HAWMC Day 30: Through Illness You Find Out Who Your True Friends Are…

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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 given prompts.

Thursday 30th April: I wish I would have known… 

There’s a reason why we have the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20”.  What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your patient journey that would have made it easier and less scary?

Those of you that have been following my blog posts for #HAWMC (Health Activists’ Writing Month Challenge) will know the struggles I faced during my life prior to chronic illness (well, in my case it was not really prior illness just that I was unaware of the condition) with the name-calling and isolation that I experienced at school.  The excruciating loneliness and struggling with feeling so different from my peers.

After being diagnosed with the neurological condition, however, did nothing to help those feeling of loneliness and isolation.  In some ways, these feelings seemed to multiply.  And as the condition deteriorated and facing difficulties with mobility and going out, the friends I had made since school seemed to vanish and was once again facing hours of being alone, stuck inside the same four walls.  The isolation and loneliness were deafening, and all I wanted was strong and unwavering friendships to silence them.

Facing an uncertain future, with a permanent neurological condition and a life-time of symptoms as a result, felt incredibly lonely in itself, but was further exacerbated by a lack of support system outside of my family.

Therefore, the one wish that I would have known at the beginning of my patient journey is the wonderful support system and the chronic illness community that exists online and the presence of the many wonderful people who blog and help raise awareness of chronic conditions on social media.

I wish I had known about the ‘Spoon Theory‘ a wonderful theory coined by fellow Health Activist Christine Miserandino; a thread which unites everyone living with a chronic illness regardless of the diagnosis, and whether it be a physical or mental condition.  It’s a theory which encompasses everyone with a chronic illness, and has grown into a large and beautiful community.

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Proud to be part of the ‘spoonie’ community!

 

I really wish that I utilised social media, in particular Twitter sooner, as the support from fellow ‘spoonies’ has been and continues to be overwhelming.  I have received many lovely messages from people I have never met on those many bad days; just little messages to serve as a reminder that I am not alone. I do not walk alone on the journey of living with chronic illness.

I have made some special and life-long friendships with women I have met through social media and through this blog and other projects.   In many ways these friendships are stronger and more meaningful than any other friendships I’ve ever had before, despite never having met in person.  It is true that friends are like stars; the distance between two people does not diminish the strength of the friendship.  The test of a true friendship, is whether they are there for you when you need them, and with the friends I have made online, I found that they are, and are true friends.  Something I have never found in friends I have made close to home.

Through living with illness, you really find out who your true friends are
Through living with illness, you really find out who your true friends are

I found myself listening to a song Gavin DeGraw entitled ‘Fire’ and there was a line in the song that I felt really summed up the experience of being a part of the ‘spoonie’ community:

Oh ever since the dawn of mankind

Yes, life with chronic illness is difficult, unrelenting and painful.  But it’s easier to carry on living when you are part of a community of other people who are sadly also living with the effects, supporting and commiserating each other through the difficult times and celebrating the triumphs.  It is a comfort in the knowledge that there are people who understand what it is that I am going through and the difficulties that I face as a result of living with a neurological condition.  This is clear from emails and messages I have received as a result of writing this blog; they thank me for sharing the post and writing words that they cannot express themselves.

Our bodies may be weak; some perhaps are even failing but standing together, we are stronger.

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HAWMC Day 25: Word Cloud

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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 given prompts.

Saturday 25th April: Word Cloud 

Use Wordle to make a cloud full of words that come to mind when you think of your blog, health condition, interests or community.  Pro Tip: Use a thesaurus to make the branches of your ‘tree’ extend further.

Well, again this has been a post that I have completed before.  In previous years, I have used the opportunity to share all the words that I associate with myself and the neurological condition that I live with.

This year, therefore, I have decided to share the positive words that I personally associate with the spoonie community.  A community that I have personally been involved with for the past three or four years.

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HAWMC Day 3: Making a day with kindness…

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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 given prompts.

Friday 3rd April 

We love random acts of kindness.  Write about a time that you benefitted from the kindness of a stranger, or a time when you were the one extending a helping hand.  How did you feel?

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud” – Maya Angelou

A random of kindness is  defined as a ‘selfless act performed by a person or people wishing either to assist or cheer up an individual person or a group of people’.

Think about how you would feel if you were to receive a random act of kindness by a stranger (or unknown person).  It can positively influence your entire day, right?  It certainly does, I know from personal experience that small acts of kindness that has been afforded to me makes a bad day just a little brighter.

Random acts of kindness does not even have to be big gestures – letters from a pen pal, a small gift from Mum or even a smile from a stranger are small tokens that can turn a day from being bad into a good day.

But perhaps being on the receiving end of a random act of kindness can often mean so much more when we are struggling and going through a particularly rough time due to chronic illness.

One personal anecdote of being on the receiving end of a random act of kindness only happened a few months ago.  As previously mentioned, the symptoms that I experience as a result of my neurological condition were particularly severe, and was struggling with even the basic of tasks.  I felt that I was so abnormally different to everyone else my age and frustrated over the limitations that my condition places on my life.

A couple of weeks passed by, and a mysterious package arrived on my doorstep (it was mysterious in the sense that I had not ordered anything).  Inside the said package, was a beautiful necklace of a snowflake with a message printed on a card, which read ‘Let this snowflake remind you how unique and wonderful you are’.

 

To this day, I still do not know who sent this beautiful necklace but I am extremely grateful to whoever did as this little gesture let a little sunshine into my life, when it was full of storm clouds.  Not only did this act of kindness brighten my day but it was also a wonderful reminder that is okay to be different, and it is our differences that make us special. Our uniqueness is what sets us apart and makes us the person we are.  In addition, it was lovely knowing that somebody thought of me enough to find the necklace and send it to me.  And of course, the person must have been particularly special for extending the kindness to me but also wanting to stay anonymous.

Isn’t that the most wonderful act of kindness?

And now I have joined a wonderful Facebook group to send letters and small gifts to others in a similar situation to myself who are struggling.  Paying the little random act of kindness forward to someone else in need.

A Christmas Symbol of Life With Chronic Illness

Once again it’s the most wonderful time of the year; and like the Christmases that have come before, we again have been inundated with various iconography associated with Christmas.  Images such as Father Christmas, snow and Christmas trees adorn popular decorations, and greeting cards meant for the holidays.

However, in my opinion, there is one particular image that is often associated with the Christmas season, which is a perfect representation of those living with chronic illnesses. What is it, you ask?

It’s the snowflake!

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It’s well-known that no two snowflakes are alike.  Each one is entirely individual and unique – much like us spoonies.  Not only are we individual, just like everyone else with differing interests and personalities, but also fits in with living with a chronic illness.  Just as we are unique and individual, our chronic conditions and the way they manifest itself are just as unique.  This can be especially true with neurological disorders like mine as well as conditions such as MS and myasthenia gravis (which are both known as a ‘snowflake disease’) because there are so many different symptoms and no two patients are likely to exhibit the same set of symptoms.

Snowflakes as well as being unique and individual, are also beautiful – just like the spoonies that I have had the pleasure of coming into contact with through my blog or my other social media sites.  It is said that snowflakes are fragile, but when one or more snowflakes stick together, they actually become stronger.

During my journey living with this neurological condition, I have learnt many lessons and one such lesson that chronic illness has taught me that there is indeed strength in numbers.  On the days that my body has felt weak and fragile, and feeling that the hope that helps me through is diminishing, it is messages of support from fellow chronically ill people that really helps me through the dark days.   These give me the strength to fight my symptoms and continue to live despite the often debilitating symptoms.

Recently, the symptoms that I live with on a daily basis such as the pain and trembling in the legs, the dizziness, fatigue and weakness have been particularly debilitating, and as a result, I have been experiencing mild symptoms of depression that I often find accompanies periods of ill-health such as these.  Part of these low moods, I have seen myself, comparing myself to others, particularly family and those friends who are close in age to myself, and feeling notably different to everyone else.  And not in a good way.

However, snowflakes, and what they stand for can teach us that it is okay to be different from everybody else.  It teaches us that being individual and unique is in actual fact a good thing and, it is these differences that sets us apart from anybody else, and what makes us special.

Therefore, perhaps when we know someone (particularly a fellow spoonie) who is struggling.  Or who are feeling upset because of something which is affecting them and setting them apart, then maybe we should send them a card or a little present depicting a snowflake to remind them just how beautiful, special and unique they are – and that being different is more than okay.

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Not only a beautiful piece of jewellery but a perfect gift for anyone who is struggling with being different…