Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Knowing Your Limits

They say in order to grow you should be testing your limits, pushing yourself forward, outside of your comfort zone.

But what is there to be said for knowing your limits?

For me, limits have been a tricky business these last couple of years. I couldn’t ignore my diagnosis of my chronic illness, but I didn’t want it to hold me back either. So, I would test just how far I could go without it rolling out a huge STOP sign in the way of my plans. And whilst I was on medication; that was sometimes higher than at other times. But, I learnt quickly – especially when I was under the weather, under pressure, or even just in a low mood - I would feel the full brunt of my disease holding up the STOP sign earlier than I’d anticipated.

I would test myself. I would see how far I could go. I would try and see how much I could take before the risks were outweighing the benefits. And this is something I would continue to do for years. It would be my way of playing a little game with my illness, to be so determined to not let it hold me back. But, in reality, I needed my disease to kick off and tell me to slow down or stop. I needed to control me in that particular way.

Why, I hear you ask?

I needed limits.

Whilst being on medication and without any surgical intervention; my limits became the symptoms that my disease was angry: Fatigue. Lack of appetite. Bad bowels. Joint pains. Nausea. Sickness. Depression. Not all of these things were solvable by pulling back and slowing down; they were big signs that my disease was planning a big attack in the near future, but me listening then, I would buy myself some time.

The tiredness, the fatigue; that was the worst. And it still is now; after coming off medication since surgery, I have to say, I still get the fatigue hit me like a sack of anything.

But in the years between learning to cope with my illness and present day post-operative, I’ve taken some good advice: SELF CARE.

By practicing self-care, I know where my limits safety are. I know where I feel most comfortable and where I am most at ease. It is where I can do what I am capable of and some of the extra things I like doing: like blogging, alongside something such as working. It has been about balance and compromise. It has been a listening and responding aspect on my life I never really considered much when I wasn’t chronically ill. That is one of the silver linings of being ill, I suppose.

Lately, I’ve been ignoring my limits. Which has meant that, despite all my good intentions and well laid plans, I’ve burnt myself out abit and gotten into a mess. And this particular mess has been a partial blockage. I’ve come out the other side realising that my current lifestyle needs some alterations so that I can continue to do what I love but also do what I need to do too. It is not something I feel fantastically happy about – admitting defeat is something I hate doing – but! I know it will help me fulfil my working life potential. I have realised too that making mistakes whilst living with an ostomy – and mine is not even a year old yet – is part of this new life as an ostomate. But being a good, proactive and resourceful patient has helped in more ways lately, than ever before.

So, knowing your limits... that’s important as pushing myself beyond them.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Turning 25: 25 things I Wish I'd Known At 15

In exactly a month's time, I’ll officially be a quarter of a century old. 

Over the years, i've lost track of how many times I wanted life to come with instructions (or a rewind button!) Since neither of these things exist... yet... I thought i'd write a brief list of things I wish i'd known at 15.

1. If you use the internet to self-diagnose, Google will insist you buy a gravestone for your mild        
2. Don’t even try to wear high heels – your ankles will fail you.
3. Panic attacks pass. Even when they feel like they won’t, they always end.
4. You shouldn’t have to convince someone to want you in their life. Walk away.
5. Fish is rancid - why on earth do you keep trying sushi?
6. Stop buying so many books and never getting around to reading them!!!
7.  Don’t believe the whole ‘first year doesn’t mean anything’ mantra at uni – use it to get a leg up, go      to academic support, while everyone else is being scraped off the floor at Ocean nightclub.
8. Stay up-to-date with politics. And always vote. Women died so you could vote.
9. Don’t walk by a homeless person without offering to buy them a drink and something to eat.
10. Trust your gut. It’s usually right.
11. Never let someone make you feel like a doormat for being kind.
12. There’s nothing a bubble bath and a new book can’t fix.
13. You’ll feel younger and more na├»ve at 25, than you did at 15.
14. There is nothing wrong with being tee-total.
15. Write a six monthly bucket list – make sure you complete it.
16. Waxing is expensive and more effort, but it doesn’t cause really painful abscesses.
17.  Quickest way to get a guy to leave a room? Talk about periods (or, my friend Hannah’s method,          afterbirth).
18. Don’t eat at dodgy looking restaurants – you only have to look at food near its sell-by date to be          ill.
19.  Life rarely goes to plan – the more you try to control it, the more wildly it’ll veer off course.
20. Travelling is incredible.
21. Learning how to swear in different languages is fun.
22. If you’re unhappy in life, make radical changes – try new things, make new friends, leave a stale         job…
23. Don’t ever give someone the power to make you question your self-worth.
24. Tell your family and friends you love them every day.
25. You definitely won’t be married or have kids by twenty five. The very thought makes you feel ill!


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Doing Long Distance

 A couple of weeks ago, I started a new job.
And not just any job; one I was so damn excited to get and actually start. But it meant moving away from home. That was a messy feeling in my head for weeks, which included moving all my patient care for my IBD and stoma as well as packing and getting my head around being away from home. I haven’t done that since I lived at university and my year abroad in Canada. Both those times fill me with great memories so I have high hopes that this big move will fall into that category in time.

Not only am I moving away from my family but I am moving away from my boyfriend.

And it wasn’t until this weekend – the second weekend I haven’t seen him as I usually would if I was at home still – I realise we are doing long distance.

I haven’t done that in over eight years. My boyfriend whilst I was at university studying lived quite far away but we spent our weekends together. These days, I don’t have that luxury or that amount of energy to travel all the way home. Plus, we now both have commitments to work and it’s just tiring being back at work after over a year away from it all. I find myself having a lot of mood swings; going from feeling on top of the world to wondered what on earth I have gotten myself into here. But that latter part passes and I feel okay. Most of the time, I am doing okay. I just need the distractions.

My boyfriend was a welcomed and wonderful distraction whilst I was sick, whilst I recovered from surgeries, whilst I suffered, whilst I grew up and got my confidence back. He became my number one fan and I became his biggest supporter in what he was doing, what he would achieve. So now, without him, it is a new feeling. Something I haven’t felt in years.

There is no comparison between my other big relationship and this one. This one has the longevity and the commitment I need and have always wanted. I couldn’t imagine going through what I’ve done without him by my side. It hasn’t always been easy and it’s never been perfect, but it wasn’t meant to be, I don’t expect it – or either of us – to be.

But long distance makes it feel so much like before. I am trying to remember how I survived going longer periods of time without my boyfriend back then, but I can’t. I think I’ve locked that relationship away in my mind, to some degree. But how did I do it? How did I keep it going for as long as I did, when I wasn’t as busy as I clearly am now? How do I keep my relationship going with 100 miles between us and weeks apart because of our schedules?

Advice welcome.

This new job and the opportunities it is hopefully going to lead to is my choice and sometimes I am half regret moving so far away from my boyfriend. He was a huge part of my life back at home, but I am not there anymore. I feel like I need some distance from us sometimes, or at least I did feel like that. And now I have it, I don’t want it. But, I’m sure I need it. We don’t get given what we have unless we could handle it. And I have dealt with what life has chucked at me so far, why not this?

Is this a silver lining?

Is the opportunity to really discover how strong our union is?

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Exams and My Low Self-Confidence

I have extremely bad self-confidence. This is something that I rarely like to talk about but I feel like I should do more. Cut a very long story short, I was bullied quite severely in Year 7 because I had a pixie cut (yes, I am aware that seems like a petty thing to be bullied over, but it happened), and because I was one of the shyest in my year at the time. I was emotionally and physically bullied to the point that when someone compliments me, I won't believe them. 

I've recently started my GCSE exams (GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education if you didn't know), and my first was Drama - one of the subjects which I want to continue studying for A Level. For this exam, I have to put on a thirty-minute play that fits into a theme that the exam board sets, and perform it to an external examiner who comes in and marks me on the spot (I am in a group for this exam). In short, I was given the role of the main character which meant that I had this very long monologue to learn. I was fairly nervous about this monologue, I didn't think that I was good enough to perform it, nor even be the character that I was assigned - so most of the time in rehearsals I would ask if we could skip the scene where my monologue came in. 

As my Drama exam got closer, I started getting more nervous over my monologue - whilst I was the main character, I had the least amount of lines meaning that the majority of my marks will come from this monologue. To study A Level Drama at my choice of Sixth Form, I need at least a B+ or an A, and I convinced myself that the way I was performing my lines was at a D, maybe an E grade. I started to get worked up over this monologue because I knew I wasn't good enough to be this character, and my marks were going to be non-existant. 

Around three days before the exam, my group, and the others, did a whole dress rehearsal to parents and teachers, and this was one of the first times I performed my monologue in front of an audience. I was terrified. Thankfully, I had a chance to run through my monologue with my teacher, and whilst she told me that I would get a fantastic grade from the way that I've performed it, I couldn't see how she could think that. In the dress rehearsal, we got to the part where my monologue came in, and I was shaking. I said my lines as best I could, and walked off stage, concluding the performance. From what people have told me, my monologue was great and I should be proud of myself. I would stand there as people were saying this to me, and I would think only negative thoughts about myself because I knew that there had to be some way of performing it better. 

The day of the exam I was a mess, I was shaking, nervous, and I couldn't think straight. I was trying to think of ways to improve myself from the time I got to school, to the time of my exam, which was thankfully in the afternoon. It got to the point that I had a panic attack - and it took twenty minutes for both my Drama teachers and my friends to calm me down. They were all trying to say to me that the lowest grade I might get would be an A, but I sat there, shaking my head, as I tried to explain to them that my acting is terrible. I was fine with my basic lines, as they were mainly one word, but it was the monologue that was stressing me out the most. 

Then the exam came, and my group was the first to perform. 

As we were all performing, I was trying my hardest to be this character. I thought that I was doing pretty well, and when I looked over to the examiner, they were scrawling down notes, and I hope that they were all nothing but positive. 

I went backstage right before my monologue and I had to give myself a pep-talk (yes, this may have been a silly thing to do, but this was my last chance to get the grade that I wanted). I walked out on stage, delivered my lines, and waited for the lights to go down. And, as soon as I said my last line, I could hear crying from the back of the Drama Studio. The moment that the examiner left the room to mark my group, my entire class came running up to me, some of them were in tears. This, of course, made me and my group cry too. 

All of this made me realise something: I should believe what people say to me more. The way my class acted after I performed my monologue gave me some sort of wake-up call - my Drama teacher was right after all, I did perform my monologue well. 

I guess I had to write this because I needed to get this off of my chest. And even though I have to take about twenty more exams, I feel just that little more confident that I can smash these exams and get the grades I want in August. 

Friday, 12 May 2017

Being a Bridesmaid

So a couple of weeks ago now I was a Bridesmaid at my sister's wedding. This is something that I have both been incredibly excited about and also incredibly nervous and anxious about. Excited because I wanted to do my sister proud and help her make her wedding day be everything she wanted it to be, nervous and anxious because even though it wasn't my day, I was a) sure people would be looking at me, b) I would look so different to the other bridesmaid (my other sister) and the maid of honour (brides best friend) that I would stand out and ruin everything, and c) I would not fit in to the bridesmaids dress.

As it was, the dress fit - albeit I didn't last the whole day in it and I had painful grooves in my skin for the next few days afterwards so point c) was absolutely fine. Point b did happen and it did make me feel uncomfortable but no one actually said anything which was good. And Point a also happened but everyone only had good things to say.

What I learnt from being a bridesmaid is what I want to discuss today.

  1. I am not okay with my body. I have written a post about this before but it really came to light at the wedding that I am not happy with how I look. I do not love the skin I am in.
  2. I am envious of everyone for looking absolutely stunning. I spent the day looking at both my sisters and my mum in their amazing dresses and was so incredibly jealous of how beautiful they looked and how awful I felt I looked in comparison. 
  3. Weddings are very different to how they look in the movies but the one thing they always get right is that often something always goes wrong. In the case of this wedding, the table plan wasn't laid out exactly right...
  4. Weddings can be fun. They're a celebration and a perfect opportunity to wish the bride and groom a happy life ahead.
  5. It is difficult to stay awake until midnight when you're one of the only people not drinking alcohol.
  6. Weddings are not great places to meet new people, despite what I've heard...
But lastly, the biggest thing I learnt (although I sort of already knew)...

I do not want to have a wedding.

I'm not even sure at this stage if I want to get married but if I do get married, I don't want a wedding. There is absolutely no way I could have that much attention on me. Or that much stress. I know some people might be upset with that so I might have a party if the time comes but I just do not want a wedding - and certainly not a traditional princess wedding like my sister had!

So I think I learnt quite a bit. The whole day was absolutely lovely and I'm so happy for my sister and my new brother-in-law. But I'm also quite glad that it's all over...

Sunday, 7 May 2017

On Feeling Left Behind.

I’ve talked a bit on here about my decision at 19 to drop out of University and then at 20 to enrol again at a different one. Long story short, I dropped out of University after only one semester because my mental health got really awful really quickly and I couldn’t cope living on my own, with the pressure of assignments over my head and nobody I was really close to yet to talk to about it. I worked for a year and a half at a couple of different jobs, and started University again somewhere else on a different course in September.

So, I’m 21 and just finishing my first year. It’s gone okay. University definitely isn’t what I’d call the best time of my life as it is for so many (at this point I actually in some ways preferred working full time in customer service … only in some ways though), but I’m coping and getting decent grades and have some good friends. I have no current plans of dropping out, and the end of my first year is within reaching distance.

However I’ve been feeling a bit shit about my whole situation recently. My Facebook feed, made up predominantly of people around my age group, obviously, has been filled for the last week with pictures of people handing in their dissertations and final papers, I’ve had conversations with many friends about graduation dates and going out into the world. And I guess I’ve just been feeling left behind and feeling rubbish about myself for not being in the same position they are.

Now I know on a level this is silly. Even if I had stayed at my original degree, I wouldn’t be graduating this year because it was a four year course (I would actually currently be in the USA on a year abroad right now, and to be honest I’m kind of thankful I’m not). I know that my decision to leave and take care of my mental health was the right one for me, and that taking care of myself is the first priority. I know that there are loads of people who take years out or drop out and go back after a few years. I know all these things, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling rubbish about myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so happy for my friends and I know I’m where I need to be. But there’s this feeling that as my friends are embarking on their Masters or going to work abroad or just out into the working world that I’m being left behind a bit. I won’t graduate until I’m at least 23 or 24, and even though I know I’ve had experiences they haven’t had and it’s not my fault, it just feels a bit crap sometimes. I know I shouldn’t compare my experiences to others, and despite all these rubbish feelings right now, I know in the long run I’m on the right track for me.