Monday, 27 March 2017

What Makes Me, Me - Charlotte

You can try and change who you are millions of times, but you're always going to be you.

During my teenage years I was able to express myself the way I wanted to. Lucky, really. Towards the end, though, I didn't want to be that person anymore.

Quite a few years ago, I took my entire comic book collection and shoved it in the bin. Goodbye Batman, won't be needing you again. Changing who I was seemed to be the only way I could escape the person I didn't want to be associated with. Myself. Running away was obviously the best tatic.

Step one: Dye your hair.

Step two: Get new clothes that aren't a pacman hoody and bright coloured jeans.

Step three: Do I need a new personality?

I started to grow up and become an entirely different person. However, lurking underneath was always the 'old' Charlotte. She always shone through. No matter how hard I tried to hide her, she was always, always going to be there.

Maybe I wanted her there really. Maybe I just needed to accept who I was. My past is part of me and I shouldn't hide away from it. I should say "I've survived this far and I can go a hell of a lot further". Charlotte Postings is a woman who has become independent and strong. I like reading comics, being at home having bunny cuddles, binge watching my Netflix favourites(Peep Show I'm looking at you), Harry Potter movie marathons and hugs. I'm a complicated mixture of mental health issues and too many cups of tea.

Defining who I am is one of the hardest things. I'm not really sure who I am or who I'm going to become, but I'll always honour the person I've been and currently am. Sometimes it's hard to be proud of the person I've become. Like, really hard. Then I sit back and look at all the things i've faced and all the things I've achieved. I've stopped comparing my beginning to other peoples middles and started living MY life. I am a person who needs to realise her self worth because I know i'm capable of a lot more than I think I am.

What makes me, me, is my past. Instead of trying to leave it behind, I let it be there as a reminder that I can overcome difficulties and grow into a person I have come to love. Yes, okay, so some days I wish I was more successful and doing better at this life game, but I'm trying my hardest and that's what counts. Everything in my past is what made me the person I am today. All the funny memories and heartache and interests and friends. I wouldn't be the person I am now if I hadn't of gone through what I've been through. Good and bad. If I didn't have my past, what stories would I have to tell?



0

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Mother's Day Without Mum

Today is the seventh mother’s day I’ll be spending without my mum. For me, it’s arguably the worst day of the year. Days like the anniversary and her birthday are difficult but they’re private. Nobody outside of my family takes notice or even knows. I can usually be a bit sad, grieve in private, and get on with my day.

Mother’s Day on the other hand is a massive kick in the gut. And it’s not like it’s just one day either. As soon as Valentine’s Day ends, shops change overnight to their mother’s day stock. Every year I am caught off guard, and there have been several years I’ve come home crying because it’s everywhere. A constant reminder of what I don’t have. ‘Treat your mum this mother’s day!’ about 10 different shops have in their window within 100 metres. Except I can’t.

Some years I struggle fairly overtly. I’ll cry a lot, I’ll actively avoid any and all conversations about the topic. I’ll pretend it doesn’t happen and stay off social media a lot around the day, because seeing everyone’s Instagram and Facebook posts is just too damn hard. This year hasn’t been so bad – I think it’s partly because I no longer have to go through a shopping centre every day and so I just haven’t had the opportunity to be bombarded as much. Living in halls at University, I don’t have a TV and so I don’t have to watch advert after advert going on about it. But it’s affected me nonetheless.

I was doing fairly well with my anxiety, it had been months since I’d had a major panic attack. And then about three weeks ago I had a terrifying panic attack, and since I’ve been far more anxious than I normally am. Last week I was sick, which was partially due to the stress of imminent deadlines and living in a building with 60 other people, but I also think it was partially due to being stressed about Mother’s Day.

I know I’m very lucky to still have many maternal figures in my life. My stepmum is great most of the time – she’s friendly and looks out for me without trying to be my mum. And I still have both of my grandmothers, although my relationship with my maternal grandmother has always been slightly stilted.

I’m not sure how this Mother’s Day will be for me. I was luckily able to visit Mum’s grave on Friday and lay some flowers there with my brother and dad which made me feel a lot better, getting to spend a little time with her in my own way. The main thing I’ve learned to try and do is just let myself feel my emotions and not bury them – that’s not helpful at all. And maybe staying off Facebook and Instagram for the sake of my mental health.

Mother’s Day is always tricky, but I’m hoping that it will be okay. And I hope that whether your mum is still with you or not that you have a lovely day wherever you are.

Friday, 24 March 2017

It Finally Happened... I Got A Diagnosis!

If you've been following Safe Space for a while - or know me at all - then you will probably know that I have been really struggling with my physical health. I've written a few posts about my journey on this blog which you can find here, here, here, and here.

It has been two and a half, maybe three years (I've lost count to be honest) of pain, extreme fatigue and utter frustration. I went from one doctor to the next trying to explain to them what was going on with me and how I knew something was wrong and I kept being dismissed, told to lose some weight, sleep more, eat better, do physio, etc. They tried to treat me with respect but mostly I think they thought I was just wasting their time. I had anxiety and OCD and depression and it was all just causing my body to hurt. So they sent me away time and time again. Sometimes with a referral, sometimes not. But at the root of it, I knew that they didn't think there was anything wrong with me.

Maybe I am judging them too harshly. After all, they only get to see me for ten minutes and when I'm around doctors I clam up, especially when they started blaming it on my mental health or weight. I would just nod and let them tell me that I need to exercise more despite the pain I was feeling which made it hard to get out of bed, let alone exercising!

About a year and a half ago I read somewhere how crucial Vitamin D and B12 were and how they could be a cause for fatigue. After having every other blood tests under the sun and all the results coming back completely average, I was told that "everyone in the UK is vitamin D deficient anyway so there was no point in testing for it." I was told that if I was still concerned in six months, to ask for a test then.

I did. I was told that I was probably just overweight and overworked and thus that was why I was feeling lethargic for that reason. I told them about my painful hands - because how could they be hurting if it was just because I was overweight - and that did seem to stir something in my doctor but instead of the blood test I wanted, she booked me in for an x-ray on my hands to check for arthritis.

But guys... I finally managed to get a doctor to agree to a blood test to check my vitamin D and Vitamin B12 levels.

And guess what?

I am severely vitamin D deficient.

The average person should have a level reading somewhere between 75 to 200. A reading of 25 is considered extremely deficient.

My reading came to 17.

17.

Do you want to know what I've found out about vitamin D deficiency?

  • It causes unexplained fatigue
  • It can make it difficult to think clearly
  • It causes bone pain
  • It causes joint pain
  • It causes muscle pain and weakness
  • It can cause weight gain
  • It can make it harder to lose weight
  • It can affect serotonin levels increasing risk of depression
  • It can cause gut issues, especially concerning lactose...
Do you want to know something else?

I have all of these symptons. Every. Single. One.

I knew something was wrong. I knew it wasn't just because I was overweight because I have always been overweight and so why would my body suddenly be complaining about it all now? 

And because I knew it, I did not give up. I kept going back. From one doctor to the next, from one test to the next. I was determined to get the bottom of it and determined to prove the doctors wrong - it wasn't just because I was an overweight lazy person or because I ate like crap or because I was mentally ill. It wasn't all in my head. There was something wrong with me.

I have been told it will take a while for the supplements I now have to take to return my levels to normal but I have a hope inside of me that I haven't had for a long time. I believe that I can get my activity levels back up, my energy back up and be the person I used to be, the person I long to be again. It may take time, but I'm ready. I've waited three years, what's another few months?

So to end this post, I just want to say that if you have something ailing you, if you are certain that something in your body isn't right, please listen to your body and keep going to your doctor until they take you seriously and you get the diagnosis you need.


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

“Adding scars to my body in order for a higher quality of life.”




I always wondered what sort of person wanted to have surgery.

I always wondered how you could get to that point and want someone to cut you open.

I always wondered, until it happened to me.



My Timehop is a good reminder of what happened a year ago, or two or three years ago. It serves to remind me just how things have improved.

It allows me to reflect and really contemplate what has happened, how much I put up with, how long I was unwell for and just what exactly was my reality for so long.

After I realise that, adding scars to my body are nothing compared to how well I feel now.

I didn’t expect surgery to fix me, not at all. I expected some sort of medication regime to kick in once I’d recovered from my first surgery. I expected a lot and none of it happened. And that is just how it happens for some people. I didn’t moan too much – I wasn’t sure of what should happen, let alone how I would feel about it all – and I took it, I hope, in my stride. I’m sure those closest to me would beg to differ but we don’t talk about last summer a lot; as if it didn’t happen. I only got frustrated and angry when things just kept going wrong. And it was a constant battle to explain how my symptoms and side effects kept spiralling and no one at the hospital had any clue as what to do with me, on a small scale, when ‘things’ were just two or three things. By the time it got to being utter shite and my problems were six or seven deep, I had to call it quits. I had to be seen and refuse discharge until I was happy. That was my plan on the morning on August 12th 2016.


Don’t get me wrong, I am stronger because of my scars, even though they are signs of a weakness in my skin and muscles. They are scars from a long and hard battle with Crohn’s Disease.

My battle is not over. It won’t ever be over.

But I fight when I need to fight. I am stronger and wiser and more sure of what I can take, these days.

And have my scars meant I’ve got a higher quality of life?

HECK YES.

Do I regret my past?

No. It’s shaped my present and future. My scars have this ability to remind me to not be ashamed of giving as good as you can give, at the time.

My stomach is not perfect, it never has been. I’d like it to be flatter but I have time to work on that. I admire it – the slight crookedness of the midline scar; the thickening at the top, the dip from my wound infection, the faded laparoscopic incisions. It is all the map of me.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

What Makes Me, Me- Georgia

Defining myself is one the hardest things I've ever done; I find it incredibly hard to find the words to even describe who I am. What makes a person a person? Is it their hobbies, or what's happened to them in their life? For me, I suppose, it's a mix of both. 

I'm not a huge fan of talking about myself, I care very dearly about what other people think about me; I shut myself away when somebody says anything negative about my looks, or what I'm doing with my life. I've never really been great at talking about my feelings, I tend to suppress them - I think it's more out of fear that people are going to judge me (I understand that it's a petty fear, but I'm just like that). 

I'm a person who would blend into a crowd of people; I'm not exactly stand-out-in-the-crowd material. I'm just an ordinary person who's trying to find their place in the world. I know what I want in my life, but I know getting onto that path won't be the easiest thing for me.  

I'm not the luckiest person in the world: I suffer from gluten intolerance (like coeliac disease, only internal damage doesn't happen to me), and I've been a victim of bullying for a number of years. I lack confidence in many areas, and I tend to second guess what I do frequently. I'm that person who will appear shy at first, but the longer you get to know me the more I open up. Whilst I am a shy person, I do love meeting new people, I adore hearing their stories about their favourite experiences and the people they've met.  

I have very few hobbies, I'm a book reviewer and photographer, I play the ukulele and piano, and I like to paint. I'm not the best artist, but I do like the feeling of creating something with my paints and pencils. I also love binge-watching shows on Netflix, especially when I have popcorn, tea, and a good pair of PJs and fluffy socks on.  

I view myself as an optimistic person, I don't necessarily like looking on the negative sides of things. I'm hopeful for good things in my life, negativity shouldn't influence my life – or anyone else for that matter.  
Whilst I may not be one-hundred percent happy with who I am yet, I remind myself that I am still young and that I have a whole life ahead of me. 

So, in summary: 
Hello, I'm Georgia, nice to meet you.

Displaying signaturegeorgia.png
0

Friday, 10 March 2017

The Little Things

There has been a lot going on in my life lately. So much, in fact, that last Friday at work I more or less had a breakdown in the staff room. It was ugly and horrific and awkward. But it also made me realise that I was carrying around a lot of things that I need to deal with – and I promise to you now that I am dealing with those things. One problem at a time and all that good stuff.

But today I don’t want to write a sad post. Instead I want to bring up one of the things that due to everything else going on, slipped silently under the radar until I shone a light on it. It is a good thing and something that has me feeling proud of myself, happy and hopeful for the future.

And thus, as the title of the post suggests, I am going to talk about some little things. In this case, I am talking about little things that I have somehow overcome in the last few months without even realising. A while back, Jess wrote this post about celebrating small achievements and today I am doing just that.

If you’ve been following me from the start of this blog, you’ll know that one of the biggest issues I had with my mental health was food. You can read that post here. So here is a list of the things I have done in the past few months;
  • Eaten finger food without washing my hands or using hand sanitizer beforehand
  • Eaten food from a buffet
  • Eaten food at a buffet after other people
  • Eaten food that has been touched by other people (i.e. mum hands me a biscuit)
  • Experimented with new dishes in restaurants
  • Tried new places to eat
  • Tried new foods
  • Cooked (and eaten) food in the microwave
  • Cooked food in the grill
  • Cooked a cottage pie dish with my mum!!
All of the above seems pretty normal things to do, right? But for me it is surpassing a milestone. All of those things have happened and been survived without an anxiety or panic attack. They were tasks that I avoided due to anxiety and OCD and I cannot explain to you how over the moon I feel at having achieved these things.

There have been other achievements over the past few months, such as allowing animals to lick me without having a panic attack, but the food things have really made me very happy.

I know that I’m not cured and I know that things may go downhill again, but for right now I feel proud and strong.

I still have routines, I still have anxious and obsessive thoughts but I now have the skills to battle them headfirst. I will have bad days but I am positive that I can come out the other side because I already have. And thus, I say the same to you. It might be tough now, but I promise that you can beat this and see it through to the other side.


Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Acceptance

 

Lately, people have been asking me how I’ve become so okay with how my life currently is. I think they mean to ask ‘how have you been able to accept your stoma so well?’ because it’s only been a little over six months since my operation. 

I think it’s down to three things, really:

1.       I have lived with a chronic illness for five years. I’ve had all that time to build up my own way to accept whatever circumstances have been thrown my way; both with my health and a result of my health. So, I learnt a while back to ‘roll with the punches’ and to ‘see the positive side’ – because there is always one, you just have to be willing to see and find it – through having had counselling sessions. From these, I found out a lot about myself but also discovered new methods to help me cope.

2.       At my first surgical consult in January 2016, my surgeon explained that my Right Hemicolectomy could result in a temporary stoma – about a 5% chance. I decided I had to get my head around that, so feeling okay about maybe having one and preparing myself for one, was helpful when I finally did get my ostomy; I just didn’t realise it would be so soon.

3.       I have a curious mind. I am fascinated by how the body works – more so now that I have an illness – so having my insides come outside of me, I think, is quite cool. And I just see it as another quirk of mine – I have a bag of poo on my belly!

In addition to that, my ability to see the funny side; being able to laugh and joke about it, just makes it more normal to me and everyone I interact with. I wouldn’t be without my support system of family, friends and medical professionals who have guided me through recovering from major surgery and living with an ostomy.




So, now that my acceptance is here to stay, what do I intend to do with it?

Well, I hope that by me being ‘okay’ with my ostomy, will make it okay for others to think it’s okay too. The raising of awareness; of letting people know that this is not a bad thing that has happened to me, it is something I have had a choice in -  something I am proud of having - is something I am happy to partake it. And so far, it’s led to some very cool and exciting opportunities and I have been able to connect with even become friends with some great people.



Part of raising ostomy awareness is to help non-ostomates is to see an ostomy as ‘normal’ and acceptable. It is not something for an ostomate to be ashamed of. And it certainly isn’t something to used as an insult or as a derogatory term. Ostomies come in lots of forms and for many reasons, to many different types of people. There should not be a judgement here.



Let’s break down the walls and start small.

If you are curious about an ostomy – my ostomy, let say – then ask. I am happy to answer questions and queries.



You can follow my adventures with a chronic illness – and my new life with an ostomy – at www.youngcrohns.co.uk


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Guest Post: Emotional Baggage by Eve Ainsworth


Ah, Damage.

How could a book be so difficult to write?

To be honest most ideas are pretty hard to get out on paper, but this one was particularly difficult - and I guess it was because it had so much of me in it. I know that sounds lame, and I’m sorry if it does, but that’s the truth.

Ok, I’ve written books before which were about subjects personal to me, so that alone wasn’t new. 7 Days was based loosely on experience and revisited some emotional baggage that I thought I had neatly packed away long ago (guess I was wrong there then!). It can be tough to touch on these things again, but I think it helps to make the writing feel more real. You can totally understand where the character is and how they might be feeling – you can tap into them, relive experiences with them, even if that’s something you don’t really want to do again.

In Damage I had to deal with emotions that I hadn’t had time to pack away – this grim stuff, or more specifically, grief, was still cluttering up my mind. I guess grief never really goes away. I don’t think so anyway. I see it sitting under the skin like a persistent bruise, aching whenever you press on it. So of course writing about grief meant I was constantly pressing on that wound. Aching, hurting, remembering. Although I’d never experienced self-harm, a major theme of my book, I could relate to the build-up of pressure that a person could feel. The way that you can feel as if you would burst due the internal pain. The way you seek to relieve the pain the best way you can.

Even harder for me was writing about anxiety, something one of my characters suffers from. Anxiety has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I used to think that I was different from everyone else. Why else would I panic at the smallest thing, never sleep due to my constant fears and have a constant knot in my stomach? Why was my world filled with dark thoughts and worries? Why could I never be happy?

I’ve found that acceptance has been a great step forward for me. I know who I am now and all the parts that form me. I’m less ashamed of my anxious behaviours and try to be more up front about it. I try to see it not as a weakness but just as part of my character. I can’t hide away from me, I am who I am.

If depression is a black dog, anxiety is a grey wolf clawing at my insides, constantly chewing up my guts and howling at night, keeping me awake and haunting my dreams. It’s hard not to feed the wolf, but sometimes the wolf feeds me.

Damage is a small part of this.  I can use my experiences to write, to share to draw from my own knowledge. Although it can be a little difficult at times, I do think it’s good to get these things out there. Only by reading, by writing, by talking and sharing can we build our empathy and understanding – and then we can move forward, appreciating that every person is a wonderful unique emotional cocktail.

Eve Ainsworth is the author of Seven Days, Crush and Damage. All her books can be found on Goodreads. All her books are also available to purchase from all major book retailers.
For more from Eve follow her
  

Friday, 3 March 2017

Please Don't Laugh

So, ever since being officially diagnosed with OCD and talking about everything here on Safe Space, I have been a lot more open about talking about my mental health with those people that I interact with daily. I want them to be aware of my limitations and that some of the actions I do so that they don’t unintentionally mock me or make the panic I’m trying to keep at bay spring to the surface.

And for the most part, everyone has been incredible supportive. Some asking for further clarification and others going out of their way to help me, such as by allowing me to be the first person to take food from a buffet. And I cannot thank these people enough. Because of their support, I know that I am testing my boundaries and getting better and stronger every day.

But then there are some people who do the worse thing possible. They laugh. I have had one person find it hilarious that my brain goes from something as simple as eating to thinking I am going to die. They were apologetic and explained that they’re not laughing at me as such but more because it is such a silly thought. And I agree, it is pretty silly but that laughter? It undermines the true struggle I go through daily when it comes to eating food.

Because laughing makes me feel weak and stupid. It makes me feel silly. And then I feel myself wanting to put a bubble around me. Wanting to go and hide in my room and not see anyone or anything or do anything either. It makes me want to let my Mental Illnesses win so that people understand how unfunny it really is.

Needless to say this is so damaging.

I’ve also been around when someone else laughed at someone else’s OCD issues and it really grated on my nerves then. It was a small chuckle but I could see that my friend’s guard went straight up and I knew that she was struggling just as much as I was.

So all I really want to say in this post is please be careful with your emotions when someone is sharing something as scary and deep with you as their mental health issues. They are not funny. They are serious and life altering. Laugh in your own space about it, sure, but please don’t laugh in our faces.


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

It Creeps Up on You


Diary Entry: 29.04.16



It's two weeks until my surgery.

I've finally had all my paperwork for my pre-op and my admission for the actual surgery.

It's come around fast. Faster than expected. Even though it was only a month away when I got told it was provisionally booked.





Planned anxiety.



That is what my first surgery was.



Lately, I’ve been finding myself getting less sleep because my head has been stuck in the past. I’ve been struggling to get myself focused on what is happening right now. I am lost in the memories of what I experienced last year.



In a physical sense, my surgeries have fixed me. But how much does the process of surgery affect you mentally? Has it fixed how I feel about being chronically ill? If anything, the physicality of having an ostomy – a badge of ‘honour’, a visual representation of my disease, something I can show to ‘prove’ my illness – has helped. I am sad it got to this but I am happy too. That conflict has the most mental impact.



I remember the days of being stuck in the bathroom, in agony, crying, unsure of how much more I would be able to handle, how much more I could take. When I would need to call it quits.

Nowadays, I am emptying my bag and its mere minutes. Even a change is 10 minutes’ tops. Ten minutes every 48-72hrs isn’t that bad; all things considered.



But how does that – cleaning my stoma, seeing it, looking after it, knowing I am different, knowing I am permanently changed, realising this is my reality – affect me?



Having an ostomy is not the fix some people believe it to be. I am one of the lucky few who has gone into remission and off medications since surgery. I don’t take this for granted at all. If anything, I am weary of this, it could change at any time. My previous IBD remissions have not last long so I am just enjoying the days as they come, at the moment. Even that is a mental battle; getting used to all these good days. They haven’t happened in such a long time nor for more than a few at a time. I am thankful for my current situation.



It doesn’t stop me from feeling lost, confused and downright sad some days. I keep my mental battled hidden, inside my head most days; trying to find distractions from these thoughts; keeping busy to take my mind to other places. I try and write; try and explain my thoughts in the written word. Actual words… they don’t come so easy. It’s still such a taboo subject. Not for fear of being judged but for the fear of admitting what I am feeling.



It is the lack of control I have over these thoughts. It started with one little memory creeping back into my head; when I realise the date or what I was doing last year on this day… and it soon spirals. My pre-surgery experiences were detailed in my blog and my diary. I know what I felt because I wrote it down, I relive it through my own words. It connects me back to my past; it’s like a flood – washing over me with such force, overwhelming and strong.



As I move forward, as the days go on and I get closer to last year’s “good days” I hope these memories move from being sad into feeling proud. I will hopefully see how well I have done – not that I don’t see that already – and how much of a difference a year has made. I will see how being different is a strength and it just one small piece of what makes me who I am, now. Not who I was.




Monday, 20 February 2017

Love is in The Air

February is the month of love thanks to Valentine’s day so here on Safe Space we wanted to take this theme and run with it but instead of the traditional love of another, we wanted to talk to you all about self-love. In this post you will see what self-love means to some of the team members, how hard it can be to love ourselves in a society that constantly points out your flaws and imperfections, and what actions we take when it comes to loving ourselves and putting our needs first.

Jess: I used to think that people who said that they loved themselves were lying. That’s such a sad statement to write, but it’s true. I was brought up in a society that encourages you to constantly want to change and tells you that you’re not good enough and if you dare to love yourself is quick to shut you down and tell you that you’re being big headed. As women we are taught to be humble and play down our achievements, that nobody likes a show off. Society constantly sends the message out to girls and women that loving yourself is not okay. So yes, growing up I found the idea of loving myself an impossible concept, so much so that I didn’t believe it when people told me that they felt that way about themselves and I find that incredibly sad.

This all changed for me last year when I started following women online who promoted self-love and body confidence whatever your shape or size. These women were bright, vibrant and from all walks of life. They all looked completely different but the one thing they had in common was that they radiated self-love and positive energy, not only for themselves, but for all women. I found their confidence beautiful and I realised that if they could love themselves then I could too. Something clicked for me and when I looked in the mirror I started to like what I saw. I’ve never felt so confident or sexy and yet nothing had changed except my own attitude towards my body. Other people noticed this change in me too and I started to receive so many compliments from the people around me.

Around the same time I also went into recovery for my mental illnesses and started doing things I never thought I would do. This gave me a huge surge of confidence in who I am as a person. It made me feel strong and capable and I gained a new level of self-respect that I’d never had before. This woman I was discovering was a badass and I liked her very much.

Over the past year I finally learned to love myself both inside and out, but like any relationship it’s not perfect. I still have days where I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see and there are still times where I doubt myself and think I’m not good enough but for the most part my attitude towards myself has completely changed. In learning to love myself I have also learned to take better care of myself, to be kind and to treat myself as I would a friend whether that is by giving myself a break when I’m not feeling well, knowing when to say no, or treating myself to a new lipstick. You’re the only person you’re with for your entire life and the relationship you have with yourself is the most important one of all. Loving yourself in a society that encourages you not to is a constant struggle but finding that inner love will give you an aura of confidence and self respect that you will carry with you for the rest of your life that no magazine or mean comment will ever be able to take away.

Louise:
I have a seven inch scar down the middle of my abdomen. It’s red and an ostomy bag sits on the right-hand side.
Scars are the map to my past.
My scars are also the battle wounds of my previous fights. Yep, fights. I’ve been a long-term battle with my body since September 2011. My invisible illness of Crohn’s Disease meant that I secret fought my body both physically and mentally. Most of the mental acceptance of having this invisible and chronic illness has been come from others being unable to see what is wrong with me; they can’t see how ill I am, they can’t feel my pain my guts have given me, they can’t understand how much I wish this wasn’t my life.
I still fight my body but now I am winning not only the physical battle but the mental one. It has taken five years, two big surgeries and multiple wounds to realise that my disease doesn’t mean I love myself any less. If anything, I have grown to appreciate my body and how I see my body because despite having something physical for people to identify my illness with – my ostomy bag and midline scar – I have grown to accept myself; scars and all.
People would consider my flaw to be the fact that I poop out of my abdomen now but I see that as my quirk. It isn’t a normal thing but it is by no means a rare thing either. So many people have ostomies and no one knows because they are concealed under clothing. I show my ostomy when I choose too; it is my little secret. I am proud of my secret and you are privileged if you have seen my ostomy bag. Don’t mistake my secret as a dirty little secret, I am supremely proud of my ostomy because it has changed my life and without it I would be still living a life of chronic pain, or possibly not even be here. I celebrate the fact that medicine has come this far to give me this in order to live a life I am proud of. I love my ostomy; it gives my life purpose. It gives me hope. I keeps me out of hospital. Its taught me that my body is a wonderful thing, despite its differences. I’ve accepted that it might look different, it might operate differently but it is still worthy of love. And I love it, for all that it is, and all it will be.

Lily: Learning to love and accept myself has been a long process that is still ongoing. For a long time, particularly growing up, I hated the way I looked. I hated that I was gangly and tall and I didn’t feel feminine, I hated that my hair was neither curly nor straight but this weird in between frizzy mess. I hated my spots and my braces and my nose. Honestly, I could go on.

Thankfully, a lot of that has changed, but it’s taken a long time. I try to embrace my height as much as possible, but there are still days I find difficult (trust me, clothes shopping when you’re a 6ft woman is not a fun or easy experience). I’m learning to love and embrace my natural hair for what it is despite society telling me all of the different products I could use to make it straighter and prettier and ‘more normal’ (don’t even get me started).
Growing up I can’t necessarily remember hating my personality but I think like many people I didn’t particularly like myself either. I’ve always just spoken without thinking and things have come out wrong. I don’t like a lot of the things a lot of people my age enjoy like drinking and clubbing – which is perfectly wonderful and valid if you do like those things, it’s just not for me. There was a period of time about two years ago when I hated myself for not being like other people my age – for being introverted, for having anxiety, for preferring a night in with pizza and Disney movies to ‘the sesh’ as it’s not referred to.

Over the past two years I’ve come to really start to accept that part of myself, and that it’s okay if I want to do things a bit differently to the rest of my peers. I love my interests and that sometimes I care maybe a bit too much. I know now that I can be a good listener and that people feel comfortable coming to me for advice and comfort and I love that about myself. It’s definitely a process that’s still ongoing, but I think I’m getting there.

Faye:
Only a few weeks back I wrote a post about how at the moment I am struggling to love my body. I keep looking in the mirror and not liking what I see. Cursing myself as my clothes feel tight and just do not seem to fit the way they used to. And of course, on top of that are all the connotations of what being bigger than people leads to and how it feels like I am taking up too much space - literally. However, today I wanted to talk a little bit about how despite not particularly loving my body right now, I do quite like myself. There are times, naturally when I hate my personality and I end up questioning everything I do and whether I am even a nice person or very good at what I do but more often than not, I love me.

This is something that has taken me a long time to do. For years I have struggled to love myself, did not feel that I was worthy of any love, let alone my own. But I have finally come to a place in my life where this has changed and I am so very happy about it because in my opinion, if you don’t love yourself then you will struggle a lot in life - as I did. I’m not entirely sure when or why I changed my mind about myself, but I did and I am glad for it. I love that I know who I am now. I love that I am stubborn, emotional and organised. I love that I am also messy, closed off and easy-going. Because these contradictions are what make me human. I love that I can be high as a kite just on air and that I can make people smile just by being me. I love my laugh and my weird quirks. These make me, me. Now I am not saying that loving myself is easy, there are times when I hate everything about me but it is my love of myself that keeps me alive and keeps me going and that is good enough for me. Plus, if I can’t love myself, who the hell else will?

Friday, 17 February 2017

In Light Of Valentine's Day!

First of all, I want to start this post by being completely honest with you. I hate valentines day. And it isn't just because I am single. It is also because it is just an awful day. Yes, go ahead and celebrate that you're in a relationship. Please, do. But maybe, just maybe, you could celebrate a few times a year? Or just on a day you create yourself rather than this commercial and overblown day?

*cough*

Anyway... that's not what this post is going to be about because as much as I do really, really dislike this particular "holiday", it is sometimes nice to reflect on love, isn't it?

So today I wanted to discuss with you something that I thought you might be intrigued about. Last week I discussed how I knew I was asexual (read that post here), so this week I wanted to talk about what I want from a relationship. I'm not ready for a relationship at the moment, but at some point in the future I might be and this is what I would like to happen... what I would hope for.

First and foremost, I would want my partner to be my best friend. Corny and cheesy and all that good stuff but I feel that it is also fundamental. This is someone that you will potentially spend the rest of your life with and even if that isn't the case, you're probably going to be spending more time with them than anyone else so yes, I feel it is very important that the person is my best friend.

And by that I mean someone that I can trust with my whole self. Someone who makes me a better person, someone who knows that I have rough edges and still loves me anyway. Someone who loves my little quirks. Who understands my issues and has compassion. Someone who makes me feel that way about them too. Because without all of that, our relationship is never going to last.

Of course, I'd also need to find someone who is okay with my asexuality and my lack of desire for sex. It's kind of a big deal breaker really, isn't it?

Once I've found that person, and we're settled in our relationship, I have some very odd things I'd love to happen which I thought would be easier to list.

  • When we move in together, I'd want separate beds at the very least, if not separate rooms. 
Maybe I'll change my mind on this once I'm actually in a relationship but for right now I find it so difficult to sleep in the same room as anyone else unless I really have to. So it would be more comfortable for me if we slept in different rooms. I also think it would make the waking hours more precious. 
  • I would want cuddle time but also my own time.
I'm still an introvert and I still get overwhelmed by being around people so I would need my partner to understand that and to allow me time to recuperate - and hey, what do you know, I have my own bedroom that I can go and hide in!
  • I'd like to have pets. Maybe a cat. Maybe a dog. Maybe both.
I'm not sure I'd ever be able to have pets on my own, which is sad, because of my OCD and anxiety issues but if I had a partner, I think it would be really nice to also have pets. Especially as they could be around to keep us company if one or the other of us was away for a little while. 
  • Eventually I'd want kids.
Either fostering or adopting. This is definitely somewhere in my life plan. Currently being an aunt is more than enough for me to deal with but when I'm a little older and settled with my life, I would quite like to have a child or two of my own. I can't imagine this not happening.

I can't think of much else at the moment and of course, all of this may change in the future or when I do eventually end up in a relationship with someone. But for now, this is what I would like to happen. And maybe it will one day, eh?


Friday, 10 February 2017

A Little More on Asexuality

Recently I was asked a question by a friend and I thought that it was quite important and probably quite helpful not just for said friend but for asexual awareness. And I really want to help other people to understand asexuality a little bit better.

The question was quite simple. How do you know you're asexual and that you haven't just found the right person yet?

Now I'm not saying that meeting the right person won't change how I feel about sex, so it is possible that I simply haven't met the right person.

However, despite that, the reason that I know I'm an asexual is a lot more to do with meeting the right person and simply knowing what I am like and what, incidentally, I like.  


As a person growing up in this world, it is hard not to see all the references to sexual attraction. It is there in books, there in films and most likely it is there with the people around you as well. That reaction that people get when they see someone physically attractive. The way that they want to have sex because of how someone looks. 

This is not something I have ever felt. I have admired a lot of people for their beauty and very much enjoyed looking at handsome men on TV but I wouldn't end up daydreaming about them or feel anything sexual towards them at all. It is more just an appreciative-ness for their beauty.

Of course, that in itself does not make a person asexual as it might just mean that they've never found someone sexually attractive. But when this feeling is combined with a lack of fantasising about sex at all, questions need to be asked and answered within yourself. Which is where I found myself. And I tried. I tried to have sex and I tried to be sexually active but I never truly got into that "zone". 

When I fantasise, I always imagine other people having sex. I never, ever imagine what it would be like to have sex myself. It literally never even comes into my brain. Trust me when I tell you that when you read books and watch TV or film and people fantasise about sex all the time, it makes you very aware of how little you care about it.

I am not going to lie to you. I have been with three people in my life sexually. And each and every time different things happened. In the first instance, my body reacted. I very much enjoyed my sexual experience but what I liked most was not so much being pleased but being able to please my partner (who was also my boyfriend at the time). The second time wasn't very good at all. He was a little too forceful in trying to get me to touch him that when he tried to touch me I ended up pushing him off and leaving. And the final time I was too drunk and he was too drunk and I just didn't want to do anything and as soon as he realised he wasn't getting any, he left sharpish.

So maybe my sexual experience isn't enough to determine that I'm asexual. Because I haven't given anyone enough chance to see if I might like sex, right?

But here's the thing. I don't want to see if I might like sex.

I literally have no desire to have sex.

And that is why I know that I am an asexual. And I am 100% okay with that. And maybe one day I will find someone to spend my life with who feels the same. Loves me for who I am and all of that.



0