Showing posts with label #book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #book. Show all posts

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Man-ILL-Festo


Manifesto
Noun;
A public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.

Man-ILL-festo
Noun;
A public declaration of aims from a diseased person, a mishmash word I just made up which has no basis in reality.

If you know anything about me, or have read almost anything I’ve written, you’ll know that I love a pun. I’ve you’ve read my book Go Your Crohn Way, you’ll have established it contains over 5015435 puns (that’s an approximation only). Some people love the puns, some hate them. They are the marmite smeared across my pages. But as the best writers are always telling us, ‘write what you’d want to read’ and I CAN’T EVER QUENCH MY PUN-THIRST.

Anyway I mention this merely as I’ve started the blog with yet another one. Sorry pun haters but I can’t always be what you want me to be.

So, what is this ‘Manillfesto’ I speak of? Well I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I can do ‘better’ in the way I approach and manage my illness. Of course there are a myriad of things out-with my control, (having chronic illness in the first place being the main one of those), but there are a few small but powerful ways I’ve found I can help myself be the best and happiest version of me.  
[Most of these are just sensible rules for life for everyone to be honest so feel free to follow my manillfesto policies regardless of your health status lads].

-          TALK: don’t bottle up how I am feeling when I need help/comfort/company.

This is a continual issue for those with chronic illness as we often find it less emotionally exhausting to simply whip out “I’m fine” or the like when asked how we are. This is no one’s fault; it’s just often so much easier than explaining our every gripe and symptom again and again. It’s honestly tiring enough experiencing it all without feeling the need to vocalise it. However ‘I’m fine’ doesn’t really resolve anything when it’s used inaccurately. All it serves to do is worry the person on the receiving end (who probably knows you’re not fine anyway) and stops us from getting the support we might badly need. So I’m trying to limit my use of an erroneous “I’m fine” for emergencies only (i.e. when in the midst of a colonoscopy)

-          PROACTIVELY SELF-CARE: make time to make myself feel better

Self-care doesn’t have to mean completing 45 Yoga DVD’s then downing 15 Kale smoothies. It can be something as simple as finding what makes you feel comfortable and relaxed and actively making the space in your day for it. For me I love a hot bubble bath, headphones on, candles lit, channelling my inner Barbara Cartland and coming out barely conscious and a shade of lobster not yet discovered by scientists. So I try to make time a few times a week to have my precious soak. It’s also a nice way to physically relax achy joints and let your brain slow down. But if you don’t have a bath you can do other things; read a good book, paint, draw, watch a box set, go dogging, whatever makes you feel happy.

-          STICK TO AN ADULT BEDTIME: develop a regular sleep routine

This is important for many reasons, and more of a challenge than you might think. Those of us with chronic illness often find what should be horizontal bliss more of an uphill struggle. We often find getting enough sleep difficult depending on our pain levels, nausea, bathroom issues or medications. For example when I was on steroids I slept for about 5minutes over the course of 5months. When I did sleep through the sweats I’d dream of murder then wake up wanting to carry it out. I didn’t follow through on any of the dream-murders you’ll be pleased to hear. So try and ensure you stick to a suitable bed time and get enough where you can, it gets easier over time once you get into a regular pattern. Keeping a track of your sleep patterns is also useful for tracking flares and symptoms and for assisting the police in their enquiries regarding local murders.

-          TAKE A LUNCH BREAK: everyday, no excuses

This sounds minor but it’s very important. Most days I work through my lunch, eat my desk (when I remember to eat) and am lucky if I’ve had 15mins of a ‘break’ in a full day. This stems from work pressure, and a little anxiety about how much time I might spend in the loo from one day to the next. Regardless of my bathroom habits I’m still LEGALLY entitled to a break so I should be taking it without question or guilt. This is a habit I, and many of us need to break. Getting away from the desk/phone/whatever you’re chained to also helps to clear the head for an hour. Unless you are chained to someone else if you are a bungee instructor for example then please ensure everyone is safely on ground level before making your Pot Noodle.


So, some basic but important points to remember there. Little changes go a long way; prioritise, look after numero uno and make the best of each day even when you might feel like death is coming up the rear faster than an experienced Gastroenterologist. 


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Good Grief



I’ve written a little in the past about the similarities I find between coming to terms with a chronic illness diagnosis and the stages of grief. It’s been on my mind again recently for different reasons: the idea that just as grief rears its weepy head every so often so does the same feeling of loss that comes with having an incurable illness.

Lately I’ve been missing my beloved Grandmother quite a bit and recalling how I felt when she passed away.

 

*I didn’t at any point say this blog was going to be a rollercoaster of non-stop fun so get off now I’ve you’re not tall enough to come on this ride*

 

My sweet Granny Peggy died when I was in my early twenties. I was in the first flush of romance with my first ‘proper’ boyfriend and heading on a holiday. She died in hospital, I was there, thankfully, along with the rest of our close family. She was ‘ready to go’; she told me as much many times, and now that I’m older I understand why a little more; then I just couldn’t bear to hear the words. I didn’t want her to go and selfishly wouldn’t so much as contemplate the thought, choosing instead to do everything aside from putting my fingers in my ears shouting “LA LA LA” to avoid the conversation. She wasn’t being selfish; she was just tired.

 

My Gran was my salve. We lived in the flat downstairs from her for many years, the whole of my childhood in fact, and she was a safe bosom to run to whenever I felt overwhelmed, sad or just needed someone other than a parent to listen to my childish nonsense. What I always remember most about my Gran was her sense of humour, she laughed a lot and loved to hear us laugh. She loved to throw me back and give me ‘French kisses’ (her version of this was just pecking my neck until I giggled and wriggled away like a happy eel), we danced around her kitchen a lot and she let me draw on almost all of her treasured possessions. I wrote her poems and stories and she lauded them all with praise worthy of a Pulitzer.

 

So reminisce aside what does all of this have to do with Crohn’s Disease? Well the grieving I do every so often for my Grandmother feels painfully similar to the grieving I do for my life pre-Crohn’s. Right now I’m flaring and feel decidedly awful most of the time; when this happens it sends me into a flurry of anxiety. I worry about how long this will last, how it will be remedied, what adjustments I must make to my life and what it must feel to live with or be around a person such as myself struggling with keeping it all together and not finding much room for anyone or anything else. Sound familiar? Grief is all-consuming and unpredictable just like chronic illness. It strikes when you least expect it and lingers for much longer than you’d like.

 

But sometimes, you forget. Sometimes you feel good and that’s OK. It’s OK to revel in feeling happy despite loss. It’s OK to remember happy times and not feel guilt for what you could or should have done during the bad. So when you are struggling with illness (or grief) and feel lost try to remember the good; and that that good will come back around in time. Focus on what you have and not what you have lost, because sometimes that’s all we can do to get through. xo


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

My Kind of People


Chronic illness is used as such a ‘catch all’ phrase these days. It covers a myriad of illnesses, diseases and disabilities. But then couldn’t all of those words be used in the same vein? Don’t all chronic illnesses ‘disable’ us in one way or another? Make us feel ‘diseased’? 
Chronic, as it relates to illness, is defined as ‘persisting for a long time or constantly recurring’. Its meaning is clearly definable but the number and variety of conditions it covers is certainly not finite.
Health, and especially frequently poor health, naturally hits highs and lows. Sometimes those lows last for what can seem like the longest time and you struggle to see an end to them. This can be hard enough to deal with on your own, but factor in having to communicate your health issues to the outside world and you’re faced with a whole new set of complications to deal with.  Explaining the intricacies of a condition to an outsider can often be intimidating and challenging to say the least; particularly if you are new to it yourself and still learning. When we do discuss our condition with others and don’t get the response or reaction we perhaps expect, it can be quite the setback. Often living with a chronic illness can feel humiliating. It can be embarrassing, distressing and complex. Often we don’t want to talk about our condition, which is wholly our right, of course, yet sometimes our symptoms make that privilege all but impossible. If it is a visible condition it allows for comment, and that’s something we sadly can’t control.
So pulling on at that thread of uninvited comment, a certain infuriating phrase that sticks in my head, and has been said to me upwards of 168798782784240 times, (at last count anyway) is:
 “There always seems to be something wrong with you…”
This is generally said as an off the cuff, (perhaps feeble attempt at humour?) with a snide undertone. It’s often spoken with a question mark at the end of it; as though we are somehow expected to answer to it. It’s not really deserving of a question mark in my humble opinion as it’s more of a statement of fact. I’m not sure what the relevance of such a question is either, other than to remind us that we are ill, ALL THE TIME. Sadly something we are all too aware of already.  The only answer that could be given to such a bizarre poser (and I find it most effective bellowed through a megaphone) is “YES, THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME: IT’S INCURABLE”. But that response only served to get me thrown out of the library and banned from the local church the last 5 times I used it.
It is phrases such as these that are upsetting to someone with a disability and/or illness for many, MANY, reasons. Let me count the ways. (7. There are 7 ways).
1.  It implies we are being untruthful about our health problems. If you have to query in a suspicious tone that expects us to answer for an incurable condition then you nail your ‘I DON’T BELIEVE YOU’ colours firmly to the mast. This funnily enough doesn’t make for a comfortable conversation to follow.
2.  It makes us feel like a nuisance. No person who even remotely cares for another person should make them feel this way. Implying we are using our condition for attention or exploiting it for our own gain is just mean at the root of it.
3.  It singles us out. We don’t want to be sick, and we certainly don’t want to be treated any differently to a ‘normal’ person. Suggesting we are seeking some end goal other than the best
possible health makes us retreat into our shells and that can be increasingly risky for those of us with already wavering mental health.
4.  It makes us feel we are appearing like a hypochondriac. Anyone with a chronic illness dislikes hypochondriacs intensely. We have to eat, sleep and think about illness every day; we don’t need to hear you give us chapter and verse on that one time in 1983 when you had the measles. Just because you perhaps aren’t used to hearing people talk honestly about an incurable condition doesn’t make it any less true when we do.
5.  It silences us from talking about our illness. This is NOT good. We need to talk about our conditions because it allows us to educate, share, unload and learn. The more we remain silent on what we are experiencing the more withdrawn we become and the more ashamed we feel.
6.  It makes us feel embarrassed and ashamed. As above: not good. Something we should never allow ourselves to feel. Chronic conditions can get such bad press; we need to be at the forefront of changing that, not being beaten down by uninformed opinions.
7.  It reminds us that THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING WRONG WITH US. Yes, we KNOW.
On the flip side of this ghastly and mildly insensitive coin however, when met with thoughtlessness of this degree, I often try to mentally counter these statements with any positives I can find in them. Easier said than done, especially when you are still clutching a knife to their throat, but if you take a mental (and maybe physical) step back, and look hard enough you are bound to find something.  Let’s throw the negativity over the balcony, crushing it painfully below, causing irrevocable damage, and try that now.
1. Yes there IS always something wrong with me yet I’m still here, being alive alongside you, making me better than you in so, so many ways, and that’s excluding my impressive rack. 
2.  No, nope, sorry I think that’s all I can come up with. Maybe I’m just not a very
forgiving person.
The issue with phrases like the aforementioned “There always seems to be something wrong with you…” is that, whether intended that way or not, they are simply unkind and just so unnecessary. As I’m not (at time of writing) practiced in mind control, I can’t stop people thinking things like that of course, but I can certainly voice my discomfort when they allow the words to leave their lips. Meaning if you’re going to openly say something along those lines to someone with a chronic illness then you should really be prepared for the potentially messy fallout.
What may seem an entirely innocent comment on our condition to you may come across as a not-so-subtle jibe directed at us for reasons we’ll have to retreat into paranoia to discover. You see, it’s not ‘just a joke’ when you make another human being feel essentially lesser.
Kindness is so easy. It’s often found simply in inaction. It’s effortless! You can be kind by just not saying that thing you know would be taken badly should the person it’s aimed at hear you. Just don’t say it! It’s that simple! You can be kind by taking a moment, just one precious moment, to consider the outcome
of your words. If you have an inkling that what you are about to say to another
human being may be mean or insulting then just don’t say it. NO, you won’t
receive an award for it, but you also won’t receive a black eye, so swings and
roundabouts. Think bad thoughts by all means; we ALL do that. It’s one of the silent joys in life. But in much the same way you wouldn’t follow up saying “I’ll kill him” with then committing
ACTUAL MURDER, you can think we are lazy (for example), without actually
accusing us of being so. 
Maybe just consider this: Are you the type of person who deliberately sets out to upset and offend another human being whose only crime is not acting or looking the way you want or expect them to? If you answered yes to that then I hope you find what’s missing in your life someday. 
(See how easy it is to be kind instead of wishing you dead?)

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Ache News

Eight years ago today I was in hospital on one of my increasingly common ‘investigatory’ stays.  I was incredibly ill, confused, and afraid and certainly without the first clue what Crohn’s Disease was.
I would eventually be diagnosed with the disease approximately 2 months later, followed by my first surgery in the Jan of the following year. To say it was a trying time is to put it milder than an IBD patient’s curry.

I’d been advised I had arthritis in the early part of this same year and was barely getting to grips with that when this new pain began to strike. So loooong story short, within 12 months I found myself with two life-changing chronic illnesses, unsure of my future and facing severe surgery. 

The reason I recall this grim year is a little because it’s been on my mind lately due to feeling distinctly below par, but for the larger part because I’ve been trying to recall how I felt at that time, which let’s face it, wasn’t great. Lately there have been countless articles and ‘celebrity’ statements on IBD strewn across the internet and beyond like disused wet wipes. These articles I refer to make comment on the ways in which patients can ‘cure’ their disease, through means of juice diets, special healing crystals, ‘unconventional’ medicine, veganism, thinking positively, preaching to the Great Lord Zuuuuzo, and COMING OFF MEDICATION, amongst others. 

OK, so some of those may be slight exaggerations for comedic purposes, but in all honesty after reading some of these dumpster-worthy think pieces you’d be hard pressed to establish which ones. I’m not about to slate any one person/publication in particular as it’s not massively helpful and still directs more views towards these outlets they sorely don’t deserve.

All I will say is that it’s very important we as patients/loved ones of patients/just decent interested human beings are selective and careful in what we accept as fact where it comes to IBD, and any chronic illness for that matter. When I hark back to my own state of mind as a freshly diagnosed patient I worry so much about those men and women in the same boat as my own eight years ago. They will be encountering these same articles, (some of which have even been publicised by leading Crohn’s charities), and feeling hopeful there are simple fixes to their condition. There aren’t. IBD is a complex, incurable disease.

Now without that meaning to sound incredibly grim, sometimes we can’t always sugar-coat facts. We shouldn’t. We should never go into any life-changing event with our eyes and ears wide open. Of course I am only too well aware that being diagnosed with any illness is terrifying, whatever age you are or stage in your life you are at. When I got sick I was in a secure and loving relationship; but I still assumed my partner would leave me, because I felt almost instantaneously worthless. That is long since passed, and my attitude to my illness has changed beyond all recognition, but from time to time I still want to scream and cry with frustration that this sickness will never leave.

I don’t want to preach that patients shouldn’t have hope in times of uncertainty and fear; we all should. But we have to be careful about where we take our information from. When we are in states of frustration and vulnerability we shouldn’t have to filter our knowledge to suit – but sadly we do. 

We need to ensure we take information on our illness from reputable sources; stick to our doctors, consultants, medical experts. If you do venture further afield, then stick to articles and blogs with a good following, who focus on aspects of mental-health, relationships and ways to adapt to the illness.

The most important point to remember is if you encounter writing which advises a certain way of life/diet to ‘cure’ you, consider it an instant red flag. If it were curable you wouldn’t need to hear it from a Z-list celebrity in your spam folder. 


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Every-Body's Gotta Learn Sometimes


Something said to me in passing recently got me thinking about the general ‘outrage’ experienced almost daily in living with chronic illness.

 

Personally I’d say I’m a bit of an old hand at this ‘illness’ lark, so I’ve experienced my fair share of insensitive, thoughtless or just plain mean, comments linked to my condition.

 

The most recent of these was uttered by someone I am friendly with and who I respect and even like as a human being.

 

(Names withheld to protect identities/avoid them being chased down the street with flaming torches)

 

This person commented on my weight, and joked that I’m ‘lucky not to be unable to absorb food’. As if my incurable illness is some sort of fad diet that I use on occasions when I want to look Oscar ready.

My gut (pun always intended, don’t you know me at all?!) reaction here was of annoyance. Not outrage, just annoyance and frustration. I feebly tried to convey that it’s not something I consider to be ‘lucky’ to have, and that I am seriously ill. I mentioned that I would love to be able to enjoy food and be a steady healthy weight, but that all of that just came out sounding a little bitter and whiny. Perhaps because the original comment was not intended as a slight on me or my illness, but jokey ‘banter’ implying nothing more than that the joker would like to be a little slimmer. Was I overreacting? I’m sure both of us have different viewpoints on that because we both entered into the conversation with our own (wildly different) expectations.

 

Problem here though is that comments thrown out in jest often have ripples which cause much more damage than any original intention.

 

When sweeping comments are made it often serves to alienate people in one fluid motion. For example how did this particular person know I was happy with my weight? (For the record I’m not; I’d much rather be a little heavier, I’ve been this weight since I was 12 years old – it’s not ideal for a 33 year old woman). My weight also serves as a constant reminder that my health hasn’t improved. If I’m not putting any weight on I’m still not getting the nutrients and vitamins I need to help me reach my ultimate goal of NOT DYING.

 

In the early days of living with chronic illness I found myself in a state of constant simmering rage. I was angry at being stuck with this disease and all its off-shoots, and the smallest of insensitive comments would send  my mood stratospheric. Not good for my stress levels and certainly not good for my health in the short or long term. Nowadays I feel a little mellower. Don’t get me wrong I still feel that sharp desire to behead someone who mocks my afflictions, but that’s natural isn’t it?! That wholesome urge to kill ignorant strangers? ISNT IT??

 

I digress. My point here is that it’s important in amongst the slew of unkind and ignorant comments we hear, to listen for the ones where we can educate. It’s imperative we take stock and put out own health at the top of the conversational pecking order; is it really that vital that we bubble with rage at a colleague who says something we deem inappropriate for example? Can we respond in a way that doesn’t involve knives? All of these questions I try to consider now when someone says something that makes me feel vulnerable or frustrated in living with this illness.

 

The simple fact is people will always upset and frustrate us. We all do it to one another on a daily basis. But intention plays a huge part – we should always stunt ourselves from flying into a rage by taking a few seconds to question whether whatever was said was done out of malice, or cruelty. Was it ‘just a joke’ (albeit one at our expense) and do we really want to waste already lacking energy in diving headfirst into an argument about it?

 

Now when someone says something I find offensive I try to call it out. I tell someone if they’ve upset me, and I make sure I come from a place of love and education when I do it. I don’t tolerate what I don’t deem an acceptable way to discuss my condition. I try to face rudeness head on by meeting it with logic and not just unbridled emotion. It seems to be working for me because I haven’t murdered anyone in at least a month. A new personal best.

 

Ignorance is an opportunity for education, so I try my best to put my rage on the backburner and take it.

But if someone slams the door in my Mum’s face in a shopping centre, you better believe I WILL KILL AGAIN.