely considering two posts a week so I can do more of these but still write the awareness raising, life lesson and inspirational posts.

Anyway lets begin.

Monday was a work day. That 9-5 life. The cases were certainly better than they had been over the last few weeks but not great so I got 22 grants. Not enough but I’m not defining myself by my work stats or any other type of grade or number. 22 is so much better than the 10 I’d been scraping! I went home after work, ate food and tried to work on a family specific training contract application.

Tuesday I started shadowing some of the harder cases although I don’t think I quite braved taking the mouse myself then! The “red cases” like the red boulder problems I’d love to be stable on by the end of 2020 are such a huge step up! Lots of cognitive power and stress and disappointment. But I definitely appreciated a chance to learn something new and to give my wrists and fingers a break from standard desk based tasks as my joints have been struggling this week. I climbed in the evening and not gonna lie it wasn’t the best session and it was hard to not feel deflated but I did what I said I would and took it easy! I flashed the new set V1s and 2-3s of the day and started projecting some “swirly’s” which I feel in my soul so hopefully I’ll have a chance to get back to them. I also did an advanced footwork class and did my first ever roof move (on a v7 to practice heel hooks). I also very much realised my core needs work and that is part of why I’m still struggling with overhangs despite my technique on them improving. But hey, after being largely bed bound for so long what can I expect?

Wednesday, I was running on not much sleep. I’ve been struggling with sleep this week. With a combination of nausea, pain and noise from the pub next door it has been hard! Anywho. I felt super ill when I woke up in the morning and the coughing fit I had caused my right ovary to act up for the rest of the day. However my energy improved throughout the day and despite my joints feeling dreadful I went climbing (yes again). There’s a womens group on, on a Wednesday night which I like going to as the people are nice, most of them are better than be and give me useful tips which allow me to be the best me and it gets me trying new things on the wall without feeling silly. This Wednesday especially was incredible. It was quite chill, we spent a while just catching up and chatting before warming up. There were some new people there and it was the first session after Christmas so a lot to catch up on! Not gonna lie, I didn’t do the 10 squat jumps we were meant to as my body just couldn’t. I would have collapsed. (Just a warning sign to the ME flare that later ensued. I accomplished two v2-3s that I had been struggling with, due to fear more than anything else and realised that actually if I commit, I can do those big moves. They look scarier than they feel! I also resent a v2-3 in a more technical and much easier way as well as getting another v3-4 with some help and support from the more experienced members of the group. That’s what? 7 v3-4 problems I’ve now accomplished. Mostly slabby but it’s start to reaching my goals despite chronic illness. My muscles were struggling hard on Wednesday. Those little legs of mine were just not okay. I think this is why I fell of a V1 that I have yet to conquer (at a low height) and partially dislocated my elbow because I was a tit and put my arm down. I (yes am a tit) and continued climbing on it, so to this day. My elbow is still not 100%. But anywho. Good session and I came out of it feeling so positive and uplifted and it just reminded me of why I love this sport so so much.

Thursday was another learning at work day. I think it was Thursday that I really started to find my confidence with these red cases. In the afternoon the ME flare ensued so I got home and binged spinning out, curled up on the sofa. I couldn’t sleep that night cause the pressure in the back of my head and the dizziness so another not enough sleep night but such is life.

Friday was an interesting one. Even more confidence on those reds although I was feeling so unwell in the afternoon that I was just like “no. I can’t.” Honestly the pressure in the back of my head and the dizziness resulting meant that I was close to going home sick because I had visions of another car park incident. Hilariously enough. I didn’t and then (more Hannah may or may not be a tit) I went climbing. Because of my elbow I took myself to awesome walls as being on an auto belay would minimise the chances of making it worse (no high impact falls. Just low impact collapsing in a heap when it gets you down). This was my first time on a rope and colourful holds for 5 years or so. MADNESS. But it was great (although exhausting). I think I just completely forgot how to rope climb at the beginning of the session so I was using my arms too much which lead to v quick “shit I’m done”. Nevertheless, I ended up staying for two hours and I don’t think I’ve ever worked that hard. I’m not exactly sore from it but at the time it felt harder than any climbing I’ve done for years! I flashed numerous 5s. There were 2 I couldn’t do, but I think because I was so tired by the time I tried them. I also on sighted a 6a and 6a+. For a first rope session in a while I think that’s something to be proud of. I very sloppily got up most of a 6b, that I probably could have done in two parts but I tried numerous times and got more solid at what I could do however couldn’t find a way around my lack of quad strength and the fact that I couldn’t push to much on the wall with my right arm due to my elbow. If I go back before a reset it’s a project I’m definitely coming back to. I also tried two 6b+s which I know I can do all the moves of in my soul but stamina and the unique difficulties I have with balance, struggling to feel my hands and feet on the wall as well as stability and power meant they just were not happening. I for whatever reason undercrimped? Is that a thing. I realised today that maybe that hold was meant for a toe hook so might try that if I go back to it. It was a good session but bloody exhausting. I am definitely a boulderer. I don’t know when that conversion happened. (Think I could also be a lead climber tho cause my issue with top rope is the rope gets in your way sometimes!) I realised if I am going to do the whole competitive paraclimbing thing there is a lot of work to do! Although it probably is better to compete this year as a practice run for when I’m hopefully stronger and have a chance of doing well so…. paraclimbing nationals at the end of the feb may indeed happen.

Saturday was HAMILTON! It was incredible. I mean it’s Hamilton of course it was. I really liked the Eliza who was on (don’t know whose cast right now in the west end soz). I mean I literally cried at burn. And then the tears just continued. If you know, You know. I also really loved Jefferson! He was great fun. And King George always is. My collarbones wearnt’t in place all day and my neck was feeling unstable but it was so worth it! Isn’t Hamilton always?

Today, I finished spinning out and asides from trying to make sure I have semi order in my flat I’m really trying to rest. I can barely stand up so not hard. But also is.

I hope you all had a good week! I will be back with another post next week.

2019 in review

2019. What was that? 2019 was a year of many many tears but also so much joy and triumph. It was also something of a blur. The fact that we are now at the end of 2019 is incredible and honestly I haven’t taken enough time this year to just stop and breathe and reflect. Hence why Christmas has been full of binging Netflix and youtube because I just don’t have the energy and I am very much feeling like I need a cognitive break. (I.e a break from applications and all that fun stuff).

2019 was a year of many, many, many rejections. From grad schemes, from law jobs. I think the year actually started with me making a youtube video about being rejected from the faststream. It now has more views than I could have imagined it to get. There were tears but actually it was a necessary rejection to get. And I think it has prepared me for when I get that far with a training contract application. Which hopefully 2020 will bring!

I had to deal with some of the worst pain flares in my life but also had managed to get my pain under more control than ever. It was months of tapering up medication, which made me really anxious and paranoid. I would spend nights awake writing my dissertation because it felt more productive than laying in bed, in the dark – having panic attacks.

Why my medication did that to me when I was tapering up but it doesn’t now, I have no idea but it lead to a v off sleep pattern and meant that come exams I had to completely retrain my body – as all of my exams were morning exams.

Despite all this – the stress, tears, pain and anxiety. I seemed to find more balance in 2019 – especially through studying than ever before. Yes I still studied ridiculous hours more days than not and it got me more than what I wanted but I started trying to run again and although it caused me to crash for a week at a time and aggravated my ankles it gave me a necessary break from the stress of revision and dissertation work.

2019 was also a year of theatre. I must have gone 10 times in 2019 and I saw some amazing shows, I also not only went to my first west end first preview (come from away) but also went to my first west end opening night (&Juliet). Theatre is something that will be left behind a little in 2020 just because of where I live and because if my body can hack it I want to really dedicate myself to climbing. These theatre trips were unforgettable experiences and I definitely recommend &Juliet because it was the most fun theatre trip I’ve had of 2019. I think come from away is the best musical I saw in the year though and I saw it twice! Play wise, I only saw two – mousetrap and the curious incident of the dog in the night-time and highly recommend both of them depending on what you want, although I think curious incident gets the edge.

Everything from final exam on was blissful, and incredible but also challenging in both expected and unexpected ways.

I struggled with not having a job, although I had the offer for my current job by then and was just waiting for it to start. What a wait that was. That struggle lead me to take on a job which I wasn’t well enough to do. I don’t know what I was thinking or whether I just convinced myself I was well enough. I must have because otherwise I wouldn’t have taken it.

It lasted two weeks and I was blissfully happy although I knew my body was struggling by the end of the first week. I stupidly pushed on, scared that if I didn’t my body would give up. Hilariously despite all the adrenaline in the world, a week later my body then did give up. The job ended in me on the carpark floor for two hours. I can’t thank the people who ignored the stubborn me, weakly saying not to phone 111 and did so anyway enough. Or the people who stayed by my side for the whole two hours. I also can’t thank the person who came to the hospital with me (even though it was her job). Although I knew it was just the terrifying realities of ME, having people there made such a difference and showed me that there is humanity in this world.

This experience, and the aftermath also taught me about the importance of pacing. Now I do still push and crash. But I am slowly learning to pace enough to not crash like that again. Or atleast I think I am.

Over the summer (before this event) I went to Berlin on my own and graduated top of my class. Winning four academic awards. Berlin was blissful until the end where I experienced a trauma that although nothing happened – has taken a while to get over and it’s still not something I feel comfortable talking about. Graduation was completely unexpected. I never expected to do so well. I went in for a first and I exceeded all expectations.

I went to London for law events, went to my first pride and started my first office job. Although I could hardly walk around the house for two weeks, I was really living my best life.

Between August and November I worked full time and lived with my fam. I was kind of working in family law and honestly I miss it. Although it was quite a boring job and there wasn’t much work to be done, I miss family law. Or maybe it’s just law I miss. I’m not sure. It also taught me that you need to be hella emotionally strong to work in family law, and I did know that before but I didn’t really understand how much until I was dealing with it every day.

In November I moved to the other end of the country, which has been a rollercoaster and a half even within the same day sometimes. I’ve realised how much energy living with my family takes from me – which sounds bad but it’s the extra stimulation. I went through 50 shades of stress and tears with wifi, work, doctors and medication. But I also started climbing again as I’m sure my last few posts would have you gather.

I have no new climbing snaps but I have done so much more than I ever thought I would. I started like “lets just do greens” on my first session back. Inevitably ended up realising many of them were too easy and challenged myself a little more. (Like up to V1). By my second session I had got a few V2s and potentially a V3. The year ended with me getting my first V4 in 3-4 years. I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again. I sincerely lack muscle. So it’s not as easy for me as it was 3-4 years ago. And certainly not as it was back when I was 16 and could do pullups on four finger crimps.

Technique really is all I have. Although I think the strength is building and will build as 2020 goes on. My first bouldering session of 2020 will be anti-style V1s. I.e the V1 oranges in the gym that are still up when I go and that I can’t do yet. Now these are V1s that are as anti-style as we can get. Often combining many anti-styles as I’ve not just been working slabby slabs! I’ve been doing a much wider variety of problem since coming back into the sport.

It will be a mentally challenging session, what with worrying that people in the gym think I’m useless. I tend to crumble under pressure. It’s not good. My best moments in climbing are never seen. But it is a necessary step to becoming a more well rounded boulderer. My goal for 2020 is to be back up to the V5s but to be more consistent with them. Now absolute anti-style V5s may be a stretch but a consistent good variety of V5s is what I’m aiming for and maybe we’ll surpass that.

That’s all I have to say for now. I hope you all have an enjoyable, productive and transformative 2020. There will be challenges, as in every year but none that cannot be faced.

The stresses of working full time with a chronic illness

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I should not be sitting in the library on my birthday near tears over numerous things that have caused this. And one of those is working whilst chronically ill related, and others are just indirectly linked somewhat because growing up with chronic illnesses has made me feel inadequate. It’s made me feel like I’m less than. I’m caught between constantly having to prove these illnesses and feeling this overwhelming need to push myself harder than most in order to prove that I’m a worthwhile human being.

It sucks.

I’m literally two seconds away from not going home for Christmas because it’s too expensive, I’m not being paid my full wage this month and I’ve only just found out and because I know I need time out for medical appointments, and I already have one holiday day this month I can’t ask for the 27th off – which would make it a lot cheaper and less likely to put me in a flare.

And that’s just the half of the near tears. I also have a GP appointment during work hours next week which I need to tell my deputy line manager about. And normally I’d arrange out of work for GP because that’s self motivated and self started but this is about getting my medication which I absolutely need by Tuesday. I’ve already reduced my dose in order to do that and I can’t reduce it any further. I moved up north to do this job, so I’m with a new GP. The GP is being pedantic and won’t issue my repeats until they’ve seen me. So I try to negotiate outside of working hours but without me running out of meds beyond what is manageable and I can’t. This means that I have an appointment next Tuesday afternoon and have to leave work at 3:45 (if I get an uber) – which although I really can’t afford I’m gonna have to.

So I can’t be nice and fluffy about it. Just asking – or saying more like gives me so much anxiety. Especially when I’ve been on reduced hours these past couple of weeks and what if someone asks why it couldn’t have been done then. I mean I have the answers. I honestly didn’t realise the GP would have to see me until today. They’re repeats after all and next Tuesday is literally the earliest day that could see me. It’s not my fault, but I feel like it is.

I feel like it creates a bad impression of myself and that comparably I’m making excuses not to be in work.

Which I am absolutely not. I will happily make up the hours by coming in an hour early or whatever configuration they would like. But because organisation policy says to make appointments outside of work time I feel like it’ll be looked down upon and that it may even impact me passing probation.

The entire situation is ridiculous. And I know it’s not just me who feels like this. There’s so many others who feel that because they’re chronically ill they have to try 10X harder to be liked and respected. I think that’s the problem with how society views disability as a whole and how it’s represented in mainstream media.

You’re either an inspiration because despite your disability you’ve done groundbreakingly amazing things or your just lazy and not trying enough. I don’t want to be lumped in the not trying enough pot so I try too hard. And it’s so hard to stop that. But sometimes enough is enough. At the point I NEED my medication.  Being in so much pain your in tears is  nasty – which is why I need the gabapentin, that and because it is potentially addictive dependency is a thing. I know if I forget to take it for too long I get nauseous and then it gets to the point where I literally can’t get off the bathroom floor.

I would like to highlight that dependency and addiction are two different things. I class addiction as more of a mental and psychological dependency – generally because of positive side effects the drug has that are unrelated to what it is for. Dependency however is more of a physiological reaction from your body getting used to being something for so long. Dependency is why with some drugs you have to taper down – in order to avoid debilitating withdrawal. This isn’t necessarily because your addicted. It’s literally standard protocol for some prescription medications. 

The reason I can work is because of the meds I’m on thus I need to get the meds on time. I have bills to pay. I have adult responsibilities.

I want to write this post to send a message that A) Doctors please please be more flexible. I don’t know what the solution is here. I don’t know how the NHS can resolve the issues with getting a medical appointment at a convenient times without GPs lives being even more about work than it already is. Maybe it’s making telephone consultations for a prescription review standard common practice. Hey maybe even facetime.

B) Employers please realise that us chronically ill people are some of the most anxious, stressed out and concerned about our reputation people you will ever manage. Being chronically ill in itself is a full time job. We are also some of the most hardworking and dedicated people. Even if you also managed x who had the same condition and you think they were better, missed less work, went to more social events it doesn’t mean we are trying less than x. It just means these conditions are highly variable and we all have different levels of responsibility outside of work.

C) If you are chronically ill and working full time, even if your conditions are under more control than mine are and you for all purposes feel well most of the time you are amazing. Stay strong and all of that cheesy stuff! Please don’t ever feel bad for putting your health first. I know we’re all quite bad at that anyway. I push myself to work when most people absolutely wouldn’t do. I even do this thing of overcompensating and acting extra bubbly at work on a worse day. And find that’s my choice, that’s what I need to do. But I shouldn’t feel bad for prioritising appointments over an hour of work if I can’t negotiate them out of work within a reasonable time scale. (That time scale is different for each appointment too!) Remember the Equality Act 2010 and the reasonable adjustments. Now doesn’t mean you’ll get everything. I can’t get flexible working until I’ve passed probation and that would really help remove this medical appointment stress but such is life. But it does mean that your employer should allow you to take that time for medical appointments, ideally without making it up. (because there are difficulties with that for people with a condition like ME.). Now I always will offer to make it up but that’s just me.

Anyway. This was a lot longer than I wanted it to be. But hoping someone else can relate and that we have all learnt something even if it’s to just not be so hard on yourself.

 

Being true to yourself never goes out of style

photo-of-woman-looking-at-the-mirror-774866.jpgHad to take a Legally Blonde quote for this one.

Living with a Chronic Illness is tough, being LGBT+ can also be tough. Having a job as a stopgap to hopefully bigger and better things – also tough. Life is tough.  And there are many situations you may encounter in life where you feel you need to not be yourself. Where you feel you should pretend to be someone your not or downright lie as to why you want to take x day off. (As the mother suggests and does often).

Maybe there’s a bit of Hufflepuff in me, but I value honesty and integrity. I don’t want to be living a lie and I want the freedom to post about events I’ve attended on social media without having to worry about who’s seen it.

I used to try and pretend to be someone I’m not, fit myself into that perfect mould that people told me to be. Attempting to conform with that on application forms, contemplating the mould in the decisions I made in life and when I was a lot younger, pretending to be someone I’m not to make and maintain friendships.

My advice is don’t. Also don’t lie. Chances are you’ll get found out eventually.

I’ve got a lot further when I’ve been honest. When I’ve shown my genuine passion and interests.

I’ve also got myself into very bad situations from not disclosing my disability and as a result having to push myself more than my body was capable of. This caused a decline I haven’t come back from in 2017 and over the summer it caused some psychological trauma from being on a carpark floor in front of colleagues for two hours and having to go to A&E. It also caused me to be unable to walk for two weeks and drop attacks that I am only just getting some control over.

Never had this made being true to myself ring so true.

I have also found that I am a lot happier when I am being true to myself. In whatever way that may mean. It also helps me to create a narrative I can use throughout my training contract applications and soon LPC applications (I’ve heard this helps).

So yes be true to yourself. In all parts of life. Now this doesn’t mean sharing everything and anything. There’s a lot I don’t share. I don’t share the details of my illness in anywhere near as much depth as I feel them, for example. It just means being honest, and not pretending to be someone your not.

 

 

I saw you do x so you’re well enough to work

I feel this is a common misconception that muggles have, as if work is a low energy task that we an just do if we’re atall seen out of the house. And it hurts us chronic illness wizards beause we then very much fear being sruitinised for every little move and push ourselves to go into work even though we very much should not be at work. We put on our fake smile and go with it beause anything is better than being stuck in a house.

But it is very much a misconception, regardless of the job you have. Yes I may be able to pop to the shop up the top of my road to grab some essentials but that doesn’t necessarily mean my “sick leave” is me faking ill beause I’m lazy and I cannot be bothered.

See the thing is, having ME is not that linear. I wish it was.

The problem is working 8 hours a day even if it’s largely desk based is a high energy task and the nature of work being 8 hours with one break makes it even more high energy. For anyone trying to maintain they’re focus and accuracy especially if doing repetitive tasks is difficult. For someone with ME this is even more difficult of a task to do and makes us feel really poorly.

Compare that to just popping to the shops, yeah it takes energy but I can rest after what is a 10 minute round trip. Not all activity is equal and just because we’re off sick because of our disability it doesn’t mean that we are off sick from adult responsibilities. They’ll always be there.

On the more extreme end of this you may see someone with ME or any other invisible illness going out to the cinema or going to the theatre. Theatre trips are booked in advance so yes I will be going. And that one day of activity or two hours if you live in a convenient location is nothing compared to working 8 hours a day 5 days a week. You have an opportunity to rest during the day for those two hours. The same goes if you see someone out for a meal with they’re family or friends.

Stop being quick to judge. And I’m saying this as someone who also used to be quick to judge because I sacrificed all else for my degree so when other chronically ill people were struggling and I saw that in social media I just felt they weren’t prioritising their degree enough and putting too many spoons into having fun.

But here’s the thing. Just because we’re disabled doesn’t mean we’re less worthy of a work life balance. And the view that if you are capable of doing anything else then you are capable of working can be very harmful to people with invisible illnesses both physically and mentally.

Do you know why? Because it leads us to push ourselves to dangerous limits in order to avoid such scrutiny. And that is not okay. We shouldn’t feel the need to do that.

Invisible illnesses come in all shapes, sizes and abilities. They often fluctuate over time. We all need to learn to stop being so quick to judge and just respect that we all have our own limits.