Escaping the monotony and boredom of chronic illness…

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Welcome to the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health – a social network for all health activists.  Again, I am participating in the annual Writer’s Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon prompts given.

Today’s prompt reads as follows:

Health Activist Choice Day 2!…Write about whatever you like

This past weekend saw the annual celebration of Easter.  And it was also a long Bank Holiday Weekend.  A lot of people revel in these long Bank Holiday weekends – it often means a long weekend off from work, and time spent with family.  Many people even go away on these Bank Holiday weekends, perhaps visiting family or going on day trips with family and friends such as the beach if the weather permits.  However, both my parents usually work on Bank Holidays, and therefore, this Bank Holiday I will once again be home alone.  Friends and other members of the family all have their own lives and plans for such weekend and so don’t like to impose; or often I am in too much pain, or the weakness and trembling in the legs is so bad that I am unable to go out anyway.

Bank Holidays are a time where loneliness and isolation feels more evident when living with chronic illness

Bank Holidays are a time where loneliness and isolation feels more evident when living with chronic illness

It can be so difficult when living with a chronic illness feeling isolated from the world.  In addition, it hurts when you see or hear other people’s plans or stories for Bank Holiday weekends and you are once again stuck inside the house because of chronic illness.  It is not only miserable to be stuck inside during the Spring and Summer Bank Holidays when the weather is beautiful and warm, but it is also incredibly miserable as there is never anything on television.  The usual choices on television are films which you have already seen several times, repeats of old episodes of various television programmes and trashy reality shows.

It is on days like these that the blues can set in especially if symptoms are severe and persistent.  So, the only thing to do is to make your own fun!  But what some ideas of what you can do on such days when symptoms are bad and you need to make your own fun because of one reason or another?  Here are some ideas that you can do on such days when energy levels are low but you also want some fun:

  • Movie Marathon: Think of your favourite actor or actress.  Who is it?  Sandra Bullock?  Tom Cruise?  Julia Roberts?  Whoever it may be, consider having a movie marathon of all the films that they have starred in!  Perhaps you haven’t got a favourite actor or actress; in this case you can watch films from your favourite movie genre.  For example, I love romantic comedies – they are fun, girlie and more often than not have a sweet, happy ending.  Perfect on days when you may be feeling blue.  So, get the DVD player ready, grab the popcorn and settle down on the sofa for some feel-good  entertainment
  • Pamper Yourself and give yourself some Love!: In my opinion, there is no better tonic when feeling low then to give yourself some well-deserved pampering!  Especially when it has been a tough time dealing with chronic illness, and you have begun feeling blue.  Have a lovely warm bubble bath using your favourite bath scent – for relaxing try lavender for example.  Or paint your nails a wild and bright colour.  I usually paint my nails a bright and colourful colour whenever I am feeling low; for some reason it cheers me up and puts a smile on my face no matter how bad I am feeling.  I have had several bad falls recently so I also like to give my poor, bruised legs a pampering my applying soft and comforting body lotion.  If you have some friends around for a night-in, you can even give yourselves facial masks whilst watching some films together – double the feel-good fun!
  • Take a Virtual Tour of a Museum: I know a lot of people love to visit a museum on Bank Holidays with their family or friends.  I love history myself and I love visiting museums to learn of a different period of history.  However, as energy is very often low due to chronic illness then walking around a crowded museum may be too much to handle.  The solution?  Take a virtual tour of a museum that you may have never been before.  There are plenty of choices around; for example the British Museum offers a range of different virtual tours on a variety of different topics in history.  Or if you are more interested in art then the Louvre has virtual tours on their website.  Try searching ‘virtual tours’ and see what is available and find a virtual tour which suits your interests.
  • Get Creative!: In my experience of making cards, being creative whether it be making decopauge cards like myself, or painting, drawing or writing can be extremely cathartic and can also be good at distracting yourself from pain, boredom or feelings of depression that can often accompany being alone or unwell. So, whether you are an artist or a writer, try getting creative the next time you are bored, or suffering from severe symptoms.  It’s cheap, and something you can even do from your bed if needed.
  • Enjoy your garden: When you are unable to get out of the house and enjoy a Bank Holiday at the seaside, for example, it does not mean you have to stay indoors feeling miserable.  Try sitting out in your garden, enjoying the sunshine whilst reading a book or listening to your favourite music on an MP3 player.  If stuck in bed, however, there are meditation exercises that involves you imagining that you are in a beautiful garden, beach or in your favourite place.  Meditation or relaxation exercises are an effective tool against chronic pain, depression and anxiety.  In my opinion, practicing such techniques are well-worth the time when living with chronic health problems.
  • Learn something new: This was suggested by someone I know via social media.  I had no idea that the internet allows you the opportunity to enrol in free online courses! I think this is such a brilliant thing for anyone struggling with chronic illness or disability; as often because of our conditions we are unable to get out of the house.  Many individuals with chronic health problems also do not work and as a result do not have the funds to access courses that charge and are often very expensive, however, there are a number of websites online that allow you to enrol on courses which are completely free!  So, if as a result of your chronic illness you are stuck in the house a lot of the time on your own and find that you become bored, then this is a perfect opportunity to learn something you have always wanted to take up but have been unable to because of the lack of money or because you are unable to leave the house due to illness. It may also be a great opportunity to distract yourself from pain, fatigue and other symptoms that affect your life.
  • Read a book: This is usually the first activity that I go to when alone, bored and feeling unwell.  Its cheap and does not require a lot of energy and thanks to my Kindle I have a number of books I have access too within easy reach.  In my experience, when you are engrossed in a book that interests you, then time quickly passes.

So those are some of my tips to pass the time; distract yourself from boredom, pain and other severe symptoms.  What other things that you can come up with to entertain yourself when alone in the house or just when you are too unwell to go out?  As ever I would love to hear your suggestions and thoughts so please feel free to add any comments below…

Keep Calm…and Stay Positive

As most of you know, that due to the unknown cause of my neurological condition is starting to get me down.  It is frustrating and disheartening when the doctors are unable to give you the answers that you so desperately crave.  It is simple – being undiagnosed is dejecting and can causes psychological symptoms such as depression.  All we crave is a diagnosis – a name for the cause of all that we go through on a daily basis.  A name that confirms that we are not crazy or that the symptoms are all in our head.

Due to the weakness in my legs as well as the severe dizziness and fatigue that I experience due to my undiagnosed condition, I am often unable to get out of my bed and so confined to my bed for days at a time.  Staring at the same four walls of my bedroom; a place where I spend a lot of my time anyway is not a positive experience.  It is often a painful reminder of my predicament; a predicament that I am an undiagnosed chronically ill patient.  Being confined to my bed, leads to feeling of loneliness and isolation – how many times when experiencing severe symptoms have thought you were the only person to be going through this experience?  Is that a yes I hear?  Me too.

However, Voltaire once stated “I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health”.  A truly inspirational quote, and one that is supported by research – there is a lot of evidence that suggests that being positive makes you feel less stressed; has a positive influence on your immune system and has a huge influence on your overall well-being.

But how can we still remain positive when living with a chronic illness, which has such a negative influence on all areas of our lives?

Well, for me I have started to assemble a ‘positivity board’.  A board with cards, postcards, or letters that are both positive and in turn makes me feel more positive and happy despite being bed-bound or dealing with unpleasant.

The board is no way finished but at the moment includes a couple of cards that I found in a local art gallery that includes positive quotes, for example “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take; but the number of moments that take our breath away” and my personal favourite “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain.”  Also, on my board is a gorgeous card that was sent to me by a dear friend which has some really lovely words both outside and inside the card which I shall treasure and which brightened my day when I received it – a time when I really needed it.

I also found a couple of butterfly clips which I found in a local shop which I bought just to brighten the board and because of my love of butterflies.

Try making a board for yourself and fill it with all the things that make you happy or makes you feel a little more positive despite whatever circumstances that you often find it hard to cope with, or one which has a negative impact on your life.

Stay Calm…and make a positivity board!

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If you come across any cards that has any positive quotes or perhaps with a lovely picture of a butterfly or sunflower or anything else positive, let me know in the comments section and help fill my positivity board!

 

Thanks everyone! xx

NHBPM Day One: Why I Love the World Wide Web!

Think back fifteen years, its 1997 and the internet was still in its early infancy and was just starting to take off.  Being chronically ill or housebound must have been really lonely and isolating – being stuck indoors with only daytime television for company…

Fifteen years on however, the internet is just another part of our everyday life, a lifeline for ‘spoonies’ everywhere; it’s a connection to the outside world, a place where we can meet and talk to others.  The internet is an invention that has meant that the chronically ill and housebound need no more have those feelings of loneliness and isolation.

We need no more rely on others to go shopping for us – it can all be done with a few clicks of the mouse, which can then be delivered to our front door.  Even those who are chronically ill and are able to go out but are easily fatigued can access online shopping and save their spoons for other chores that need to be done.

Another advantage is the explosion of social media – sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others are a fantastic opportunity to connect with others, or stay in contact with friends and family if you do not get the chance to see them regularly.  It’s a lifeline for those nights plagued with insomnia, unable to sleep, and unlikely to be able to due to the severity of the symptoms, before it would mean sitting alone with a mug of hot chocolate in front of the television, but since the invention of social media you can always find someone online to talk and vent your frustration with.  It has become so easy to find new friends with sites such as Facebook, and since starting this blog and taking advantage of social media; I have met and made contact with a lot of fantastic and beautiful people, each battling with different illnesses but meanwhile writing and spreading awareness for their particular cause.   I have also come to love sites such as Pinterest, which allows the opportunity to ‘pin’ those images that you love to pin boards – I often use this tool for saving certain crafts that I love the look of and would love the opportunity to try them for myself – also giving me something to keep myself occupied during those times when I am alone in the house and looking for something to do

And online health communities are definitely an advantage for those of us battling chronic illness – it provides somewhere to connect with others with the same condition, or perhaps neurological conditions in general, as an example.  Connecting with others on particular online health communities can also mean for the newly diagnosed they can find information and tips for living well with the illness from experts – other patients!  Certain health communities such as ‘Patients Like Me’ even offer the option to track your particular health condition by filling out questionnaires on how you are feeling and by detailing the severity of the symptoms being experienced.  This obviously offers many advantages, one of which is being able to easily spot any deterioration in symptoms experienced, and noting any progression in the condition, especially if it is one that is degenerative.

There are so many wonderful reasons why I love the internet, social media and online health communities – these tools for everyday life has simply transformed the lives of so many, making life more enjoyable and less isolating!

My Inspiration…

Over at WEGO Health this month is ‘Health Activist Inspiration Month’.  The purpose of this month is to celebrate what drives health activists to empower themselves and others as well as the inspiration behind what makes them carry on the important work.  As part of the celebrations, I have decided to share the inspiration behind the blog and what inspires me personally.

My inspiration comes from the loneliness and isolation that I felt after my diagnosis of a long-standing brain stem lesion and spastic paraparesis.  Like most other people, I turned to the internet – searching various search engines for any information about the condition, and organisations or blogs where I could connect with others exhibiting the same condition.  Imagine my disappointment when I found that there was no such information or support networks out there, adding to the loneliness and isolation I already felt after a long battle with trying to get diagnosed, as well as how different I felt from others my age due to the symptoms I was experiencing.

After inspiration from a close friend and fellow blogger, I decided to start my own blog and so it was born in January 2012 so that no one else who may in the future be diagnosed with the same condition will go through what I did – feeling as if they were the only one going through this and that no one else understands what it is like!!

I have now begun supporting the ‘Invisible Illness Awareness Week Project’ and the inspiration behind supporting the cause as my neurological condition qualifies as an invisible illness – by looking at me you would never though that there was anything wrong.  But that isn’t the case as my days are filled with constant dizziness, frequent attacks of vertigo and visual disturbances, as well as the stiffness and weakness in the lower extremities.  Many people underestimate the effects of invisible illness or dismiss them entirely, claiming that the person is lazy or “that it’s all in their head” and so on.

It is due to these common misconceptions that inspired me to write about my life and journey with this condition – as many doctors for years blamed my symptoms on anxiety.  In want to be able to express the truth about invisible illnesses as well as dispelling those myths that many people hold.

And now I find that although non-one else I have ‘met’ has the same condition or disability that I have, nevertheless I have come across many other patients and bloggers out there that I have been able to connect with and gain understanding and friendship.  And the inspiration that keeps me going?  Receiving messages of support during a bad day can mean the world…

Fighting the Battle…

Hey Everyone

Haven’t posted in a while, for which I apologise for, but lately am finding things so tough as of late.

The symptoms that I experience with my condition – as I have mentioned before:

  • Dizziness
  • Stiffness and weakness in legs (Spastic Paraparesis)
  • Sporadic episodes of vertigo with visual disturbances such as double vision, tunnel vision

All these seem to worsening… for example, a couple of days this week my legs were so weak that I could barely stand, and as a consequence most of those days were spent in bed watching mind-numbing day-time television, or listening to audio books – I love reading but the visual disturbances were so bad that I really was unable to focus on a book, and after several recommendations from others in a similar position to mind, bought some audiobooks to pass the time when I am having bad times and unable to read.

My legs were trembling so bad, a feeling similar to when your legs feel like jelly when you are nervous, that I just was unable to stand for very long, so really was unable to do much at all and realised how much we all take for granted – going for a showers, making a drink or lunch for ourselves, and so on.  The dizziness was also very intense, as I have mentioned before the dizziness is constantly there, but the intensity of it changes from day-to-day, sometimes moment to moment.  The way it makes me feel is as if I am totally unbalanced, and unable to ground myself, and when standing I can literally feel myself swaying back and forth.  The episodes of vertigo, however differs in that they are episodic, and so come and go (although are becoming much more frequent) and with the vertigo comes the sensation of the world moving, for many it feels as if the room is spinning.  However, I would describe it as everything moving back and forth, and often includes tunnel vision.

As I was so bad my parents pushed me into making another appointment to see our local GP.. after some thought I have made one, although I just get this feeling that I am just wasting the time of the doctor, as it has already  been said that there is nothing that can be done, so it there much point in going?  Should I ask to see the neurological consultant again, even though they are unable to do anything for me?

And on top of all this – it’s also the emotional impact living with a chronic or life-long condition, the feeling of being alone, that no-one else understands what you are going through.  The isolation of being in a room by oneself, no-one to talk to…

Feelings of loneliness and isolation...

Through all of this, not being able to go by myself, in case of a fall or if the visual disturbances come on with no warning, leaving me unable to really focus on where I am (dangerous and could lead to an accident), it has left me very lonely and with no friends, apart from my online support network which is fantastic, but just wish that I could live a normal life, and do things with someone else such as shopping, or going for a cup of coffee, etc.

However this is the card I have been dealt, and maybe there is a reason why ‘this’ did happen to me., and am meant to do something with everything I have dealt with or have learnt from all of this… Now I just need to find the answer and what I am able to do with my life….