Time To Talk

It has been a while since I have posted. I have been struggling over the last few weeks. Although today (a Thursday) is not the usual day I post (a Sunday) I felt it would be a good day to upload something as it is Time to talk day. Time to talk day is part of the time to change initiative aiming to end stigma that surrounds mental health.

Talking about mental health is important. Starting a conversation with a person can have a huge impact. Starting a conversation with a person can be a step towards spreading awareness or ending stigma. More importantly, it benefits the person you are listening to. There is some truth in the old saying, “a problem shared is a problem halved.” Starting a conversation can change a person’s whole world. That might sound like an exaggeration, but the smallest thing can make the biggest changes. Talking to a person about mental health can remind them that they are not alone, it can give them a new perspective, it could potentially give them reasons to live.

I used to hold in my feelings, bottle them up. I didn’t like talking to people about my ‘problems’. I have people in my family that encourage not telling people personal business. I’m sure the saying is something like, “you don’t want to air dirty underwear”, that has been passed around. Not only that, but the advice tends to be “just get on with it.”

 

I have learned that bottling up my feelings is not good for me. Pressure builds and as an outcome, I break. I think this is why I am fairly open about what is going on in my life now.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot that has happened in my life that is too painful to talk about at times. There are things that I do not want to talk about or don’t feel ready to talk about. All that being said, mental health is a thing that I fully believe should be spoken about. I know it’s hard. I know it’s hard to open up. I know the physical pain that can be felt from talking about things that you’ve pushed down deep. I know the confusion of trying to put feelings into words. I know the shame that can be felt from thoughts you have, reactions you have or the physical signs of what is going on.

However, I know I have people in my life who I can talk to. I know the people I can contact and talk to about anything, with no judgement only love and support. They might not fully understand what I am going through or what I am feeling, but they remind me I am not alone. They remind me of the good in the world and they provide me with hope. Hope that things can change. Hope that this feeling is not going to last forever. Hope for the future.

Find more information about the time to change campaign at https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

Advertisements

Tips For Appointments 

If you have a chronic health condition or are being tested for one chances are you have umpteen different appointments. Sometimes you have so many that it’s difficult to know who you are seeing, when and what for. Below are a few tips that that could hopefully help.
Make a note of the time, date and location somewhere that you regularly look

If you are attending different appointments and having various tests and/or check ups then it is important to try and keep on top of them. It is important as it means that you are up to date and have some kind of idea of what is happening with your body. Having any sort of idea of what is happening with your body can feel rare when you have a chronic condition, especially if there is little known about it. Also, often if you miss an appointment you can get removed from waiting lists which means you need to go through the stress of getting referred again to go back on the waiting list.

If you have multiple appointments or even if you can be a bit forgetful or get things confused it is good to have your appointment written out somewhere as a reminder. I recommend having a reminder somewhere that you see a lot. I have my appointments on the calendar and saved in my phone calendar. I check my phone calendar on a daily basis. I find writing it on the calendar helpful as the whole household know about my appointment so someone is likely to mention it too.
Have a plan on how to get there

I struggle a lot with making plans for journeys. I have no real perception of time of distances. I have help with my appointments. My sister accompanies me to a lot of appointments. If she can not come with me she drops me off. Other family members and my best friend have done the same for me. If I have to go myself, I always ask for help on deciding when I should leave the house, letting them estimate distances and journey times. I do that no matter how I am travelling to the appointment. It doesn’t matter if I am going to be walking, driving, getting a train or getting a bus, I am asking somebody else to help me make some kind of arrangement to get to the appointment.
Have somebody with you

If it is possible it can be useful having a person with you to support you at your appointment. It means that somebody is there to witness what is being said which is useful if you are likely to forget or if you have fear surrounding that appointment. Some places will help try and arrange someone to come in with you if you have to go yourself eg. If you tell my doctors surgery when you book in that you need somebody in your appointment to support you they will arrange for a staff member to come in to your appointment with you.

As I have already said above I have been accompanied to appointments by a few different family and friends.
Make a list

It is my experience that when you attend an appointment so much is spoken about that it is easy to not say everything you wanted to say. An easy way to fix this is to write a list and then you have a physical reminder with you of topics you want to bring up. When I have a doctors appointment my sister sits with me and will write out a list with me with everything I want to tell the doctor. This list will have everything from symptoms, reactions to medication, when appointments with consultants are scheduled for listed. In fact, she has titled a list “Sarah’s Issues” that she wrote out for me to take to a doctors appointment. I have found myself at appointments and just handing over the list for the medical professional to read through straight away. It gives me more peace of mind knowing that I am telling the doctor everything I wanted to tell him.
Have important information written down 

If you are in an appointment yourself it can be useful to get the person to write down important information or instructions that you should remember down. It especially helps when you are attending an appointment that you are given a lot of information.
Tell people about it or write it down

It is useful to write down a short summary of what happened at your appointment. I’m not saying write a fully essay on it or anything! Just a short summary, even if it’s just a short sentence. It makes it easier when discussing treatments with other medical teams or if you are applying for benefits.

Likewise, I also do not mean to tell everybody about your medical business. Tell your partner, friend, anybody of your choosing how you got on. It is good for the person who cares about you to know how you are doing. Also it is nice knowing that you are not alone through it all.

For me, I have a tendency to overshare. However, it is usually with people that I trust and I want to know how my health is and how it is affecting me (I only use the word ‘usually’ here as I do make this blog quite personal so could possibly overshare). Having loved ones know about my health makes me feel less alone and it makes me feel like somebody cares (which is important, especially with an invisible condition). Also, I know that if something serious was to happen to me or I had to be hospitalised somebody would be able to give a rough account of what has been happening health wise in my life. This is something I worry about a lot and it might not be the cheeriest thought but it puts my mind at ease knowing that somebody else knows.

This short list is just a few things that I find helpful regarding appointments, and I’m sure there’s many more tips out there. Feel free to leave a comment or any tips that you might have.

No New Year New Me

It’s the start of January 2018. January is a month that people tend to start things – diets, plans, projects. A lot of the time its “New Year, New Me” that you hear being called out, everywhere.


Now I’m not saying I’m perfect, or don’t need to make changes in my life or lifestyle. That is the furthest thing from the truth. I just don’t buy into the “New Year New Me” ideology.


I understand it’s a new year. I understand that there’s already a mark of something new. I understand that the year ending and a new one beginning tends to make people reflect upon themselves, their year and their life. I just don’t think that the ‘old’ you disappears and you become this ‘new’ self. I think that you learn something new, try something new or make a change and then work through the potential challenges. I also think these changes become part of you rather than a full makeover.


The usual kind of resolutions are:

  • Go to the gym more/ Do more exercise

  • Eat less sugar/fatty food

  • Procrastinate less

  • Find a partner

  • To have our life sorted out

This is only a very small example of the usual kind of resolutions that people make. By the end of January new year resolutions have usually ‘failed’ or been forgotten about, usually until the year is ending and they are recycled again for the following year. It’s stressful.


I’ve said before that I am sure that everybody is just trying to feel their way through life and I still stand by that. I think these changes can be made at any time and not just new year and these changes and experience become part of you or play a part in making you who you are, and not magically turn you into a new person. I think that these changes are part of your growth and self development as a person. That being said I understand why, to a degree, that the phrase “New Year, New Me” is used. If people don’t like something about themselves or want to change something about themselves then they want it to disappear or instantly become different.


If I had to have a new year’s resolution, I guess it this:

I would like to continue on my journey of self development and growth. I would like to have a year full of love and laughter with my nearest and dearest and maintain my current relationships. I want to keep trying. I want to keep trying to see the good and positive aspects in situations, in people and in life.


The idea of completely changing myself is appealing in some ways but realistically I know that it’s not going to happen. All I can do is keep on. Keep on trying and keep on feeling my way through life.


*picture credit: I found the image on Google

Happy New Year 

The new year is fast approaching. It’s in 6 hours time in the UK at my time of typing this. I got a card from my best friend with a wee message in it and it is also my wish for all of you!

“I hope you have a 2018 that is filled with love, laughter, progress, happiness and good things!”

I hope the year ahead brings joy for you all and your loved ones. I hope you find progress in everything, whether that be health, savings, relationship problems, uni, college, school, work, that project you started. I hope that progress is made. I hope the year is full of rich experienced that will become memories that bring you joy forever. I wish you happiness, I wish you the ability to find the good in things and spread that happiness about. I hope you have a million reasons to smile. Wherever you are, however you are bringing in the new year, I wish you all the best for 2018.

Christmas Eve 2017

Today is Christmas Eve!

Christmas can be the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’ On the other hand, it can be a very difficult time for people. It is a time when loved ones are remembered, and their absence are most felt. It can be stressful trying to organise everything – get in or book a place for Christmas dinner, buying in gifts, wrapping the gifts, sending out the Christmas cards. People worry about their finances, can they afford buying presents, when will they have the money to go shopping? Some people put themselves into debt with trying to buy gifts for Christmas. It can be difficult. Dealing with a chronic condition on top of all these other stresses can be difficult. These extra stressors put extra strain on a person and can cause flare ups or make management of symptoms more difficult, which is not ideal. 

Sometimes, I think the meaning of Christmas has been lost. The Christmas spirit is a magical thing! It’s about spreading love, and cheer. It’s about helping people. It’s about seeing children’s faces light up at the magic of the season. It’s about family and friendship, and spending time with those loved ones. It is not about the material objects and the waste that can occur. It’s about the good deeds – making hampers for homeless people, visiting elderly people so they are not lonely, making an effort to help people, simply saying ‘hi’ to people, wishing them well.

The magic, and meaning of Christmas, can be brought about by being nice. Just try to be a decent human being. Treat people with respect. Help people, even if it is just to lend an ear and give them an opportunity to have somebody to talk to. Try not to make fast judgements of people and their situations. Just be nice! I really think it could be as easy as that. When I was in school, at assembly the head teacher would always say “treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.” It has been something that has always stuck with me and I have tried to live my life by. Yes, there are times I fail but I am human, and I’m just trying to feel my way through life.

I hope that everybody has a lovely Christmas time and gets to experience that magical, feeling. I hope everybody feels love, happiness and value. 

This subject is a bit ‘ta-poo’… 

OK, so I don’t really know how to start so I’m just going to take the plunge and dive right in with this one.

Nobody really wants to talk about bowel movements! (if you are somebody that finds it uncomfortable then I wouldn’t read any further.) It is something that has never bothered me though. I think it is because I used to be a support worker and had to help with personal care many times, to me it is ‘just one of those things’. In fact, at every work outing we had we always ended up talking about poo – even through dinner. I sometimes forget that it’s not a topic of conversation that is so readily accepted though, and I do admit that sometimes I probably should read the room a bit better at times. However, if somebody asks me how I am or what has been going on and I’m having particular bad digestive issues, I’m going to say so.

So recently, I’ve been having particularly bad digestive issues. It’s been hard. I’ve been sick, I’ve had diarrhoea and I’ve been constipated and it’s really frustrating. Not only is it completely inconvenient but I can’t seem to find any pattern to it. I am also suffering from really bad abdominal pain. It’s horrible. Truth be told, I was actually considering going to A&E earlier the pain was so bad.

Although I can’t find a pattern to try and see what is causing diarrhoea or sickness, one thing I have noticed is it seems to involve food. Not any specific food, just food in general. I feel like whenever I eat something, my body wants it to come out. Sometimes it wants it to come straight out! And, truthfully I don’t think it cares as to how it happens so long as it’s out. I have found that it is after I eat that I need the toilet, sometimes right after eating, sometimes a wee half hour after but I need to go. Sometimes after eating,I feel sick. Sometimes I am being physically sick. Again, often it is straight after food, sometimes I have some time. It’s a very strange sensation. There are times where it feels like food isn’t going down, as though I’m not swallowing it properly. It feels like it just goes to the back of my throat and sits there waiting for my body to make it exit.

So like any new or change to any symptom or my health I told my GP. I guess he has a few ideas of what it could be, or things he wanted ruled out. He said he wanted me back in a few days later for blood tests, a urine sample and a stool sample. I can’t even remember everything he was testing for – there was a list.

I found the whole experience a bit traumatic. I don’t like needles so getting blood taken is never an easy task for me. However, if I go in and look away I can usually deal with it. I tend to pick a point in the opposite wall and just stare at it. I hardly even talk to the nurse through it. I need to concentrate on that point that I’ve chosen. I have done urine samples before. I hate them. I swear I need to pee so often that it’s a running joke amongst my friends that I have a tiny bladder, we all say it’s “the size of a pea”. It is my experience though, that when I need to give a urine sample, my bladder gets stage fright. It always chooses those moments to be made of steel and I have to do the full drinking loads, and have all the taps on full to get even the tiniest trickle. The problem I had was the stool sample. I have never given a stool sample before and when I was in with the GP I was too busy trying to process everything he was saying to me to ask any of my questions. Actually, I didn’t even know I had questions until I got home and was telling my papa how my appointment went.

Just a sample of questions I had (and I feel they were important questions!):

1) How do you get your sample in the pot?

2) How ‘fresh’  does it have to be?

3) How much goes into the pot? Does it have to be full? If not, how much is enough?

4) What do I do if my bowel, like my bladder, gets stage fright as I had to fast for my blood test so it wasn’t like I could just go and eat foods to help you move? (Incidentally, it did decide it wasn’t going to go. It was a nightmare. I had diarrhoea and then it decided it was not going to go).

So like any question I have, I asked my nearest and dearest and then when that failed I asked Google. So just some of the answers I got…

I asked my papa how to do a sample. I figured, he is at the age where he has to give samples for bowel screening so I thought he could maybe help. His reply first of all was to “put it in the pot”. Once I explained to him that I knew that, I meant how did I get it in the pot he said “catch it”.

Google was more helpful. Google suggested using clingfilm over the toilet to catch it and then putting it in the sample pot. I actually fully recommend this method. It works a treat!

My sisters boyfriend told me I had to “fill that pot right to the top” because “they want all the poo”. Then him and my sister laughed for ages afterwards. I decided my silver lining was that at least they were amused.

Even though Google was great for the cling film technique, one bit of advice I didn’t like was it told me that the sample should be as “fresh” as possible and if I got the sample more than 24hours before I had to hand it in then I was to put it in the fridge. PUT IT IN THE FRIDGE!! That was 100% NOT happening. I don’t care what happened but no way was I putting a pot of poo in my fridge! No thank you! I would’ve wanted to incinerate the fridge afterwards. Plus all the food stuff in there?!? Nope! Just no! I decided my plan was just to hand in my urine sample and get my bloods done and hand the stool sample in at a different time if I had to. Anything was, and is, better than even the thought of putting it in the fridge.

So I found all this a bit traumatic but my family loved it. It has provided them with so much entertainment. It is perfect material for some of their senses of humour. And I love them for it! I am worried about what might be wrong with me, what might be found, will I need more tests? But I welcome the distraction from all the laughter that my family are providing from it.

I think it is important to talk about bowel movements sometimes, especially to medical professionals if something is wrong. It is one of those things that is a bit embarrassing so you’ll maybe not bring it up with someone but you totally should! It can be an indication that something is up. But also, those medical people are human too! They poop too!

Lest We Forget

Today is Remembrance Sunday.

Remembrance Sunday is a day to come together and offers an opportunity to reflect and show respect for the sacrifices made by the armed forces in past, and current, conflicts. Especially those who lost their lives.

In recent times there has been ‘controversy’ about wearing a poppy. I don’t understand this, personally. The significance of the poppy is like feminism – has lost its meaning somewhere along the line. People argue that the poppy is now a political symbol. It is used to glorify war, a symbol to support war. That is not the case. The poppy is associated with remembrance as it is a flower that grows naturally in conditions where the earth has been disturbed, which is the case for war and battles. It is said that poppies grew in fields after the Napoleonic wars, and then again was the only flower to grow in otherwise barren fields after the First World War. The poppy appeal was started by the Royal British Legion to raise funds for veterans and their families after the effects of war. I believe the poppy is a symbol, not only of remembrance but of hope! Hope for those veterans, and those serving in the armed forces, that aid and services will be available to them and their families. The Poppy is traditionally worn on the left-hand side of a jacket as it is meant to represent those that we are remembering are close to our hearts.

“Dulce et decorum est” by Wilfred Owen paints a horrendous picture of what life was like for a soldier during World War One. I think poems such as this one, is particularly powerful since it shows just how different this war was to others before it. You can see the atrocities that these men, many of them just young boys, faced. The poem end,

“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.”

The Latin “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” translates to “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”

This weekend I have been listening to “Greater love hath no man” by John Ireland. When I was younger I used to sing in a church choir. ‘Greater love hath no man’ was sung at Remembrance Sunday Evensong. It has always stuck with me. I remember singing it fighting back the tears in the cloisters during the service. I don’t know if it’s the words or the music that touches me so much, but I think it is a beautiful piece of music. “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friend.” This is exactly what every armed forces member is effectively doing. They are ‘fighting for their country’, they are fighting to ‘benefit’ those back at home – their families and friends. If you have never heard it, I recommend looking it up and having a listen.

The effects of the two World Wars and other conflicts have impacted people in countries all over the world. My great papa Peter was in the merchant navy and later a royal marine. He used to tell us a lot about the time, that he was 14/15 and was nearly arrested during the Spanish civil war in 1936. He was also one of the crews stationed on the HMS Belfast during the Battle of North Cape. My nan and my great Auntie have stories about experiences through the blitz. I cannot even begin to imagine the horrors that people have witnessed. Remembrance day and remembrance Sunday are days for people to gather together and remember. It is important to remember! Men and women sacrifice so much in the armed forces. It is important to reflect and remember the lives lost through war! Especially in today’s world! You turn on the news, and there is some horrifying story about conflict and war. The way the world’s politics are going, we very well could be approaching another world war. I hope that is not the case. Days like today are important for this. People need to remember the destruction and the unnecessary loss of life in war. My papa survived the war but so many people did not. The picture above is of wooden crosses with poppies on them that are available that can be put at graves for remembrance. We have written my papa’s name on one, the other one is for my uncle. We have placed the crosses on the respective graves. It is important to remember, to reflect, to learn. It is important to honour and respect those who have died for us, and who put their lives in danger for us. It is important to acknowledge the great sacrifices that our armed forces make for us.

Here is a link if you would like to read Dulce est decorum est in its entirety, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46560/dulce-et-decorum-est