Sister, Sister

Earlier today I read an article entitled “Sibling Relationships Are Cradle To Grave” and it got me thinking about the relationship that I have with my own sister.

People who know me either personally know my sister or at least know of her. She is a huge part of my life. She is a lot more than a sister to me.

Kaitlyn and I have been close from a young age. Due to problems within the family setting, we stuck together young. It was, and still is, my wish to shield and protect Kaitlyn from everything that was being said and done around us. I remember just looking at what was going on between the adults and thinking that through it all I was going to be making sure that she was as safe as possible. That she knew she was not alone and had someone to help her, she had someone to talk to and could trust in all the crazy going on around us. This feeling has never left me. I would do anything for this little one!

As a result, if I was going out with friends, I would often bring Kaitlyn with me. Even in school, each of us could talk to the others friends at break time/lunch. I never thought this was strange. However, what I did find strange, was when people asked me about how I could spend so much time with my sister when all they did with their siblings was fight. I am glad to say that we have never had a period of time when all we have done was argue. We are human, and we can annoy the other but we have never had any proper arguments with negative outcomes or anything. I am very glad of this, I know that I am not the easiest of people to live with, especially on bad days.

Today, my friends are Kaitlyn’s friends too. If I am invited somewhere, there is an automatic invitation to Kaitlyn too. Which I love!

Kaitlyn is my sister. She is my protector. She is the person I go to in tears. She is the person I go to because I am happy. She is my friend, my best friend. My primary caregiver at times. She’s my rock. She has kept me going. She has been my carer… quite literally. She has helped me dress when I’ve been unable to myself. She has reached out to people and got me help and support that I needed. She has come with me to appointments, made sure I’ve taken my medication. She has been by my side through love, loss, heartache, good times, bad times.

Kaitlyn is one of the key people in my life, a key player in this journey. I am lucky to have such an amazing relationship with my sister, I cannot imagine it any other way. I hope and pray that we continue to be as close throughout life. I hope she knows just how much she means to me. There are no words strong enough to describe just how much love, respect and trust I have for her. I am so proud of her and the person that she is. She is so caring and resilient. She amazes me.

Relationships are tricky things, especially amongst family at times. I am blessed that to have such a good relationship with my sister. I know that not everybody is as lucky to have such an amazing relationship with a sibling. Treat each other with kindness and remember that everybody is just feeling their way through life.

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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/

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. 

The Force Is With Us…

On Thursday I went to the cinema to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi with two of my closest friends. It was such a lovely night, I had not seen my friends in a wee while so it was good spending some quality time together, having dinner, having a catch-up and going to the cinema to see the new Star Wars movie! * I do not think I am going to give any spoilers away but there could potentially be some ahead.* What I can say about it, is that the three of us enjoyed it, a lot! It had us talking about it long after the film had ended. It also had me thinking about it for quite a while.

While watching it, I could feel myself relating to feelings and events portrayed in the film. I found myself thinking a lot about some of the messages from the film, and they are important. Surprisingly, I felt I could relate to some of the messages as a person who has a chronic condition.

First, there is The Force. I like the idea that the force is an energy that keeps the balance. In my head, probably wrongly, I relate it a lot to “The Circle of Life” from the Lion King. I tend to think of it as a bit of a moral compass of sorts. The force has two divisions – The Light and The Dark Side. I think of these with how we interact with others and the world around us. The light and dark side are basically like “Good” (light) and “Bad” (dark side). There are characters throughout the Star Wars Saga that are portrayed as having “conflict” going on in them. The character has light and dark seen in them. I think that this is true to life. Everybody has good and bad in them, it is the choices that we make, the interactions that we have which effectively put us into the “good” and “bad” categories. Everybody has temptations. Every Star Wars movie has times that it looks like even the characters that are so dark and evil can have moments of redemption. Likewise, the characters that are good can make mistakes and do wrong.

One lesson in this movie that particularly spoke to me was that it is ok to fail. You may make a mistake or things may not go as you would like it to, but that is ok. Failure is part of your journey through life. That failure is a lesson and it is what is learned from it that is important. Plus it is how you are going to become wise!

As a person that struggles with anxiety there was a line that resonated, “There’s a thing inside me that has always been there but now it’s awake and I need help.” I think this quote could resonate with anybody struggling with mental health or chronic health condition. Sometimes it is not clear what is going on, but you know there is something. It is that feeling that you know something is wrong but you just cannot put your finger on what it is. For a while, before I got my diagnosis of fibromyalgia I knew that something was not right, but it took a long time to get that diagnosis. With a long time of people doubting that there was anything wrong at all. The important part is “…and I need help.” It can be hard to ask for help when you are struggling with a health condition, particularly if it is related to your mental health due to the stigma that is still attached, even today, to mental health conditions. Everybody needs help sometimes, and it is ok to ask for it. Asking for help shows strength and courage. Recognising that you need help is a strength. Furthermore, there is a moment in the film where the phrase “Just breathe” is used. The phrase works well in the film, it is a reminder to stay grounded in the moment. Take a moment to breathe and to see and feel what is going on around you.

Another line that I could relate to is when Rey says, “I need someone to show me my place in all this.” (Not a spoiler in any way as it is in the official trailer). Anybody can be lost at any point in their lives. These days I tend to speak about life as a journey. It would be great if somebody could just sit us down and tell us exactly what is going to happen, who we are going to be and what to expect from life. But it doesn’t work that way! You need to go through things. You need to make the mistakes, meet the different people, try different things! You need to find what works for you and what doesn’t. It is all part of your own personal development and growth and there is, unfortunately, no shortcut for that. Ironically, there are times when you are the most lost and feel you need the most help and it is actually you who teach the best lesson, who shows other people the way, help them learn something about themselves.

Love and friendship are themes that run throughout the galaxy of star wars. It seemed to be much stronger in this film. It is not the quantity of friends that you have, it is the quality. Love and friendship are so important in life. Treat people with respect, help other people, make sacrifices for love. Let people know that you need them, that you love them. Love and friendship are what gets us through the hard times, the dark times. Love and friendship are what saves people.