Storms Don’t Last Forever

A few weeks ago much of the UK was battered by Storm Doris.  High winds and torrential rain affected many areas of the country.

One Thursday after arriving home from a morning out cut short because of the inclement weather; I watched the rain beating against the glass of my bedroom window, observing the dark grey clouds while I lay down on my bed battling the effects of chronic pain ravaging throughout my legs. I lay there wondering if and when this horrible, destructive storm will end.

Waking the next morning, after opening my bedroom curtains, to my surprise and delight I was greeted by beautiful blue skies and glorious sunshine.  It was then I was reminded that storms don’t last forever and that the sun always shines after the rain.

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Furthermore, a realisation occurred to me that it could also be a perfect metaphor for life with chronic illness.  We all will, at some point in our lives, will experience a storm in our lives; a dark point that at the time feels like we’ll never get out of.  But, of course, nothing in life is permanent.  Our experiences and feelings like most things, such as storms are transient, before moving on, and making way for the sun to shine once more.

Of course, the definition of ‘chronic’ is something, usually describing an illness which is persisting for an extended length of time or one which is constantly recurring.  In this sense, living with chronic illness is like permanently living under a storm cloud.  However, although our conditions are permanent, our symptoms can sometimes be transitory, allowing a small piece of sunshine in our days.  It’s like Charlie Chaplin once said, “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles.”

Symptoms, which are often persistent and loud, can on some days concede, the feelings and their effects being fleeting and mild, letting us have a rare, good day.  Even living with a long-term condition, therefore, doesn’t mean accommodating a permanent storm in our lives.

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Things recently have been difficult, in my own circumstances living with a neurological condition with increased pain and trembling in my legs.   Some days it has been so bad that I wonder how I have managed to get out of bed in the morning.  On the worst days, it has felt like I was living in my own bubble, surrounded by large and dark storm clouds above my head because of the severity of the physical symptoms, I was experiencing and the emotional toll they were having on my well-being.

Despite this, however, I have still found little rays of sunshine throughout my days even through this turbulent times.  Even little things such as enjoying the feel of the sun on my face, especially after spending days inside, or enjoying the taste of my favourite bar of chocolate.  It was also my birthday last week, and although my symptoms did slightly dampen the occasion, it was still so lovely to receive presents, cards and messages from people who took the time out of their lives to think of little, old me!  These beautiful moments are small reminders that although it may not feel like it during this very moment, that storms indeed do not last forever.  Nothing is permanent, and these thoughts and feelings will not last forever.  This too shall pass.

Sitting here, thinking about the storms that roll in when living with chronic illness reminds me of my favourite quote from the author of one of my all-time favourite books, Louisa May Alcott.  She once famously wrote, “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”

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For me, it’s a truly beautiful reminder that the obstacles, challenges and difficulties that any of us face during our lives help us build strength and resilience, and ultimately it is these hardships that teach us how we should be living our lives.  For if it were not for storms, we would never learn how to sail our ships; we would never learn the lessons of strength or resilience that helps us through the dark times.  Of course, this is of little use during periods of distress.

As I continue experiencing this particular, and the often distressing symptoms that they bring, I will try and continue to remember that storms don’t last forever, and I hope you do too.

Or if not, I hope you find ways to create your own sunshine…

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Being a Prisoner to Chronic Illness

Having experienced symptoms associated with the neurological condition I live with, I have always felt like I’ve never fitted in anywhere. Like Belle, from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ I have always felt that others’ looked down on me, thinking of me as odd and different, just like the villagers in the classic Disney film.  Both Belle and the Beast are outsiders in the movie, both harbouring feelings of loneliness and it this that I have resonated with over the years and perhaps one of the reasons it remains my all-time favourite film.

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Often, I feel that I don’t fit in with my own family; a jigsaw piece that doesn’t fit in with the puzzle that it was meant for.  Of course, I have had made friends during my thirty years, but just like the seasons, they have come and gone.  I have been bullied by so called friends, or otherwise ostracised by my peers; unable to understand my unusual ‘quirks.

Rejection is something that I have dealt with over the years and the reason why I find it so difficult to trust people.  I am extremely protective of my heart, preferring to keep people at a distance before they hurt me.

It’s difficult living with a neurological condition that affects your perception of the world. For example, some places like those with high ceilings or fluorescent lighting can be difficult for me to cope with, including cinemas and large shopping malls.  Because of this, over the years I have had to decline invitations to such places because they leave me feeling very unwell if I am exposed to such triggers.

It seems that if you decline invitations on several occasions, you become a social pariah and invitations are no longer offered. And that hurts because it’s not that we don’t want to go to trips to the cinema or go shopping with friends, but we are unfortunately limited by symptoms of our health condition.  We desperately want to be included within the goings of our social groups and invited to events even if we aren’t always able to attend.

pexels-photo-226634I am limited so much by my condition; the dizziness that can be so disabling that it leaves me disorientated and confused, and the trembling in the legs so severe that I have no idea when they are going to give away that I am unable to go out without somebody else with me.  And as I usually only go out with either my parents or my carer, it can make meeting new people extremely challenging. As such, the majority of my time is spent at home; confined by the same four walls every day, often by myself or surrounded by the same faces.  Spontaneity is near impossible and so impromptu trips to somewhere that takes my fancy is inconceivable as a captor to chronic illness.

pexels-photo-102159Living with a chronic illness can often feel like being trapped in prison, from which there is no escape.  Trapped inside of our own bodies.  Trapped within our surroundings, held hostage by our symptoms.  It can often feel that they are in control of our lives; that we answer to them regarding what we do during the long days living with them.

Chronic illness often shrinks our entire worlds.  And not just our physical surroundings, but can affect our social lives.  For me, this neurological condition has shrunk my whole existence; my whole world is now so small that I could live on the smallest island and still have space to widen the world in which I live.

IMG_20170214_115718_427.jpgI have recently read ‘Happy’ by the talented Fearne Cotton; a book that she was written to help readers let go of the idea of perfection and to instead embrace and enjoy the small, everyday joys in life.  In one of the chapters, Fearne discusses the concept of ‘gangs’ or ‘packs.’  Groups in which we feel we belong, as well as those friends who we can call upon during turbulent times.  Reading this chapter, made me realise how isolated I have become due to chronic illness.  How I have very few people in my life who I can trust and rely on, and how I have very few friends that I can go out with and have a chat over coffee and cake.

I have made friends who also live with chronic illness through Twitter or even through writing this blog, and although these relationships have become meaningful, the distance between us irks me.  If only, they lived closer, to allow us to have a relationship beyond a computer and telephone.

I have no clue on how to overcome this isolation and escape from this prison that chronic illness has forced me into and how to meet new people when these symptoms restrict my life so.  How I want to break free from this darkness and see the light and freedom that life has to offer.

Do feel like a prisoner due to your condition?  How do you cope with this?

A Chronic Illness Playlist

Last week, I wrote a blog post about the power of music and its ability to connect with us on a personal level.  The ability of music and its melody or lyrics to express and convey emotions that we are experiencing at a particular time.  In the post, I also shared the lyrics that I have been able to relate to from the perspective of someone living with a neurological condition.

But music has the power not only to express such emotions that we may be feeling but can also help change our mood.

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If we are feeling sad for example, then listening to an upbeat song can help lift our mood.  In fact, there is music for every mood imaginable – songs to help calm an anxious or overwhelmed mind, music to uplift you, music to pump you up or just to fill a silence.  They also have the power to take us back to happier memories – for example, whenever I hear the song ‘Brave’ by Sara Bareilles (which coincidentally almost made it into this list) it transforms me back to the amazing cruise I took with my parents around the Canary Islands, and therefore I cannot help feel happy and nostalgic whenever I hear the upbeat tempo of it’s opening bars.

Living with a neurological condition has many ups and downs, and when in the midst of a flare, for example, it can be very trying.  When pain and other symptoms increase, my mood often dips, and I can become quite depressed.  For these times, I have a toolbox that I rely on to help decrease the effect that these symptoms have on my well-being.

And one of these tools is music!

A playlist of positive and uplifting songs that help lift my mood, and remind me of all that is right with the world, and that good times are waiting beyond the current storm.

So, following on from last week’s blog post, I thought I would share my uplifting and encouraging playlist with you all:

‘Fight Song’ by Rachel Platten

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

This song has become somewhat anthemic for those facing adversity, especially those within the chronic illness community.  It’s upbeat melody, and inspiring lyrics helps keep us fighting through the darkest days of living with health problems.  It’s a song that can motivate anyone to continue fighting through any obstacles or challenges they may be experiencing, and not give up.  It’s a song, I think you’d agree is hard not to join in with when it’s playing on the radio!

 ‘Hold On’ by Wilson Phillips 

Don’t you know?
Don’t you know things can change
Things’ll go your way
If you hold on for one more day
Can you hold on for one more day
Things’ll go your way
Hold on for one more day

Not one I would have chosen, but have heard this so many times on the radio station that I listen to, that it was hard not to add this to this playlist! It’s an incredibly catchy song that can give hope on a day where you are feeling a little hopeless and lost because of debilitating and never-ending symptoms. Many times have I been in my carer’s car on a bad day, and this song has played, and I have felt a little better and more hopeful for better days.

‘Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself’ by Jess Glynne

Let’s go back to simplicity
I feel like I’ve been missing me
Was not who I’m supposed to be
I felt this darkness over me
We all get there eventually
I never knew where I belonged
But I was right and you were wrong
Been telling myself all along
Don’t be so hard on yourself, no
Learn to forgive, learn to let go
Everyone trips, everyone falls
So don’t be so hard on yourself, no
‘Cause I’m just tired of marching on my own
Kind of frail, I feel it in my bones
Oh let my heart, my heart turn into stone
So don’t be so hard on yourself, no

I love Jess Glynne and her amazing voice, and this is one of my favourite songs of hers.  Living with chronic illness is difficult, and it’s so easy to get caught up with beating ourselves up over what we are unable to do or things we haven’t done because of chronic illness.  This song is such a beautiful reminder that everyone experiences bad times and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves.

‘I Don’t Want To Be’ by Gavin DeGraw

I don’t want to be
Anything other than what I’ve been trying to be lately
All I have to do
Is think of me and I have peace of mind
I’m tired of looking ’round rooms
Wondering what I’ve got to do
Or who I’m supposed to be
I don’t want to be anything other than me
There are times that I feel ashamed of the person I am, and the limitations and restrictions that exist because of my neurological condition.  Because of my condition and after being bullied for many years, I often feel that I am not beautiful or good enough, but this song is a reminder that we should not be ashamed of who we are and instead to be proud of the person we have become.
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‘The Story’ 
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
Perhaps not the most upbeat melody of the songs listed on my playlist but is nevertheless a beautiful song with lyrics that make you listen and reflect, allowing yourself to relate them to your own story.  The lyrics above, when listening to them, allows me to appreciate how illness is merely just one story that makes up the overall ‘novel’ of my life.  Chronic illness is a part of our journey and our lives, but is not one that defines us.  There are so many other parts and many other stories that are more interesting for others’ to discover.
Well, there are just five songs that I would add to a playlist of songs to uplift, motivate and inspire during the darkest days of living with chronic illness.
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What other songs would you add to this playlist? Would love to hear your suggestions! Hit the comment box below!

The Soundtrack of a Chronic Life

There’s not much in this life, especially in this modern age, which connects us all, but the music is one of them.  After all, it has been used as a means of expression and entertainment in all times and cultures.  Music, it is said is a powerful tool as a means of expressing emotions such as love, hope, joy and regret as well as being a device for sharing our individual stories.

Everyone may not share the same taste in genres of music – some may prefer classical, whereas others enjoy hip-hop or rap for example.  However, whatever the preference of music, there are certain songs and melodies within the world of music that we can identify with and that conveys the emotional state that we are in, in that exact moment in time.

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Melodies and the rhythms of pieces of music, for example, can inspire us to move our bodies in which words cannot.  However, as a writer and a person that loves words, I often find myself listening to the words of songs, and the story that it’s sharing with the world.  Sometimes, I even relate to the lyrics; feeling that my story and emotions are being shared through the words of the song.  By sharing with others, our favourite songs or pieces of music that affect us in some capacity is giving a glimpse into who we are as individuals.

So, I was thinking of those songs, that has resonated with me over the years, and especially those that I can relate to as someone living with a neurological condition.  And so I thought I would share them in a blog post, so here is the soundtrack of a life with chronic illness…

‘Chains’ by Tina Arena 

I pretend I can always leave
Free to go whenever I please
But then the sound of my desperate calls
Echo off these dungeon walls

This hit song from the early 90s tell the story of someone trapped inside a loveless relationship, but in my opinion, it also eerily describes the isolation and vulnerability that comes from living with a chronic condition.

 

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Living with a long-term condition can feel like we are encased in chains from which we cannot break free from 

 

Not only are we physically trapped within our fragile and uncooperative bodies but we are also a prisoner to the same surroundings for the majority of our time; the longest of our time away from home is very often the number of appointments that we have to attend. It often feels that I am at the mercy of my symptoms, especially since given the severity of the dizziness and the weakness in my legs, I am unable to leave the house by myself, resulting in being isolated within the same four walls for days on end.  It may not be an actual dungeon or prison, but if very often feels that I am kept a prisoner by a neurological condition and perhaps why I relate to this song and specifically these lyrics as much as I do.

‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything
What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end

Anyone living with chronic pain is no stranger to the word hurt.  Chronic pain has unfortunately become a constant in my daily life, and all my legs seem to do is indeed hurt.  Chronic pain often becomes all-encompassing; the only reality at that particular moment we can focus on and which is the only thing that feels real (“I focus on the pain/The only thing that’s real”).

But the song does not only delve into the realities of living with chronic pain, but we can relate to its lyrics that discusses one such consequence of living with a chronic illness which is the breakdown of relationships, such as friendships.  Another repercussion of life dealing with severe symptoms is we very often need to cancel plans, often at short notice.  Although those friends at the time are understanding and concerned, when we cancel plans more and more, those friends stop their invitations and seemingly walk out of our lives leaving us more isolated and lonely than ever.

The consequence of living with chronic pain is not only physical hurt but can also lead to emotional hurt also.

‘The Climb’ by Miley Cyrus 

Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking but I
Gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high
There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there,
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb
Chronic illness seems to take everything away from us – our independence, dreams, friendships, mobility to name but a few.  It’s a never-ending battle; with some victories that we can claim, and others we lose. Chronic illness often comes back stronger and more tenacious than ever and once again we are knocked to the ground once more.
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Our dreams and ambitions sometimes have to be forgotten, or alternatively, we have to think of creative ways to achieve them.  But above all else, we never give up; never give in our surrender to our symptoms.  We pick ourselves up and attempt the climb once again.  This is what the songs ascribe to – the struggles that we face, whether it be from illness or other problems in life, and the resilience and strength we possess to carry on regardless.
‘Demons’ by Imagine Dragons 
I want to hide the truth
I want to shelter you
But with the beast inside
There’s nowhere we can hide
No matter what we breed
We still are made of greed
This is my kingdom come
This is my kingdom come
When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
The lyrics of ‘Demons’ really resonates with me during the dark times of living with chronic illness.  The depression and hopelessness that infiltrates my thoughts when the pain and other symptoms become too much to live with.
We hide these darkest and thoughts away from those closest to us; sheltering them from the beast that is depression and anxiety.  They come from nowhere and from which we cannot escape.  They are our demons and which seem to come with life with chronic illness.
Well, those are some of the songs whose lyrics I have found I can relate to from living with a neurological condition for all these years.  But what about?  What are the songs which you would add to a soundtrack to describe a life with chronic illness?  Add your suggestions and stories below:

One Lovely Blog Nomination

I have been nominated for the ‘One Lovely Blog’ Award by the equally lovely Rebecca! Rebecca herself has an excellent blog called ‘A Punk with MS‘ with plenty of brilliant resources for anyone also dealing with the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.  It’s a fantastic read!

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Rules:

  • Thank the person that nominated you and leave a link to their blog
  • Post about the award
  • Share seven facts about yourself
  • Nominate at most 15 other people
  • Tell your nominees the good news

Seven Facts about Me:

  1. My favourite breed of dog has to be the dachshund! Our dog who passed away last year was part dachshund (with a little bit of Jack Russell thrown in for good measure!).  I just love their short little legs and beyond expressive faces! Anyway, when I am sad or feeling alone, I like to watch cute and funny videos of them on YouTube to cheer myself up!
  2. I am a bit of a film buff – watching and talking about films it’s something I have always loved and am constantly picking up random and useless information about them.  In fact, I am a master at film rounds at quizzes, even being able to answer questions about films I’ve never even seen!  At the moment, I am particularly excited about the upcoming release of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (but who isn’t it?) as it’s been a favourite Disney film of mine since early childhood.  I’ve always related to the character of Belle as I’ve constantly felt like an outsider for most of my life, and for my love of reading.
  3. Most women love their shoes but I, in fact, hate shoe shopping! Always have!  With my little feet, I continually struggle to find shoes that fit with a lot of styles either being too small or too big. Nightmare!
  4. My parents often call me ‘The Oracle’ and expect me to know everything!
  5. I just love the taste of peanut butter and in fact, all of the recipes that I have saved on Pinterest has some form of it in them! All naughty recipes but sounds too delicious to resist!
  6. My favourite form of ultimate self-care is a trip to a spa.  It may not always help ease the persistent symptoms that affect my body, but still find the peace and tranquillity of a spa incredibly relaxing that it’s hard not to come away feeling better than when you first walked in.  And it also allows me to spend quality time with my favourite person – my Mum!
  7. My favourite smell of the moment is my new Yankee Candle, ‘Cherry Blossom.’ When I need a little peace and ‘me’ time, I enjoy lighting this gorgeous scent while reading a book.

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My nominees are:

Jen from Tripping Through Treacle; Yvonne from The Zebra Mom; Sarah from A Life Less Physical; Lisa from A Damsel in a Dress; Charlotte from FND and Me; Caitlyn from When Mental and Chronic Illness Collide; Kelly from The Invisible Warrior; Charis from Being Charis; Astrid from Lady with MS; Angela from Take with Sugar; Jen from Spoonfuls of Glitter; A Barefoot Goddess on a Journey; Sharon from Wheelie Me – Still Me!; Ava from My Meena Life and Emmie from Illness to Wellness: A Journey.

 

2017: A Year for Grace

2017 is, many would argue is finally upon us.

It is the time for new calendars, new diaries, and for many the promise of a fresh start as if January 1st provides a clean slate, erasing all of our past mistakes and bad habits.  As if the turn of a date on a calendar assures us that we will become entirely new and improved people.

 

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Welcome, 2017!

 

It is also the year when lots of people make ambitious and unrealistic new year’s resolutions which will inevitably be broken before the beginning of February.

For those of us living with chronic illness, however, making new such resolutions can be especially difficult as, well, our lives are completely unpredictable.  We wake each day not knowing how we are going to feel that day, or what we will be physically able or unable to do.  One day we can be living a seemingly normal life, running around doing chores whereas we can be in the midst of a flare the next, the only thoughts being how to survive getting through the day.  Some days we are able to live whereas others are about just existing.

 

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It’s the time for making new promises to ourselves to make us better.  What are your resolutions for 2017?

 

With this mind, therefore, how can we make realistic and achievable resolutions when our lives are so uncertain, and our bodies unreliable?  We may have all the intention in the world to keep such resolutions but when living with chronic illness we are often not in control of our own bodies and instead are governed by the constant symptoms we endure.  Are we setting ourselves for failure by making such unrealistic expectations?  Could it also affect our already fragile confidence if we do indeed fail in these unrealistic expectations for the new year?

A new recent trend advises forgetting to make New Year’s Resolutions and to instead focus on just one word that sums up who you want to be or how you wish yo live your life.  The word, if given full commitment can not only shape our year, but also the person we become.  The word chosen is said to be a compass which can be used to direct our decisions and guides ultimately how we live day-to-day.

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My word last year was HOPE.  Although many people would describe me as a positive person, I often felt that hope was out of reach because of the effects that living with a neurological condition was having on my life.  I wanted my life to be about hope; focusing on the positives instead of dwelling on life with chronic illness.  To be able to appreciate and embrace the small joys of life and celebrate the achievements, however small.

This year my chosen word is GRACE. Life with a neurological condition for me personally continues to be challenging and difficult.  Every day, the symptoms associated with my condition affect my daily existence dictating what I am or not able to do.  And that can be frustrating and burdensome.

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According to its many definitions, grace is about being at ease with the world, even when life is arduous such as living with a life-altering medical condition.  To live with gratitude; being thankful for what I do have in my life, and being aware of the blessings that even challenging times provide.

Grace, for me personally, is also about kindness – showing kindness not only to others but also to yourself.  For those living with chronic illness, we are not always guilty of showing ourselves kindness instead harbouring feelings of regret and repentance of things we are not able to do or for cancelling plans whilst we are in the midst of a flare.  Often we harbour feelings of resentment towards our conditions, wishing them away and yearning to be ‘normal.’

But what if grace was also the acceptance that life is not always about trying to be a round peg attempting to fit inside the square hole.  What if grace is instead about finding our unique and individual strengths whatever our circumstances and despite the personal limitations that each of us is living with and developing those as best we can.

Grace is finding purpose in our lives; doing what we love and loving what we do.

And that is my wish for 2017.

What would be your one word?

 

 

 

 

 

Meet and Greet: 12/31/16

A great opportunity to connect with other bloggers, writing about a wide range of different topics and expand your reading repertoire!

Dream Big, Dream Often

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It’s the Meet and Greet weekend everyone!!    

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

See ya on Monday!!

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