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!

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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.

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.

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.

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!

Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week 2017

Friday 1st – Thursday 7th of December is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week.

Check out http://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk for more information, tools and resources. Crohn’s and Colitis UK is a charity organisation that has been working for 35 years to provide people with help and support as they learn to live with this invisible illness. 

Be nice to one another, you never know what other people are dealing with in their lives. As you are trying to feel your way through your life, other people are trying to do the same. 

Spread awareness and help give invisible illnesses some visibility. The more people who are aware, the more understanding people who really need it can get. Hopefully, one day, a cure will be found but until then start conversations, help end stigma, help people with invisible illnesses get some understanding from society.

Self care awareness week

This past week, the 13th – 19th of October, it has been self-care awareness week. In some ways, it feels a bit redundant posting about it on its last day. However, I think it is important to raise awareness, even on the last day of national awareness raising weeks!

Self-care is about looking after yourself. It is about eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising and looking after your mental health and well being. It is about learning when, and how, you can take care of yourself, when a pharmacist could help and when to get advice from a healthcare professional. Self-care is important when you have a chronic condition, it helps to understand your condition and learn how to live with it. Being able to self-care offers empowerment and allows people to play an active part in their own health and well-being care. Self-care is not an idea that is around just for a week annually! Self-care is for every day! Self-care is for life!

The self-care forum is a good place to get support and resources to help give you ideas on how to self-care. It is particularly good as it offers material on physical health and mental health.

Self-care is easy to do, but it is easy to forget about it. I know, sounds like such a crazy statement but it is true! In today’s world it is easy to be overworked, be distracted by all the technology out there and it is so easy to grab fast food, easy to binge eat, binge drink. As well as all of that, it is so easy to isolate yourself from people, to push people you care about away, not see your friends and family. If you have a chronic condition it is easy to give in to it. My papa calls it “lying down to it”. I know the difficulties, it is all struggles I have myself. It is easy to lose yourself in all of this, to lose feeling good about yourself, to know your own worth. Small things like making sure you eat a balanced diet, drinking water throughout the day, doing activities can all help. Thirty minutes of activity a day is enough to help keep a person healthy.

Incidentally, Monday of this week (13th November) was national kindness day. Being kind is another important factor in life that should not be kept for one day a year! Kindness should be shared every day. If every person showed a little bit of kindness a day the world would be a much better place. All you need to do is look at news coverage (whatever way you do that – social media, watching the news, reading the newspapers, listening to the radio) and you can instantly see that the world would not go wrong with some kindness shared! I cannot fathom how some people think it is ok to treat people the way that so many of us are treated. On Monday I witnessed a person a bumping my car! Luckily nobody was harmed and there is little damage done, but it is stressful when things like that happen. We did everything as we should – swap details etc and we sorted everything out. The woman has thanked me for being nice about the situation. On the one hand, I fully appreciate that the woman has thanked me for being nice to her, and I do understand that situations like this are stressful and difficult but it makes me sad that she felt she needed to thank me for it. I did not react the way I did because it was national kindness day, I just treated the woman like a fellow human being! Me overacting would not have changed anything. The woman was upset and embarrassed enough that she hit my car, she did not need me making her feel any worse. Being kind increases good, positive feelings in yourself and other people.

So this past week I have increased my water intake and I have tried to be active for at least 30 minutes a day. I have tried going for walks to keep physical but also to get me out the house for a while. I like going outside and taking pictures of things I like or find interesting. They often look awful, I am definitely no photographer, but I like doing it. I got new duvvet set and my bed was changed. That feeling of getting into a fresh, clean bed is unbeatable. Another activity I have been up to this week, is I have been giving knitting a go again. I took the small amount I had kind of managed out and I started again. It is not neat but I am doing it myself and I think I know what it is I am doing now. It is just putting it into practice! I am going to keep at it this time.

After all, “practice makes perfect.” This has been difficult for me. My nana was amazing at knitting and it is something I have always wanted to do but have never been able to pick up. The last time I started this project my nana was still alive and she was just mystified at my progress.

Things were happening that I had no idea how they happened – holes were appearing, I was adding stitches, I somehow managed to take all the stitches off the needles. We laughed so hard at my attempts we cried at times. I feel like it is important for me to master knitting now though, I think it will be beneficial for my grieving process. I feel quite proud that I have been able to start again and I think I am actually getting it now. I also had a great night last night. I met my best friend and we went a walk around my local town looking at the Christmas lights. Claire went my speed, and let me use her to hold onto for support the whole time. We stopped walking whenever I had to – either because I had to, or I saw something I wanted to take a photograph of. Then we went out for dinner and bought a lot of good food. Good, warm, comfort food. We got some sides that we could share and we just chatted the whole time. We spoke about everything and it was nice. I smiled, a lot! Actually, I smiled more yesterday than I have done for a long, long time. I felt ‘normal’, which is something I haven’t felt in a while. It was a Saturday night and I

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was spending time with my best friend. I really needed it. Truthfully, I did not actually know how much I needed it until we were out.

I have included some websites at the bottom if anybody needs any random kindness ideas or self-care tips. If anything can be taken away from this post, I would say, that on your journey of feeling through this life remember:

  • Self-care is important, look after yourself – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You are awesome! You are important.
  • Take some “me time” – do something you enjoy, relax, feel good.
  • Be kind! Be kind to each other, be kind to yourself! As cliche as it sounds “share the love”.

http://kindnessuk.com/

https://www.kindness.org/

http://www.selfcareforum.org/