The Magic of Reading

In a recent post, I wrote about my passion for television shows and the distraction that they provide from the persistent chronic pain that has been ravaging throughout my legs recently.  In this post, I also shared my favourite box sets to watch when incapacitated by chronic pain or the many other symptoms that occur when living with a neurological condition.

Yes, television and films are one of my primary passions. However, it is not my only passion.  My first love, and one which has followed me throughout my life since childhood is reading.  Books are something that I have always collected, amassing goodness knows how many over the years and are found all over my home, especially in my bedroom! Many books I donate to charity shops or pass them along to those whom I know would love it as much as I did, but still, I amass so many books!

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The problem of being a massive bookworm!

Like many, I hate getting lost especially in unfamiliar places.  But I can spend many hours perusing the shelves of libraries or bookshops that times seems to slip away from me, and wouldn’t notice if I did get lost, or lost sight of my companion.

As a young child as much as my Mum tried to get to engage in other activities such as colouring or puzzles, for example, I quickly became bored, and I once turned to the safety and magic that books provided.  Many of the photographs of me as a young child, I can be seen clutching a book, losing myself in the words and pictures on the page.  As we have now established my condition whether genetic or due to another organic cause, was from birth, I wonder if I retreated into books as a way of dealing with symptoms such as pain that I could not yet verbalise. 

Nearly 30 years later and I am continuing to use books and reading as means of distraction from the effects of chronic illness.  Recently I came across a quote on Pinterest that read ‘Reading gives us somewhere to go when we have to stay where we are.’ And this quote is incredibly apt for someone living with a chronic illness as there are many times in which I I am incapacitated by one or more of the many symptoms that come with living with this neurological condition that I live with day in and day out.  Weak legs that can barely carry me into the next room forces me to lie on my bed, contained within the same four walls that I am compelled to spend most of my time anyway. Days like these I am unable to go anywhere or do anything, and so, I find solace in the written word.

Escapism. A place where I can forget my predicament, and everything that chronic illness has given and taken away from me.  Escapism from the vast number of symptoms that are plaguing me.  But books are not only able to take you away from everything that is bothering you, but they can also take you places.  

Books are like a unique magic carpet ride, transporting you to far away places, places you’ve always wanted to go and experience but which current circumstances prevent you from doing so.  After seeing many pictures and heard stories from those who have been there, Prague has been on my ‘bucket list’ of places that I would love to visit some day.  However, as I’m unable to fly due or cope with large airports, this neurological condition has prevented me from ticking it off my list.

Last year, I read the beautiful ‘A Year and a Day’ from author Isabelle Broom in which a large chunk of the story takes place in this very city.  The way Isabelle writes, and the exquisite level of detail with which she describes Prague and its unique landmarks it made me feel that I had been there and experienced the city for myself.   OK, so it may not be like experiencing travelling firsthand, but when circumstances prevent you from being able to move from where you are, books are the next best thing.  In fact, all of Broom’s books give you major wanderlust as each novel has taken place in a different, exotic locations, and each place beautifully and meticulously described, making you want to grab your passport and book flights immediately. 

 And it’s not only places that exist now that books allow you to visit; historical fiction allows you to visit and experience places that existed many years ago (or at least what it was like from the author’s perspective). But very often, and for me anyway I want to be uplifted.  A story to remind me of the beauty and wonder of the world; to comfort and reassure myself that despite chronic pain there is still hope and much to be grateful for.

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Reading can give you real wanderlust!

In books, we can be whoever we want to be.  We don’t have to sick, confined to bed and in constant pain.  We can be the hero, the warrior, the woman who eventually finds love and her happily ever after.  Getting lost in these worlds, we no longer feel the pain that was slowly dragging us down into a dark abyss.  We no longer have to fight against our bodies.  These books that are on my bedside table allows me to experience a snapshot of normality; one in which I am independent, confident.  No longer a burden on others.

Books are a magical portal allowing us to escape from our lives.  Taking us away from this world of sickness – time spent in bed, mobility aids, hospital appointments, and medications.  Books can allow us to find out who we wish we could be.  For many, reading is merely a hobby, a way of filling time, or for light entertainment.  But for those of us confined to bed, incapacitated by pain or from numerous other symptoms from chronic illness there is magic and power in those printed words.

Does anyone else love to read? What books do you enjoy; are there any that provide comfort and sanctuary away from life with chronic illness?

And let me know of any great book recommendations that you have.

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The Sunshine Blogger Award

Thank you so much to Cheyanne, a lovely young woman who blogs at Hospital Princess in which she shares her personal journey living with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and its other comorbid conditions including dysautonomia and gastroparesis for tagging and nominating me.

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

It is a nomination given to bloggers by bloggers.  If someone nominates you, it means you’re one of 11 people whom they find inspiring and brings sunshine into the lives of your readers.  If you decide to continue to tradition, then follow these simple rules!

Rules for the ‘Sunshine Blogger Award’:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog;
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you;
  • Nominate 11 bloggers to receive this award and ask them 11 new questions; and
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post and/or on your site

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Questions and Answers

Here’s what The Hospital Princess asked me, and my answers to them:

  1. What inspired you to start blogging?
    It was a remark by an online friend who also at the time was blogging. At the time I didn’t have a concrete diagnosis, but we both suffered from chronic dizziness and after reading some of my personal writing and knowing my story living with an undiagnosed condition she suggested creating my own blog to share my journey and to help myself and others going through a similar experience.
  2. Instagram or Twitter? Why?
    I would have to choose Twitter; I also have an Instagram account but much more active on Twitter mainly because I hate having my picture taken, always highly critical of my looks.  I also feel that I am much more eloquent with words!
  3. If you could choose another “niche” for your blog, what would it be?
    It would definitely have to be writing about books as I am an avid reader.  I have so many books but still always find myself buying more as I discover new and exciting authors and titles within the bookshops that I frequently inhabit.
  4. You can travel back in time. What age would you be?
    I would travel back in time to when I was 16 and going through a tough time at school, suffering from depression. I would give myself a big hug and reassure myself that it will be OK and that these feelings will pass.
  5. Professionally, what are your future goals?
    I have no idea.  At the moment with my health, I am just trying to get through each day.  But I would like to do more writing, either for online platforms or even get published in a magazine.
  6. Who is the biggest supporter of your blog and life in general? How do they keep you motivated?
    Of course, my biggest supporters will always be my parents. But outside of my immediate family, it would be my best friend Aisha who makes an effort, despite her own health struggles to read my writing and my blog whenever I publish something new and has even proofread my writing.  Her support and encouragement always keep me motivated!
  7. What is your favourite song lyrics? Why?
    I find lyrics in the song ‘Do You Hear the People Sing’ from the musical Les Miserables particularly inspiring and motivating.  ‘Even the darkest night will end, And the sun will rise’ is a beautiful reminder that nothing in life is permanent and the pain or the negative feelings we are currently experiencing will pass just as the night ends giving way to a new day.
  8. How do you promote your blog?
    I promote my blog through my social media channels – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  I also am members of various groups on Facebook to help share and promote my new blog posts.
  9. Most embarrassing moment?
    I once fell off a stage as I went up to collect an award which was very embarrassing, especially as there is still evidence somewhere as my parents were recording it!
  10. What do you dislike the most about blogging?
    It’s not so much about blogging per se, but it can be frustrating when you take the time to share the blog posts of fellow bloggers, but they don’t return the favour.  It doesn’t happen a lot, but some bloggers don’t even thank you which is frustrating as I think especially within the chronic illness community we should all support each other.
  11. How have you changed as a person since starting your blog?
    Well, I’ve certainly gained more perspective and insight into my experiences with living with a long-term health condition, have become more eloquent when describing my symptoms with doctors and other consultants, which may have helped in getting answers and culminating in a diagnosis.  I have grown in confidence as a writer and as a person.

My nominees for the ‘Sunshine Blogger Award’:

  1. Emmie from ‘Illness to Wellness: A Journey
  2. Heather from ‘Dinsoaurs, Donkeys and MS
  3. Chiara from ‘The Millennial Patient
  4. Amy from ‘Destined2Roam
  5. Ash from ‘Finding Rainbows in The Dark
  6. Em from ‘That Silver Spoonie
  7. Lara from ‘Mummy Seeing Double
  8. Jen from ‘Tripping Through Treacle
  9. Rebecca from ‘A Punk with MS
  10. Caroline from ‘PoTS and Spoons
  11. Sarah from ‘A Life Less Physical

My List of 11 Questions: 

  1. What inspires your blog posts? How do you come up with new things to write about?
  2. If you had to choose just one social media platform to use for the rest of your life, which would you choose and why?
  3. What fictional character do you most identify with and why?
  4. If you could be one person from history, who you would choose? Why?
  5. What has helped you reach acceptance in your journey with chronic illness? Or do you feel you have yet to reach acceptance?
  6. My latest blog post is about my favourite box sets to binge-watch. What was the last show you binge-watched or are currently watching?
  7. What lessons have you learnt from living with chronic illness?
  8. What blogger or bloggers do you admire the most? What have you learnt from them?
  9. Who gives you strength in your everyday life?
  10. What are your biggest struggles in everyday life?
  11. If you could accomplish anything in your future, what would it be?

Thank you once again to Cheyanne for the nomination! It’s such an honour and so lovely that you thought of me! 🙂

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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20 Things You Might Not Know About Me

Thank you to Llinos from the amazingly brilliant and inspiring blog ‘Whispers of Wellness‘ for tagging me to take part in the ’20 Things You Might Not Know About Me Challenge.’  This challenge was originally started by another blogger by the name of April from ‘Blacksburg Belle‘.  The aim of this blog tag was to build a community among fellow bloggers, and help these bloggers to not only connect more but to also get to know one another better.  If you are a fellow blogger and would like to participate or just want to know more information, then you can visit the original post here.

All about me!
All about me!

Question 1: How tall are you?
I am amazingly short at only 4″11 which makes it incredibly difficult to find nice clothes such as trousers and dresses. Often even clothes in the petite section of some stores are still too long on me!

Question 2: Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what? 
If I do have one, it is even hidden from me! So no, no hidden talents whatsoever.

Question 3: What’s your biggest blog-related pet peeve?
When certain sites require that I log-in or jump through hoops just to be able to comment on a post.  I want to be able to reply to someone’s post simply and quickly,  I feel that this stops from people adding to the conversation that I have started from my own blog posts.

Question 4: What’s your biggest non-blog related pet peeve? 
At the moment, it is definitely abled people parking in disabled parking bays.  This unfortunately happens a lot and as I need a disabled parking bay due to mobility problems it means that my carer and I have to wait for ages for another one to become available.  Wish some people would be more considerate and think before they use these parking spaces.

Question 5: What’s your favourite song? 
Such a difficult question as I have so many depending on my mood but I really do love Somebody to Love by Queen

Question 6: What’s your favourite Etsy shop that isn’t yours? 
It has to be the Itty Bitty Book Company as they sell the most beautiful and positive books, prints and cards.  I have bought several items from their store and they really help me to stay positive despite living with a chronic illness

Question 7: What’s your favourite way to spend your free time when you’re alone? 
It has to be reading.  It is one of my favourite pastimes anyway, but find it so relaxing and comforting to be able to curl up on my bed with a warm blanket and lose myself in a good book.  Find the silence really helpful to be able to concentrate on what I am reading too!

Question 8: What’s your favourite junk food? 
I do love to indulge in some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream when feeling down, or whenever my symptoms are particularly bad

Question 9: Do you have a pet or pets?  If so, what kind and what are their names? 
Yes, I have a dog (a dachshund cross jack russell) called Honey.  She really does add colour and joy into my life and provides me with comfort and security when alone in the house, and especially when I am alone whilst dealing with severe symptoms.  She can be like a nurse and security guard in one little package!

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Question 10: What are your number one favourite nonfiction and fiction books?
So hard for a bookworm like me to come up with just two all time favourite books!!  They tend to change all the time but at the moment in terms of fiction it has to be The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.  For a nonfiction choice, I have found Things Get Better by Katie Piper very useful in getting through difficult periods.

Question 11: What’s your favourite beauty product? 
My favourite beauty product has to be my BareMinerals foundation and blusher, as it has been very helpful in giving me a healthy and natural glow even when I have been deathly pale as a result of chronic illness

Question 12: When were you last embarrassed? What happened? 
The last time I was embarrassed was when I was in a local charity shop and the wheel on my wheelchair got caught in one of the display rails which resulted in the display falling and hitting me in the head with some force!  I was in flood of tears because of the pain and the shock as it was so unexpected.  That was embarrassing!

Question 13: If you could only drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be? 
I mainly only drink water anyway, but if I had to choose something else to drink I probably would choose a strawberry milkshake

Question 14: What’s your favourite movie? 
Again that it is a really difficult question as I really love my films and have quite an extensive DVD collection myself.  It often changes but it would probably be Safe Haven starring Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough.  It’s lovely and romantic!!

Question 15: What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?
I was most definitely the loner – unfortunately I had very few friends at school as many could or perhaps would not understand the symptoms that I was living with and the effect that it was having on my life

Was most definitely a Loner in high school - just like Ally Sheedy from 'The Breakfast Club'
Was most definitely a Loner in high school – just like Ally Sheedy from ‘The Breakfast Club’

 

Question 16: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
I really have no idea, where I would live if I had to choose somewhere else to live.  I am a home bird at heart so I would probably answer that I am happy where I am living now.

Question 17: PC or Mac? 
Definitely would choose my Mac!

Question 18: Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse? 
Can’t think of one!

Question 19: Favourite celebrity? 
I really admire Angelina Jolie and all of the humanitarian work she has done over the years.  She often come across as extremely intelligent, articulate as well as somebody who cares about everyone she meets.

Question 20: What blogger do you secretly want to be best friends with?  
That is another really tough question as I have had the pleasure to meet many wonderful fellow bloggers and had the fortune to read many wonderful blogs which are interesting, articulate and thought-provoking.  If I had to choose one, I would choose Sophia from ‘Spoonie Sophia‘ as I really admire her strength and determination to find anything to help her deal with the symptoms that come from her chronic health conditions.  She is a fantastic advocate for anyone looking to experiment with their diet and using food as medicine.

 

I now tag:

Sophia from http://spooniesophia.wordpress.com/
Reina from http://reinafleet.wordpress.com/
Rachel from http://racheldavieswriter.com/ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My second year blogiversary and looking to the past…

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Yesterday, thanks to the wonders of WordPress, I discovered that it was my second anniversary of my very first blog post entitled ‘An introduction…‘.  After discovering that it was the second anniversary of the start of this blog I contemplated the changes that have happened since the publication of the first post of the blog.  Two years have passed and have now published approximately 225 blog posts since then as well as becoming active on social media, and also becoming involved in projects relating to chronic illness and neurological conditions.  However, on the discovery on my blogiversary it made me consider the past and the changes have occurred since the beginning of writing this blog.

Some of the changes have been good; such as the introduction of a couple of social groups that I now regularly attend; the discovery of a passion for card-making as well as the addition of a personal assistant in my life, which has greatly benefited myself as well as becoming less reliant on my parents.

However, there are also a number of changes that are not so good.  In looking over past blog posts, it made me realise how bad my condition has become.  I suppose, living with illness over a long period, you are not so aware of the changes until you contemplate the past and the reality of your condition as it was then; this could be in the form of looking at past photographs, or re-reading old blog posts or journal entries.  It is no secret, that I have been battling with dizziness since a young child, and although the dizziness was severe two years ago, it really has become so much worse since the start of the blog.

The problems with my legs has also worsened significantly worse since the beginning of ‘My Brain Lesion and Me‘.  At the start of this blogging journey, I had little problems with my legs; although they have always been stiff and had experience discomfort when walking, my mobility was not really affected.  Fast forward two years on, however, and my mobility has significantly worsened, progressing from needing to use a walking stick, to a crutch and now needing to use a wheelchair. And these two years has also seen the introduction of severe trembling in the legs, constant pain and now I have even been experiencing episodes of loss of sensation in them.

However, I am unable to change the past or the present of living with my condition, and it looks like I may have little control on the future.  I am hoping for more information at the end of the month after several more hospital appointments, although I trying not to raise my hopes too high, in case of disappointment.  For now, I will just have to live in the present and attempt to keep positive; to keep writing about my experiences of living with a neurological condition and to live the best life that I possibly can…

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Who knows what the next two years will bring?…

 

HAWMC 2013 Day 30: Recap!

 

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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:

You made it!  30 posts in 30 days!  Today, write a recap of your experience.  What was your favourite prompt?  Least favourite?  What have you learned? 

Well, I did it!!  For the second consecutive year I have managed to complete all 30 days with no need to use the ‘free-pass’ cards!!  It feels like a huge accomplishment especially as I have experienced several bad days.  Preparation seemed to be the key this year, especially as I am busy with other activities such as the Monday and Wednesdays groups that I am involved with and the day out once a week with my Personal Assistant means that I am not in the house all of the time, so I had to write many of the prompts before the day that it was published.

Just like last year, I immensely enjoyed the month-long writing challenge – I loved the challenge of all the prompts.  The prompts are not only a lot of fun to write but I also feel that the prompts enable us to look and write about our particular health conditions differently than we would normally.  For example, some of the prompts required me to write about topics that I might never would normally.  For example, the topic of burnout was selected to be discussed from one of the prompts, and if it wasn’t for the HAWMC I might never have written about the topic.  One of the prompts that I found particularly challenging was the Acrostic Poem from Day 13 (Acrostic Poem of my Health Condition) – it wasn’t necessarily the subject matter that was challenging as the whole blog is about living with my health condition, but the form itself.  I haven’t written a poem in many years so it was quite a challenge being asked to write one – just glad that I prepared in plenty of time and was able to write a decent attempt!

The prompts like always were a mixture of being, fun, challenging as well as being thought-provoking.  One prompt I really enjoyed, but initially found very challenging was the post regarding Adversity (“The flower that blooms in adversity…”).  I initially found it very difficult to write especially regarding when I bloom best.  However, although I found it challenging, I thought in the end it was one of my favourite and best written post!  I also loved the prompt which asked us to ‘spread the love’ and thank some of our favourite health activists; this was such a great opportunity for me to thank those who have supported me and helped me through some tough times with illness (Sharing the Love!  I would like to thank…).

I would also thankful for the Wordless Wednesday posts, as it gave a break from writing long posts and was fun coming up with creative photographs and drawings to dictate something without using words!  Would love to make this a regular feature but would need some ideas!  If anyone has links or ideas to do this please comment below and share!

Least favourites?  Perhaps some of the prompts that I had written about during previous writing challenges such as the post regarding caregiving (Carers, How to treat those you care for), and discussing favourite social networks (Why I Love to Tweet) to name but two.

Anyhow, regardless of the good and the bad through the experience of this writing challenge it was a challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed and look forward to taking part next year!   Thank you WEGO Health!

What did you think of my posts for the HAWMC?  What were your favourite posts to read?  Any you didn’t enjoy reading?  Loved to hear your views so please feel free to leave any comments/suggestions!

Happy Birthday to ‘My Brain Lesion and Me’…

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Happy One Year Anniversary to the blog!

Yes, one year ago today, I started on this blogging journey with my first ever post.

And one year since the start, I have been nominated for not one but TWO awards!

Here’s to another year of writing and sharing my journey with this condition!….