Realisations

I feel like I’ve been having a mid-life crisis.

No, really.

I thought I’d had my life and career all mapped out: I’m graduating with my MRes (with distinction!) in July; going on to do my English PGCE in September, then I’ll teach. Sorted, right?

Wrong.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve well-and-truly changed my mind, at least for now. I’m not really sure if this was a gradual process, or a sudden ‘light-bulb’ moment, but I just know teaching is not the right thing for me at this time. Doesn’t mean it’ll never be. It’s just, right now, not what I want to be doing.

I’d be lying if I said my disabilities didn’t have an impact on this decision, because they absolutely, almost certainly did. I’ve had the unique experience of actually being able to teach before embarking upon teacher training; I have my own classes, mark registers, prepare resources and do all of the other usual ‘teachery’ things that teachers do (except marking…thank goodness). And this unique insight has perhaps shown me that though I may think I’m invincible, and though I do not like to admit that my cerebral palsy can cause issues, it’s a struggle. And, being truly honest with myself, I just think I’m not cut out for the teacher training, with all the rigmarole of planning and marking and studying simultaneously.

There. I said it. I’m not cut out for it at the moment.

know I’m a good teacher. I’ve had several observations from line managers that have been great. And I love teaching. It’s hugely rewarding seeing that ‘light bulb’ flick on; it’s intensely gratifying watching a student mould, change and develop into themselves. It’s a pleasure to watch their confidence increase; to share their successes, and to pick them up when they need a boost. But it’s also hard. Teaching is – in my experience – either really good, or really, really bad. There’s nothing more frustrating that children refusing to listen, or making fun of your lesson that you’ve spent hours planning. There’s been no in between. And at this stage of my life – where I’m eager to establish myself, and settle down – I just need to focus on what it is I really want to do right now.

I feel strangely liberated by this. I thought I’d be bricking it: I am a person who thrives on routine, after all. But it’s finally time for me to really think about what I want to do, and to go out there and do it. And, most importantly, I need to make sure I look after myself.

Sometimes it’s okay to not know what you’re doing right now. Sometimes it’s okay to have a realisation, and to act upon it. I am taking this time for me, and for my body, and for my mental health. I know there will be bumps along the way, but I am excited to see what happens.

 

Mental health, mentors and meds

Hello! I hope you’re doing okay. I thought I’d give you a little mental health update, which will be really useful for me to refer back to.

Things are starting to feel a bit better this end, and I’m hoping I’ll see even more progress. I’m crying a lot less – which is a great start – and I’m not as anxious when things don’t quite go to plan. I’m trying to handle things more calmly and think things through rationally, and this has been almost impossible at times, so things are definitely becoming more manageable.

I thought I’d had a blip, and at my last doctor’s appointment we discussed possibly upping my meds, but I’m getting back on track and powering through. I recently started seeing a mentor at university to keep my on track of work. One of my problems is I have very little faith in my work and abilities, so having someone to check in with every week is extremely helpful. It’s great to talk to someone who is completely impartial and she’s really kind and supportive.

I’m also heading back for another lot of counselling next week. I haven’t had a course of counselling for about nine months now, and I used to find it really useful. To make things more enjoyable I made the day all about me; I’d head into town, get some lunch, and sit in the sunshine whilst I waited for my appointment. I’m looking at these new sessions in the same way: they’re for me, and I’m going to get the most out of them. I’m hoping for good things.

I think I’m struggling with accepting the uncertainty of what’s to come, and that’s perhaps why I’ve been having really anxious days. I really like to know where I’m headed, and where I’m going in life, and at the minute I’m in an odd place where I need to look forward, but concentrate on the present. I suppose I need to learn that things will happen, but they’ll happen at their own pace. I’m in the middle of degree applications, job hunting and exploring all my options, and it’s all a little bit scary. I’m worried about coping with pain/fatigue, but I’m so desperate to prove myself.

I know I’ll work something out, but it’s hard not to worry about these things.

I know this is a really rambling post, but I’ll keep you updated on my counselling. Wish me luck!

Hope you’re having a great evening,
Heather x

image
Smudge the guinea pig

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Ps hello from Smudge; she’s been keeping me company.

Happiness is…

Snuggling up under the duvet, the smell of coffee in the morning, waking up early and having sun shine through the window, making new friends, getting things done, leisurely walks, helpful nurses at my hospital appointments, squeaking guinea pigs first thing in the morning, cooking, feeling positive

Update: Health, Life and MRes Study

Hello! I’m currently writing this whilst half-asleep. The past few weeks have been very busy. I’ve been inundated with appointments, deadlines and have been desperately trying to keep on top of my current research. I’m just about getting there. I haven’t really stopped for a while; I can’t remember the last time I took a day out to do nothing, though I do know I’m very hard on myself. Tomorrow I’m at the hospital for pain management and I can’t wait; I’ve been struggling with muscular pain so hopefully sticking a few needles into the affected muscles will do the trick. I’ve also been experiencing a patch of neuropathic pain on my back, which is seriously weird. It’s not like pain – though I can’t think how to adequately describe it – but it feels like someone is pouring a stream of cold water down my back, and sometimes feels like little electric shocks pulsing across the area. It’s really strange! I’m still waiting on facet joint injections, so fingers crossed I can have some soon. The pressure between my vertebral joints causes the most excruciating, burning pain, and often comes about after doing the most mundane things (cleaning, bending down to pick stuff up, sitting for too long) so it’ll be good if they help.
I have been to lots of lovely events over the past few weeks, which is really amazing! Watch out for my posts on the Hotter experience and the Leeds March Meet which will be up soon!
I’m currently applying for further study, which is quite difficult and time consuming. I’ve filled out several forms and drafted multiple research proposals. It’s a dream of mine to start PhD study; I really feel like I have so much more to give regarding research, and I’d love to be given the chance. Funding (as always!) is the main issue here, so keep your fingers and toes crossed for me.
My MRes is getting very interesting; I’m currently drafting up another two chapters and I’m in the midst of preparing a presentation. I’m also redrafting a book review I completed in the first semester to be submitted for publication, so it’ll be great if I can get that done.
I’m so sorry this is a pretty rambling post; life is extremely busy, but I have plenty of interesting posts ready to write up and publish!
How have the past few weeks been for you? Let me know in the comments!

Heather x

Acceptance: Learning to Thrive

Hello there. I hope you’re having a wonderful day. It’s been fairly productive today which is really good for me; I’ve managed to get some work done, gone food shopping and done general errands, but as a result I’m now slumped on the sofa desperate for bed. It sounds like I’m being a little dramatic, but doing the ‘everyday-stuff’ – you know, the boring Adult stuff – can often be the hardest for me.

I can cope with my university work; I do a research degree at my own pace. I can cope with my occasional volunteering and of course I love writing this. But it’s the everyday things, the essential things that are becoming more and more difficult to keep on top of. Washing clothes, hoovering up, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the kitchen, preparing and eating meals…these just take me ages and completely wear me out.

By the time I do all these things, my university work  and social activities, I’m pretty much exhausted.

When I was younger I suppose I didn’t realise just how much I relied on my mum and family to do things. Loading the washing machine for example leaves me in agony. I struggle to use both hands, so even just washing pots and pans and hand drying them is a gargantuan effort. Hanging up clothes to dry and then folding them away when you have half a body that doesn’t cooperate as you wish is physically draining.

And don’t even get me started on how I feel emotionally about all this. I can guarantee it wouldn’t make for cheery reading.

When I started university I realised that living independently is difficult. There’s lots of little things that need to be done during the day and when you don’t feel up to it – because of pain, or tiredness, or low mood – it’s all too easy to leave. And thus you enter a vicious cycle of accumulating mess/paperwork/laundry and no one wants that.

I started seeing an occupational therapist for the first time ever this year. I don’t know why, but despite my cerebral palsy diagnosis I’ve never seen one (and the repercussions of that belong in a different post entirely!). Seeing occupational therapists has genuinely changed my life. I never realised I was entitled to living aids. I never understood why I found everything so hard, but it was all explained to me. Seeing occupational therapists has been genuinely fantastic. Initially it was extremely daunting having someone come round to tell me that I needed extra help and things to help me around the house, and I found this hard to admit.

Someone once told me that getting help was giving in, and that’s always stuck with me.

Only recently have I come to realise that getting help is far from giving in; they enable me to live more independently. Using aids – a seat in the shower, a rail on my bed, a perch stool for cooking – lets me do the everyday things when I’m too exhausted to stand up or when I’m in severe pain. I can cook knowing I can sit down. I can grab a rail and get out of bed even when my body is resisting. It’s amazing.

The occupational therapist who visited my flat gave me a catalogue full of helpful living aids and I’ve been flicking through it circling the amazing things available. There’s chopping boards with spikes on so you don’t have to hold food whilst chopping it, and ‘easy reachers’ that mean I can pick stuff up without bending over and being in unnecessary pain. I’m realising I’m finally ready to accept this; I’m finally ready to accept that by getting these things to make life easier I’ll be living my life to the full.

It is not weak to accept help.

I don’t want to limit myself and my choices in life. I want what everybody wants; I want to happy.  I am taking the steps towards acceptance.

I am learning to thrive, and I will get there.

I hope you’re having a fantastic evening,

Heather x

 

 

A weight has been lifted…

…from my shoulders. Yesterday I came out of uni positively beaming. The day went well; I presented a conference paper and people really seemed to like it. They asked all sorts of questions. They seemed like they were genuinely interested. And most of all, I felt – for the first time in a very long time – that I was WORTH IT and that my work IS valuable in some way.

It was just the boost I needed.

My Mres dissertation is a chance for me to amalgamate my two passions; English literature and disability studies. I have become increasingly passionate about the study of disability and to be able to study it through literature is amazing. It’s literally the perfect degree.

What I really needed to know was if my work, no matter how small, can contribute positively in some way. I feel like it can, and it’s truly reignited my passion. I really want to contribute to this. I really want to feel like I’ve done something amazing.

My peers probably don’t realise how much their feedback means to me, but after months of self deprecation and loathing and having absolutely no faith in my ability to produce work it was everything I could have hoped for and more.

Amongst all the hospital appointments and pain and anxiety and depression to know I can do something is the most liberating, freeing thing.

I am feeling really good; and it’s such a fabulous feeling.

I hope you’re well whatever you’re doing,
Heather X

Hullywood Loving

Hello, you. It’s Thursday and I’m in bed working. I put the guinea pigs into their pen and they’re currently nibbling on hay and being squeaky and generally very cute. As far as days go, recently things have been Good; because it’s bonfire night tonight I’d usually be very worried about the loud noises and bangs and things but right now I’m feeling okay, although I have no doubts that my startle reflex will be playing up nicely of course. But it’s okay, because right now I am feeling positive and good, albeit ever so sleepy.

Anyone who knows me personally will know I’m a proud mancunian. I LOVE my hometown of Manchester; it’s vibrant, bright, dynamic and just generally very wonderful and most importantly it’s home. When I was looking around universities I looked for ones very close to Manchester because I knew I might need a little support from time to time, but when people found out that I was coming to the University of Hull, many were skeptical at first.

You see, Hull doesn’t have the greatest reputation in the UK. People seem to remember it from its fishing days; ‘Hull smells a lot, I remember that!!’ or seem to think it rather run-down, lacking in amenities and things to do. In my leavers’ book someone wrote a comment about Hull being grey and dull, and whilst I won’t lie and often the skies may be grey and foggy this time of year, the place is anything but dull.

This will be my fourth year living in Hull, so I think I’m qualified to correct those who think badly of it. There are lots and lots of things to do here (and remember, I’ve lived in Manchester for most of my life and I think that’s a great comparison!). There are a number of restaurants to visit (including the lovely Al Porto, which will be featured in an upcoming post! There are bars, pubs and clubs where you can dance the night away/drown your sorrows/sing badly on karaoke. There’s places to go bowling, watch the latest films, play laser quest and you can even go and visit some penguins at The Deep which is a stunning aquarium (trust me, I love going there and would go every week if I had the time). The centre of Hull is also home to 3 indoor shopping centres and historic Old Town, so there’s plenty of places where you can go and enjoy some retail therapy. Newland and Princes Avenues are full of interesting boutiques, bars, cafes and restaurants, and it is a lovely bustling part of town near to the university. If you’re partial to a charity shop haul then there’s plenty to choose from down Newland. I have spent many an afternoon on the lookout for books/clothes/furniture I probably didn’t really need in the charity shops that are dotted along it, usually followed by a coffee in one of the numerous cafes on either Newland or ‘Prinny Ave’.

The university itself is beautiful with a mixture of old and new buildings, and currently campus is covered with a blanket of golden leaves that crunch satisfyingly underfoot. My department (English) in particular is wonderful; they are incredibly supportive of their students and will help in anyway possible. If you’ve been reading you’ll know my mental health has made things difficult for me, but my department has always been there to support me when needed. I love attending university; I’m always learning, always developing and I’m always pushing my boundaries, and no doubt the English department has been integral to that process.

Every time I return to Hull from Manchester I get that rush of excitement when I approach the Humber Bridge. It has been a place where I have grown, changed, and (hopefully!) developed as a person. Things haven’t always been easy whilst living over here, but it is the place I will always remember. So much has happened since I’ve been living here and I’ve become so incredibly fond of it. Although it’ll never be my ‘hometown’ I think I’ll always have a special place for Hull. All I ask is that you take your time to get to know the place before you slate it. I know this is only a short post, but I really fell like I need to stick up for the place. It is unlike anywhere I have been before.

Hull, has been good to me.

I hope you’re having a peaceful Thursday and enjoy yourself if out watching fireworks. Stay safe!

Heather x