Just Me

Whirring thoughts

Busy mind

Imagination

New ideas to find.

Quiet times

Loud times too

Picky with company

Means I cherish you.

Barriers will fall

Patience is key

I leave my shell

And truly be me.

I am who I am

Quirky till the end

Introvert girl

Immature friend.

Some think me distant

Aloof, even rude

Untrue and false

I’m not in a mood.

Unique and myself

Perfectly me

Those who look closer

Are the ones who’ll see.

Judge at your peril

The introvert crowd

We are what we are

Reflective and proud.

Understanding an Introvert

Howdy folks!

Now, I imagine you’ve all heard of introverts and plenty of you are probably reading this right now. *INTROVERTS UNITE* Ahem…anyway. For those of you who are unsure, an introvert is someone who is generally very inward focused; honing in on feelings and emotions rather than outside stimulus. They also tend to feel incredibly drained after socialising so need time alone to recuperate or ‘recharge’. It is not the same as being shy or socially anxious. Many introverts enjoy meaningful socialising. They will likely just limit it. But again every introvert is different and will have different traits and levels of introversion. This next list is basically traits and behaviours that I myself have and have experienced. Frankly they are all very common among the introvert community but I think a more personal twist on it will help it all be more informative. Commence!

The Social Recharge

This is 100% me and I can’t deny it. Whilst I generally enjoy socialising (and even meeting new people…well, one to one, still not keen on big groups), I need to rest and recharge after; time to just do my own thing. Looking back, I’ve been like that for as long as I can remember. I’ve always set aside a day or two after socialising to relax at home and bask in the glorious solitude. I see people everyday as I live at home with my mum and stepdad. But I don’t count seeing them as actually being sociable. I don’t have to be socially ‘on’ with them. I think people have a tendency to underestimate the importance of the social recharge for introverts. It’s something that we simply have to do. Whilst extroverts gain energy from being around lots of people, introverts lose it. And that’s okay. It’s just how we are.

We enjoy solitude

Pretty self-explanatory really. For us introverts, activities and hobbies we can do alone are PERFECT. Personally, I adore reading, gaming, being amongst nature and around animals, writing, cooking, baking and photography. Also, these are the things that will help an introvert feel revitalised after a busy outing.

Self awareness

We think about ourselves and our own experiences..a lot. As a result, we know ourselves inside out. But at the same time, we’re always wanting to find out more and explore other avenues and topics.

Quality over quantity

I’ve often heard people assume that introverts outright don’t like people. This is simply not true. We are not antisocial or people haters. We just have a small circle of close friends. And we choose our friends much more carefully.

Learning by observing

This is a trait that I’ve had since I was at nursery. Honestly I kid you not. My mum recalls times where, upon given a new task or something I hadn’t encountered before, I’d watch others until I knew what to do. I’d observe, absorb and take in all the information and cues until I was confident I could do it myself.

Just text instead

I don’t like phone calls. Fact. If they’re totally necessary, I have to psych myself up for it. Okay so I can phone my parents without any worries. But anyone else, I’d rather just text or email.

Don’t mistake it for rudeness

And also don’t take it personally. If I don’t want to see anyone for a while, it’s because I need that time to get my battery up and running again. It’s not because I don’t like you or appreciate your company. I just don’t have the energy to socialise all the time. Give me that little break in-between and I’ll be okay in a day or two.

I could probably go into way more detail and whatnot, but frankly my hands are getting tired from all the frantic typing. But I will leave you with these relevant photos and this little nugget of wisdom:

Introverts don’t seek solitude to get away from you; they seek it to get back to themselves. – Me, just now

Kelsey x

The Road to Depression

Sorry for being very quiet.

Nothing has been wrong; I’ve just been slacking a bit. Whoops! But I am back with a vengeance to tell you all about a subject that, whilst very personal, is something I am 100% open and honest with. I’m not ashamed of it and I can’t believe there’s still such a stigma attached to it. Depression is not weakness. Just starting out with that little nugget of wisdom; and anyone who disagrees with it can kindly grab their coat, open the door and kick themselves out of it. Have they gone? Ah good. We can continue.

Rewind allllll the way back to autumn 2010. It wasn’t a great year to be totally honest. Shit happens and all that. I was in my second and last year of sixth form. We were thinking about universities, jobs, exams, driving lessons, becoming adults; it was really bloody daunting. You had all of this stuff thrown straight at you all at once. Yes I know that it’s something everyone has had to do and plenty have coped fine. But me? My brain said a big fat nope. The prospect of university terrified me as I had horrible social anxiety, plus I knew it would require a loan and I didn’t want to be lumbered with debt before I’d even started. The idea of working was just as stressful as I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what sort of job I’d like. Driving lessons had started in the June of 2010, as soon as I was 17, and I initially loved it. But then the stress crept in. I would give myself migraines and nausea from fretting so much. I couldn’t even pinpoint why. The more I drove, the more nervous I got. Strange.

Anyway! The autumn of 2010 saw all of these stressors being thrust upon me. I first noticed something was amiss when my concentration and memory began to slide. I’d always been a proper nerd; able to learn and retain information almost straight away. I could answer questions easily and would get solid A grades in most subjects. In my second year of sixth form, I was taking: Law, Psychology and Religious Studies; all of which I’d enjoyed thoroughly since starting the year before. But then it changed. I couldn’t hold focus. I’d zoned out pretty much constantly. I was sure the teachers were speaking gibberish as I didn’t understand a word they were saying. They’d call on me to answer a question, I’d have to say I didn’t know. It was scary. Really really scary. I’d leave lessons not remembering anything that had been said or done in the class.

Shortly after this, the trademark low moods showed their unwelcome faces. And no, it’s not just feeling a bit sad. It’s an all consuming burden that weighs you down. It’s feeling hopeless, worthless and detached from the world. It’s the feelings of guilt as you think you’ve not really got anything to be depressed about. It’s the mood swings, the irritability and the yearning to be alone. It’s losing the motivation to do anything; even things that used to give you great pleasure like a most treasured hobby. You just…fade. That’s probably the most concise was to describe it. You feel yourself, your personality and the life you’ve built fading away.

I knew I had to get some sort of help. It was affecting every aspect of my life. I know it’s easier said than done for some, but seeking help and reaching out is something you have to do. People are out there to help you the best they can. I saw my GP initially who gave me some self-help stuff to try first, to see if any improvement was made. When this didn’t happen, I was prescribed a very low dose of Fluoxetine; so low in fact that they only did it in liquid form. It tasted pretty strong and weirdly minty. After about 4-6 weeks, noticeable improvements were made. My moods began to balance out and I felt much more stable. But you know what didn’t improve? My concentration and memory. To this day I still struggle with them both. It’s a symptom of the chronic illnesses I have too, so I’ve probably got a double whammy of brain fog. I’d been hoping my grades would start to progress to where they’d been before. I really wanted to be able to contribute to my lessons again. But I just couldn’t do it. At some point, my dosage was increased; which would happen a couple more times over the years. And now I take Sertraline. Yep. I still take antidepressants now. And frankly, I don’t give a fuck who knows it. There is nothing to be ashamed of with regards to mental health. If you need medication, you need medication. It should be treated in the exact same way as physical conditions. You don’t tell someone with a broken leg to just get over it or to get a grip. Nobody has the right to dismiss your problems because they can’t see them.

Right. I’m going to grab some depression information now as I’m getting far too passionate and riled up over here. The following info has come from the NHS UK website, with slight edits to make it easier to absorb.

Psychological symptoms

The psychological symptoms of depression include:

  • low mood
  • feeling hopeless and helpless
  • feeling tearful
  • feeling guilty
  • feeling irritable
  • having no motivation
  • indecision
  • not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • feeling anxious or worried
  • suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting yourself

Physical symptoms

The physical symptoms of depression include:

  • moving or speaking more slowly than usual
  • changes in appetite or weight
  • constipation
  • random aches and pains
  • fatigue
  • lowered sex drive
  • changes to your menstrual cycle
  • insomnia or sleeping too much

If you’ve experienced symptoms for most of the day, everyday, for 2+ weeks, see your GP as soon as you can. And if you need any advice or just want to chat, you can always drop me a message.

I hope, in a strange way, that you’ve found this post to be enlightening and helpful. I have no qualms about sharing my story with others, especially as I know it can really have a positive impact on people’s lives AND it can help educate those who are still extremely ignorant and/or judgemental.

Take it easy + look after yourselves.

Kelsey x

Anxiety: Episode One

So I’ve been thinking of future posts; thinking quite a bit actually. I wanted something that I could keep going back to and was, ultimately, very relatable. And voilĂ ! An idea struck me. As I’ve battled anxiety in many forms since my teen years, what better avenue to explore than retelling memorable moments of anxiety that I’ve experienced. I want to show people the reality of it all; the serious struggles, the ridiculous times, the uncontrollable nature of anxiety. If any of them resonate or strike a chord with you, feel free to give me a message or a comment. Opening up is healthy.

Episode One

This particular scenario concerns social anxiety; something I’ve been trying to fight against for YEARS. It all started in secondary school and just seemed to get worse and worse. About 8 years ago, I was due to go to a very close friends birthday party at her house. I’d been there on loads of occasions so I knew the setting. I got along well with her parents too. But I didn’t know anyone else who was going. I’d not met any of the other guests before. Sure it’s natural and totally human to feel slightly apprehensive before meeting new people, but not the extent that I felt. I was fretting about it for days and days beforehand. Once I was there and was introduced to everyone, you’d think I’d have mellowed out a bit. Alas, you’d be very very wrong. I felt utterly awkward. I was terrified that people wouldn’t like me as I was being really quiet. I was worried they’d be judging me. I was scared that the first impression I was making would ruin any friendships before they’d even started. And no, I’m not exaggerating.

Once my mum came to take me home, I spent the entire journey, and long after that, talking through it all with my mum; simply rehashing the points I’d outlined above but to an almost obsessive level. Trust me, going over and over something like that is not only tedious and annoying, it’s ridiculously unhealthy and draining. But at the time, it was the only coping mechanism I knew. I couldn’t just forget about it and move on. I needed to pick apart and analyse everything that had happened. It got to the stage where I worked myself into a total state. A low mood crept over me. It was awful.

Relatable? Relatable.

Until next time, readers x

A Window into the Wheelchair World

Hello all 🙂 hope you’re having a lovely Sunday.

This brand new post is going to be all about the variety of experiences I’ve had whilst in my wheelchair. Some will be minor trivial things, but when they happen regularly, it soon builds up into one big mass annoyance.

Positives

Admittedly needing a wheelchair isn’t something you necessarily feel positive or good about. It’s a part of your life and can easily wear you down. But there are some moments that, for me, have made a huge difference.

1) People asking if you need help

Okay so you don’t really yearn for people to be sticking their noses in your business all the time or making assumptions. But I’ve had a number of experiences of people asking whoever was pushing my wheelchair if they needed a hand; say, up a hill or negotiating a dodgy pavement. Or if who I’m with isn’t there at that moment, I’ve also had people ask if I need help getting something off a shelf etc. It’s such a small part of their day but those gestures really do stick with me.

2) Freedom to go out

If I didn’t have my wheelchair when I did, I wouldn’t have been able to leave my home. It’s as simple as that. To be so utterly reliant on something such as a wheelchair, and a person to push you around, can be a rather devastating feeling. You don’t want to live with it, but you can’t live without it. However, I always make sure I acknowledge just how much it improved my quality of life. Even a two minute ‘wheel’ down the road gave me some much needed fresh air and a slice of freedom. Definitely not something to take for granted.

Negatives

I realise I didn’t actually mention many positives. Those were also both pretty generic ones. That’s just how it is I guess.

1) One memorable occurrence

I can’t remember exactly how long ago this happened, but it was during a period of still being predominantly wheelchair bound but being able to walk shorter distances if needed. On this particular day, I was out with my dad. We ventured to a local antique shop, parked in a disabled space right at the front and put my Blue Badge in the window. I’d been there before so I knew for certain that the shop wasn’t remotely wheelchair friendly; it was crammed with allsorts of items, very narrow walkways etc. I’d saved up a bit of energy beforehand in preparation for the little walk. It was a case of I either walked round as much as I could manage or I didn’t go at all. Just as we were walking towards the entrance, a woman came out of an office room and asked us if we’d parked in a disabled bay. Yes, we replied. She didn’t seem impressed and requested that we moved the car as they only have a small number of disabled spaces. At this point both me and my dad were getting pretty damn irritated with her intrusive behaviour. We told her I have Blue Badge and it was in the window if she wished to it. My dad told her I had M.E which means that, on my ‘less worse’ days, I can manage a small amount of walking. This next part makes me so pissed to even think about it now. Upon being told of my health condition, she then looked me up and down; as if my invisible illness was suddenly going to jump out and smack her in the face. If that wasn’t bad enough, her facial expression added to the overall mood. She wasn’t frowning per se; it was more a kind of disbelieving glare. I mean, seriously. Customer service at it’s absolute finest right there. Safe to say we haven’t really been back since.

2) Crowds

So I’ve never been a fan of crowds or anywhere with a bustling atmosphere. It’s part of my introverted personality. But once I started using my wheels, it became ridiculous. I was worried that people were staring at me. I was worried that people were judging me. I was also worried of someone not seeing me and falling onto my lap. That’s another thing; busy shopping centres are utter hell. If you’re not accidentally ramming into someone’s ankles, you’re nearly tripped over when people don’t realise you’re even then. Or better yet, your eyes are constantly at ‘bum height’ which, whilst obviously unnerving, is extremely claustrophobic. Some people don’t even move out of the way once they see a wheelchair. They’ve turned, seen that there clearly isn’t enough space for me, but make no effort to simply take a step back. I don’t want special treatment because of the wheelchair but come on. That’s just common decency.

3) Cashier’s not addressing you

Ugh. This. I’ve had it numerous times before. I’ll be in a shop, items I want to purchase in a basket on my lap, heading towards the tills. I place them to be scanned, quite blatant in my actions that I’m the person who’s paying. But no. Some cashiers decide to address who I’m with instead; asking them if I’d like a bag or if I have a loyalty card. I’m right here, you cretin. You clearly saw me put the stuff on your till and that the person I’m with is not necessarily taking any notice. I’m the customer. Surely it’s obvious? Oh but I’m in a wheelchair. That MUST mean I don’t have the ability to communicate or understand the world the around me. Yes I know that some people struggle with how to be around those in a wheelchair. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to point-blank ignore you and make assumptions about your mental capabilities. On some occasions, whoever I was with simply walked off so the cashier had to talk to me. Sometimes it was the only thing that worked.

My wheelchair meant I could make ‘deer’ friends… *pun absolutely intended*
Sometimes I go into off-road mode

Essentially, this post was about giving you a brief insight into the world of a wheelchair user. It’s not decadent. It’s not easy. And it’s not something we enjoy. But it’s also not something we want sympathy for. It’s not something we have to let get us down. We are allowed to see the positives and be happy. And, one of the biggest things to take away from this is:

You don’t have to look sick or disabled to use a wheelchair

Love and hugs to everyone.

Kelsey x

Things Not To Say To Someone With A Chronic Illness

Afternoon all! I hope you’re having a good Sunday. For this post, I sought the input of friends on one of my social media profiles. I asked if there were any particular things that they remember being told, asked etc with regards to their chronic illness(es). But I only wanted the bad, inappropriate, ignorant, hurtful and just plain silly remarks/stories. I want people out there to realise that, even though you think you’re helping someone, you can actually be damaging them mentally, or simply making yourself look ridiculous and ill-informed. My plan for this blog post is pretty straightforward; I’m going to take what my friends have told me, type it all up and hope that you’ll think the comments are just as bad as we all do. Note that this particular post will be about physical chronic health conditions. I’ll be doing a second post dealing with mental health at a later date. So, let’s get this rolling.

“I’ve been given lots of random advice! Told to exercise more, lose weight, eat healthier, get a part-time job etc etc” – Mark, M.E/CFS

“You’re just lazy. Have you tried not napping? You need to just push through and do normal activity and exercise. Aw, did you not sleep well last night? Why do you yawn so much, it’s really annoying. You were in bed for a week after the gym? It’s alright for some/you’re so lucky! I wish I could stay in bed” – Hannah, CFS

“You just need more sleep” – Alicia, Fibromyalgia and CFS

“My personal favourite comments from one person in particular…This is after being diagnosed with M.E/CFS for 16 years, a former manager asked if I was ‘allowed to work’ and if instead of a full-time career I should look into a part-time job, also that she was very ‘nervous’ that I have a medical condition as I’m a ‘time bomb’. She then continued that she had looked up and confirmed that apparently I was making half of my symptoms up because they weren’t on her Google search of most common symptoms. Another woman asked me how I’d be able to cope with being a mother as I’m always poorly and children are ‘hard work’. She said I wouldn’t possibly be able to have children as it’s unfair on them. I seem to believe she doesn’t think I have a partner or a supportive family who will provide any help necessary, if required” – Gemma, M.E/CFS

“I got told (when I was 17) to drink more and have more fun and I’d be alright” – Kayleigh, M.E/CFS

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“You cannot have M.E, you’re not fat. Ah that’s shit! My sister has it too – she ate healthy and is now better. You’ll be fine, just need to rest. You should try going gluten-free (I’ve been gluten free for five years anyway). M.E? Isn’t that M.S? Get better soon! 22 years? Gosh I would have probably killed myself by now. Drink more water. Well at least it’s not cancer. Is this all you want for your life?” – Alice, M.E

“God never gives us more than we can handle. (Almost always said by someone who has had a relatively simple life, who mistakenly thinks it will be comforting to hear that their God keeps throwing this shit at me deliberately)” – Katie L, M.E, Ulcerative Colitis, Endometriosis

“Have you heard of The Secret? You’re sick because of what you’re putting out into the universe” – Kassady, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Gastroparesis, Dysautonomia

“Aren’t you too young for all that? And you are awful young to be on Warfarin, aren’t you?” – Katie B, Venous Sinus Thrombosis, Inter-Cranial Hypertension, Joint Hypermobility, Fibromyalgia, CFS

“After I was signed off sick, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to join my company for their work Christmas do because I ‘didn’t look ill’. Not because having ill people wasn’t their policy, but because I didn’t look ill. Explaining how my illness worked to someone else, they asked if I was just overthinking it. My DWP disability advisor once said to me ‘I think you can do more than that. I know someone with M.E who does x, y and z. You’re so young, don’t you at least WANT to work?'” – Kim S, M.E/CFS

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“It’s because you drink Pepsi. I’m 82 and I can cook” – Sally, M.E/CFS, Fibromyalgia

“Migraines? I know how you feel. I get headaches too” – Raynor, Chronic Migraines

“Well you know how some people believe in M.E and others don’t? I’m one who doesn’t…(said to me by my own GP). Some people just can’t handle pain (said to me by a different GP). You just need to go out and get some fresh air. Once you lose weight, you’ll feel so much better” – Jess, M.E

“This life isn’t a dress rehearsal, you only get one of them. I don’t feel like you really want to get better” – Will, M.E, Fibromyalgia, IBS

“On frustration with multiple infections (not related) and inability to heal a normal earlobe piercing, my GP mocked me and said to the student GP sitting in ‘look at her cry. We manage without ear piercings’, thinking I was upset specifically about the piercings themselves. If he was more compassionate he would understand I was upset about my immune system. This was the last straw” – Elaine, M.E

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“I’ve had people ask me how I am but not given me enough time to actually reply. They then say that I’m ‘looking SO well'” Kim M, M.E

“You’re too young to take all those medications. You should consider stopping them. Sorry how do you spell that? (from consultants when I tell them what I have). You’re tired? But you haven’t done anything?! I’ve also had some silly suggestions of things that might help me: lying in a darkened room with my feet up, rubbing my stomach while eating and having a bit of a hum to improve digestion” – Sammie, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Chronic Migraines, Fibromyalgia, Fatigue, Endometriosis

“You should try to make it to your appointments” Anthony, M.E

“Well you look fine to me. Yeah I know how you feel, I only got five hours sleep last night (Five? Five in a row? Damn I would think I’d died and gone to heaven!). God there’s always something wrong with you isn’t there? But you went out yesterday, obviously you were fine then so why can’t you today?” – Lucy, Dysautonomia, CRPS, CFS

“Oh M.E? Is that the one where you die?” Georgina, M.E

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“You need to get out of your own head more. Try eating a few steaks and go for a run. I knew someone who had that and she’s not dead. You should go travelling, the sunshine will do you good. M.E is a very yin disease, you need to increase your yang” – Emma, M.E

“Can you still have sex?” – Deborah, M.E, Fibromyalgia

“Oh you’re just a fainter (this is what a paramedic genuinely said to me. I in fact have Vagus Nerve Epilepsy so I faint and seizure often)” – Layla, Vagus Nerve Epilepsy, M.E/CFS, Fibromyalgia

“There’s nothing wrong with you. You don’t smell. You’re not a vampire (My own GP said this)” – Danielle, M.E

“You haven’t really got an excuse unless you have cancer. You can still work with CFS. Sleeping in the day will make things worse. Have you read this article? If you build up exercise gradually you will get better. I reckon you could do at least 5 hours work a day. Why are you not going out?! , I think you have Agaraphobia. Have you thought about trying Yoga?” – Lizzie, M.E/CFS

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What type of posts would you like to see?

Good evening! I hope you’re doing well 🙂 Thought I’d do a bit of research for my upcoming blog posts and pose a question to you all:

What would you like to see posts about?

The main focus will still be my struggles with chronic illnesses, depression, anxiety etc. And I do enjoy sharing some of my day to day stuff, photography and just general life posts. But what would you like to see specifically?

  • Maybe some book and gaming reviews (although I can’t guarantee they’ll have a professional sounding vibe to them)
  • Something relating to my cooking and baking; all recipes would be gluten-free and most would be vegetarian. Also I could do some food reviews and recommendations of good ‘coeliac friendly’ places
  • Possibly even some random posts with memes, quotes or funny jokes I’ve heard
  • Poetry (all mine and original)
  • Short stories (also all mine and original)
  • More ‘get to know me’ kind of stuff, like my taste in music, films, TV shows. And some more serious things such as causes I feel strongly about. Don’t worry though. I don’t intend on turning this into some kind of controversial, opinionated or preachy blog. That’s totally not my style
  • Could maybe try a type of Q&A kind of post. You ask questions in a message or on the post itself and I answer. Simple. Well, assuming you actually ask appropriate things and I feel comfortable divulging the info.

SO MANY OPTIONS AND I NEED SOME HELP, FOLKS!

Drop me a comment or message if you have any ideas or requests.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Kelsey x

Academic Absence Part II – Reinventing Myself

After getting pretty emotional whilst writing my previous post, I thought it was best to have a little break. But now I’m back, feeling reasonably good and ready to write the more positive side of this story.

Without the academic part of my life, I had to find something to replace it. I was daunted at the prospect but I knew there had to be something out there for me. I knew there had to be more to me than studying and grades. I knew I’d get there and feel complete again. With my concentration and memory almost totally shot, I needed easy-going, relaxed hobbies; maybe something to tap into my more creative side. And with that, here’s a list that will hopefully shed some more light on this ‘new me’ and possibly give you some inspiration and ideas to help you on your journey 🙂

Photography

Okay, so not everyone can get out into the big, wide world and capture things on camera. But for me, it’s been a huge part of my life since being ill. I got into it beforehand, but I didn’t really hone my skills until after my M.E diagnosis. Even with just leaving the house for half an hour once a week, I might have been able to go into our communal garden and photograph some plants. Or some wildlife if I was lucky. Since moving to a house, I can easily watch the birds through our patio doors; catching photos of them in flight or feeding from the bird table. Photography essentially allows me complete creative freedom. I can choose whatever subject I like, whether that’s landscapes, flowers, insects or wildlife. I have control over what path I take with it and I love that. To feel in control of something again was wonderful. It really did, and still does, make a huge difference. I’ve even had online friends tell me in the past that they live vicariously through all my photos; they feel like they were there with me, enjoying the moment in real life. And that was something that encouraged me even more. I’ve known so many chronically ill individuals who are bedbound, housebound, wheelchair bound etc, and to know that my newfound hobby was helping them with their struggles? That spurred me on. So not only was I doing it for myself, I was doing it for others. Talk about silver linings, eh?

Pen Pals

Right at the start of my illness, I struggled immensely with the isolation and lack of contact with my peers. After seeking out some online forums, I made some incredible new friends; all of whom were in the same or a very similar situation to myself. Those I got closest to were then more than online friends. We became pen pals. I purchased a ton of cute stationery (Paperchase being a classic favourite) and got cracking. My hand would hurt. I’d have to take breaks. Sometimes I couldn’t reply to letters for days, even weeks. But I knew that the person on the other end would understand and patiently await my reply. There was no pressure at all. I was writing these letters and cards because I wanted to. I wanted to know how my friends were doing. I wanted to be able to cheer them up on a particularly rough day. And admittedly I did want to show off my new stickers, cards and funky letter sets. It gave me something to look forward to. At one point, I would receive a letter or more every single day. With hindsight, I can say that my pen pals helped me a hell of a lot more than I realised at the time. I began to feel less lonely and out of touch with people my own age. I’d found others in the same shitty place as me and we knew we could rely on each other. We had an instant common ground and connection. It was wonderful.

A New Focus

So this is probably the biggest and most important change for me. From a young age, I’d always been career focused. And even though the job itself would change (vet, doctor, fashion designer, forensic scientist, midwife), the same determination and goal was still there. When the possibility of this was thrown into question, I didn’t know how to react at first. As I said before, I was lost and didn’t know who I was or would be in the future. I had to find something else for my busy mind to concentrate on and work towards. And one day, it just sort of clicked. I realised that having a career wasn’t everything. I also realised that there was so much more to life than qualifications and grades. A lot of you will have always known this, but I hadn’t. It was all I’d ever wanted and been good at my whole life; learning, getting top grades and succeeding with it. But now I saw the light. I saw all the new opportunities out there for me. I had fresh goals and dreams to put into place for my future. I could do something with my creative writing and/or photography. I could work with animals. I could start a family. All these life events and routes that I’d never thought about before suddenly became very real and exciting prospects. I wasn’t all about a high-flying, high intensity job anymore. I knew I could be happy another way

Escapism

Plenty of you out there are likely to be avid readers or gamers; or both if you’re anything like me. I’d been a bookworm as a child but slacked, quite predictably, in my teenage years. I still had a few books in my bedroom, but they would often go untouched for months. But once my sleep problems appeared, I found my old friends again. Back then, it was taking me 2-3 hours to get to sleep at night, regardless of when I went to bed. I didn’t always want to watch TV, so I remember picking up my copy of The Order of The Phoenix. Despite being daunted by the sheer size of it, I hunkered down for a nice reading session. And that was the moment the obsession began anew. I’d fill those couple of hours prior to slumber with make-believe worlds and fictional adventures. I was escaping from reality without leaving the comfort of my bed. When I was eventually put on melatonin to aid my sleep, I was getting to sleep within half an hour of my head hitting the pillow. So instead of my escapism happening at night, I had to move it to the day. Whilst my concentration was dire when it came to learning and retaining facts, I found fiction to be much easier to grasp. Maybe it was simply because I was doing it for pleasure as opposed to a grade or important test. Frankly I didn’t really care. I just loved my books and that was that. The same thing applies to gaming. I’ve played god knows how many different titles in my 25 years but they just keep getting better. Fallout 4, Skyrim, GTA V, Dragon Age Inquisition; these are my recent favourites. I found them all to be incredibly immersive. I’d simply load them up and get lost in the stories. Plus the violent side of some games were extremely good stress relief :’) It probably sounds quite lame to some of you, but when I was able to do a lot less than now, video games were a brilliant escape. It was another case of me being in control. I still had power over something, even when I didn’t have it over my own health. And yes there’s been countless occasions when I’ve been addicted and lost track of time. I admit that it’s a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand, I’m filling my days with something I love and can escape into. But on the other hand, you can easily forget about other things and the people around you. Moderation, moderation, moderation is my answer to that.

I think that might be it for me today. I can sense a headache looming under the surface and I don’t want to make it too angry. I’m not sure how insightful this post actually was to be honest. Be sure to inform me if you felt it was though! It would be great to see that my effort wasn’t in vain. And of course, I totally understand that hobbies such as these aren’t feasible for everyone, which upsets me a lot. And this wasn’t intended to make anyone feel disappointed or angry at their limitations. It was merely my way of saying how I personally coped, grew and made the most of my own personal abilities. And maybe it will give some of my readers a sense of hope for their future. I’m writing this blog post 7+ years after initially getting ill and I wasn’t totally sure I’d ever get here. My newly discovered hobbies are one of many factors that have kept me sane over the past few years. And most importantly, I’ve gained the knowledge that, wherever you are in life and whatever your strengths, there’s something out there for you to embrace, pursue and excel at; it might just take you a little while to find it.

Peace and love to all. Kelsey over and out x

Academic Absence

Hello once again!

I apologise that I’ve been really quiet (again) recently. I’ve had a very busy few days and am struggling A LOT in this heat. So I’m hoping to take my mind off the oppressive humidity by writing another post. However, the focus of this post is something I genuinely still struggle to look back on. I made peace with so many things years ago and I’m generally okay with this too. But to recall those days and how I used to be, it’s pretty damn challenging.

As I said in a previous post, I had always been the academic type, ever since I was small. Learning and taking in new information was a breeze for me; I could just remember and absorb stuff so easily. It was so natural. Then came the utter shock I felt when my depression kicked in. I’d just started my second and last year at sixth form (September 2010). I’d prepared for the year ahead and was looking forward to *hopefully* getting my A levels in Psychology, Law, Religious Studies & General Studies. At the time, I thought it was solely down to my mental health issues, but with hindsight, it was the start of my chronic illness. *I’m going to be focusing on the memory and concentration symptoms of depression, not the low moods* My grades went down from A’s to D’s and E’s. My mind wasn’t working properly. I couldn’t focus on what my teachers were saying. I’d try and try but I was repeatedly zoning out. They’d ask me the answers; I wouldn’t have a clue. I’d go to do my homework and genuinely feel like I was reading a foreign language. It really hit me hard. One moment I remember vividly was at a parents evening around this time. Each of my teachers asked if there was something going on at home as they’d seen my grades slipping. They’d also all noticed my behaviour in lessons had changed and I wasn’t as focused as usual. I then had to explain to each of them, individually, what the problem was. I wasn’t ashamed of it but it felt so strange.

After seeing my GP and trying non-pharmaceutical pathways, I was put on Fluoxetine. As my mood began to pick up, I was praying that my cognitive symptoms would improve as well. I waited and waited but they didn’t budge. Venturing into sixth form was like torture. I almost felt embarrassed. I knew my teachers had twigged, so all my classmates must have too. I was so used to being top of the class and enjoying my lessons. Now I was pretty much right at the bottom and dreading each day. I thought to myself:

I don’t know who I am anymore

I’d always been about grades and qualifications. It was a huge part of who I was and who I wanted to be in the future. I knew I could go far in my chosen career; I knew I had it in me. And then..it was gone, almost overnight. Just like that, almost everything I thought I was as a person was taken away. I couldn’t reverse it. I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t work through it. I just wasn’t that person anymore. So who was I now? I wasn’t good at sports or painting. I didn’t play an instrument or enjoy acting. I didn’t have a fantastic social life or an outgoing personality. All I ever was no longer existed.

And that was one of the hardest parts for me; having to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t who I’d always been anymore. I didn’t know if I could ever go back there, to learn and fill my mind with facts again. No one could tell me that. And to add insult to injury, I then became ill that Christmas. I don’t remember exact timings, but I’m sure I went back to college for a bit in January. All the previous symptoms were there and now I had all my new ones to contend with. My focus was reduced even more. My memory was diabolical. I’d leave an hour lesson, walk the 2 minutes home and not be able to tell my mum a single thing I’d learned in the last 60 minutes. My mind was totally blank. I was exactly the same at home too. I’d ask my mum what was for dinner and she’d reply. I’d then ask a few minutes later, not remotely remembering that I’d asked already. And sometimes I’d even ask a third time.

When the time came that I could no longer attend sixth form, it was almost bittersweet. I was so ill that I knew I couldn’t go anymore. I made the choice myself, so I was in control of that aspect. I also felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to go to lessons. I’d still have to battle my brainfog etc at home, but the pressure from college was no longer there. I didn’t have to get good grades. I didn’t have to retain all the facts and figures. I didn’t have to put a brave face on and pretend nothing had changed. And most importantly, I didn’t have to deal with the daily disappointment of feeling inadequate; feeling like I wasn’t living up to my potential and the standards I’d always kept. But at the same time, education was all I’d ever known. It was all I could remember doing. I had that weekday routine, knowing where I was going and what I was doing. Now I had no idea. My entire life had been centred around my own education and academic progress.

So I had to recreate myself.

(To be continued)…

What No One Told Me

I’m currently hiding indoors from this never-ending heatwave and thought writing another post would be the perfect distraction. So, with an icy bottle of blackcurrant squash by my side, I’m ready to rumble.

January 2009

Going even further back in my life, we hit my final year of school. I’d always been an incredibly academic type. I never found exams scary or daunting and loved to learn. Because of this, my GCSEs were so important to me. The school year had been going well so far; nothing unusual had occurred and my studies were progressing nicely. Until one morning, I woke up with a horrible sore throat and headache. Oh what joyous news this was! I’d had tonsillitis before and this felt uncannily like that. So I had to take the day off and get my mum to take me to the doctors for an urgent appointment. I bundled myself into the car, knowing that the doctor would very likely say it was in fact tonsillitis as I suspected. Lo and behold, the doctor diagnosed exactly that and gave me a prescription for antibiotics. Fast forward to a couple of days later and things seemed to be getting worse rather than better. My glands were huge and tender. My throat was hurting even more. This is definitely not good I thought. So we trotted off to the doctors again who this time said it could be glandular fever. And guess what? Antibiotics often make glandular fever worse. Brilliant! A blood test was scheduled and yes, the results showed up glandular fever.

I was off school solidly for 4 weeks; spending the majority of the time either sleeping or resting on the sofa. It was a pretty rough time to be totally honest, but admittedly I don’t remember that much about it; it’s all just one big blur. As I was starting to think about returning to school, there was something not right with my body. I was constantly knackered and lethargic. Yet another trip to the doctors later and I was told I had post-viral fatigue. They said it would likely last for another month or two. And here’s the part no one told me: no one said I could get ill again. The doctor didn’t once mention that I could relapse or even get a full-blown chronic illness. It was simply said to be PVF and that I would be fine within a couple of months, as long as I got plenty of rest etc. Obviously at the time, we just went with what the doctor said. Heck, I didn’t even know what M.E was so it never even crossed my mind.

I never went back to school full-time. I would judge each day by how I felt in the morning and would prioritise the lessons I needed to attend most. All the teachers were super understanding and I could go home at any time. I had work that I missed delivered to my home or given to me at school so I didn’t fall behind. With my resting and taking it easy, I managed to keep on top of everything. I was slowly beginning to feel better towards the summer and felt positive about my exams. Skipping ahead to results day, I was ecstatic to find out that I’d achieved my predicted grades in every subject (4 A’s, 5 B’s and a C). Happy days all round as my health was finally back on track.

My mum was working in a nursery at the time, and I decided to go in and help for a day, seeing as I’d finished school way before the summer holidays started for everyone else. I was able to keep up, help out and crack on for the whole time I was there. Soon, my ‘one off’ day of volunteering turned into a week…then another…then two more on top of that. My illness at the beginning of the year wasn’t even in my head anymore. I’d gotten better over time, just as the doctor had said. I’d gotten the grades I needed to attend sixth form and had the whole summer holiday to relax and have some ‘me time’. So yeah; you could say I was doing pretty well.

December 2010

If you read my first post, you’ll know that this is when I really noticed my symptoms of M.E; and how everything went downhill from there. After the diagnosis, one of my first questions was: Why did nobody tell me I could get ill again?! I don’t recall it ever being spoken about or even brought up as a possibility. I didn’t know it could come back, so I never asked. I thought a medical professional would know and would undoubtedly inform me if it was likely to hit me again. But there was nothing. I had recovered, or so I thought, had been symptom-free for about a year and was getting on with a normal life. I wasn’t taking any precautions or avoiding pushing myself because I didn’t know. I thought it was all behind me. I thought I’d gotten over it. I thought I was out of the woods. Should I have done some research and reading myself? Should I have gotten a second opinion? Should I have pressed my doctor for more information? I didn’t do any of these things because I trusted a doctor to know what they were talking about. I trusted them to tell me everything about the condition I had. Now I’m looking back, there’s only two possible scenarios:

  1. They didn’t tell me because they simply didn’t know
  2. They didn’t tell me because they didn’t want to worry me

Now I honestly have no idea which of these is true and I never will. With hindsight, you can look back and think that you should have seen it coming or been more prepared. Maybe I could have done some searches online to find out more about PVF. But when you’re going entirely on what a health professional says, you don’t for a second think they’re omitting something or are clueless. You are putting your faith in them to know what they are talking about and to be upfront with any outcomes, complications etc. It’s not something I try and dwell on too much now. I can’t change it. It is what it is.

I just don’t know why no one told me.

Kelsey x