I am writing…

from a sick bed. I have an horrendous cold. i am fevery, and sniffly, and all the not-so-great things that come with Being Ill.

I am surrounded by tissues, and empty tea cups, and Olbas oil is the fragrance of the day. It is far from exciting.

I just wanted to write a little something, though. You see, I’m awfully self-degrading. Sometimes I joke about it, but there is an element of truth to my self-berating insults. You see, I always feel I could do better. If only I could be better, be stronger, more intelligent, more compassionate. It takes a lot for me to sit back and realise that I am doing ok. So. I suppose whilst I’m ill, and already feeling sorry for myself, I’ll sit back and count my blessings.

This month I graduated. That’s right: I’m a Master of Research (whatever that is). I have a 120-page thesis and several publications and a lovely certificate to show for it. So, there’s that.

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Here’s me, looking uncomfortable in my graduation attire.

I’ve also survived a year in the workplace (hooray!). And though I’m currently in the midst of job applications and other job-related things, I feel positive that I’d be an attribute to most workplaces. I really like working. It gives me purpose, and something to aim for. I just need someone to realise that and to take a chance on me!

I am having a great time with Ben, and my friends, and I have a lot to be thankful for. There’s obviously a reason these wonderful people are in my life, and I should recognise that more often. I just need to take stock of things and realise that, hey: I’m doing OK. I actually am.

Anyway. I’m off to get another tissue, and make another brew.

Maybe we all need to sit and take stock sometimes. I recommend it.

Heather x

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Disappointments, Direction and Decisions: Visiting the Musculoskeletal Clinic

Yesterday felt like a big, anxiety-inducing, sad-making day.

I woke up early knowing I had to attend my MSK Clinic appointment with butterflies in my tummy and a raspy dry throat. Perhaps it seems a little over dramatic to feel this way, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious.

Truth is, I had been waiting for this appointment for months, having had to be re-referred to a different service in a different part of the country since moving back after my university studies. This appointment would determine what kind of support I’d be entitled to back in my hometown, and having got used to the routine and effectiveness of treatment back in my university town, I was extremely anxious at the prospect of having no support at all, which seems like an exaggeration, I know.

You see, it is very much a postcode lottery when accessing healthcare.

As much as I love the NHS, I must say there really is a huge difference with regards to provisions and accessibility depending on where you are in the country. It’s all a bit touch and go with certain services, as each have different approaches. Back in East Yorkshire I’d been lucky enough to receive frequent acupuncture treatment, excellent mental health treatment through several talking therapies, and access to a neuro consultant, occupational therapy and physio. Though I’d seen a physio and neurologist a long time ago back home, I hadn’t ever seen an occupational therapist despite having cerebral palsy. I also hadn’t had frequent acupuncture, or had monitoring of my curvature since the age of sixteen. It made me anxious to think all the fantastic progress I had made in Hull could possibly be stripped away just because the services and provisions aren’t available here.

All of this explained the butterflies and raspy throat, I guess.

As I suspected, things have changed. Much to my disappointment, they don’t offer acupuncture here. This was a little hard to swallow (and accounts for my exclamation of ‘oh no!’ in the consulting room) and though I was offered facet joint injections back in East Yorkshire, I was told I probably won’t be able to have them over here for a few years owing to my age. I might also have to consider a spinal fusion in the future (eek!) so they’d want to reduce steroid exposure to a minimum.

Again, fairly disappointing.

It’s not all bad, though. I will be discussed at their monthly review -‘they’ being made up of doctors, spinal consultants, neurologists, nurses and pain management specialists – and it is likely I’ll be able to access support to help with the mental struggles of the cerebral palsy and scheuermann’s, which is really quite exciting considering this aspect has never been discussed. I’ll also have specialist physio, with therapists who know the condition, and will be able to advise me accordingly, a change from the ‘I’ve never actually seen scheuermann’s in a person before!’ physio I’ve had previously. So, I’m feeling a bit mixed-up about this one. I am seriously gutted I can’t have acupuncture, and will be looking into private treatment options.

However, I am feeling a glimmer of hope, and really feel that the mental health focus will help. It is also lovely to know I am not alone, so a big thank you to Ben for coming with me to my appointment. This is a start, and I have at least some direction, and I’ll just have to hang tight and see what’s in store.

I’ll get there, I’m sure.

Sending warm bear hugs on this chilly day…

Heather x

I’m back…

…did you miss me?! Wait. Don’t answer that (you probably didn’t). As you can probably tell from my lack of posts it has been ridiculously busy over here. The year was bad enough generally (hello MRes, I’m blaming you) but the last few months have been so hectic all I’ve wanted to do is curl up into a ball and wait for the Whole Thing to blow over.

However, I’m here, and I’m going to tell you all about it…well, the short version, at least.

If you’re a regular reader (hello, you! Thanks for sticking around) you’ll know I went straight onto doing my research degree after my undergrad in English lit. I knew this would be hard, but I didn’t quite prepare for the level of stress, panic and general upset that would ensue. It has been a really tough year. I never realised how all-consuming a research project could be. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved doing my MRes. I thoroughly enjoyed the reading, and establishing (what I hope to be) a coherent argument based upon my own research, but wow, my thesis genuinely took over my life. It was all I could think about. If I wasn’t writing up, I was reading. If I wasn’t talking about it, I was thinking about it. And by the end, after several weeks of almost sleepless nights, I sent my lovingly crafted/edited/formatted thesis to the bindery. What I picked up – a whole 121 A4 pages-worth of blood, sweat and tears – made the process seem worthwhile. Holding that tangible object gave me the confirmation that yes, I did work hard, and yes,  it was something I could genuinely be proud of. As someone who is almost entirely self-critical and self-deprecating with regards to my academic achievements, this was a pretty special feeling to have. I’m hoping to find out my marks soon, so keep everything crossed for me!

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Amongst all of this, I was applying for jobs, attending interviews and continuing with several voluntary roles. Thankfully I landed an amazing job that I absolutely love, which will hopefully set me on a positive career path. I have just about settled in. The place is wonderful, and my colleagues are truly some of the loveliest people I have ever met. I’m working part time currently, but I am finally getting confirmation that I’m on the right track (whatever that may be).

This year has been a Big Year as far as years go. There have been the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. I have made the greatest friendships, published an article in a journal, and been fortunate enough to still attend some fantastic events with the Hull Bloggers crew (posts to follow!). The lows have been low: I have drifted apart from people, relationships ended, some close friends have turned into strangers, and I often found myself in a constant state of change where I didn’t know what was happening and who I was going to be sharing my time with. But I have made it. And I can honestly, hand-on-heart say, that i’m feeling the happiest I have ever felt in months. I’m finally feeling like things are on an upward trajectory. And, with any luck, I’m hoping to stay up here – on what currently feels like cloud nine – for as long as I can.

If you’re still reading, and you stuck around for me, i just want to say a big thank you. I’m really grateful for your support, and just know that I really do appreciate every little like and comment. They brighten my day.

So yes. No Superhero is back. And she is here to stay. Keep your eyes peeled for posts…there are many in the pipeline!

Look after yourself,

Heather x

 

 

Therapy: Letting Go

It’s been a while since I started CBT, and I recently had my final session. CBT, though essentially great, brings up some conflicted feelings. I suppose that’s inevitably the case with  any talking therapy, but as my CBT went on for almost three months, I feel like I really invested a lot into each session.

Therapy for mental health conditions can be really helpful, but – and as with any treatment – you can’t expect a quick fix. Admittedly, though I’ve had counselling before, when I first started CBT I didn’t account for just how hard I’d have to work and how emotionally draining I’d find it. Walking out of the first session I felt simultaneously overwhelmed and absolutely empty, and I remember walking around the nearest supermarket aimlessly and directionless, with what felt like a flick-book of every emotion I’ve ever felt whirring through my head. It did, of course, get easier over time, but I always found it difficult to snap back after each session. 

Each of my sessions were tailored to me each week, depending on the situations I found difficult, and the topics I really needed to address. I loved this part of the session, as we’d draw up an agenda and tackle the issues most important to me. Essentially, though, what each of my sessions boiled down to was working through my low self esteem and trying to recognise and acknowledge the good things I have done. Thing is, I get so blinded by feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and inadequacy that I completely ignore the good and positive things I have achieved throughout my life.

I also spent a considerable proportion of my sessions working through hypothetical situations that I often worried about, with the aim of learning to accept  that I cannot control everything in my life, and I cannot solve everyone else’s issues. This was a particularly challenging topic to address, but I feel like I made some really positive progress in learning to accept and work through these issues.

CBT also addressed what felt like a dirty little secret for far too long. Thing is, I always suspected i had OCD-esque traits, but I’d never actually been diagnosed. Along with the assessor prior to my CBT, we agree that I do have OCD that fluctuates from day to day. I have always been a stickler for routine, but I knew things were a bit unusual when I found myself checking clothes, and jewellery, and other things that really didn’t require constant checking, like whether my alarm was set or that my door was locked, even though I could see that the latch was on. It’s frustrating, because no matter how much I know that these things don’t need checking, I cannot resist. And if I try to resist, I feel an unstoppable anxiety bubbling up which can only be ‘quelled’ by checking. Of course this only reinforces the behaviour, which makes it a really hard cycle to break. I have worked on techniques to help, and I am noticing that I’m getting better, even if this progress is only slow. 

CBT provided some great coping mechanisms to work towards in order to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. These include keeping logs of activities that I’m particularly apprehensive about, or recalling situations that I found difficult and then examining mine – and other people’s – responses. Crucially this made me acknowledge that situations aren’t as bad as I expect them to be, and that working on evidence – and not speculation – is key to working towards a happier, less anxious life. 

Now that my CBT has come to an end, I’m facing the everyday struggles with a mixture of apprehension and pride. I’m proud because I’ve really improved, but apprehensive because I suddenly feel all alone. The relationship with your therapist becomes a really important one; they’re there on a professional level, to help you through what can sometimes be the most challenging times of your life, but they somehow become more than just a confidant as you build up a relationship with them. You open yourself up completely to them, and they are privy to some of your greatest fears, deepest emotions and darkest secrets. They become integral to working through your mental health issues, and  invest a great deal of time and effort in helping you. I feel a little bit lost facing the big, bad world on my own, but I am so grateful that my therapist has equipped me with the skills to tackle this on my own. 

I suppose I’m finding it difficult to let go. I know that I’ve only just embarked on my ‘journey’ (and no, I’m not keen on that explanation, but it’ll have to do) but I know it’s going to be a long, hard slog. My mental health does fluctuate, and dealing with my physical disabilities brings another layer of complexity to proceedings, but I’m positive that I’ll get there; whenever ‘there’ may be. 

I am letting go, and I am learning that I can do this on my own. I just need to prove it to myself. 

‘May-pril’ Favourites (aka April Favourites Part 2)

Hello! Well, this is embarrassing. I just realised I posted my first April Favourites on the 3rd or thereabouts, and I promised to get something up with the second installment that week, but (as usual) life got in the way, and I haven’t been able to post this sooner! I apologise profusely, but (hopefully!) it’ll be worth the wait. This is my ‘May-pril’ favourites (thanks, Drew!) and are a selection of things I’ve been loving. As usual, any gifted products are marked with an *. Let me know what you think!

1. Sif Jakob’s pen*

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I absolutely love stationery (no, really!) and I’m always wanting to buy new pens, notebooks or additional Filofax inserts, so when I saw this in our Hugh Rice Luxe goody bags I was giddy with stationery-induced joy! This is a gorgeous refillable pen, with a highly pearlised, white finish, and a barrel full of beautiful sparkling faceted crystals. It’s just the perfect size to fit into my Filofax pen loop, and I’ve been using it with my Filofax ever since. Seriously gorgeous and a great gift idea!

2. Handi-help handi gripper

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Here is one of the things my dad kindly bought for me to make my life a little easier. It’s a tool to help pick things up which is very useful for me because of my painful back, which is greatly exacerbated by strenuous activity. This has been really helpful for getting washing out of the machine, or picking things up. My occupational therapist also showed me how to use it to help you get changed in the morning on a particularly painful day. It’s really great, and all you need to do is squeeze the trigger. The gripper part can also be rotated to help with particular tasks. A must for anyone who needs a little helping hand!

3. Lab2 I’m Turning Pro makeup brushes*

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Here is another fabulous product we received at the #HBMarchMeet. We received some brushes from lab2 last time, and I was seriously impressed, so when I peered into our over-flowing goodie bags I couldn’t wait to try these! They pick up plenty of product with minimal fall out, and have super-soft handles marked with the brush type which make applying make up a real joy. I particularly love the contour and buffing brushes, which are used every single time I apply make up! They’re slowly replacing my trusty eco tools because they’re so versatile.

4. Thomas Sabo jewellery wrap*

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Here’s another fabulous little treat we received at the Hugh Rice Luxe event. It’s a gorgeous velvety wrap, with plenty of pockets for storing all your precious pieces. It’d be great for travel!

5. Moschino silk scarves

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I had had a particularly bad cbt session, and I decided to go into TK Maxx, where I found these beautiful silk scarves. They’re great for adding a little bit of glamour to an outfit, and I’ve been enjoying trying out new ways to wear them. I also like putting them in my hair as headbands, or tied around a handbag. Hopefully, with plenty of love and care, these will last for many years to come. 

6. Kiko Urban Sheen Lip gloss in shades 01 & 04*

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Another gorgeous goody from the #HBMarchMeet! These are fabulous little crayon sticks, that provide a sheer wash of colour and a light sheen to brighten up your make up look. These would be really great to chuck into a suitcase on holiday as they’re only small and lightweight, and are extremely moisturising on the lips. Om really enjoying these and will try to share some swatches with you.

Well, we got there! Thanks for waiting to see this; life has been so so busy, but I’m just about getting on top of it now.

Hope you’re having a fabulous week, and let me know if you’ve tried any of these!

Heather x

PS you can find me on instagram, snapchat and twitter as htlcy; why not come and say hello?

April Favourites (part 1) *

Hello! Just thought I’d write up a cheery post about things I loved using last month. These are a mixture of skin care, beauty and products to improve my quality of life, so there should be a little bit of something for everyone! I was fortunate enough to have received some of these products for review, and as always, I’ll indicate this with an *. I am only ever 100% honest when it comes to reviewing products, and I only ever share my thoughts and opinions with you if I truly, truly mean them. Honesty is the best policy.

There’s a second instalment to come, so keep your eyes peeled!

  1. Greenfrog Botanic Botanical Bodywash*

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I was lucky enough to win these at a recent meet in Leeds, and they are seriously wonderful. Greenfrog Botanic create gorgeously indulgent products that are cruelty-free, vegan, and full of organic products. They ‘live by the four Es: Excellent quality soaps, Environmental and natural products that conserve our planet, Ethically 100% vegan to protect our animals and Exclusive’. Greenfrog’s founders Nick and Julie use Himalayan soap berries in their bodywashes, which have been used for centuries, and are extremely passionate about environmental issues so have done all they can to ensure their products are natural and as environmentally-friendly as possible. I was extremely impressed with these, and particularly loved the Geranium and Peppermint scent. My boyfriend even commented on how soft and less-irritated his skin was after using this, and he never usually takes any notice of anything remotely skincare-related! A definite seal of approval there. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of this.

2. Bee Good Lipbalm*

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I received this at the Leeds meet, and it has become a daily staple! I cycle into uni whenever possible, so this is great for keeping my lips moisturised. It is partly made by British bees, and the scent is just delicious! It reminds me of those drumstick lollies I used to eat when I was a child, and I find myself smiling when I use it. It is colour-free and leaves a glossy sheen.

3. Tangle Therapy

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I bought this to help with my motor skills in my hemi hand (the side affected by cerebral palsy). It is a loop of rubber-coated plastic joints, that can be manipulated and moved with one hand. Not only is it great for working on movement if limited, it’s also really relaxing and ideal if you need something to fiddle with. I also have a Tangle jr. original, which is slightly smaller and not rubberised. Because I have severe anxiety I sometimes find I need something to mess around with in order to focus my attention, or diffuse the anxiety. I keep it in my pocket as the Tangle jr. is discrete enough to take out and about. I love Tangle Therapy one, but it is slightly larger so I tend to keep it at home. As I say, it’s great for working on my right hand. I have also included a picture of the Tangle jr. below, which easily fits into a hand. The Tangle Therapy is chunkier in comparison. The Tangle jr. is really cheap on amazon, and a great thing to try out for the price, whether you’re just wanting a fiddle toy or something to exercise your hand with. They come in all sorts of colours and with all sorts of textures. I think you can also get a smaller Tangle Therapy, but I haven’t tried one yet. I might do!

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4. Loreal Keratin Treatment* (shampoo and hair mask)

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I was kindly gifted this little set by Hays Salon, Hull, and I’m really impressed with it! It smells great, and the mask is luscious and incredibly moisturising which is great for my hair. Hays Salon is really friendly and they always do a great job, and I highly recommend it if you’re near Hull.

5. Viridian Ultimate Beauty Organic Skin Repair Oil*

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I received this in the Leeds’ Meet goodie bag and it’s absolutely fabulous! I already use Viridian’s Organic Ultimate Beauty Face Balm, and this of the same quality and luxury. I used to have terrible acne, so this product is great for softening the scarring. Smells great, too!

6. Kiko Campus Idol Brush*

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I was lucky to receive this at our Hull March Meet, and I’ve been using it ever since! Not only is the face brush brilliant, but it adds a gorgeous pop of colour to my dressing-table. Stunning! There’s no fall-out yet, and it’s lovely and fluffy for picking up product.

I was going to include a colossal 12 items in this one post, but I’ll spilt it up and you’ll get to see the second half later on this week.

What do you think of the products above? Are you keen to try anything?

Have a great week; I’m aiming to get as much dissertation work done as possible…wish me luck!

Heather x

 

 

 

 

Inadequate

I am struggling recently.

At the minute, I literally see no redeeming features in myself. I feel ugly. My acne is coming back. I hate the way my crooked spine looks in the mirror. I hate the way I get frustrated with the pain and cry. I hate the way I’m taking tablets to ease the pain and hate the way they don’t always work.

I hate the fact I cannot control my body, no matter how hard I try. I wake up in pain, and o fall asleep with pain.

I hate that my automatic response is to push everything I love away. I hate that I can’t concentrate on anything for more than five minutes at a time.
I hate that I’m at multiple hospitals and doctors appointments every week.
I have no faith in my academic abilities, or my social relationships, or any other extra curricular thing I attempt to do.

I hate that when I’m happy – or when there is a glimmer of happiness – that these thoughts come rushing back.

The ones that tell me I do not deserve happiness. I do not deserve success. I do not deserve love.

The ones that tell me, over and over, that I deserve this pain I’m in. I deserve this pain because I’m such an awful person.

I am just so fed up. I keep going round in circles and I can’t keep doing it. I can’t. This is all too much.

I just want to be far away from all this madness. Somewhere free of responsibility, free of doctors prescribing new medication or performing new treatments or trying their best to fix me.

I am just overwhelmed by how inadequate I feel.

I just want it to stop.