Happiness is…

Hot cups of coffee, guinea pig cuddles, the light of the moon shining through the window, getting lost in a good book, hot showers, sleeping in, relief from pain, finished work, colouring (and avoiding going over the lines) , good friends, big smiles, realising that things will fall into place.

Have a great weekend,
Heather x

Med Chat

Hi there. Hope your Sunday is going well wherever you are. Today Drew and I are having our own little Christmas, complete with Christmas sweaters , ginger bread houses, crackers and all the trimmings. You’ll just have to wait for all the details I’m afraid, but I have high hopes!

If you’ve been reading you might be aware that I’ve been using medication to keep the symptoms of my depression/anxiety under control. I started on fluoxetine which worked well to suppress symptoms, but unfortunately I had disturbing intrusive thoughts so my doctor and I decided to try something different called Sertraline. I’ve been taking it for about eight days now, and so far I feel okay; still having wobbles, but able to do the things I need to without panicking/crying all the time.

Medication for mental illness can be a controversial issue.

There are people who don’t believe in using medication, people who think of it as the ‘easy option’, people who couldn’t praise it highly enough, and there are people who don’t even think mental illness is necessarily a valid illness that CAN be treated with medication.

Like most young people, I’ve always been wary of medication.

From a young age I’ve been prescribed various medications to control pain in my spine, and some of these meds are strong and come with warnings and side effects. It has taken me a long time to accept having to use them. They are not the easy option: they aren’t necessarily good for you, they carry warnings of addiction, sleepiness, euphoria…the list goes on.

I didn’t want to ever become dependent on painkillers – and I still do my best to cope without them – but I don’t want to be made to feel bad for choosing to use them on bad days.

Pain, depression and anxiety can have a seriously negative impact on quality of life. Each of them usually accompany the other; the parts of the brain that deal with each are similar if not the same.

When I’m in pain, I’m depressed. When I’m depressed, I’m in pain.

Pain makes me sluggish, tired and lethargic. Pain makes me feel guilty because I can’t do ‘normal’ things. Pain makes me feel bad because I can’t pluck up the physical strength to tidy the house or cook or wash my clothes on bad days.

Depression, anxiety and chronic pain are a toxic mix.

Before I started medication for my mental illness I was an absolute mess. I could barely leave my room; the thought of having to see my housemates filled me with horror. It was nothing they had done; it’s just the anxiety/depression would convince me they hated me and that they didn’t want to see me, or hear me, or generally be around me.

You see, depression and anxiety can whisper nasty little lies in your ear. They make you feel worthless. Empty. Alone.

I’d do anything to avoid bumping into my housemates. I’d listen carefully to make sure I didn’t bump into them in the corridor. I showered when everyone had gone to bed. I couldn’t go shopping without Drew. I couldn’t cook, and didn’t always eat. When I made it into uni (with Drew walking me in) I panicked and wound up hysterically crying and having to leave, because the thought of being surrounded by people filled me with terror.

I was not the person I am now.

I didn’t want to stop to talk to people. I wanted to hide away from everything: so I did. The majority of my days were spent in floods of tears under the duvet.

It was a terrible time.

These episodes very rarely happen since I’ve been on medication. I have off days – of course – but I can definitely function. I CAN do the majority of things I need to do.

Shaming people who take medication to control their mental illnesses is not helping anyone.

I don’t believe any one has the authority to tell me when/why I shouldn’t take my medication. You might not agree with it, but it’s not your choice. It’s mine.

Medication has allowed me to feel (at the very least) a little bit like myself again.
I’m happy most days. I laugh. I smile. I tell rubbish jokes and I love doing my makeup and cooking and eating. I love watching documentaries and playing on my ds and reading books and discovering new things. 

Depression made me forget my love for these things.

I am no longer empty. I feel like a person; I have emotions – positive, happy ones – and at the height of my depression/anxiety I was a horrible mixture of sadness, emptiness, guilt and panic. Happiness was a distant memory, and I was unable to feel it.

You might not understand why I take medication to control my illnesses. You might not agree with it. You might even claim they’re just a placebo.

But if they help me, why question them?

You don’t necessarily know what goes on in my head, or what has happened in my life. It can be a dark, miserable place. And as long as medication keeps me feeling okay and allows me to live life, I’m going to take it.

All I’m asking is that people be a little bit more considerate. Don’t judge what you don’t understand.

I know this has been a little heavy, but it’s been weighing on my mind.

Have a great day wherever you are; chirpier posts will be up soon, I’m sure!
Heather x

Today has been great…

…although it didn’t necessarily start off that way. This morning I was sore and cranky but I took some painkillers and made it into uni (after some cuddles with guinea pigs of course). Here’s one with smudge which is super cute, if I do say so myself .

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Smudge saying hello

Emma has been here since yesterday which is super lovely. It’s great to have a catch-up with my best friend, especially when ice cream is involved. She accompanied me to my pain management so we went for hot waffles afterwards which were as good as they look. And yes, they are m&ms on the top…and cream….and chocolate sauce. And I had two scoops of gelato; banana and nutella. I know, I really do have a big sweet tooth!

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If you’re ever over this way, be sure to visit caffe gelato. It’s a popular haunt for families and students alike, and when I was battling my way through final year it became a fabulous incentive: unhealthy perhaps but delicious all the same.

Emma is a really creative and crafty person, and she crocheted me a purse which is amazing!! I love anything handmade; it’s so thoughtful, and no-one else will have the same thing.

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It was nice to have pain management today because I’ve really been missing it and feeling it, too. I had an orthopedic appointment last week which is useful because they’re going to review my spine, which I think is needed. It will mean having a full spine mri but hopefully all will be well and I won’t have any more problems with the vertebrae in my spine to deal with. Fingers crossed!

Things are looking up, and this week I feel on top of all my work and errands which makes a change.
Although admittedly, I still feel like being an adult is hard, and I still think I’m about 6.

Shame I turned 22 the other day!

Anyway, I better get going. We’re going to chill out tonight with some films and snacks.
It’s so lovely to have a little bit of a break in my schedule.

Has your Monday been going okay?

Let me know, and keep your eyes peeled for my Wren Kitchens post…it’s going to be a good one!

Heather X

Ps here’s a cute pic of Patch…I know. I’m officially a crazy guinea pig person.

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Happiness is…

  1. wrapping up warm in the crisp, cold weather, 2. frothy coffee the first thing in the morning, 3. meeting new people and putting names to faces, 4. sharing tapas and laughter and drinks with Drew, 5. that bubbly, lovely feeling you get when sipping on cava, 6. cosying up under blankets and watching rubbish tv, 7. knowing your best friend is coming to visit, 8. feeling Happy and not Sad, 9. feeling like I’m getting somewhere with hospital appointments, 10. slowly starting to feel at peace with taking meds and everything else.

I know it’s all going to be okay.

Heather x

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Al Porto*

Hello there. Sorry It’s been quiet this way; so many deadlines are approaching at once and I’m getting into a bit of a flap over them. I’m sure they’ll get done but I’m a chronic worrier so I’m always doubting myself!

In light of this (and in light of all the dreadful things that are happening around the world at the minute, I thought i’d bring a little bit of festive cheer to you all.

Just over a week ago I was invited to Al Porto restaurant in Hull to sample their 2015 Christmas menu. I knew it would be a treat, and we weren’t disappointed!

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I was joined by Kathryn , Chelsea and Steph for an intimate, cosy Christmas meal for four and a glass of prosecco was just the thing we needed to kick-start the celebrations.

Christmas crackers

We even had crackers which was a real treat!

The menu was long so it was more of a tapas-style affair; I think I could have eaten much if we hadn’t shared plates!

Soup

First up was the chestnut soup. I don’t know about you but chestnuts always remind me of Christmas. I have fond memories of wandering around Christmas markets with a bag of piping-hot roasted chestnuts to nibble on and to keep my hands warm! I’ve never had them in soup but it was absolutely wonderful; it was like bowl of Christmas, and I couldn’t stop eating it! Definitely one of my favourite things on the menu, I must say. I’m already planning to order it when I go back!

smoked salmon

Up next we had the smoked salmon roulade. Admittedly, smoked salmon isn’t always something I enjoy but I was pleasantly surprised and actually really liked it. The filling was creamy yet fresh, which cut through the richness of the smoked salmon beautifully. If you’re a smoked salmon fan you’re bound to love this.

mlanzane parmigianaNext up; a delicious vegetarian option. Above is Melanzare Parmigiana, which is aubergine layered with tomato and cheese. I knew i’d like this because my mum often makes this and it is seriously delicious. If you’re into punchy tomato sauces, you’re in for a treat here. I’d even bet that people who don’t like aubergine  could have a go with this; really wonderful and filling.

guinea fowl

Next, it’s onto the mains. This was my favourite dish of the whole night; it was the roasted guinea fowl with rosemary, red wine and mixed wild mushroom.

guinea fowl

This was spectacular; it really was. The guinea fowl was cooked to perfection. It was tender, juicy and perfectly accompanied by the red wine jus. Simply roasted potatoes and vegetables freshened everything up, and the wild mushrooms were a luxurious touch. I couldn’t stop eating and I’m definitely having this when I go back. Believe me; you will not be disappointed! It was the ultimate in winter comfort food.

turkey

Next, a traditional Christmas dish enjoyed by almost everyone; the classic roast turkey dinner. This was a little bit special though, and was stuffed with chestnuts and topped with rich cranberry jus. Admittedly we don’t usually go for turkey at Christmas because I find it can dry out, but once again this was moist, succulent and delicious. The crispy skin on the outside was the perfect finishing touch, all served with seasonal roast veg. What’s not to love?!

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One for the red-meat lovers: beef wellington with mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables and that delicious red wine jus that’s so moreish and rich. What a treat! Beef wellington is something i’d never make at home; it seems far too time confusing and when dealing with such expensive ingredients I’d worry about messing up. Al Porto hhave nothing to worry about as their chefs are clearly fabulous; tender beef, crisp puff pasty, smooth potatoes…what a fantastic way to bring in the festive season!

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One for the fish-lovers; pan-fried halibut on a radicchio risotto with a pesto drizzle and prawn. I’m a huge fish fan (although smoked is something I’m not always a fan of) so this was beautiful! Halibut is a delicious fish and I don’t get to eat much of it so I loved trying it here! It was everything a good piece of fish should be: crisp on the outside and moist on the inside, sitting on top of a very moreish risotto freshened up  by a good helping of pesto. How divine is that?! Another favourite meal of the night.

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Above you see the veggie equivalent to the beef wellington; a Chestnut, spinach and blue cheese encroute. I’m definitely not one of these people that thinks a meal without meat isn’t a meal; one of my best friends is a vegetarian and I’d like to think I know a little bit about veggie cuisine. I don;t eat meat everyday  of the week and sometimes i just completely fall out with it and won’t eat it for a few weeks, and I know Vegetarian food is just as exciting and wonderful. If you’re feeling going meat-free for a change this would be just the thing. Crisp, flaky puff pastry, Christmassy chestnuts, creamy blue and earthy spinach; delicious.

dessert

Luckily we had just about enough room for dessert, and were treated to homemade chocolate roulade, tiramisu, and minced pie gelato (not pictured). The roulade is a real chocoholic’s delight; filled with a rich, creamy chocolatey ganache that just melts in the mouth. The tiramisu was creamy yet light; which is wonderful considering that we had filled up on some really indulgent food! The mince pie gelato was also amazing; it is everything good about a mince pie with the added creaminess of authentic Italian gelato. Just fabulous! I am a real chocolate-lover so i’m eyeing up the roulade for next time…my mouth is watering just thinking about it all!

All in all it was an absolutely fantastic experience. Al Porto is definitely not to be missed; it’s a gem in the hustle and bustle of Hull, and is just the perfect place to take some time out to relax and enjoy the festive season with family and friends. Their Christmas menu is £24.95 during the day and £28.95 during the evening for a three-course meal. I really do recommend it.

A big thank you to Al Porto in Hull for having us, and for Lisa arranging the event. It was truly wonderful. Don’t forget to check out Al Porto’s website here.

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I hope you’re having a good weekend. Stay safe wherever you are.

Heather x

*cost of meal and drinks provided by Al Porto. As always, my posts are honest and this does not in any way influence my review.

I am feeling…

A little bit intimidated. Is this what your 20s are about? Do you just float around waiting for an opportunity to pass you by, praying one does and moaning when it actually happens? Are your 20s meant to be about panic and uncertainty and unadulterated fear???

Today all I can think about is what i’m going to do after study is over.

Okay so…what am I actually going to do?! What can I do that will make me feel okay and not in too much pain? How am I going to survive and all that jazz? I’m struggling to cope as it is. Being an adult is ridiculous.

I don’t even know what I need to do to get a job. I don’t even know what I want to do. (No. That’s a lie. I do want to win the lottery and pay for people to take me to hospital appointments and surround myself with fluffy cute animals and buy myself a house and put most of the remainder in the bank and live off the interest. That isn’t too much to ask, is it?? Surely not…)

Is it just me who is this confused? Will this pass? Will someone fix my body so I stop feeling scared about what’s going to happen to it? I do not want to adult today. It is not happening.

Things I’m Loving in October

Hello there, you. Thanks for bearing with me! Today I thought i’d do something a little bit different, and I thought i’d share some of my favourite things that I’ve been loving in October! Since this month has been pretty difficult pain/mental health wise I thought i’d write something happy and positive, because that’s always nice and it’s a good way to remember the past month 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I love this time of year. I love the golden leaves that rustle and tumble all around, I love the misty, sleepy mornings and wrapping up in snuggly clothes. One of the things I REALLY love most is getting to wear my fluff-filled Dr Martens; I am fortunate (or ridiculous…you decide!) to own seven (yes, that’s SEVEN) pairs of Dr Martens. Don’t fear though; I very rarely buy them full price and you can always search them up online and find reduced prices when things are slightly out of season. I own a pair of brown Serena boots, and they are lined with the fluffiest white faux-fur. They’re a great winter boot and admittedly I’ve had my pair for about 3 years now which is really good going. I got mine for the bargain price of £35 (ish) at TK Maxx but you can find them on the DM website here. They are pretty pricey, but they’re very lovely and will keep your toes all toasty and warm.

I also am enjoying wearing my Pascal cherry reds during the cooler months; another Dr Marten boot. Again, these were bought at a lower price (around £65 I believe from Country Attire , although I think the price does fluctuate so just keep an eye out). You can find them full price on the DM website here . Just be aware; if you’re familiar with Dr Martens Cherry Red, the red of these is more like an Oxblood but it is still rather lovely. Plus the leather finish means they’re pretty much buttery-soft from the first wear, which is practically unheard of in Dr Martens! I’m always wanting to add another pair to my collection (they’re pretty much all I wear and I have loads of different styles/materials/colours) and though I know they’re pricey, they do last. I have a pair of Triumph 9-eyelet boots that tie up with ribbon laces, and they’re pretty much like new and I’ve had them for 5 years, so I suppose you could say they were worth the originally hefty price tag of £130 (ish).

Because I live with chronic pain, it’s really important for me to keep warm as much as possible as the cold just makes things so difficult to deal with. I bought a couple of basic fleeces from M&S to slouch around in on ‘off’ days. I know they’re not the most ‘stylish’ thing, but they’re really comfortable and great for wrapping up warm in. You can find them here, at a really reasonable price.

M&S do some wonderful lounge/sleepwear, and I recently bought a snuggly Me to You dressing gown to wrap up in on chilly evenings. It has a hood, and zips up, and best of all it transforms you into a giant Me to You bear…what’s not to love?! They have very similar styles right now, but I cant find the exact one I have…but you’ll get the picture with the similar items here.

Again, a warmth related product. This one is a little bit gorgeous and wonderful, and i’m currently wrapped up in it now. It’s an electric-heated faux fur throw by Dreamland. Not only does this look lovely draped across a sofa, but it’s so toasty and warm when switched on (you plug it in and there’s 6 different temperature settings) and is really soothing when my back pain is getting really bad and my painkillers aren’t working. You can also machine wash it and tumble dry it which is hugely convenient. My dad bought this for me and I am so incredibly grateful. It’s definitely an amazing buy for anyone with pain issues. Find it here.

What are your favourite things this winter?

I hope you’re having a great Thursday whatever you’re doing!

Heather x

Personal Planner* and MRes Update

Hello there! It has been really busy over here, and my MRes degree has finally started which is of course ridiculously exciting and amazing! I’ll be sure to update my progress on here if you’d fancy reading it (public engagement and all that!) but I thought this would be a rather light-hearted post.

I thought I’d share with you one of the products I’ve really been enjoying, and it’s perfect for the academic year:

Personal Planner* ( see their fabulous website here !)

The lovely folks over at Personal Planner treated the Hull Bloggers to an exceedingly generous £27 gift card that we received at the summer Hull Blogger’s meet. Personal Planner have a range of organisers, calendars and notebooks that can be personalised to suit you and your needs. I’ve been desperate for a big wallplanner to plan my academic year with (I LOVE anything to do with organisation and already live out of my Filofax) and Personal Planner came to the rescue! Their website allows you to customise an awful lot, which means the product is completely tailored to you! I got to choose headings for each of the columns, pick my own picture to decorate it with and even got to customise the little lists at the bottom of each page. It arrived within a few days of placing my order and I can’t fault it in any way.

I used a relaxing picture from my recent visit to Whitby to adorn the front cover, and it is printed on quality glossy paper. The pages of the planner itself are substantial and provide plenty of room for me to jot down my daily errands. I’ll leave you with a few pictures…i’m sure you’ll agree it’s just fabulous!

Hope you’re having a great Tuesday evening,

Heather x

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Pain Management: My Experiences

Hello there. I’m currently writing from underneath a cosy blanket on the sofa. I suppose I have no excuse to be so lazy really, but I promise I am dressed and have made breakfast and have done all the Adult Things that you’re meant to do in a morning. I’m not feeling 100% today, but I’m a damn sight better than I was on Wednesday, so that can only be a good thing.  The sky is blue, the sun is shining and I have the flat to myself so I’m watching countless hours of daytime tv with copious volumes of tea to keep me going.

What I thought I’d write about today are my experiences of attending various pain management appointments. If you’re a regular reader you may be aware that I live with several chronic conditions and a couple of these cause varying degrees of pain. Due to the nature of my medical conditions there are no cures or quick fixes, and so I will have to deal with the resulting chronic pain. Though this takes some getting used to and can be mentally testing, I’m just going to outline my experiences with pain management and the physical side of things.

Some people I know really aren’t keen on the term pain management: they find it patronising, and possibly a little too vague (medical conditions affect everyone differently after all!) but I think I’m okay with it. For me, it took a very long time to accept that I needed help, and an even lengthier time realising that it’s okay to ask for help. Terminology aside, pain management basically deals with reducing the amount of pain one feels on a daily basis, and tries to enable those with chronic pain a better quality of life, including improved sleep, reduced fatigue and hopefully less pain = increased wellbeing. As many doctors have explained, pain levels affect a person’s mental health and outlook on life, and I can completely relate to this. Chronic pain is stressful; it is scary, it makes me irritable, and what’s worse is I don’t know how it will affect me in the future. So for me, I knew I wanted to give pain management a shot.

My first appointments started when I was around sixteen, and involved trialling various pain-management methods to find out which were the ones to provide the most relief. The treatments can vary greatly depending on your condition, but I started out with medical patches – namely a lidocaine plaster – which consists of a sticky patch impregnated with analgesia of some kind that adheres to the part of the body experiencing pain. I didn’t really rate these, so we moved on to alternative treatments, which included the use of TENS machines, capsaicin cream, laser treatment, corticosteroid injections, acupuncture and the last resort: pregabalin.As you can probably gather I ended up trying a lot of things. None of these really did anything for me, which can be really disheartening, I know. But I held out hope. And recently, I’ve found a pain management technique which works and has definitely reduced my musculo-skeletal pain.

So what is this pain-management miracle?

ACUPUNCTURE!

yes, you did indeed read that correctly! Acupuncture has really made my pain so much easier to deal with. And no, this isn’t just like traditional acupuncture; it does have some medical basis to it, seen here, on the NHS website. Although sometimes unpleasant, acupuncture has become an integral weapon in battling the pain I experience on a daily basis, and though this solution has been a long time coming (a whole 5 years since my first foray into the world of pain medicine!) it has really restored my faith in pain management.

Pain management can be an odd thing; it can be unsettling to ask for help, and it can be even more unsettling when things don’t quite go the way you’d hoped. But if you persevere like I did, you might find something that just works for you, or at least, as in my case, definitely helps. Pain management is no quick fix unfortunately but it is there, and I highly recommend you check out what the service has to offer you.

I’m all too aware that this is a slightly rambly-post, but I hope you understand what I mean. Have you tried pain management? And if so, what did you think?

Thank goodness it’s Friday! Best wishes for the weekend,

Heather x

Lab2 Makeup Brushes*

Hello there! I’m currently writing on a very rainy and dull Monday evening, so I thought I’d blog about something a little bit different! If you’ve been reading for a while you’d know I usually like to blog about things lifestyle/health/mental health, but every now and then there’s other things I want to talk about, particularly if I feel like sharing something new. Though I don’t blog about makeup/beauty (well, not very often, anyway!) I recently had the opportunity to try out some of Lab2’s makeup brushes, and I have to say I’m thoroughly impressed!

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Lab2 brushes

Because we were oh-so-lucky, we received three different sets: I know, it felt like Christmas day! Here we have ‘The Triple Threat Multi Purpose Brush’, the ‘On a Powder Trip’ brush, and the ‘Strokes of Genius’ eye brush set…wow!

strokes of genius

Above we have the ‘Strokes of Genius’ brush set, which contains a whopping 5 different brushes (and one of which is double-ended) and is the perfect variety of brushes for applying all sorts of eye makeup.

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First things first; the packaging. I think overall the packaging is really effective. It’s eye-catching, professional, and oh-so sleek. The matte black outer of the boxes gives the product real high-end appeal, and I love the flashes of fluorescent orange card as a welcome contrast to the black on the inside. What is also rather lovely is the added instructions on the back (which you can also cut out and keep) and overall I think the design is rather modern and fun.

brushes

The packaging is very similar for both the ‘On a Powder Trip’ brush (as above) and the ‘Triple Threat’ brush, albeit for a few minor details. Again, they look really sleek and smart, and the contrast of colours is sure to be eye-catching sitting on a shelf!

The ‘On A Powder Trip’ brush is lovely and fluffy, whilst the ‘Triple Threat’ (below) is great for contouring with its angled edges and flat top. the triple threat

What is really fabulous about these brushes is how soft the bristles are; they feel really luxurious on the face, though I do have to admit the ‘On a Powder Trip’ brush did shed on initial use. However, since the initial use it has stopped shedding completely. The handles of the brushes are soft and coated with a matte and easily-holdable (is that a word?!) coating. What is really useful is that each of the brushes is labelled on the handle, so you’ll always know what they’re meant for.

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lab2 brushes

The brushes use ‘Fiber-luxe’ technology, which is why they’re so soft on the skin whilst ensuring an even application with very little fall out, which is always a bonus. This is all explained on the package, which is very useful if you really want to be sure of what you’re buying!

lab2 brushset

All-in-all I think these brushes would be fabulous gift or a little treat to yourself. I’ve always been loyal to ecotools and have a great selection of their brushes, but it’s great to widen my horizons a little bit and try something new and I’m sure these brushes will have a place on my dressing table for months to come! Let me know if you decide to try these. I hope you’ll love them just as much as I do. Check them out over on Superdrug ; there’s a sale on them at the minute so have a look and grab a bargain!

Hope you’re having a great Wednesday!

Heather x