Tai Chi Fridays

Most Fridays I attend a tai chi class with my auntie.

Tai chi is a form of low impact exercise which combines flowing movements woth breathing and relaxation. It was originally a martial art in 13th century China and is now practiced as a health benefiting exercise all over the world.

With benefits including reduced stress, improved posture, balance and mobility and increased strength in muscles, it is clear to see why it is thought of as health promoting.

The class that I attend also incorporates dance. The instructor promotes a happy armosphere, and there is always plenty of laughs.

I get great benefit from the class. Taking the physical and mental benefits out of the equation, I attend with my auntie. Which means most weeks I get to spend some quality family time with her. After class we go for a tea/coffee and catch up which I always enjoy.

I always leave the class feeling calmer after the relaxation and have a sense of accomplishment. I got up, got ready and went to an exercise class. For a person with chronic pain this is a huge achievement!

I think this class is important in my journey feeling my way through this life.

Here is a photo of myself and my auntie enjoying some granola and coffee while we had a good catch up after our tai chi class!

World Vegetarian Day

Today is world vegetarian day.

Technically, my diet label is not vegetarian…. But I basically am.

So in 2010/11 (wow, I cannot believe it’s actually been that long!) I decided to change my diet. When it came to meat I was always really fussy. I would eat chicken, mince and ham and that was pretty much it. I would eat steak but only if it was my nana who made it, and only if it was stewed and came with a wee bit of pastry. Fussy.

In 2010 I left school and started uni. I had a few friends that were vegetarian and when I was out I was tending to order vegetarian meals. I guess it started around there. My diet became largely plant based. I’ve always eaten loads of veg but never a full meal of it.

At the end of my first year in uni I attended Download, a music festival. My family had told me I needed to be careful of what I was eating there since I’d be away from home, living in a tent etc. I didn’t touch meat the whole time away.

From then, I’ve pretty much stuck to a plant based diet. I now don’t eat red meats or poultry. I have not done so for years. However, I do eat fish. But I am fussy with that too. I eat tuna and mackerel. I feel the inclusion of omega 3 in my diet is important. Omega 3 fatty acids has many health benefits, it’s good for the brain and it has been found to be good for joints and bones.

It was around the same time that widespread pain was becoming more of an issue for me. I was a support worker and I was going through uni. My thought process was anything to help the brain and bones is a good thing. To this day, I have continued to eat fish for these reasons.

I may not technically be a vegetarian but I primarily follow a vegetarian diet, with some added omega fatty acids.

This is only my own story. People become vegetarian for a multitude of reasons.

#RescueMe

This morning, my sister sent me a link to the new Thirty Seconds to Mars song, Rescue Me.

Go check it out at: https://youtu.be/yEWb6bsd5lo

I always enjoy it when my sister sends me a wee link from YouTube. She’ll send me a link because it’s about something I like, it might be something she likes, it’s something she thinks is funny or strange. Either way, it is always something she wants to share with me! In this case, it is something we both like! We both love Thirty seconds to Mars and have been to see them live on numerous occasions.

So the official video for Rescue Me was released on YouTube today, so naturally Kaitlyn sent me the link.

The video is beautiful! It is simple in design, which I feel gives it a strong impact. The song itself hit me hard the first time I heard it. Thirty seconds to Mars has very many powerful lyrics. So many of their lyrics stand out to me and have personal meaning to me and my own life. Like so many of their songs throughout the years, this song has become important to me. It sticks with me. The lyrics and the music resonates with me. I mean, “Rescue me from the demons in my mind,” as a person with chronic health issues, these words resonate strongly. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I have wanted saving from myself. People fight their inner demons everyday.

As well as the massive impact the lyrics and music themselves have had, I really liked what was written in the description box!

“Rescue Me is a song about pain, a song about empowerment, a song about faith, and a song about freedom.

Freedom from the wreckage of your past. Freedom from the bondage of self. And freedom to embrace all the promises that life has to offer.

It’s also a song about the brutal war so many of us wage against fear, depression and anxiety in the hope that we might, one day, live a life filled with happiness and dreams.

Pain does not discriminate. It can affect us all. In our bodies. Our hearts. Our minds. And often, when that pain is emotional or mental, we are afraid to speak up.

None of us are “OK” all the time. And there shouldn’t be a stigma when we aren’t…..

…. If you think someone in your life needs help, ask them if they’re OK and make sure they know you’re there for them. And keep showing up. Help however you can.

If you are hurting, you can get through this. Tell someone you trust. And make sure you ask for help. “

Regardless of if you like the band and their music, this is such an important message. It is a message that everybody should hear. It should be spread far and wide. Pain does not discriminate, whether that be physical, emotional or mental pain. The stigma surrounding chronic pain, and mental health is awful! It can make you feel isolated. Isolated and dealing with so much pain, so much emotion, so much fear and so much worry and often confusion. It can feel like you are trapped, that everything is enclosing you, and you’re stuck! Stuck in a constant loop of pain and it can often feel like there is no escape.

It is important for people to know they are not alone, especially those with chronic health, and/or mental health issues.

Music can be truly inspirational and can be a powerful tool in a person’s journey. It can be a powerful tool for a person’s healing.

Personally, I love music. I love live music. I especially like songs that speak to me, whether that be the lyrics, the melody, harmonies used, anything! This song is one of those songs that is resonating with me! But on top of that, it’s message is great! It’s message is inspiring. It’s message is one of love and understanding. It’s about pain and the daily fight we have. It is about hope. Hope for more good days. Hope for our futures. And hope that one day, there might not be such a stigma attached! It’s a message to support one another. To ask for help when needed, to give help when needed. It is a reminder that people are feeling their way through life. They are facing their demons and struggles, on a daily basis. It is a powerful message to advocate!

Fibromyalgia Awareness Day 2018

Today is fibromyalgia awareness day. I’m posting a lot later than what I wanted to do today but I have had a busy day. I went to see an amazing wee play called Invisible today with my dad. It is written by Charlie Marx. It pretty much hits the nail on the head on what life with fibromyalgia is like. I felt quite emotional after watching it, it was so relatable. This story is so close to my own. It was educational, inspiring and hopeful. It made me feel hope. A feeling that I have been lacking a lot recently. I left the hall feeling valid, I felt that I was not a lone. I felt that I although I do not know what my future holds, it is worth finding out what it holds. I was reminded of the joy that life can bring and felt hope for my future. That changes could happen… For the better!

Fibromyalgia is common, and yet it is surprising how many people have never heard of it. I knew very little about it before I was diagnosed. When I say I knew very little about it, what I really mean is I knew a person who had it and I knew it caused pain. That was it! That was all I knew.

As you can see, fibromyalgia is a lot more than just pain. This is something that causes me a lot of health related anxiety. There are so many symptoms and effects. My fear is that I could have something else wrong with me and a health professional could just attribute it to the fact that I have fibromyalgia and not receive, or be able to manage it properly. I think that I have finally found a GP who listens to me and takes my condition seriously, but even he sometimes listens to what I’m saying and relates it to me having fibromyalgia instantly. I try to keep track of any new symptom, or any changes of symptoms. If you have new symptoms, you should tell a medical profession and get it checked!

Fibromyalgia symptoms can be anything from a mere irritation to debilitating. The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. They can vary from day to day, hour to hour.

I think it is particularly important to remember that fibromyalgia does not discriminate by age! I am only 25, I have been having symptoms for years. I was a teenager when I started showing symptoms. In fact, there are times in childhood, that I remember having multiple appointments due to having ‘unexplained’ pain. I often wonder if this was the start of my troubles.

Despite fibromyalgia awareness day now coming to a close, it is important to continue to spread awareness.

Be kind to yourself, and other people. You don’t know what struggles people are going through. People are all just trying to feel their way through life!

Meds changing again…

Recently my doctor has suggested changing the medication that I take again. On the one hand I am so very fed up going through all the side effects of different medications and then the effects of changing it. I am fed up reading the leaflets that come along with the medication, or listening to the advice from the doctors and/or pharmacists about the possible side effects that these drugs can instill. I am so fed up having to take medication. I am so fed up feeling like there is so much more ‘wrong’ with me. However, on the other hand, I am very grateful that I am lucky enough to have a doctor that is listening to me and seems to be actively wanting to find something that may help me. That might just make living with fibromyalgia and anxiety and everything that entails just a bit more bearable.

Anyway, the drug that I was on was Duloxetine, or Cymbalta as it is widely known. I was taking 120 mg a day, which I believe is quite a high dosage. Now, in order to start a new medication I had to cut down the Duloxetine, before coming off of it and then starting the new medication. Since visiting the pain clinic, my GP had a list of drugs to try to treat my fibromyalgia. I have tried the different drugs and different doses of them with no avail. So far I have been through Amitriptyline, Gabapentin, Pregabalin and Duloxetine. I was also on Sertraline during this time. The move, from Sertraline to Duloxetine was particularly difficult. I knew coming off of Duloxetine was not going to be easy, especially when my doctor warned me that I was going to have “a rough couple of weeks”. He was not wrong! I have just started taking the new medication.

I could feel the effect as soon as I cut down the dosage of Duloxetine.

Then when it came to the period of time I was without medication, it was horrible! For years I have been having nightmares, these seemed to become more vivid. I was sweating. A lot! Not only that, I was having cold and hot flushes. I was feeling sick, all of the time. The pain I felt! It has been intense! On top of that my eyes have been funny. It was like I could hear them. I know how ridiculous this sounds as I type it but they were making lightsabre like sounds when I moved my eyes. Apparently these are brain zaps, and are common when coming off of Duloxetine. They are not nice! The headaches and feelings that accompany them is awful. I was getting random sharp pains in my head. I quite often get headaches and these sharp pains in my head but they seemed to come more often. I ended up holding my head, telling my papa that it felt like my head was going to explode more than one occasion.

It was just the other day I started this new one. So far I still feel rough and I still have a lot of horrible symptoms/side effects. However, it is still early days. I am clinging onto hope that perhaps this tablet will be the one to help me. I know nothing is going to take all my symptoms away from me, but anything that makes them that wee bit more bearable is a plus.

Remember to be kind to people. You don’t know their struggles. To look at me, I look “normal”. I do not have any obvious physical signs of being ill. Everybody will have their own burden, their own issues, and is just trying to work their way through life.

1st March: Self Injury Awareness Day

*The following could potentially be triggering*

Today is Self Injury Awareness Day.

Raising awareness about self harm is important. More awareness leads to better understanding, empathy and it helps stop judgement and fears therefore reducing stigma.

There are multiple assumptions about self harming which leads to stereotyping. Many of these assumptions are myths, today I hope to debunk a few of these.

Self Harming Myth: “People who self harm are attention seeking”

A lot of people think that people who self harm are doing it for attention. This is not quite the case. In a lot of cases people have feelings of shame after self harming. Self injuring is a personal thing and people tend to try and hide it, make sure it is covered up.

Self Harming Myth: “Only young people/ teenagers self injure”

This is not true. Self injury is an issue across every generation. It is important for people to know that people self harm at any age! Not just when young. It is important for people at any age to reach out for help if they need it. It is important to know that is even an option, they are not ‘weird’ or acting ‘inappropriate for their age’.

Self Harming Myth: “Self harming means cutting”

Self harming is always assumed to be cutting. However, it is not the only way that people injure themselves. Self harming is a physical response to emotional distress. Anything from biting, scratching, starving yourself, burning, purposely depriving yourself of sleep, overdosing these are all examples of self harming, and there are many more.

Self Harming Myth: “People who self injure are trying to kill themselves”

It is often perceived that people who self harm are trying to kill themselves. This is not the case. It can be true that people are self injuring with the intention to end their lives. However, self injury is more complex. A lot of people who self harm are injuring themselves in order to make their lives manageable – it is a coping method. They want to switch off feelings, or sometimes it is the opposite, want to feel something. It is a way to release an overload of emotions and feelings that they don’t know how to let out, or convey in another way.

Self Harming Myth: “It is only girls who self harm”

It is true that statistics show it is more females who self harm than men but there is not a true representation of data. Males are less likely to reach out for help.

Self Harming Myth: “Self injuring is just a phase”

It is quite a common misconception, especially concerning young people that self harming is just a phase that a person is going through which they will overcome or ‘grow out of’. This can be damaging to an individual. It demeans their feelings and experiences and create a feeling of loneliness for that person. If a person has approached you and told you that they self harm or have self harming thoughts, it is important to let them know that they are being taken seriously, you are listening and that they are not alone.

Self Harming Myth: “Self Harming is about trying to look/ be cool (especially online)” or “It is only emos/goths who self harm”

When I was in school, this was a very common point of view. If you were a goth or emo then it was automatically assumed that you were a self harmer. If you listened to certain music, or dressed a certain way, or even had certain friends then you were a self harmer. The bit that I never understood, and still don’t to this day, is that if you were part of these social groups and it was assumed that you were a self harmer then you were still bullied. Surely, if you thought somebody was self injuring you would want to try and help them? Not bully them?

There are websites online that can be damaging, especially to young and vulnerable people. Self harming is romanticised on them and portray self harming as ‘trendy’.

There is a cycle of self harming. It starts with a build up of emotions and suffering, which will lead to the act of self harming which provides an instant, short-term relief. However, this is usually followed by feelings of shame which then leads to emotional suffering. It is a vicious circle, and it is a circle that is difficult to break. Learning methods and techniques to break the circle is important is a person’s journey of growth and recovery. A person stuck in this cycle needs help and understanding in order to get the strength to break out the cycle.

Spreading awareness about self harm will hopefully remind people that they are not alone, and there are places to turn in their times of need. Self injury does not discriminate. It affects people of any age, gender, race, sexuality, rich, poor. It affects people of all walks of life. If a person tells you that they self harm, let them know that you are there for them, without judgement. Encourage them to be safe and to speak to a medical professional. Remind them that they are not alone. Some Tender Loving Care can go a long way! Be kind to people, you don’t know what struggles they face on a daily basis. Everybody is just trying to feel their way through life.

Below  I have linked some useful sites for information and contacts

Childline: 08001111

Samaritans: 116123

Breathing Space: 0800838587 (open 6pm – 2am Monday – Thursday, 6pm Friday – 6am Monday)

For any readers not from the UK, the To Write Love on her Arms website has quite a useful list under their “Find Help” Section. Do check it out, quite a lot of places are covered. https://twloha.com/find-help/local-resources/

http://www.lifesigns.org.uk/

https://www.selfharm.co.uk/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/truth-about-self-harm

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/