Worry less, smile more

.Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was an off switch for all our worries? If you’re like me you will love a good quote and many a good quote base themselves around being positive, living your life to the full, worrying less and smiling more. But sometimes it doesn’t matter how much we try to convince ourselves of this, worries just can’t be magicked away that easily.

One of my targets from CBT has been to write in a worry diary every night, 3-4 hours before sleep, the aim being to oust the worries from my mind, write down steps I can take to begin to overcome them, close the book and hopefully that’s expelled them or at least calmed them from my mind for the night to come. I get the concept, I really do, but in some ways I’ve found that all this has done is emphasise my worries.

Now, I have always been a worrier, it’s been a long running family joke for as long as I can remember. I get it from my Grandma although I stand my ground on the fact that there is no- one in the world who worried more than she did! I do recognise this trait in myself and I do believe I have got better with age. However, although I have got better, I will now totally contradict myself and say in a way I have got worse because although I don’t worry about as much, the things I do worry about, I worry about BIG time. I definitely over think more and sometimes my worries are totally and utterly ridiculous and I will find myself researching how I would survive in a falling lift situation!

As we get older we become so much more susceptible and sensitive to the world around us. It astounds me when I see children running, playing, socialising fearlessly, not worrying about falling or hurting themselves, worrying whether someone is being mean or isn’t who they say they are – when does this change and why? I had the same upbringing as my brother yet he doesn’t worry to the same extent as I do – so is it a gender thing? Is it nature or nurture? I don’t know.

The worries I live with on a daily basis now are obviously different to those I had a few years back – the money worries I used to think I had were nothing compared to those I have now! But worry is all relative. My money worries are no more or less important than anyone else’s because they will be just as stressful depending on different scenarios. Those with children or new homes or a broken boiler or a flat tyre or a lost wallet – all worthy causes for worry. But referring to my earlier CBT task, the worries I found myself writing down daily didn’t seem to have any next step scenarios. They all had more long-term outcomes so seeing them written down in black and white over and over every day  oddly enough made me worry more! Oh Hannah Green! So long story short I’ve stopped writing my daily worry diary until I can ask some questions about how I can approach it differently…I don’t want to fail my targets…yes, I turned up to my last session feeling like a naughty school girl because I’d not met all my targets and honestly, at the age of 31 I felt so bad, like a detention was waiting for me! My lovely therapist laughed at me when I told her and just said that was my problem, I worry about things I shouldn’t worry about….but honestly, that’s me and I know that has to change in order for a healthier mindset.

Worry can be irrational – I mean, my biggest fear, well one of them, is bears. Not teddy bears but the kind that can run, swim, climb trees…you ain’t getting away from one of those bastads if you disturb its cubs – have you even see The Revenant?! Yet I have learnt that trying to squash someones worries isn’t helpful, you may be trying to help them, goodness knows I’m sure I’ve done it so many times but the best way to help is to just listen, offer a hug and tissues to wipe the inevitable tears and then throw in a good old quote for good measure – finishing with a laugh always helps!

Worry is something that will never be extinct in our world. New fears and worries occur every minute of every day for people and sometimes they’ll be worries they’d never dreamt of. Watching the news over the past few months and witnessing the horror of the various terror attacks across the world but mainly in London and Manchester, in places and situations so close to my heart, it’s unthinkable how many people will have been affected by the atrocities. So many of the survivors, the emergency services, news crews and witnesses will be now living with the effects for days, months and years to come. They will be experiencing worries and fears that hadn’t entered their minds before, yet for some they will now be devouring their existence. However, when I’ve read reports and watched interviews I am amazed, encouraged and proud to see how many of them approach these fears by fighting, not taking flight. Facing their fears head on and getting back to their daily lives – going to concerts, returning to Borough Market, walking over London’s bridges.

This is not how everyone will respond to fear and worry, fight and flight are both two very valid responses – I’ve done both at varying points in my life and neither were wrong choices. What I mean is, the human race is amazing. We support each other in the choices we make and help each other take steps forward to reach our end goals, worry will always be there in one form or another yet it won’t beat us. It won’t beat me.

And now comes the toughest part of this blog – what worry quote to end on, there are just too many good ones to choose from hahaha!

 

Have a fab week fellow worriers…or should that be warriors?!

#hairlesshannah

A very spoonie-fied blog

I’m sorry I’ve been absent for a while – well, almost a month now. There is no real excuse, especially when I know how writing helps me, but I just haven’t had the urge to write, I’ve had a slump and I thought that rather than force out blog posts that I didn’t really believe in, I’d stop. Pause. Take stock and tell myself it’s okay to take a break and come back as and when it felt right.

I am disappointed in myself that the month of May has been the time for this period of nothingness because it’s an important month for ME/CFS. May is ME awareness month as well as awareness for many other hidden illnesses. I’ve watched and followed eagerly how my little spoonie online community have raised awareness and done so much for the cause. Next year I will do more but for this year, all I can offer is this blog post.

I’ll start with a little fun fact; May 12th was Florence Nightingales birthday and it is suggested that she was one of the earliest sufferers of ME.  From 1857 she was often disabled by ill-health and spent much of her time bed bound; she is now considered a kind of patron saint for this under studied illness and this is why May 12th is used as a day for awareness. How about that eh?!

I then thought I would recap the main facts about ME, so I have used the main websites that I find useful and informative to provide you with the following:

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides three levels of severity for ME: mild, moderate and severe. This is how they explain them:

  • People with mild CFS/M.E. are mobile, can care for themselves and can do light domestic tasks with difficulty. Most are still working or in education, but to do this they have probably stopped all leisure and social pursuits. They often take days off, or use the weekend to cope with the rest of the week.
  • People with moderate CFS/M.E. have reduced mobility and are restricted in all activities of daily living, although they may have peaks and troughs in their level of symptoms and ability to do activities. They have usually stopped work, school or college and need rest periods, often sleeping in the afternoon for one or two hours. Their sleep at night is generally poor quality and disturbed.
  • People with severe CFS/M.E. are unable to do any activity for themselves, or can carry out minimal daily tasks only (such as face washing, cleaning teeth). They have severe cognitive difficulties and depend on a wheelchair for mobility. They are often unable to leave the house, or have a severe and prolonged after-effect if they do so. They may also spend most of their time in bed, and are often extremely sensitive to light and noise.

I come under moderate. I won’t go on about my personal experience because I feel I’ve done that enough in previous blogs. However, progress has been made in that the 4-6 month wait for CBT has been destroyed and I have already had my first two sessions. Now, I know there is much debate about the usefulness and effectiveness of CBT for ME patients and I must admit, initially I was wary. But you know what? This is the only thing, the only offer of help I’ve had from the NHS so I am grasping it with both hands. I’ve gone into it with an open mind but also with open eyes. Luckily I made an immediate connection with the therapist and I trust her – both a bonus when you consider all the bad luck I’ve had over the past 20 months! We have set targets together to try to help me with my sleep – not working yet and as she predicted have made things worse before they hopefully get better. I like her because she is honest. There’s no BS, it might work for me, it might not but with everything crossed it could improve on what I live with daily and that’s enough for me thank you very much!

  • ME is a chronic illness which means it is long-lasting with no cure or guaranteed treatment.
  • ME is a physical disorder – having ME is NOT a state of mind and there is real scientific proof for this.

Life with ME has made me reevaluate everything about myself and my life, I guess a life changing illness will do that to you. It’s a terribly lonely illness. Yes I am surrounded daily by my wonderful family and I have constant contact with friends but I don’t have that connection with people anymore. I don’t have work banter, I don’t have social banter or random chats with people you may see when you’re simply out and about. I spend A LOT of time alone, sleeping, thinking…and that is lonely. It’s isolating and it makes daily life tough to face.

Raising awareness of illnesses like ME is so very important. Even doctors don’t know very much about them and patients – including me – often have to educate their GPs and specialists about possible medications, treatments and symptoms. It’s a frustrating situation that can be made easier by more people being educated and therefore having an understanding of what sufferers are living with on a daily basis.

Thank you for reading, thank you for baring with me and thank you for your continued support.

Have a lovely weekend.

#hairlesshannah

 

A look back at my 30th year!

I have to be honest, I wasn’t going to publish a blog today because I just haven’t had the spoons or inclination to write since last week. But, I thought: no, Hannah, sort yourself out, do something for your blog you lazy (!) girl. But I’m really not joking when I say I’ve been avoiding writing, it’s been a real up and down week, however, on Friday we had a phone call that we are now classing as, ‘a positive turning point!’ Kings rang and said a CBT appointment had come up for Monday – yesterday – and as I insert this text now, I can safely say it’s been a positive turn of events. The lady that will be doing my CBT with me is so lovely, down to earth, empathetic, sympathetic, knowledgeable, hopeful and professional – winner. But I will go into more detail another time!

This year has had some major lows but some equally lovely, lovely memories made with some truly special human beings. I started my 30th year on the planet being detained in Dubai airport whilst my darling brother used Eurovision results to try to gee me up (a particular low point, if not the lowest!).  I’ve spent many an hour baking, writing children’s books and continuing this blog. The love and support I’ve received has been overwhelming at times and keeps me writing and having a purpose, so thank you. I have loved having friends to visit me, visiting them on good days and catching up with my two Dubai sisters at Christmas. Watching little Mason grow and change and spotting buses as they go past our house on his visits has been a particular favourite too! I will treasure the moments I spent with Grandma and giving her the most beautiful send off. I’ll never forget giving mum the biggest surprise of her life for her 60th when Uncle Chris came over from Canada or chair dancing at our joint birthday bash and watching on as mum performed her now infamous dance to Uptown Funk! Watching dad being serenaded by the waiters at The Cheesecake Factory in Dubai for his 60th was hilarious and one of my favourite days out was at Friends Fest with the best brother in the world and his equally amazing girlfriend. Having several events which raised money and awareness for Alopecia UK has made me proud and having a few nights away in Somerset with my lasagne making queen Claire was a real achievement and worth every second. Going to two weddings, one of two Dubai lovelies and the second being a family one – both treasured memories. I’ve loved being chauffeured around by ma and pa who have just been beyond incredible with their love and support and constant encouragement to keep going. Spending endless hours being lovingly supported by friends I could only wish everyone knew have also given me sunshine. And of course there have been so many other things that have made me smile and kept my spirits high but I can’t go on and on as it defies the point of this short blog!

So, for now, I will dodge the word count for this week and simply leave you with some of my personal favourite photo high lights of my 30th year. Enjoy!

#hairlesshannah

Teacher Appreciation Day

Today is teacher appreciation day and being a teacher myself and coming from a family of teachers, this day is an important one! Teaching is often a thankless job, it’s a job that has so many layers that often parents and society as a whole don’t realise what is involved. If I had a pound or possibly even a penny for every time I heard, “teaching is a 9-3 job,” or “you do get so many holidays” I’d be a millionaire!

This post isn’t going to spend time justifying why teachers deserve their holidays or why it definitely is NOT a 9-3 job, it is going to highlight the amazing job that teachers do. I have been so lucky throughout my life and career to have had, known and worked with some of the most inspiring teachers in the education system. I have always said that teaching is a vocation; if you don’t truly love the job then you wouldn’t do it. It’s not a job you can just put up with because you have the life and future of children in your hands and you owe it to them to be the best and do the best for them each and every day. That isn’t to say teachers are perfect and ‘outstanding’ every lesson day in day out, we are human and things go wrong, not least because we work with children and not robots so lessons can often take you down a different path to that of what you expected!

From a very young age I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I would go into my Grandparents room when they were staying and make them play schools with me – I would take the register and give them activities to do which I would mark! This must have been partly to do with the fact both mum and dad were teachers and I aspired to be like them because in my eyes they were super human. But as I grew older and went through Primary School, I was lucky enough to have some brilliant teachers who gave me the best education and allowed me to be a child who loved school.  At Secondary School I also has amazing teachers – and some bloody terrible ones – and they too helped shape the person I am today. I was able to appreciate the effort and time they out into lessons and could clearly identify the ones who cared about me and my future and I loved the ones who did this alongside having a good laugh and got to know me as Hannah and not just a grade, some of which I am now great friends with.

Choosing my University degree wasn’t difficult for me, it was always going to be Primary Education. I did enjoy the course, I have to say I wasn’t very lucky with many of my lecturers but I lived for the school placements, that was what it was all about for me. Not the essays but the ‘in school’ part because that is what I had always wanted to do and where I felt most at home. I had some fab classes on my placements but my goodness did I develop a true understanding for what my teachers did for a living (see below a photo of me on the last day of my last teaching practice – fresh eyed, with hair and loving life…how things changed after ten years in the job haha!) The behind the scenes parts to being a teacher were harder than I could have every imagined, the hours and hours of planning, marking, preparation and sleepless nights worrying about observations and if you were meeting the needs of every single child or every ability – believe me, we work hard for those holidays! And then when the holidays do come round we (well most of us) work for some of them and spend time in school getting our rooms and corridors sorted, it isn’t little creative fairies that do that work you know!

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When I qualified, I got a job at a school that I knew as soon as I entered the doors for my interview it was a special place. A school that was safe, inclusive and did everything for the children and with the children in mind. That school gave me the best mentor I could have wished for who taught me so much more than I could have hoped for in my NQT year but also saw me paired me with two teaching assistants who are two of the best people I have ever worked with, have ever known and have the pleasure to call two of my closest friends. It’s during the six years I spent there that I learnt how essential the role of a TA is. They aren’t and shouldn’t be an after thought, they are the people who allow us teachers to do our jobs as well as we do – they are a support not only for the children but for us – from lesson prep to displays, sorting out sore knees to cleaning up bodily fluids, remembering sick bags on trips to contributing their own endless talents to make our classrooms what they are. Teaching assistants should never be taken for granted, they should be involved and thanked and loved every day because in my eyes, they are the second teacher in the room, not just the supporting adult.

I then spent two years teaching in Dubai where I learnt even more about the importance of working as a team and appreciating the TAs. Having a fourteen form entry school is by no means easy but it was also great fun. In a school that size it’s easy to forget to be thankful but out Year 2 team did it internally with a buddy system where we secretly treated each other and it worked a treat. And I have to say, the support and encouragement I got from the parents of the classes I taught there exceeded any expectations I could ever or will ever have again. They were a very special group of families.

I have been very privileged to know so many special teachers and teaching assistants who have inspired me, taught me and supported me along the way over the years. Both in the UK and Dubai I have been part of teams that love what they do, know the importance of having a laugh and do everything with the children in mind and not just to boost the facts and figures. It’s so easy to forget that with the education system the way it is today, there is so much for teachers to try to cram in and get covered and sometimes it can be easy to forget that the children are what’s important. They learn when they have fun and are involved in creative lessons and need to be exposed to experiences that spark their imagination and trigger their passion for learning. That is something I have always tried to do, sometimes I stretch things a little too far like when I wanted to do an assembly based on the book, “There’s a Hippopotamus on our roof eating cake.’ I pictured it being an outside assembly where my TA would be dressed as a hippo and act out the story on the roof…and you know what? We only went and pulled it off and the children LOVED it! The number of children who came up to me after that assembly asking questions about the book and wanting to join story club just showed me that making that crazy idea come true, led to children being enthused about reading.

One of the best parts of teaching for me is getting to know the children and that includes their family as well. A child’s education doesn’t just lay on our doorsteps as often indicated by the press – I mean of COURSE teachers are to blame for every bad thing a child or teenager does because we taught them right?! Shaping a child into the adult they become happens through partnership – working together to help each other and support each other will ultimately benefit the child. Yes that is hard work but at the end of the day it works. Children spend much more time at home than they do at school with us so getting to know each other helps with the process.  So a way of thanking us for all we do would be to show up to courses or events we put on, sign reading records and get involved on days we invite you in to read or take part in activities – we do it all for the children, it’s certainly not for our benefit…if teachers are being totally honest they’d rather be at home or doing something fun rather than waiting for the set of parents that don’t show on parents evening!

Yes, we love getting nice presents but you know what, for me I love getting something personal. Over the past ten years I’ve kept a box of special things I’ve been given and the most treasured are the few cards and hand written letters from parents and children I’ve taught. They mean the most because they are heartfelt, they are personal and time has been taken to think about what you have meant to them. Thanking a teacher doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, even taking time at the end of a day or term to just say thank you means more than you could know.

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So if you have a child at school age, perhaps you could pop up to the school at the end of the day today and just say thanks to their teachers because I bet you that would make their day. And I will finish by saying to all my teacher friends – you are blimmin’ amazing, you may be exhausted after a bank holiday weekend but you’re all fab – not long until May half term – YOU CAN DO IT!

Happy Tuesday everyone,

#hairlesshannah

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April Favourites

Another month gone which only means one thing – another favourites post!

Health & Beauty

This item is something I’ve used for several months and LOVE, it’s Zoella’s ‘Let’s Spritz’ body mist which is just divine. It’s quite a strong, long-lasting scent so could be used instead of perfume to be honest. It’s such a fresh smell, perfect for this time of year. It’s available online or in store at Superdrug for £8 which is a steal.

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Then, of course, I have had a few new LUSH items to add to my list. Their Easter range was incredible. My favourites were these Bubble Bar carrots! Three in a bunch but one carrot was more than enough for one bath so really it was 3 for the price of 1 so yes, I went and stocked up before the range finished. You might be able to grab some in the bigger stores – if you can, buy them! And then, instead of a chocolate egg this year, mum and dad for me the ‘Which came first’ LUSH Bath Bomb – it was huge! It came apart like an egg to reveal a mini egg inside and the colours and noise it made as it plopped in was brilliant…it really doesn’t take much to make me happy does it!!!

This item was a by chance buy when I was in Superdrug, it just goes to show that by putting items in pretty baskets whilst you wait in the queue will entice people to buy more! I love moisturising my feet so these caught my eye although I did think they were a bit gimmicky. They’re called Foot Nourishing Socks and wow, how marvellous they are! I tried this honey and almond pair and I gave mum a peppermint pair to try and we both loved them! They looks ridiculous but feel a-maze-ing! Normally £1.99 a pack but at the moment they are on offer at £1.49 and I will be heading back for more. You snip the socks in half, pop them on and seal them with a sticky tab and leave them on for 15-20 minutes. When you remove them the lotion just needs to be rubbed in but your feet will feel pampered, soft and smell delicious! Home spa eat your heart out!

Now this item is possibly my favourite of my favourites this month. If you know me you’ll know I’m a big water drinker. I don’t drink tea or coffee and very rarely have fizzy drinks or squash. But I haven noticed lately that although I am drinking water, I’m not drinking anywhere near enough. And then I stumbled across this Joseph Joseph click water bottle and it is genius! We are meant to drink 2 litres of water a day which seems like a lot when you say it out loud but this bottle makes it seem manageable. Simply put, each bottle is just over half a litre, and when you fill it and screw the lid back on it will click and show one little dot. The next time you fill, it will click and reveal a second dot and so on..the aim is to get four dots which will mean you’ve drunk you’re daily requirement. Mum has bought one too and it’s become a silent competition between us to see who achieves it each day! I think I have done it most days bar a few but it most definitely makes me aware of how much I’m drinking and strive for my target!

TV

Oooooo TV has been so good this month! Where to start, these aren’t in any particular order and if you haven’t seen them -why not and when are you going to catch up?!

Broadchurch

Broadchurch

This was the third and final season of this classic whodunnit series. It was gripping, emotional and at times quite a disturbing watch but brilliant. So well acted with humorous moments added by the two main actors, Olivia Coleman and David Tennant. They are such a great duo who have a perfect onscreen chemistry as the two detectives leading the case – in this series focussing on a rape. It keeps you guessing until the end and I will really miss it being on our screens. Series 1 and 2 are equally brilliant and if you haven’t watched then you must find a way to catch up on them all.

Car Share

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It’s back! (enter me doing a little chair dance with little whopping noises!) Peter Kay is a comedic genius. The way the world is at the moment we could all do with a good belly laugh and seriously, this is the programme to meet that need. Sian Gibson is his colleague who he car shares with to get to work and the conversations, sing a longs and story lines that follow are just spot on. This is the second series so I would highly recommend you go back to watch series one because it will set up the relationship between the pair and I guarantee you will laugh until you cry at some episodes. TV at it’s best, Peter Kay, I salute you.

Designated Survivor

designated survivor

Granted we are a family who was in love with ’24’ when it was on our screens and we do love a bit of Kiefer Sutherland. So when Dad was recommended this new Netflix series it didn’t take us long to get hooked. And when I say hooked, we watched every episode available in a week – whoops! So now we have to wait for every Thursday to roll round when a new episode is uploaded – proper old school! We hadn’t realised that in America when congress are gathered all in one place, one person is secretly nominated as designated survivor and is taken somewhere else, in a safe place, incase something catastrophic happens to congress and that person will then step in as president…get where this series is heading now don’t you?! It won’t be everyones cup of tea because some of it is for pure entertainment and you have to get past the fact that it’s unbelievable and just take it for good telly. It does have some fab twists and turns and some sneaky ’24’/Jack Bauer lines are in there so you’ll be saying ‘Dammit’ before you realise and be wondering why you’ve never tried talking in a hushed, whispered way before! We love it and I’m sure you will too.

Line of Duty

line of duty

I. Love. This. Show.

Is that enough for me to convince you to go and watch? Okay..I’ll expand. I have watched every series, and every series gets better and better. This is series 4 and you can watch it as a stand alone although again, go watch the previous series as they will help you with characters etc – series 1 and 2 are on Netflix now. The premise of the show is based around AC-12, the anti corruption unit who need to work together to solve crimes and uncover corrupt officers in the police. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat, it is so gripping. How a 15/20 minute interview with four characters sat around a desk can keep you so engrossed is writing at it’s best. This Sunday is the final episode of the series so don’t start watching then, go start from the beginning – you won’t regret it!

And that’s it for this months favourites, not many but my goodness they were good’uns!

Have a brilliant weekend – I know you will because it’s bank holiday and I will see you in May!!

#hairlesshannah

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The reality behind the photo

It’s been a while since I wrote about how I’m coping with having an invisible illness. I’ve now been formally diagnosed with ME/CFS which was both a relief and a worry. A relief because I can now answer questions definitively about what is “wrong” but also a fear because part of me really didn’t want it to be ME. I wanted it to be something curable, treatable…for someone to be able to ‘fix’ me.

I’ve been using social media much more to promote my blog lately and as we all know, social media portrays an image of people that doesn’t always reflect the honesty of your reality. Some people that I follow who have ME are truly brave and use their accounts to show the reality of daily life living with ME, but I don’t. I guess I don’t because I try to keep as many aspects of my life positive and happy in order to keep myself as pepped up as possible. There is nothing wrong with either but my option does then cause problems. By posting a photo that shows me out, smiling, laughing, with people, posting positive etc etc it would appear there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m not opposed to the odd selfie but I also don’t always feel comfortable to show reality through them, my space for being honest is here in my writing.

But what I want to write about in this post is the story behind the social media photos. Photos give you a snap shot. Take for example the photo below.

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This was taken on Friday evening at a surprise party for my ex head teacher and friend. I was picked up at 7pm…well 6.45 as Olivia was EARLY!…the party started at 8pm and my Dad picked me up at 9.30. In the photo I am laughing, surrounded by some of my loveliest friends, drink in hand, having a ball. And I was. In that moment I was happy, I was with people who accept me for who I am, support me through what I’m going through and understand my limitations. To many people though they will see this photo and possibly think the following:

  • Hannah is out, she tells us she’s in bed by 9pm
  • Hannah is dressed up and out at night when she tells us she struggles with noise and busy places
  • Hannah tells us she is in constant pain and can’t do very much let alone go out with friends

Now, I will tell you the reality behind that photo. I haven’t been out in the evening in a party situation since July last year and on very few occasions have been out for a meal in the evenings, so Friday was a big deal. I was anxious about going and I spent most of the afternoon trying to nap to have enough spoons to cope and calming myself down in anticipation. When we arrived it was much louder than I’d imagined it would be. I put my ear plugs in straight away but soon realised that because it was so loud, music plus ear plugs meant I couldn’t hear a word anyone was saying! So I spent the entirety of the few hours I was there with an increasingly banging headache and fuzzy head. I loved those few hours, but I also felt so self-conscious. I was literally the only bald person in the room, I felt like the light was catching my head or that people were staring at me and I certainly didn’t want to be in any photos. I felt hideous, I didn’t feel feminine, I felt ugly and awful and the worst I’ve ever felt about myself. So that photo was me putting on the biggest show of my life in a way – I was happy but would have been happier to not have been captured in that moment. By the time Dad collected me I was done. My legs, knees and back were throbbing, my ears were ringing to the extent I felt like I was shouting when talking to him in the car on the way home and my head was pounding. As I lay in bed that night it was like I was drunk (I only had diet coke!) my head was whirring, my legs cramping and having spasms, my knees seizing. I finally fell asleep at around 8am. That is the reality behind what it took for me to be at that party for two and a half hours.

I’m 31 in a few weeks. I should have been there with my friends on Friday until 1am dancing, drinking a Malibu and coke and being the one snapping the photos like I have always been known to do. I should be looking back on my 30th year and have it littered with good memories of adventures, holidays, milestones and happy times. Instead, it’s a year of appointments, medications, blood tests and sleep. Of course I have had happy times in the year but I think you know what I mean. I feel like a shadow of my former self and I find myself needing to defend how I feel because of photos like the one I’ve talked about. I refuse to not post those photos because otherwise I will not have any memory of these years, in effect I will be missing from these years of my life. There’s a campaign called ‘Millions Missing’ that promotes ME. It talks about how people who have ME are missing from their jobs, social lives, holidays, families..we can’t participate in life in the way we used to but we are still here, we still make the most of what we can when we can. Last year they organised a protest in Whitehall and various other places across the world where people left pairs of shoes to demonstrate how they were missing from their lives because of ME and protesting for the fact that more needs to be done in terms of research and greater funding needed from the government to help people understand the illness more and treat it and it’s sufferers better and with more care and consideration.

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I have been talking to a dear friend this afternoon about this but also about mental health and the similarities that we share. Mental health is also an invisible illness. Just because we had a good day or hour or five minutes yesterday, doesn’t mean we will today or tomorrow or next week. Mental health and ME are fluctuating conditions with no rhyme or reason, no straight path or definitive ending. They are illnesses that need understanding and for people to simply say, “I believe you.”

I find it hard when I see people who say, “You’re looking so well,” or “You’re looking so much better than when I saw you last,” because it makes me feel like a fraud. I feel like I need to defend myself and explain that it’s a hidden illness and looks can be deceiving. If I could wear a wig and pop on some make up I would look totally and utterly fine but I’m not. I feel embarrassed to have to then explain that I’m not actually feeling great but, “thank you for saying I’m looking good.” I know whole heartily that these people are probably being really genuine and kind –  it’s my issue not there’s, I should be thrilled to be told I’m looking well. But because of my personality, I worry that they think I’ve been having them on. My positive attitude and positive mask can work against me in that way because people come to believe it and don’t question it. I saw a friend the other day and we talked about how I am, the loss of my nose hair (!) and everything else in-between but when I saw her again on Friday night she said something that made me smile from inside out. She said that when she got in the car to drive away the other day, she thought about me and what we’d talked about but then she wanted me to know she thought, Hannah is still the same as she’s always been to me. Wicked sense of humour, same old laugh and smile and sense of caring for everyone. To hear that being said so genuinely meant so much, it wasn’t focused on how I looked, or all the changes in me that have occurred, it was a comment about me as Hannah.

Living with an invisible illness is teaching me so much and I’m sure there’s more to come. It’s such a debilitating condition that is stripping me of so much of what I consider my identity. And there’s no end in sight especially when the only recommended “treatment” of a course of CBT is a waiting period of 4-6 months! So, I will continue to try to test different ways to cope and pace myself, I will deal with the ups and downs, I will continue to try and like myself and my appearance, I will try and start to accept that I can’t drive or have much independence and I will continue to strive to stay positive.

It’s a lonely place in this little arena, my bedroom and little writing area are my safe place but they are also lonely. It accentuates the fact that I’m not in a busy classroom or planning for nights and days or even weekends out. But it means that when I do see my friends or I do go out with my family that I don’t take it for granted. I savour every moment even though it may hurt and will inevitably wipe me out for hours, days or nights after. Because at the end of the day, whether I like it or not, this is my life and I will still only get one shot at it. If and when I get better there won’t be a rewind button.

So as with so many of these blog posts, I leave you with this thought: many people you know or will meet may have so much going on in their lives that isn’t visible to you. So be kind and patient and understanding. Give them time, give them a smile and possibly some chocolate…every little helps!!

See you Friday.

#hairlesshannah

 

13 Reasons Why – my review

’13 Reasons Why’ came to my attention via social media. Twitter seemed full of it and that intrigued me because there was a clear divide of opinions. So it became my next Netflix watch and now that I have finished it, I also feel very torn. I haven’t fully digested it all and taken time to sit and think about how it’s made me feel hence why I am just sitting and typing and hoping that by writing about it, I will get rid of the feeling of unease it has left me with.

The premiss of the show is that a high school girl named Hannah Baker commits suicide but before doing so, she leaves tapes explaining the reasons why she has done so.  We are told the story through the character of Clay who struggles with the idea of listening to the tapes and it takes him an age to get through them because he feels so uncomfortable about Hannah’s story as it unfolds and hampers his coming to terms with her death.  This is something I felt I had in common with Clay – it wasn’t a series I felt I wanted to binge because each episode revealed a reason why this 17-year-old killed herself and that didn’t sit well with me. I needed to digest each episode and the issues it brought to the forefront.

Suicide is something I don’t have any experience of. Yes, dark thoughts have been a real issue for me of late but not to that extent. Yes, I’m taking anti depressants but not for the reason of suicide. Yet watching this programme, it portrays just how easily impressionable, vulnerable teens can be led to that state of mind where there seems like no way out. There’s nowhere left to turn, the feeling of emptiness is overwhelming to the point of no return. The show, in my opinion, is very well acted. It’s sewn together faultlessly to show the web of teenage life and how simple acts can lead onto bigger issues. We have to take care of the words that leave our mouths because we don’t know what other people are going through. When I was little the rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” were relayed a few times but actually, that is so far from the truth. We don’t know what struggles people have or what their emotional state is. Simple, harmful, throw away words that leave our mouths in a matter of seconds can stick to the recipient for hours, days, months…years even and make a chink in their armour that is irreparable.

Every year as a teacher I have done a simple PSHE activity about how words can hurt each other and how we can’t take them back. The children start in small groups with a paper plate, a tube of toothpaste and some cocktail sticks. They love the activity – getting to squeeze out every last drop on the toothpaste onto the plate. And then when I ask them to replace ALL of the paste back into the tubes using only the cocktail sticks, it’s fun to watch their little faces, full of concentration and determination which soon turn into frustration and sadness when they realise they can’t do it. This is when I get them to imagine the tube of toothpaste is their mouth and the squeezing out of the paste are their words. The reality of it is we can’t get that toothpaste back in the tube, just like we cannot take back and erase the words we speak, once they are out the damage is done. A simple yet effective activity that I love and will always use.

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One of the reasons I wasn’t sure about the show was because a massive part of me agrees with some of the twitter comments about how this programme could be a trigger for those who are dealing with suicidal thoughts and who have dealt with/are dealing with abuse. ‘Stranger Things’ actress Shannon Purser tweeted:  “I would advise against watching 13 Reasons Why if you currently struggle with suicidal thoughts or self harm/have undergone sexual assault. There are some very graphic scenes in there that could easily trigger painful memories and feelings. Please protect yourselves.”  And I wholeheartedly agree.

But this doesn’t mean others shouldn’t watch. The shows main message for me is how many people miss Hannah. How much people around her care for her and love her, value her and miss her. It shows what she is now not a part of and will never be able to be again. It gives the message that if you are in this dark place to stop and look around, really look around and look for the goodness in your life – people, things, experiences and put your reason for living into them. Find reasons to live not reasons not to. Although I also know this is much much easier said than done.

It highlights the fact that we need to speak up about issues of mental health and abuse – it tackles rape and suicide very graphically. This is another part I still struggle with, probably because they are the scenes that stay with you because they are so graphic. I don’t know whether that is absolutely necessary because both issues are dealt with so well through the script but I see why they were included. It’s the rawness, the total open honesty of the show that hasn’t been done before to my knowledge – it tackles these issues in full view for us to see. So yes it is horrific, uncomfortable, upsetting viewing but it is needed in order to tell Hannah’s full story, for us to understand what she went through and to understand what led her to her ultimate death. And through that we can see how the people around her are led to realise how they played a part in it all – demonstrating again how delicate and thoughtful we should be to our friends, colleagues, acquaintances…people we pass on the street. The shows writer has responded to criticism about these scenes and why they were included and when I read them I understood the importance of their inclusion:

“It overwhelmingly seems to me that the most irresponsible thing we could’ve done would have been not to show the death at all. In AA, they call it playing the tape: encouraging alcoholics to really think through in detail the exact sequence of events that will occur after relapse. It’s the same thing with suicide. To play the tape through is to see the ultimate reality that suicide is not a relief at all – it’s a screaming, agonising, horror. We wanted to tell that story truthfully. And as difficult as it is to watch, it should be difficult to watch. If we make it easy to watch, then we’re selling goods that we didn’t want to sell.”

It’s okay to not be okay, but don’t be not okay alone. Friends and family are there through good, bad and ugly and to support and help you. And if you don’t feel you have friends or family that can do that, there are helplines and organisations who are. Suicide should never be the only option left for any human being.

Samaritans: 116 123

Papyrus (supporting teens and young adults with suicidal thoughts): 0800 068 4141 

Rape crisis: 0800 802 9999

Victim support: 0808 168 9111

I’m not going to recommend this show, not because I don’t think people should watch it, I do. But it’s a show people need to decide whether to watch or not on their own. It is an 18 certificate for a reason.

Sorry for the heaviness of this blog but the show just brought up a lot of thoughts about issues I hadn’t ever really truly considered before and I wanted to get it out there because they shouldn’t be taboo subjects, they need to be talked about so people don’t feel so alone. If anything, the show has brought these issues to the forefront, and whether you agree with it or not, people are talking about it and that equals awareness and that can never be a bad thing.

This has been a tough blog for me to write because I know there will be some people who have watched the show/have opinions on it who will agree with my thoughts but there will be some who really oppose them – let’s just remember the premise of the show here and not leave any nasty comments – everyone is entitled to an opinion and discussions are welcomed but only if they are kept nice and peoples own thoughts aren’t judged.

#hairlesshannah