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

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, 9 August 2017

Eat, Drink and Be Poorly

When you have a bowel disease the relationship with food can be, at the very least, a complicated one.
In my mind and in my heart I LOVE food. I love the smells, the sights, the taste of it. I love the comfort it brings, the happy memories it evokes, the new experiences it allows. But my stomach HATES it. My stomach physically despises it. Rejects it faster than a 3-legged-puppy at a dog shelter. (Which is something for the record, I would never do)
And therein lies the issue – the one place where food should find its happy, nourishing home before starting its journey into the sewage system, is stunted by an intense, repellent disgust for anything I choose to shovel into my cake-hole.
Food and the partaking in eating it, may seem initially like such a basic human need that we can often lose sight of how wonderful an aspect of life it can be. We associate often unknowingly, food with socializing, with blossoming romance, cultivating friendships, nurturing our children. It is associated with being part of something. This eats into (pardon the pun) a common issue patients with chronic illness have; feeling on the outside of things.
For me the idea of going ‘out for dinner’ is great. I love thinking ahead about what I’ll wear, scoping out the menu in advance to see what looks delicious, anticipating the great conversation I might have in a cosy environment. But then, much like a selfish lover, that thrill disappears as quickly as it comes.
I am then met with the stark reality-reminder of what might actually happen; I’ll worry about what I can wear to disguise the inventible bloating that comes after one morsel, I’ll panic over what I can eat that doesn’t contain an ingredient that will cause me pain (clue: nothing), I’ll worry about a potential lack of bathrooms or my tables’ proximity to a bathroom, and worst of all, I’ll worry about ruining the evening for my companion before the night has even begun. All this anxiety serves [can’t stop won’t stop with the food puns] to put a dampener on what should ideally be an exciting and fun prospect.
Much like any bad relationship, when you love something that causes you nothing but pain you must learn to cut all ties. Not quite as easy with food, due to that pesky aspect of needing it to stay alive.
Food is an inescapable part of life, so in order to avoid an early meet and greet with the Grim Reaper, some form of adaption must take place. We must learn to fit it into our life in a way that causes us the least mental and physical torture. No easy feat. Or should that be no easy feed?! Haha ha ha no you’re right probably not.
For me there has been no ‘diet’ I’ve found to absolve my symptoms (and believe me I’ve looked). Over time I’ve established the main foods and drinks which I know will particularly upset me, I try as much as I can to cut these out. Often IBD is so utterly unpredictable that ‘safe’ foods cause just as much discomfort as others; this is a particular gripe of mine, especially when it takes so much will power not to eat what I love.
On the whole my appetite is as elusive as a vegan at a cattle market. I generally don’t crave food: against my will I’ve conditioned my brain that ‘food = pain’ and this is a hard mentality to break out of. Don’t get me wrong I still eat and drink as much as I am able, I ensure I stay hydrated when I am unable to tolerate food and I seek advice when food is off my proverbial menu [don’t take on the pun-queen unless you want to be humiliated] for longer than I’d like.
I suppose this blog is just a reminder you are not alone in seeing food as an uphill challenge. What may seem like an unthinking aspect of the day can be a stressful and anxiety inducing experience for others. So don’t beat yourself up if you struggle to finish your plateful, just be sensible, patient with yourself and your body and take care of yourself. And if you ever see me eating soup in a steak house please don’t judge.




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.


Saturday, 29 April 2017

Ari You Gonna Be My Girl?

In a few days my friend Ari is coming all the way from Argentina to holiday in Scotland (and see me). She’ll be staying with my partner and I for lots of the trip and we will even go away on a little mini holiday of our own in the middle. This will be the first time we’ve ‘met’ face to face after talking on the internet for maybe 3 or 4 years.

We chat EVERYDAY.

That’s rare in this day and age (and certainly for me) probably because I don’t feel that interesting or engaging most of the time. Yet this friendship is easy, fun and loving. It puts me at ease and there are no judgements on either side. She just makes me laugh and feel precious and our bond feels effortless. I can’t wait to meet my darling Ari in real life (and prove to everyone she isn’t a 45 year old man from Croydon).

Although I feel I know Ari very well and am not in any way nervous about meeting her, I’ve been thinking about how bold a move it is for her to fly halfway across the world for the sake of a friendship (and vegetarian haggis obvs). Friendships often get harder to make as we age so that’s one of many reasons why this one is so important to me. It came into my life at just the right time and now feels like it (she) has always been there.

I’m in my 30’s now.

So as these things do, many of my childhood and teenage friendships have dissipated over time; wrapped themselves up in quite a neat and healthy bow. Without meaning to sound harsh, some friendships just serve a purpose at a certain time and struggle to survive beyond their particular environment. 
Work relationships for example: once a close colleague leaves, or you move on it can be a tricky tightrope to walk in terms of whether or not you should maintain what may essentially have been kinship over a water-cooler and not much more. Thank-fully I’ve made a few AMAZING friends through work in my own life and I can’t see those relationships ever fading. I think the feeling is mutual on both sides and that’s comforting (and pressure free).

As most people with chronic illness will understand, maintaining relationships can be hard, and often disappointing. When people we love prove themselves to be flaky or uninterested in what is essentially a massive part of our lives it can be a bitter pill to swallow. And we already have enough of them to ingest.

Friends who love us will make an attempt to understand what we are going through, they will check in with us regularly and make us laugh, or simply give us a shoulder to cry on when we need it. With us returning the favour of course. Friendships when you are sick should still be a two-way street; we don’t become patients rather than people, but they may just need some adaption.


When anything changes in life we try our best to accept, adapt and move on, and the same goes for pals. We become adaptable. Adaptipals if you will. You won’t? No problem, I still love you, pals. xo


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Let Them Eat Cake!


My blog turned 6 last week!

 

I know what you are thinking; blogs can’t have birthdays, they are not sentient beings, so why waste decent cake? I hear you! But this particular ‘birthday’ has felt worthy of celebration mainly because I’ve sadly neglected my blog lately. I’ve had a new job to focus on and the completion of a new book I’ve been working on since my first came out last year. Also I’ve been ill. Not front page news that last one I grant you; some might even say it’s what this blog is all about, and yes I appreciate that smarty-pants. But being ‘sick’ can often feel like a full time job in itself and it overwhelms anything and everything. It interferes in work, relationships, your state of mind. It demands attention.

 

But this blog was started as an outlet for me to express my fears, experiences and abject terror at having a chronic illness, and while it still is such a place to allow me to vent or share, it’s become somewhat more of a safe place where I can come to talk openly and without judgement (although my inbox may say otherwise). It has granted me the opportunity to help others simply but sharing my life with you and making cat jokes. So rather than spend this special occasion focusing on the more negative aspects of my illness I thought I’d celebrate this 6th birthday with a little bit about all the good stuff that’s happened in my life since this blog was ‘born’.

 

So here are my 6 happy things:

 

  1. I have written and had published a book on Crohn’s Disease which is doing well and getting great feedback.
  2. I have focused more on nurturing my relationships and this has been wonderful and reaped countless rewards. (No I’m not talking about the bedroom, get your heads out of the gutter).
  3. Although my health has been a consistent challenge and treatments have failed I haven’t had any further surgery which I take as a big win. *touches all of the wood*
  4. We got a giant dog! Who makes me incredibly happy, cares for me and makes me and laugh and cry at his cuteness every day.
  5. I changed jobs and it’s been an incredible boost to my mental health and stress levels.
  6. My amazing friend Lyndsay gave me a bike! So now I cycle to said new job and have much more time with my family (and longer lie ins) while getting a little daily exercise. Also my thighs could now quite easily crush a grown man’s head.

 

So it’s not been all bad since Crohnological Order began. I’m happy and alive and that’s a great start. I’ve been granted some wonderful opportunities since writing this diseased drivel and I want to continue to use what little voice I have to help others. SO thanks for sticking with me for the last 6 years and hopefully beyond! I love you! xox


Sunday, 15 January 2017

OMG!! SEE ME TOTALLY NAKED IN THIS LEAKED SEX TAPE!!!

OK now that I've got your attention, I'd like to take a few minutes to talk to you about these so called 'click-bait' articles with eye-catching and inevitably misleading titles (of which the above is); and in particular how they can negatively impact on our health.

Now as you may have established by this point, the chances of you seeing me ‘TOTALLY NAKED’ and in a ‘SEX TAPE!!!’ are slim to none. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news so early in the blog but you’re the one who clicked, so more fool you! Besides, who even uses the word 'tape' anymore? Get with the program losers! What is this, 1992?!

Anyway, regardless of whether you clicked this link because there was a vain hope of seeing my melons, or because you were just intrigued as to whether I’d finally lost my mind; now that we are all here, let’s get to the matter in hand. Despite the fact that this title is undoubtedly false and deceptive it did its job in getting you to click on the preceding link, maybe to even to hang around and read the whole article. So in that sense it has been an effective tool. Effective yes, yet undoubtedly frustrating too, (in particular for those of you still vainly holding out for a peep at my wares).

NOT HAPPENING PLEASE MOVE ON WITH YOUR LIVES.

But while we can all laugh at the absurdity of this particular title, what of those articles with similarly attention grabbing titles, aimed for the most part at the more vulnerable and desperate among us? Those of us who are perhaps crying out for a 'solution', whatever it may be. Well, here we find my pet hate: the ‘health’ click-bait. In case any of you are still in the dark about what I mean by ‘click-bait’ please see this definition:

“(on the Internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page”



These are those articles that draw us sickly individuals in with promised 'cures' and quick fixes, advice on someone’s ‘miracle cure’ or how someone else ‘cured themselves with tree bark’ or some other such nonsense. Once clicked on, these articles (usually a mere few barely decipherable sentences) inevitably lead us down the rabbit hole of terrible advertising and ineligible text, over-priced products and bad advertising. Maybe they will follow on where the article left off and attempt to sell us a product that promises to cure all of our ails. The one certainty is that they are definite time-wasters. They offer inane hope to those of us who perhaps have none, they lie and explain our conditions in a vague and unintelligible way, they grope in the dark for anything they can grab on to in order to gain an audiences favour. Just like your Mum.

In my humble opinion, any article that struggles of CORRECTLY SPELL the name of the condition it writes about, promises a ‘cure’ it can never prove, admonishes patients for a perceived lack of effort, undermines our suffering, or simply insults us in a roundabout way, is GARBAGE.

So my own advice would be to avoid these headlines and their preceding hogwash ‘journalism’ unless they come from a reputable source (or a QUALIFIED DOCTOR). And if you find yourself drawn in by an article promising you the world where your health is concerned (yes EVEN if it contains the promise of a bare naked chest), pull out immediately. As the Actress said to the Bishop. 


Saturday, 31 December 2016

HAPPY NEW REAR!


It’s time for one of those 'end of year' posts we bloggers love to write (and you dread to read)!

And what a year it's been.

 

HORRIFIC. 

 

I won’t even begin to go into the changes we’ve undergone with Brexit here and Trump over there, because I don’t want to projectile vomit all over the screen.

 

We've played a seemingly endless game of 'Who's Dead Today?' this year with almost everyone in the public-eye quaking in their boots at the mere sniff of a cough that they'll be 'next'. Of course for me the hardest of these 'celebrity' deaths was my beloved David Bowie. I genuinely sobbed when the news hit and felt the same grief I would for a loved one. It seemed so utterly confusing that I would mourn someone I've never met, but the depth of feeling I had for his music (and the shock of his unexpected death through illness) hit me more than I could have expected. I suppose with a sudden and unanticipated death such as his, it hit a lot of his fans in a similarly painful way. So many other deaths followed, that this year switching on the breakfast news each morning seemed like opening the world’s
most depressing advent calendar.

 



The next big setback in my year came when our beloved cat passed away. We knew he was poorly and would in time be heading to that giant Cat Scratcher in the sky, but his death was very sudden and still came as a big and heart-breaking shock. Our beautiful boy was so special and such an intrinsic part of our little family that his loss is still felt around the house. The loss of a pet can be surprisingly heart-breaking: when they are such a huge part of the family it takes a while to adjust to him not being home. 



 

But for me certainly 2016 has not been all bad. And really as we know, it’s all about ME.

 

This year saw me quit my job of over 10 years to take on a new challenge closer to home and allow me more time for writing and working on book 2! Scary but incredibly exhilarating, and definitely the right decision.

 

This leads us on neatly to the next big emotional event in my 2016: The publication of my first book! GO YOUR CROHN WAY came out in May and was a whirlwind of anxiety and joy. It was a surprisingly emotional time for me for many reasons; because it was a reassurance I wasn't a terrible writer, because it was coming from a place where I could hopefully help others in a wider way, and because it was a painful part of my life being transformed into something positive. We had a wonderful book launch (The Crohn Way Soiree) which was one of the best night's of my life. Excluding that time a taxi appeared just as the heel on my stiletto broke. I've had such good feedback from patients and their families alike that's it's made my heart swell. It’s been well received so far, I’ve been on radio, in papers and a local MP has even put forward a motion to have it mentioned in Scottish Parliament! This is about the only level of fame I could tolerate without exploding into a ball of anxiety and feeling the need to wear makeup everyday/brush my mane so I’m pretty happy with that :)



 

I’m currently working on book two and it all seems pretty exciting and that I’ve found where I want to be in life which is incredibly comforting.

 

The year ended for me on a pretty low note as I’ve been advised my treatment is no longer effective and my body is fighting against it (again). So back to the diseased drawing board. I spent most of the lead up to Christmas in hospital and it was extremely disheartening, just the idea of being properly ‘sick’ again. Tests and procedures and hospital food; none of us want it. But I was lucky enough to get home for Christmas. Now just awaiting more of the same, scopes and tests until we know what may work for me where others haven’t. I’m trying my best to think positive about this as I know I’ll get there, just stuck in limbo at the minute.

 

2017 will hopefully be healthier for us all.

 

For me, this year despite many, MANY setbacks, I have achieved something I never thought I would, I’ve made a brave decision or two, I’m in love and loved and HAPPY. Good health will follow, and if not, I’ve got all the love I need to help me through it.

 

Your support, however small or large this year has meant the world to me!

I love you!

Happy New Year everyone! xox

 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

By The Book

I haven’t been blogging as regularly as I might be lately as my writing time is occupied writing another book. I’m really excited about this one and putting much more pressure on myself to make it brilliant and funny and genuine.

The first time round I had nothing to lose in writing a book – I wanted to do it to achieve a dream and to help people come to terms with an IBD diagnosis or just to give long term Crohn’s patients maybe something to smile at. I took my time in approaching any publishers because I genuinely didn’t think anyone would look twice at it, and to be totally honest I was afraid of having to face the knock-backs! But it turns out I didn’t receive any of those and the publisher I went with has been just brilliant to work with.
Getting a book out into the world with no knowledge of the industry, marketing or public speaking is no easy task so I’m proud of myself for all the work I put in to making it happen. Obviously my loved ones played a big part in that too but I’ve already thanked them enough privately to restraining order proportions.

So now I am working on book two and it’s strangely even scarier than the first time. What if no one wants me this time? What if I’m a one hit wonder? What if I hate every word I’ve written? (the 3rd one swims about in my head EVERYTIME I sit down to write).  

But that’s where I am with that: trying to make something readable and enjoyable and HELPFUL and consistently filled with self-doubt. But I guess that just makes me an author. If you’d like to be first to know any book news and aren’t my Mum or lover then you can sign up to my mailing list if you’d like! Click on this helpful link -

http://kathfantastic.weebly.com/go-your-crohn-way.html

I'm also thrilled to have been nominated again this year in the WEGO Health Activist Awards! I'm up for both Hilarious Health Activist and Best in Show: Blog. Thanks to everyone who nominated me! If you want to cast your vote by way of an 'endorsement' you can do so to the right of this post or on my website. Thanks! 

http://kathfantastic.weebly.com/crohnological-order.html

Health wise things aren’t too great at the minute, I’ve been pretty floored with a nasty sinus infection that I can’t seem to shake. My immune system is so low that the minute I start to improve someone just has to sneeze within 20 miles of me and I’m flattened again. My partner isn’t loving having to sleep with Darth Vader, but we all have our crosses to bear. Infliximab is still going well, so far so good, so I’m counting the days to next week when they pump me with more of the good stuff. And also Infliximab.  


But enough about me, how are YOU? 



Monday, 29 August 2016

Rest In PJ's

A very important aspect to bear in mind when living with chronic illness is 'self-care'.
Firstly, I appreciate that may sound hippy-ish, and may inspire someone who doesn't eat kale or drink pumpkin lattes to feel increasingly nauseous, but at the core of it ‘self-care’ really just means looking after number one. 

In the least selfish way possible, it's vital to ensure that when you feel at your worst (and even when you don’t) that you take the time you need to help yourself feel as well as you can. Now of course that doesn't necessarily mean immediately calling your boss and throwing a 4week sick note at him so fast he gets a paper cut. It just means it’s important to remember that there are things you can do to ease the pressure of a day to day life with a chronic illness. For example: REST when you need to rest. It may sound ridiculous but this is often the most difficult for me. It seems to come exceptionally low on my list of priorities. I’ll always have something more pressing to do first. Then I came to the realisation that really that means I’m placing my own health pretty low down the rung on the ladder of life. And really, although a support network around you is imperative, it’s also vital to value yourself and your own body.

I've begun to try and act accordingly now instead of pushing myself to my body's limits and beyond. For example, if I’ve had a busy day and I’m into a new realm of exhaustion, I’ll find 20minutes to take a nap. Previously I would have made a million and one excuses not to: it's almost dinner time, I don't want to be rude and leave my partner alone, my favourite TV show is on, the moon is in Venus, etc, etc. Now I try to act on my body’s demands and feel better for it.


Looking after yourself may not make you feel massively different physically; it may only serve to allow you to feel a little more rested and give your triple AAA’s a well-deserved recharge. But that’s not really the point. I find it has a greater impact on mental health. It allows you to grant yourself permission to ‘be ill’. You don’t have to excuse yourself for something you have no control over, you just have to adapt to it and sometimes let it win a few battles. You still take the gold in the end; you just do it at your own pace. So put down the dish-cloth and pour yourself a delicious glass of bowel prep, you deserve it! 


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Stress Who

It’s commonly known that stress is a huge factor in exacerbating chronic illnesses such as Crohn’s Disease. It also almost nigh on impossible to avoid. Everyone deals with their own stresses in day to day life, be it struggling with finances, feeling harassed at work, relationship troubles or just not being able to catch that last Pokémon. We all have our own issues and we all deal with them in different ways, so there is sadly no quick fix.
One of my main stressors, (and I hadn’t realised it was such a thing until recently) is being around negative people. This is a stress for me, mainly in my day to day ‘real’ job where the environment can be borderline toxic with reams upon reams of people competing to outdo one another in the misery Olympics. Of course being perma-sick like me can also cloud your judgement on these people, as you feel you have a unique outlook on their particular ‘problems’ – mainly that they need to realise how lucky they are not to live with an illness every day. But that’s just a biased and marginally unhealthy attitude and one I sometimes struggle to keep under wraps.
I’ve tried various methods in dealing with these people from straight up ignoring them to trying to play amateur therapist and everything in between. For the most part, nothing works, because the hard truth is; some people love to complain. They LOVE it. They relish finding misery in the minutiae of daily life then amplifying it for all to hear. But because I know being around these people makes me genuinely unwell, and I have no option but to be around them, I try to do certain things to make sure I’m protected. I can’t heal the world and make it a better place, but I can try to shield myself from some of the bile spewed into my airspace. So here are a few things I try to remember when I feel myself being drawn in:
1.  Don’t Become the Person you despise
By that I mean, don’t spend your evenings complaining to your significant other/friends/cat about said person(s) you find so unbearably negative. Although it can certainly be cathartic to vent your frustrations, all you are doing is perpetuating the misery and continuing a vicious cycle of gloom. Plus, you don’t want to be the one talked about in the same vein do you?
2.  Focus on what you can control
So here I’m referring to your mental state. Don’t allow someone else’s perpetually bad attitude to alter your own. Don’t be disheartened either when you find your amiable attitude doesn’t rub off on others, you haven’t failed, you’re not Mary Poppins, just focus on what you think and feel about certain situations and don’t get tangled up in bad feeling.
3.  Change the record
Sounds an easy task to just change the subject, but it's can be a challenge when someone is in the midst of a rant about this that and the next thing. Tempting someone away from the dark side of every situation can be hard but rather than indulging them it's often more effective to subtly change topic. It's easier than confronting them endlessly on their bad attitude, and they have nowhere to go with a rant when the recipient shows zero interest.
4. Act don't react
If this negative person happens to be a friend of yours, it can be tempting to try and solve their problem in the first instance. It’s of course always the right thing to display a degree of compassion for someone you care for/anyone who seems to be in a harmful spiral, but remember to avoid falling into their habits yourself. If you see a common type of behaviour of theirs approaching then perhaps try and pre-emptively ease it, before they slip into the same depressive slump.
5. Put Your Health First

There may come a time, regardless of your persistent efforts to help, when you should consider what you are getting out of a certain friendship and how much of it is draining vital life force from every fibre of your being. If a relationship revolves around one party’s negativity you’ll find yourself a verbal punch-bag, that’s when it might be time to cut ties where possible, or at the very least put some distance between you both. Health and particularly mental health is IMPORTANT and being made miserable and stressed regularly is a strain we just do not need. 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Grimace and Bear It

A little thing you may or may not know about me: I’ve got a very defensive personality. I snap easily when I feel I’m being threatened. The arms cross, the brow furrows and the attitude of a moody teenager positively reeks from me. I hate it. I try to stop it, because I know it’s counter-productive and halts any attempt at adult discussion, but it’s sometimes almost impossible to rein in. It doesn’t always happen. But more often than I’d like it does, and I beat myself up about it A LOT.
I’m also insecure about my body – I’m scarred and bruised from surgery and seemingly endless procedures, and medication means my weight fluctuates so regularly that I can go from balloon to pancake and back again in a matter of minutes. When I’m bloated I feel embarrassed and ugly. I feel ashamed of my appearance. (So you see how the defensive personality might cause a problem here; if someone so much as glances at my stomach I am on them faster than Nutella on toast).
I’m well aware this defensiveness and my occasional hatred of my own female form is nowhere near a good attitude to have, but at least it’s real, and honest. I’d love to be a shining example of woman-hood who could wholeheartedly embrace her curves and teach others to do the same: and I like to think I do on the second point certainly; I’m my friends’ biggest cheer-leaders when they doubt their own (unmistakable to me) beauty. Only I can’t embrace my ‘curves’ because (my cracking rack aside) mines aren’t natural. They are caused by a crippling illness. The difference between these two pictures for example is 10 minutes. The first was pre-meal, the second minutes after dinner.

Bloating is painful and very uncomfortable. It’s constricting and makes me incredibly self-conscious. Even around the man I love. I don’t like to see myself looking this way mainly because it never seems to be a true reflection of me; even though it quite literally IS a reflection of me. 
In much the same way my scar did when it was fresh and new, it makes me feel ‘diseased’. I know it’s the not fit for purpose parts of my insides that are causing my physical appearance to be altered and it reminds me of what I’m dealing with. I can’t hide under smocks all my life, I have to grimace and bear it.  
This week I’ve struggled with work as my joint pain has escalated. My arthritis is causing my hands and knees to swell and ache. The pain can be overwhelming and incredibly frustrating. I suffer from nerve damage too, (another fun side effect from chronic illness) and that too has been reminding me there is pain to be found everywhere if I look hard enough. Thanks carcass! Joint and nerve pain make me feel old and I’m not. Combined with Crohn’s bloating I feel like a beached whale that can’t so much open a jar at the minute. Although whales don’t have pose-able thumbs and no call for opening jars I suppose, so one nil to me there I guess.
I’d love to be more accepting of what my disease does to my body but I can’t. I won’t. My body is MINE. So why does it feel parts of it are being controlled by some outside force trying to halt the inevitable process of Jon Hamm falling in love with me?
Of course ALL women bloat. You do. You DO; don’t lie Janet no one believes you. You just put gorgeous filters on your Instagram pictures or stand coquettishly behind vases of flowers/your fatter friend so we don’t notice. That’s fine, whatever works for you; just remember when we don’t admit our bodies are flawed (whatever that means) we alienate our own kind. We tell our daughters and sisters and mothers that their bodies are something to be hidden. So WHAT if you stomach swells after a meal? Would you leave your husband if /WHEN his does the same? No, exactly. 
Letting my body dictate how I view myself is stopping me enjoying the short time I have to do everything I can with it to make myself and other people happy. Sometimes we all just need to power through the self-consciousness. There are several things I’d like to see written on my gravestone when the time comes and ‘DIED ALONE DUE TO BLOAT SELF-PITY, SURVIVED/EATEN BY HER 45814845 CATS’ is not one of them.*

*some potential alternatives:
‘DIED TRYING TO OPEN A JUMBO NUTELLA JAR’

‘DIED AFTER BEING ATTACKED MY A GANG OF KILLER WHALES EXACTING REVENGE FOR A BADLY RECEIVED 2016 BLOG POST’       

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Crohn Way Soirée

On Friday we held a launch event for my book ‘Go Your Crohn Way’. It was AMAZING. Being an inexperienced ‘author’, I’d never even attended a book launch let alone held one for myself, so it was a very daunting prospect! Thank-fully I have an amazing partner who took the reins on the majority of organising the event; he also acted as the host with the most; welcoming everyone along, introducing the night’s activities and even holding a Q&A session with me! VERY FUN.


We held the launch in The Royal Society of Edinburgh, a beautiful building within jaw-dropping distance of Edinburgh Castle. The RSE was created in 1783 by Royal Charter for “the advancement of learning and useful knowledge” and has a strong medical background. It’s also IMPRESSIVE AF. I certainly don’t profess to be learned enough to ‘teach’ anyone anything (although I can name AT LEAST 10 breeds of cat in under a minute), but I do hope my book offers some useful knowledge on how to live a full (and happy) life with IBD.


The launch allowed for me to talk a little about the basics of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, and read a little from my book. That was SCARY. My knees were a-knockin’ and I was breaking into a cold sweat but I got to the end of it without passing out and no one left mid-way through so that was a bonus! James (my BF) and I had a Q&A where I fielded brilliant questions from our guests. Many of which almost had me sobbing but I was running on too much adrenalin to even coax out a tear at that point. We had delicious canapés and wine and social networking, and a book-signing! THAT was a thrill in itself – people actually queuing up to have me sign their books like a real life author! I loved every minute; especially meeting some who had come such a long way to attend the event.

There was such a great and inclusive atmosphere in the room that we couldn't fail to feel comfortable. Bowels have never felt so entertaining.

Today, a couple of days later, and now that we have both come down from our ‘successful-event-high’, I feel overwhelmed. I've cried more than once today. Not because I'm unhappy, absolutely not, but because I feel so incredibly thankful. Mainly for the people in my life who have supported me from day one in pursuing my dream of getting this book out into the world. I'm thankful for my partner James who I adore a little more every day. But most of all I'm thankful for those people trusting in me, buying my book and enjoying it, and TALKING ABOUT IBD. I hope you all enjoy my writing, I hope it sits nicely in your bathroom and most of all I hope it helps to open up conversation about IBD! Which really is the whole point. One of the best days of my life has also given me an incredible opportunity to share my story with the world. I hope it helps you tell yours; even if it’s just to the doctor.





Thursday, 12 May 2016

Book Up A Storm

I've neglected the blog a wee bit lately. Sorry about that. But with good reason! 
I’ve been so busy with book promotion, (how weird is THAT sentence?!), my real life full time job and stuff at home in my personal life that I feel like I've barely stopped to catch my breath let alone pen a blog post.

So here's what's happening. My first (and hopefully not last) book on living with Crohn’s Disease ‘Go Your Crohn Way’ came out 5th May!  

Since my first book was published it's been an incredibly exciting time in my life, a genuine whirlwind and I've cried a LOT of happy tears. 
The outpouring of love I have received since the book was published has been overwhelming and completely unexpected!  Not that I think my friends and family are monsters who wouldn’t support me; but because I have been totally single-minded in focusing on doing the work (of which there is a LOT) to get it out into the world. I hadn’t stopped to think that other people would particularly care, or be in any way affected by something I had written. But at the end of the day I WANT people to be affected by the book: isn’t that the whole point? To raise awareness of an unspoken condition, to help give an understanding of life with chronic illness, and to help those suffering feel they are not alone and capable of living an AMAZING life? YESSSSSSS.                  
I had no idea having a book published would all be such an emotional experience! It’s not just my friends and family who have showered me with praise and encouragement, its people I’ve ‘met’ online, on Twitter and Facebook and through my blog. People I know well and people I don’t. How wonderful is that?
I suppose the subject matter of the book and the fact that it’s so personal has emphasised how people who love me are reacting to it. It feels to me a very cathartic experience; I’ve also found myself in a privileged position of putting something out into the world that may help people feel less afraid, isolated and alone. I wrote this book because it’s something I would have loved when I was diagnosed. I wanted to know that I’d have a life beyond my illness – something I didn’t think possible when i was being pummelled into insignificance with descriptions of my unsightly bowel and medical terms I didn’t understand.
I cannot describe how exciting it is seeing you all with your copies of MY book. When my partner saw his name on the inside cover (it’s dedicated to him, my parents and wet wipes) it was so incredible I wished that I could see his face could stay that way forever.  It’s all such a surreal experience and one I never thought would actually come to fruition. Every day is a treat and I don’t care that the hype will inevitably die down because my book will be in people bathrooms for years to come and I LOVE that fact.
I truly hope you enjoy it. And if all else fails, it’ll make the most luxurious toilet paper.