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

Learning

It may be a cliché, but it’s true: you do learn something new everyday. With every new day I’m learning more and more about myself. I’m learning that thought things may be difficult, I can find a way to work through them. I am learning that I am resilient if I give myself the right conditions. I am learning to try and accept the things I cannot change; I’m not being pessimistic, but realistic. I am giving myself time, and this is something I’ve always struggled with.

Part of my problem living with both my physical conditions and my mental illnesses is I don’t cut myself any slack. Though I know I’m technically ill – and that I can’t necessarily help it – I’m always beating myself up about things. I’m always wishing that I could do more, that I should push myself  and just deal with the consequences later. I know this isn’t productive as it’s a really destructive habit but it’s hard to accept that sometimes you need to do things a little differently to get by.

But, I think things are starting to change ever so slowly.

Yesterday was one of ‘those’ days. The night before I barely slept (perhaps slept for four hours in total) and my anxiety was running wild. I kept convincing myself that the shadows on the wall were people/scary things (yes, I know it’s totally irrational) and the usual narrative of ‘nobody likes you, you’ll get nowhere, you’re worth nothing, everything is terrible and you deserve it’ was circling around my head. It  was just a terrible, teary, ridiculous night. And as is usual after a night like that these feelings continued into the morning. I woke up feeling pretty low, but this sadness descended into complete emptiness and before I knew it I was crying uncontrollably on the floor.

I know. It really was quite a scene.

I was due in a seminar in the morning and the thought of missing it made me feel horrendous. Yet I knew I was no use to anyone unless they wanted to witness someone crying for the whole three hours of course. Drew – being the lovely person he is – tried to calm me down and convinced me to stay at home. I felt so incredibly guilty about it, but for the first time, I didn’t really put up a fight. I knew I couldn’t go in – there was no point lying about it – and suddenly I realised it will all be okay.

It is all okay.

As I suspected, the department were completely and utterly lovely about it all. They’ve offered help and support to help me through the remainder of my MRes course and no, despite what my anxious-brain thinks, no one hates me. No one has bad feelings towards me. They understand and are there to help.

And sure enough, after my day off yesterday filled with guinea pig cuddles and animal crossing and cups of tea in bed, I am feeling a lot better today.

Living with mental illness is a constant battle with yourself. it’s a constant struggle with your emotions. It’s knowing you’re not well but desperately trying to fight it. It is a constant, uphill battle.

But I can work through this. And I will.

Today is a more positive day. I cleaned out the guinea pigs and fed them tomatoes and carrots and gave them cuddles. I’ve even washed up some crockery and tried to tidy up the living room which is something I couldn’t face yesterday. I’ve had a frothy coffee (my Tassimo coffee in the mornings is such a treat) and I’m planning to bake some banana muffins.

Today can be a good day if just cut yourself some slack. You’re human; you are no superhero (although of course you are always magical and wonderful).

I hope you’re having a happy Tuesday whatever you’re doing. If my banana muffins prove successful, I’ll try and get a recipe up for you all. Cross your fingers for me!

Take care of yourself,

Heather x

Graduation Day

Hi All! This week has been pretty momentous as far as weeks go, because I graduated from the University of Hull with a BA Hons degree in English! If you’ve been reading for a while you’d know I’ve come across some difficulties, so this is an achievement I’m really proud of.

we are hull

Thankfully it was a wonderful day; not too hot and thankfully not too cold, so it was just perfect. Graduating was a really odd experience. Of course I had at least an idea about what it would entail but somehow it seemed almost an anti-climax! It wasn’t as scary as I’d anticipated it to be (and I didn’t fall over, so of course that’s a bonus!). The ceremony lasted about two hours, and we got robed and had photos taken in the Guildhall in the centre of Hull. Hull’s buildings are actually breathtakingly beautiful, and it was a real treat to see inside such historic landmarks of the city. We graduated in Hull’s City Hall which was also rather grand and lovely.

Hull's city centre

City Hall

My boyfriend also graduated in the same ceremony which was lovely. He also graduated with a BA Hons degree but in History. I think he also really enjoyed the day.

Drew Graduation

My Graduation

Drew and I

I can’t believe how quickly these three years have flown by! It only seems like yesterday that I finished my A-Levels. Next year I’m hoping to move onto a masters degree, if I get my offer…keep those fingers crossed for me! What have you been up to this week?

Mum and I

Me and Dad

keep your eyes peeled for the next post (also graduation-inspired) especially if you enjoy a little bit of something special!

Have a fabulous Sunday whatever you may be up to, and congratulations if you have also graduated/are due to graduate this week!

Heather x

What Not to Say to Someone With Chronic Illness and Disabilities

Hello there, and thanks for stopping by! This is going to be a slightly unusual post today, but it’s something I’d really like to share with you all. As you may know, I have a form of cerebral palsy- mild spastic hemiplegia – and a spinal condition called Scheuermann’s kyphosis. These are long-term illnesses, with no cure, so it’s just about learning to manage and live with the associated pain and mobility difficulties to ensure I have a good quality of life. What has been really shocking to learn is that people assume they’re an expert of chronic illness and think it wise to give out tips and advice. I know, we’ve all been there, but it’s something that never ceases to amaze me! After all, I know my body better than anyone, and I know how my conditions affect my day-to-day life. I just thought I’d share a few snippets of advice I’ve often found funny, and usually unhelpful. Some comments are pretty hurtful, but I know some are simply well-meant.

Just to clarify, this is not a dig at anyone at all, and this isn’t intended as something to offend any well-wishers: I just think it’s helpful to realise sometimes things aren’t always what they seem and maybe we can all think before we say something to someone. You never know how your words are going to affect someone else.

‘Chronic illness? But you look so well! How is this possible!?’

I get this a lot. I really do. And whilst I can appreciate I do look ‘fine’ most days, it can be very frustrating to hear. Firstly, it makes me feel fraudulent. No, I don’t use a wheelchair, and even when I use my walking stick I appear able to walk normally and without difficulty. However, I spend the majority of my day in constant pain, and it’s really wearisome having to reiterate this. Secondly, there’s also the idea that if I’m dressed up nicely or have make up on, that I can’t really be that ill, because, you know, I’ve made ‘an effort’. Having chronic illness doesn’t mean you have no desire to feel good. I still want to look as nice as the next person, and when I feel like it I really enjoy wearing a little bit of lipstick now and again. It just goes to show that you never know what’s underneath it all. (oh, I also enjoy wearing a bright shade of red when I can…makes me feel I can take on the world, especially on bad days!)

‘Why don’t you try exercise? I’ve heard it really helps [insert illness here].’

I have couple of things to say about this one. What I do seem to notice is people often recommend exercise when they don’t really understand the condition. Last year, someone asked what cerebral palsy was. Immediately upon hearing this, they proclaimed that exercise would cure it. Funny…they didn’t know what it was prior to asking! Though I know exercise is fantastic, and I do exercise as much as I can to keep my muscles as flexible as possible (particularly in my hemi side) sometimes the nature of my conditions limits me in terms of exercises. Some I simply can’t do. Most others leave me in a lot of pain. People also assume that I don’t try/never have tried/that I’m unfit anyway. I happen to walk quite a lot, and considering walking is something I find challenging, (particularly with regards to the palsy) this can sometimes be very painful and very tiring. However, I always try. Sometimes I try too much, end up walking for miles (often in a bid to push myself) and subsequently suffer for it. What I’m basically trying to say is don’t assume exercise is the be all and end all. It can be brilliant, but think about it: if you’re in severe pain, would the first activity to spring to mind be a jog/some workout at the gym? No? Didn’t think so.  Also, I’ll add here that when I was at school I still used to take part in PE and sports days despite my medical conditions and difficulties. One memorable sports day I volunteered for a long distance running race. At school, very few people knew about my cerebral palsy, but when I crossed that finish line (I came fourth out of eight) it was amazing. I’d done it; I’d also competed against people with no mobility or pain issues. It was possible, but I won’t say it didn’t hurt. I can still think back to the feeling of intense burning, crampy, sickening  pain in my hemi leg that followed. The PE teachers gave me some little gifts to say well done: they appreciated how difficult it must have been for me and I’m truly grateful for that. It’s an experience I won’t ever forget.

‘Ah, get well soon!’

I feel bad about including this comment, because this is obviously well-meant and I appreciate the sentiment. However, it is difficult to explain to people that my conditions won’t get better. I have done this once or twice, and I’m usually branded a pessimist. I just call it being realistic: there’s no cure for either. They fluctuate on a daily basis. Yes, some days are better than others. But I will be living with these for the rest of my life, and I have (mostly) come to terms with that. I’m still sad I included this one but hopefully you’ll understand what I mean!

‘You’re just an old lady really!’

This really, REALLY annoys me. This reiterates everything I feel about myself. Some days I wake up in so much pain I feel like I’m years older. I can’t do normal household chores without intense back pain, I can’t go shopping without my body hurting and I can’t do ‘younger people’ stuff like clubbing without things becoming very difficult. Of course I enjoy a good dance every now and then, but it becomes extremely painful. The next day is an issue not because of the ensuing hangover (well, at least not the majority of the time) but because my body is tired…it’s tired of the pain. Don’t call me an old lady. It’s never okay. It’s one of these things that really get to me. Calling me an old lady basically confirms all my worst fears. I have a hard enough time thinking of myself in this way, and I’d rather you didn’t add to that.

‘You’re just lazy/milking it’

I just don’t even know what drives people to say things like this. I didn’t choose to have these conditions. I can’t help that sometimes I need rest and relaxation. Just try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes: do you think it’s easy living in pain every day? It is also well-documented that people living with cerebral palsy use more energy than an usual. It’s tiring stuff. The latter part of the above comment was one of the more hurtful things I’ve heard. When I was in school, I had to wear a spinal brace. This was extremely uncomfortable. I had to wear it 23 hours every day and the hour off was for showering/PE. Because it was hard plastic, it dug in everywhere, and I’d end up with bruised hips, itchy skin rashes and marks cutting into my skin from the plastic. It constantly forced my spine into an unnatural position, and this was painful. Wearing that brace was awful. I felt detached from my own life: it was like I stepped into a magazine and became someone else. ‘Will I have pain for the rest of my life? So, you mean it’s incurable? My spine might get worse?’ These were questions I found hard to ask and even harder to understand when I was thirteen. I was thrust into a world of painkillers, hospital checks, physio, pain management, and procedure after procedure. This was on top of my appointments for my cerebral palsy. Having people claim I was milking it was something I really didn’t need. How insensitive can you be?! The worst part is that a person who said this talked behind my back and told my friends I was ‘milking it’. At the same time, they’d be really lovely to my face and would offer to help me in any way they could. As you can imagine, hearing that was extremely hurtful, and I never really associated myself with them at all after that. I still avoid having to now, despite the fact we have mutual friends. Please don’t do this, ever. The last thing I’d ever want to do is feign an illness. If I had it my way, I’d be completely healthy and have nothing wrong at all. As it stands, I’m not. Don’t make assumptions because you don’t understand.It’s a comment that I haven’t ever been able to shake off since the age of thirteen, and I don’t think I’ll be able to forget it.

I know this is an unusual post, but I hope it has given you something to think about! On a light-hearted note, I have two huge bars of chocolate to get me through the last couple of weeks of essay writing. I know I can do this, but it won’t be easy. Wish me luck!

I’m getting closer to that finish line…

Heather x

A Quick Update

As I write this it’s nearly 23.45 on a Sunday night, and whilst I’m having a break from essay writing I’d thought I’d provide a brief update. The past few weeks have been really, really hectic. I’m in my final year of undergraduate study at university, and though I do not think the work has necessarily become harder, I feel that there’s far more of it, resulting in later nights and earlier mornings. By the end of the next week I’ll have written close to 12,000 words, so I can’t wait to have a little break before resuming semester two. Studying with a chronic, long-term condition can be really very stressful, so I can’t wait to have a breather, take some analgesia and hopefully feel like myself again.

There’s LOADS of things I’d like to share on here, too. I’ve been lucky enough to have some great products that have really helped during this time. My dad knows how painful I find essay writing, and so he was kind enough to buy me a RelaxWell Dreamland throw which has become a new favourite of mine! I’ll let you know how I’ve been getting on with it.

I’ve also been slowly (yet surely) ploughing through my box of DeGusta goodies, and I’ll be able to update you on my progress with it. Food is definitely something I look forward to during an intensive assessment period, so it’s always wonderful to have a break, eat some really delicious food, and then have the energy to resume working. It almost makes the work bearable!

It is with regret I must finish this post and resume reading. I hope to update you all really soon, and look after yourselves until then.

Best wishes,

Heather

The Importance of Relaxation

I have to admit I’ve always been a stressed out, anxious person. It’s in my nature to worry about everything, and sometimes this worry is completely overwhelming and all-consuming. Coupled with chronic pain, my anxiety can spiral out of control. Being in pain almost constantly is physically exhausting, and can really affect you mentally. When I was younger I acted as if my cerebral palsy and Scheuermann’s didn’t exist. I think this was my ‘coping strategy’, but of course I wasn’t really coping with anything at all, I was just denying the existence of my medical conditions. Since moving to university I’ve recognised this, and during the past year or so I decided I needed to really work out a way of coping with the pain and stress that comes along with chronic medical conditions.

I cannot emphasise how extremely important it is to have rest days and to relax your body and mind if you’re dealing with a health condition such as cerebral palsy. Even if you’re not living with a chronic medical condition, you still need to give yourself time out to truly relax and to forget the worries in your life. When I was younger I thought it was perfectly fine to be completely wiped out from exhaustion after a day shopping, or to be in agonising pain after sitting to eat a meal in a restaurant. Yes, it’s normal for me to be in pain, but my body needs time to recuperate and get back to its normal self. There’s a few ways I do this, and I thought it would be a useful thing to share with you all.

Heat therapy is so relaxing. From a bubbly hot bath, to a hot water bottle and my trusty heat pad, heat therapy is soothing and relaxing for my body. I particularly like the homedics range and I own the shiatsu back massager, shiatsu neck massager and hand held massager with interchangable massaging heads. Below is a link to their products through boots: http://www.boots.com/en/Homedics/

I also love the heat packs that you heat in the microwave. I own a particularly cute one in the shape of a cuddly rabbit! These are relatively cheap compared to the homedics range, and can really help on sore days.

IMG_8860.JPG

Having hot baths with some pamper goodies can really help me out, too. The Body Shop stock some gorgeous products and you can always find lots of voucher and discount codes online if you type in ‘body shop codes’ into your search engine. Using high quality pamper goodies doesn’t always have to break the bank, so stock up if there’s a particularly good offer on. Recently my boyfriend purchased £40 worth of products for £20, which is an absolute bargain!

I also love candles. When I’m needing a rest day, I’ll get some reading together and spend the whole day in bed, taking painkillers as and when I need to. Putting a few candles on can really create a lovely soothing atmosphere. I also love my mooncandles, which are flameless and battery operated. You can change the colours of the ‘candles’ using the remote they come with, and they’re really very pretty. I purchased mine from Tesco. You can also purchase them online. I apologise for the picture, but it’s very difficult to capture just how pretty they are on camera!

IMG_7398.JPG

Having de-caffeinated drinks is a must when I’m feeling anxious or in a lot of pain. Though I thoroughly enjoy coffee and tea, I find herbal teas are particularly soothing on a stressful, painful day. I love Twinings Camomile and Honey, or the Twinings Peppermint Infusion. I was also introduced to Peanut Hottie at the Hull bloggers meet, and this is becoming a firm favourite. If you’re a fan of peanut butter, I suggest you give it a go!

IMG_7397-0.JPG

For my 21st birthday, I was spoilt rotten by all my wonderful family and friends. My boyfriend did make me a desk top zen garden as one of my gifts, and I’ve found it a really lovely way to relax. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly into the concept of zen or Buddhism, but raking the sand whilst stressed is a great way to relax yourself. Plus, it makes for a very unique object and you can create lovely works of ‘art’ in the sand with a mini rake. Zen gardens are available to purchase ready made online, however my boyfriend made this out of a photo frame. He glued the glass into the frame and turned the frame over. All he had to do then was buy the sand and objects to go into the zen garden, and he let me assemble it myself. It’s such a thoughtful gift, and it’s a true pleasure to own it. For secret Santa, my housemate thoughtfully bought me an oil burner with a selection of essential oils. This is such a fantastic gift for me and the essential oils create a soothing atmosphere in my room. Alongside my zen garden, it creates my very own relaxing space, and it’s really great!

IMG_7221.JPG

Buying a bouquet of flowers or a plant for my room instantly brightens up the place and so makes me feel more relaxed. I loved these gorgeous yellow roses. I arranged them in my marmite tea pot, and I thought they looked really lovely.

IMG_7044.JPG

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration. Hopefully in no time you’ll have a relaxing place of your very own!

All the best for the rest of the weekend,
Heather