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

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.

 

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

 

 

My 2015 round-up

Hello there. Now it’s safe to admit that Christmas is well and truly over. The decorations and trees in people’s houses have come down, and there’s talk of spring cleaning and resolutions everywhere you go.

In light of the New Year I feel a need to look back on it and reflect a little.

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2015 was an odd year. There were fantastic highs, and terrible lows, and not really much in between.

Let me explain.

2015 saw me finally accept I needed help for my depression and anxiety. Initially, this was a terrible situation. My anxiety was without a doubt at its worst. I found it almost impossible to leave my house without Drew. And when things got too much, I couldn’t bear to even bump into my housemates so I deliberately altered my sleeping pattern to avoid people. Of course, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, but things got so bad that every sound made my heart beat so fast. I’d wake up dripping in sweat, having been jolted awake by terrifying flashbacks to a traumatic time, and dealing with all this alongside chronic pain and third year was really very difficult. Though it was a definite low point, I’m pleased to say that things got better.

Because, what’s most important, is that I realised I needed help and made the decision to get it.

That’s a definite high point, because it was the best decision I ever made. Through a mixture of counseling and medication, I’ve managed to keep my mental illnesses under control.

2015 was also increasingly difficult with regards to chronic pain from my spinal condition and cerebral palsy. There were very bad days. So bad in fact that for a week or so my diet consisted of instant cuppa soup as getting up to cook things was just far too painful, especially when having to prepare things with my affected arm.

But, I am pleased to say that I made it through. And, in what feels like forever, I’m finally being listened to by doctors. For once I feel like people are listening. That people really do want to help. And as a result I’m seeing an orthopaedic consultant, neurologist, occupational therapist, physiotherapists, orthotists and having regular pain management. Though I know there will never be a cure for my cerebral palsy and spinal problem, I know I can look at managing their symptoms and getting the best out of my body. Slowly , and with the help of my occupational therapist, I’m learning to undo all that negative ableism that’s permeated my thoughts. I’m learning to accept that it’s okay when I can’t do certain things. I’m learning to accept that my best is more than good enough. I’m learning that I have achieved so much in spite of all these things and that I need to stop being so hard on myself. I’m finally learning to accept who I am.

It’s OK that I can’t always do things for myself. I’m doing my best, my absolute best , and that’s all I can ask for.

I certainly did my best in 2015 when I graduated from university with a BA hons degree in the summer. Those painful, long-winded nights in the library dosed up on codeine paid off. I did it, and for once I can admit that I did well. Here is a picture of Drew and I in our silly hats to prove it.

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I also got onto my MRes course at university, which is everything I hoped for and more. Fingers crossed I’ll be getting to wear that silly hat again once more!

2015 saw me getting more and more into my blogging. Blogging initially started as a way of achieving catharsis and discussing things I felt were important to me. 2015 saw my blogging continue to grow and I want to take the chance to say thank you for putting up with me! You’ve all been fabulous. You have no idea how much it means to me that people actually read what I write on here!

I also collaborated with some fabulous brands this year, which is absolutely amazing! I’d like to thank Personal Planner, Primula, Wren Kitchens, Al Porto, Ultradex, Nine to Five Heels and Stick to Stigu (just to name a few!) for the wonderful opportunities you have given me. It has been fabulous to work with you all and many thanks for your support!

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2015 also allowed me to continue making lots of friends through blogging. The summer event was absolutely fantastic and I’ve made some really lovely friends. I’m hoping that the #HullBloggers will go from strength to strength in 2016, and thank you all for being so lovely!

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It sounds a little silly but 2015 saw me get these two wonderful little things: my guinea pigs Smudge and Patch. They have provided so much joy through difficult times and I hope will continue to for as long as possible. They even made it into my doctors notes because they’ve helped with my well-being so much!

So though 2015 wasn’t the best in parts – there are some things perhaps a little too sensitive to mention on here that contributed to that – i am so thankful for the good times. I’m hoping to make 2016 much more positive now that my medication has been sorted out for everything and seems to be helping.

As always, thanks so much for reading if you have, and Happy New Year to you!

Look after yourself whatever you’re doing,
Heather X

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.

Happiness is…

1) holding hands, 2)reading in the dark, 3)being tucked up in a warm bed, 4) mini caterpillar cakes, 5) the sun shining through the window in the morning, 6) the frothy top of a steamy hot coffee, 7) baby animals, 8) seeing good friends, 9) planning wonderful days out, 10) realising things are all going to be okay in the end.