Learning to let go…

Firstly, I’m sorry I’ve been MIA on my blog, no real reason, just life. But today I felt the urge to write again, it’s my go to self help and therapy when I need it to be I suppose.

I’m writing in a new space today though, in my flat. In my very empty shell of a flat whilst a man is cleaning my oven..I joke not! It’s a very surreal time. I have convinced myself of all the reasons why I’m having to sell and the positives that come with it but at the same time, I am unfathomably sad about it all.

I bought this flat almost eight years ago. I worked hard for it and the sense of achievement I got when I moved in was huge. It marked a point in my life when I was secure enough to be able to move forward from the after effects of jury service and live alone, move forward, be independent. It was exciting, a new chapter, something for me to be proud of and it was the best feeling ever.

This flat has seen some brilliant times – Halloween parties, birthdays, gatherings for all occasions, any excuse really. It’s seen two eventful room renters for which many stories can be told and endless hours of DIY for my dad! It’s been a safe haven, my own space and I truly have been so lucky to call this place my first independent home. For any other single pringles out there, you’ll totally get the hardship that comes with being a singleton trying to get onto the housing ladder– it’s bloody tough when you’re on your own and that’s what made finally getting my flat such an achievement.

My flat is the last thing I was clinging on to for dear life, my aim to get better and be able to live here again. But sadly, for powers totally out of my control, that can’t happen and the choice and dream has been taken out of my hands. I know that one day I will be able to start afresh somewhere new, I know once it’s sold it will be a stress removed from my shoulders however, I think it just highlights the unfairness of my situation and demonstrates once more what ME robs from people.

By selling my home, that’s the last thing that essentially makes the life I made for myself, gone. I’m no longer a teacher, a traveller, a home owner. I’m back to square one and regardless of how I try and put a positive spin on things, it hurts and it feels like one more thing to mourn. And I won’t dwell on it too much because it won’t change the situation or do me any good, but I am allowing myself a little time to process and get it out of my system I suppose. Then, I’ll toast the good times and look forward to the next chapter as and when it comes.

I go through phases where I am totally in control of life and my mental and emotional well being and then, like most things that seem to happen to me, a lot happens all at once and I can’t keep things in check. I guess with hope there’s always the danger of it being dashed. That’s why I don’t hope for too much at once and take the little things as and when I can. ME is just such a random, uncertain illness – there’s almost no point in saying, this time next year you’ll be able to do XYZ, because you just don’t know. I might be able to do XYZ in six months but equally it might take another two years. I’m learning to accept it more and am trying to be at peace with it because like I said before, I can’t do anything about it, but what I can’t silence in my mind is how much I hate it. I really do hate it. It has stolen so much from me, I’m not in control, I miss my independence, my life before.

But, life goes on and I do believe things happen for a reason, (if anyone would like to shed some light on this, I’d love to hear it!) so, for now, I’ll enjoy the fact that a man is cleaning my oven and that I don’t have to do it or ask my parents to, I’ll sit here and quietly remember the fun this place has seen and dare to dream a little about what lies ahead.

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I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend and are still enjoying this freakishly long sunny UK Summer!

#hairlesshannah

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Mental Health

This week is mental health awareness week. Mental health has never been something I’ve ever really thought deeply about, yes, you know you have to “look after your mental health” but what does that really mean? But before I start, I would also like to add in a disclosure here to say that this blog post is based around my experiences and opinions and therefore, if you feel you need help and advise, please go and see your GP or use one of the numbers at the end of the blog. This blog is focussed on mental health linked to my experience of having a long term illness and therefore some of my thoughts and opinions won’t marry up with other people’s mental health problems. Nothing I have written is there to offend or upset anyone.

I suppose mental health is something I’ve considered more since my own has become an issue since becoming ill. I’ve always been a glass half full kinda girl and do try, as much as possible, to focus on the positives.  But sometimes, that just isn’t enough to see you through. Positivity is not a medicine and depression, along with many other mental health issues are not something you can simply snap out of. It’s an illness not a choice.

I started taking anti depressants about a year ago now however, I had been offered them as a “treatment” within the first or second appointment I had when I returned to the UK.

All too often I think that anti depressants are prescribed too easily. Don’t get mad at me, I don’t mean that to be an offensive statement. When prescribed properly they are wonderful however, in my opinion, sometimes, they are used as a quick fix and for me, this is dangerous. There are so many other avenues to explore first but because of lack of money, resourcing and time, those options are often not accessible. Waiting lists to see councillors on the NHS are months and months long…when you need help, advice or just someone to talk to, this just isn’t good enough. GP’s have 10 minutes to see you, assess you, talk to you and give you a course of treatment…prescribing a pill is often easier and quicker than making another appointment to talk or write a referral letter.

My initial approach, which I do still stand by to an extent, was that I didn’t need anti depressants, anyone in my situation would be finding life a little tricky in my situation and I just needed some support. However, as time passed and life didn’t get easier and as the reasoning behind the use of anti depressants in my situation was explained, together, myself, my parents, my doctor and psychologist agreed it was time to give them a go.

This wasn’t a quick fix option, it took months of trying various ones to discover which was my best fit. I had severe reactions to some and others just knocked any kind of emotion out of me which I hated. Eventually I settled on the one that suited me and my body best and even that has it’s side effects. I have been monitored and guided through how and when to take them and know that as and when the time comes when I want to come off them, I have to follow a careful plan to wean myself off. They have helped me greatly, I am more balanced and am able to approach my daily challenges without feeling like an emotional wreck. I have most definitely been very depressed at times and have hidden it well but the team around me, including my CBT therapist, recognised this and suggested them only when it was clear they were the next step.

My point is, they are not a quick fix. In my opinion, they should not be a first option.

I think I have gained a much deeper understanding of mental health and the importance of looking after it through my own experiences. CBT has taught me about unhelpful thinking patterns and how to turn negative and unhelpful thoughts into more rational, level thoughts and this has made a huge difference to me. Being ill has also taught me the true importance of taking a step back, no matter how busy you are, in order to care for yourself. Whether that be having a bath, going for a walk, meditating or writing a journal, doing something for you and only you every day should be at the very top of your daily “to do” list.

There has been so much coverage in the press about mental health recently and that is fab. Talking is what we all need to do more of. The good old saying of, “a problem shared is a problem halved” really is true. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you are feeling low, many people, including myself, don’t want to burden others with these thoughts and that in turn makes everything worse. But if you don’t have enough time with your GP and you’ve got to wait X number of months to see a councillor, then you need to find someone else. It doesn’t matter who, just find someone. Don’t suffer alone because that makes it worse.

And, if you’re like me and you sometimes find it hard to start a conversation, write it down. Write a letter or an e-mail and send it to someone you trust, get those channels of communication flowing. I often find it easier to write a blog post, have my family and friends read it and then that starts up a conversation.

Our mental health can be affected by so many varying factors: stress, work, grief, loss, illness…the list goes on. There is no one size fits all solution. But what I can say is,  I have a lot of people in my immediate circle of friends and family who have had to deal with or are dealing with huge, life changing situations and they are still standing. Just about. And that’s because they’ve talked. They’ve not been forced to talk but they’ve talked when they’ve felt ready and more importantly they have been told that there are plenty of us ready and waiting to listen.

So much emphasis is placed on the person with the mental health issue but it’s important to remember that every single one of us needs to be aware too. All it takes is a simple, “how are you?” or “I’m thinking of you,” or “fancy a chat?” or “I’m here when you’re ready.” We all need to know who our “people” are. Sometimes we assume that people just know this, but occasionally, when you’re feeling that low and lonely, you just need to hear it or read it. Sometimes, it’s easier if someone reaches out to you rather than the other way around.

I’ve written about loneliness before. It can be all consuming. I would never have thought I could be lonely, I have so many wonderful friends and my family is incredible. I live with my parents yet some days, it feels like it’s just me. Just me, alone, with no hair and a life that doesn’t resemble anything that I recognise. So when my phone pings with a text just saying, “hey, how are you doing today?” it opens up a line of communication, a line to the outside world that allows me to participate. Allows me to be honest. Allows me to feel less alone.

Mental health is not linear. I cannot plot how I am going to feel from one hour to the next let alone day to day. But I also ensure that I keep in touch with the rest of the world too. I am not the only one with problems and issues. I am not the only one that can have a bad day. My bad days should not be given any more or any less importance in comparison to other peoples. Everything is relative. Even well people have crappy days where they need to vent and talk. We are all important.

But regardless of these good, bad and ugly days, what I do know, is that the world keeps turning. Days turn into nights that turn into new days. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I was reading about loss and grief the other day and I read something that made an awful lot of sense to me. It said that when you experience loss or grief, that doesn’t go away. It doesn’t ease with time. You carry that loss and grief with you every single day but what does happen, is life starts to grow around it. You build memories and store happiness around that loss so that it becomes more bearable.  And I think that’s the important part – life.

So, if you don’t do anything else this evening, I would ask you to do two things:

  1. Text someone you haven’t heard from in a  while, or pick up the phone and give them a call. Ask how they are. Have a laugh and share a story about your day. Be present.
  2. Do something for you. The crossword, a sudoko, have a bath or read a chapter of your book. You are important.

And also, if you do know someone or if it’s you that needs some support, here are some places where you can find it:

The Samaritans UK (for everyone) 116 123

The Silver Line (for older/elderly people) 0800 4 70 80 90

Childline (for children and young people under 19) 0800 1111

Papyrus (for people under 35) 0800 068 41 41

Or visit http://www.mind.org.uk for many useful resources, support and help.

Happy Tuesday everyone.

 

#hairlesshannah

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Lessons & goals

I turn 32 tomorrow so I thought I would document my lesson learned from my 31st year.

This month marks a year since starting CBT. I was so apprehensive, cautious and dubious about starting because I’d read so many controversial things about it. And there lies lesson number one: don’t judge things based on others opinions. For me, I fell on my feet with my therapist, she is the best. Her knowledge of ME and her approach to how CBT is used is amazing. There is no pressure, major target setting or trying to push me. It’s been more about helping me learn how to cope, helping me deal with how hard it’s been on my mental state and gradually helping me to build in activity, manage my sleep and focus on the good.

Lesson two: social media has so many more positives than negatives. I have made some truly wonderful friendships online this year through Instagram. All of whom live with ME or other chronic illnesses. It’s a comfort to talk to people who truly get it, share our days, struggles, highs and lows but also have people to turn to, to ask questions.  Social media is often shown in such a negative light but for me it has mainly given me positives. That online network is a life saver for so many and I love the way it makes you feel less alone in times when it feels like you are.

I actually started a little hashtag a few months back #truthfultuesday where people who live with hidden illnesses can be one and honest about their days. We often hide away the truth of our days from social media as many of us like to keep social media a positive place but I thought it was important to also be honest about the reality of living with our illnesses. It has been so lovely to read about people’s daily lives – the good, the bad and the ugly and raise awareness through this hash tag. I hope people will continue to use it, especially this month as it’s ME awareness month.

Lesson three: I am more stubborn than I realised! On reflection I have noticed a pattern running through my life. I don’t give in easily. If I see or experience injustice, I can’t simply push it to one side, I have to try to find a way of turning a negative into a positive, to ensure others don’t experience what I have. This year it seems it’s been about  my GP. I know my energy would be better spent on focusing on treatments and unexplored options but first I need to do my best to ensure she knows the damage she and other ignorant GPs cause to those living with hidden illnesses. I am also aware that I need to learn to experience such things and be able to move on without the fight. That’s a goal for my 32nd year!

Lesson four: despite what the quotes say, sometimes it’s okay to just have a crap day and not be able to find any positives! As long as those crap days don’t turn into crap weeks and months then you’re allowed to just have bad days. I still firmly believe in trying to find positives in each day, I use my Dawn French diary as a place to write down 3 good things in every day and sometimes that’s really tough. But then I think – I have a roof over my head, I have wonderful friends and family and there’s always a good home cooked dinner!

And then I find myself thinking about the year ahead and I’ve made some little goals for myself.

Goal one: learn to start conversations to talk about how I am feeling when I’m not having a good day. I can open a lap top and easily write a blog post but for some reason I struggle big time to start a conversation to get things off my chest. No matter how much I know it will help me, it’s something I find really hard, like I’m afraid if the tears that will fall but that’s stupid so, this year I will try harder.

Goal two: continue to focus on my CBT targets and mental health and focus on the small steps forward rather than the steps backwards.

Goal three: Reduce my time catastrophising and mind reading. These are two thinking patterns that have been uncovered through CBT that I do A LOT! If something happens i tend to catastrophise, think of all the worst possible outcomes, rather than taking a step back and being slightly more rational about things. I also mind read a lot.  I guess what people might be thinking about me, what they might be saying behind my back…and where does that get me? Nowhere. It’s a pointless thing to do so I am going to try to eradicate that and if I’m worried, I will talk and ask questions and move on.

Goal four: plan and book in more fun things to do. I am now so frightened of pushing myself and doing things slightly out of routine that I have just simply stopped doing them. Regardless of what hand you’re dealt, you really do only get one shot at life so I am going to do some more fun things this year. Yes, I will pay for it, yes I will be in pain but then..maybe I won’t be. I’ll never know if I don’t try right?! I’ll aim for one bigger thing/event every couple of months and see how I go, with things in place to help and many days of good pacing surrounding it…no guilt here for telling you what I do, that’s something else I’m going to stop doing. If people look at me doing such things and judge me and doubt me, they aren’t worth my time. Out of my circle they go!

So that’s four lessons and four goals – I had more but I’ve run out of steam and the screen is hurting my eyes sooo self-care is kicking in! I hope you all had lovely bank holidays and have a fab rest of the week.

Happy Tuesday.

#hairlesshannah

 

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What makes me, me.

The first task to tackle in my Dawn French ‘Me You Diary’ was to list everything that I am. I thought I’d find it quite difficult but actually, once you open your mind it’s easy to do. For example, I started with the easy things: a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher but then, having looked at Dawns very funny list I went to town: a baker, a music lover, a listener, an Idris Elba fan, a Neighbours watcher, an author…you get the idea. However, this then lead to me thinking about what makes me the person I am – partly a nature, nurture line of thinking but more intrinsically, it got me to thinking about the people who have helped me become the person I am.

Throughout our lives, from day one, we encounter people who will influence us. Some in a negative way but on the whole, no matter who we meet, they will teach us something. From a very young age I knew I wanted to teach or work with children and this was partly down to my parents but really it was down to the teachers that I had at Primary School – the ones who cared, were kind and helped me, accepted me for who I was and always encouraged me to try my best. I think throughout our school, college, university and work lives we will work with people who expand our knowledge, challenge our thought processes and teach us new ways to approach things. I really do believe you are never too old to learn something new.

When I looked at my personal life, I thought about the people who are in my life now and those who aren’t and everyone that I though of, I could name something they taught me. Something that they contributed to making me, me. Granted some of these things started with, “They taught me to never be….” but that’s just life and negative experiences often mean you become a better, stronger person anyway.

For me, I have been shaped from a huge circle of my parents friends. My mum and dad have the most amazing group of extended family! They have taught me to cherish, respect and nurture my friendships, to never take them for granted and they have done that through holding parties, dinners, writing emails and letters and visiting people whenever they can. It’s so important to maintain friendships because they are what gets us through not only the tough times but are who you want by your side to experience all the happy times too.

I am lucky that I have a strong unit of close friends too and over the years they too have taught be invaluable lessons. One main one being, that you do not have to remain friends with someone if they cause you hurt and stress. Just because you’ve had good times, like with a relationship, sometimes things can’t be fixed and that’s okay. You wouldn’t stay in a relationship with someone who makes you unhappy so why do that with a friendship? It’s a really hard lesson to learn but one that many experience and eventually, you’ll remember the good times but move forward knowing that you only have friends that truly get you, understand you and accept you for who you are, faults and all.

My friends and family have also shaped me into a person who tries to see that the glass is half full. Being positive helps in so many aspects of life and whilst I am a terrible worrier and can have a moan with the best of people, I have definitely moulded myself into someone who tries her best to see things in a positive light. And that ties in with checking myself in terms of ensuring that no matter what I am going though, to still be aware of what is going on with others – we are all going through something or other and it’s so important to talk, share and face things as a unit.

Something I have learnt within the last 5-10 years is to stand up for myself more. To speak the truth, ask for help when I need it, be brave enough to speak up when something isn’t right, say no to things that I disagree with or don’t want to do and try not to feel guilty about it. These lessons have come from a whole range of people – work colleagues, therapists, parents but mainly it’s been something that I have wanted to change about myself. Being a ‘yes’ person can have many amazing connotations but saying yes all the time can also get you into a tired, bald, stressed out, ill human being state and nobody wants that! For a long time by saying no, speaking up etc I felt guilty and selfish but I now see it as looking after myself. Self preservation would now feature in my top 3 of what I do to look after myself. Making those simple changes are hard to do and you have to be brave enough to implement them and if you’re like me it’ll be a phased introduction into your life but believe me, it’s totally worth it.

Time. This is something we all have to give. It’s free and you can always make it. I am a real advocate that if you want to make time for someone, you can. Simple as that. No arguments, no excuses. If I can manage to stay in contact with one friend in Dubai and one in Chicago, all in different time zones, we can all manage a quick – Hi, thinking of you, how you doing? – text.

The majority of people who have been in my life have the most amazing sense of humour. Laughing keeps you going – living with my mum teaches me that every day! Yes, we all have days where we don’t want to laugh or be merry but if you can find humour in a situation, a smile will make you feel lifted and again, this is something that I try my very best to do.

Take opportunities that come your way. Sometimes you have to face your fears and do it anyway. My family has always been of the thought that you should try new things, stretch yourself and have adventures. Grasp opportunities as and when you can because you never know when you’ll have that chance again. Over the years I’ve had dance lessons, swimming lessons, singing lessons, become a life guard in America, learnt the violin (badly), flown in a helicopter, lived and worked abroad, sailed around the Whitsundays, hiked the Grand Canyon, helped in an elephant orphanage, seen the pyramids in Egypt…and in turn they have shaped the person I am. They’ve given me life experiences and memories to talk about with others and made me a much more rounded individual. I’d rather have an album full of photos and diaries full of memories than a bank full of money and nothing to talk about!

I could go on forever about other things that make me, me but put simply into a list, here are my top tips for what’s helped me become the person I am today.

  1. Surround yourself with family and friends
  2. Don’t be afraid of self-preservation
  3. Give time and spend time with interesting, fun people
  4. Have adventures and experience all that life offers you
  5. Laugh often
  6. Be positive
  7. Learn from others – let bad experiences shape you as much as the good ones
  8. Don’t be in any kind of relationship that is a detriment to your own happiness
  9. Keep learning
  10. Never apologise for being you.

Point 10 is one I am beginning to take on board more. We recently went to the cinema to see ‘The Greatest Showman.’ If you haven’t seen it yet – GO! The main song has become a bit of a personal anthem! It’s called This is Me. The more I listen to the lyrics, the more chords are struck within me. I’ve hidden away so much because of how I feel about myself – “I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars, run away, they say, no-one will love you as you are.” That sums me up in so many ways. But it turns into a song that is about empowerment, taking strength from bad experiences and that we are all glorious in our own ways. So I’ll end the blog with a verse and chorus of the song that brings tears to my eyes but also gives me strength…check out the video on YouTube of Keala Settle singing the song in the audition room to get the film green lit…if that doesn’t make you cry, I don’t know what will!

“Another round of bullets hits my skin, well fire away, ‘cos today I won’t let the shame sink in. We are bursting through the barricades and reaching for the sun, we are warriors, yeah that’s what we’ve become.

I won’t let them break me down to dust, I know that there’s a place for us, for we are glorious.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down, gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out. I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be…this is me.

Look out ‘cos here I come, and I’m marching on to the beat I drum, I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies….this is me.”

Happy Thursday.

#hairlesshannah

 

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Goodbye 2017

I’ve been sitting thinking about the past year today in all its glory; highs, lows and the many inbetweeny bits. It really has been one hell of a year!

I feel I’ve learnt a lot more about myself again this year and grown stronger in many ways. CBT has helped me greatly, I’ve learnt that it is okay to put yourself first sometimes without calling it selfish and that if you want to say no to things, that’s alright too. Self preservation is much higher on my list of priorities now, I have always been a people pleaser and a guilt feeler so this has been a hard one to master and continues to be a work in progress.

Last year I felt a totally loss of independence however, this year I have managed to get some back. A random conversation planted a small seed in my mind earlier in the year, to use my creative skills to a) give me something in which to channel the energy I have and b) to maybe earn some money from it. And that in turn became ‘Sunshine Makes and Bakes’ which has been a life saver in so many ways. I have loved making and baking and it really has given me a purpose.

However, my biggest achievement of 2017 has to be the publication on my first children’s  book. I didn’t think it would be out before the end of the year but it is and I haven’t quite come down from my little cloud of happiness yet! To see my words accompanied by my vision of illustrations and be able to hold it and put it amongst all the other books I love and cherish is just a dream come true. And on top of that, to see my book being read and going into people’s home is just mind-blowing! I’ve already received a few messages from total strangers who live with alopecia or have children who do, who have said how the book has helped them talk about the condition openly and how the book has brought them real happiness. That is my job done – hairless Hannah is happy!

Having said that, 2017 has been a horrendous year in terms of the loss of loved ones. Not only have we lost my dear Grandma and Auntie Pat, we have also said goodbye to several close family friends this year. It has struck me how lucky I have been in my 31 years to have known so many wonderful people and realise how much they have impacted my life. In terms of family, I have a relitively small one. Yet, my extended family is huge. Just days ago I was at a celebration of life of a family friend whom mum and dad met when they first started teaching. Regardless of the fact that Henry was 58 years older than me, he kept young and always engaged me in enthralling conversation, always paid a huge interest into my life, always made me feel special and loved – he, along with the others we have bid farewell to this year, will remain with me for the rest of my days as I carry with me and implement the lessons I have learnt from them into my daily life.

I am only making one resolution this year; take each day as it comes. I feel like looking forward too far and setting big goals only ends in failure and disappointment therefore, if I only take one day as it comes, celebrate all the little things and concentrate on taking steps forward, only good can happen…right?! I definitely am one to think New Year, New start…but in reality, when I wake up on January 1st, it’s just another day, no different to the day before. I put too much emphasis on time and dates and I must try to stop that. I will take with me the people, memories and things I want to from 2017 and leave behind the rest, it’s no good carrying that around with me when there’s so much more to gather up in 2018.

So, here’s to 2018, many more good days than bad and to health and happiness.

Happy New Year.

#hairlesshannah

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Happiness is….

What does happiness mean to you? Has your definition changed over the years?

I was with a friend at the weekend and we got to reminiscing about our school days and talking about what our old class mates were up to now (obviously we only know most of this via Facebook!). We talked about who was married and had children, who had what job and achieved certain things and then my friend said something that struck a chord – when we bump into people from our past, we ask them all these questions about their jobs, families etc but one question that is never asked is – are you happy? Because, as we know, we can edit our lives into the perfect picture of happiness for social media but we never truly know the ins and outs of what the true picture is.

It’s something I have never stood back and asked myself at any point in my life I don’t think. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I had a vision of what ‘happy’ looked like, but that wasn’t for then and there, it was always linked to my future. Moving into my own home, getting married, having children, going on adventurous holidays – all big dreams, big ideals of what happy was going to look like in my life. Now, I don’t dispute for one minute that these things do bring happiness, however, I spent so much time focussing on what my ideal, happy, future looked like, I am almost certain I lost sight of the little things that were happening day-to-day that brought me happiness.

Grand plans are a good thing and of course they bring with them happiness but I do think that sometimes, in striving for them the happiness gets forgotten. All these big things take time and planning and often involve stress and rather than embracing it and reminding ourselves – I’ve just bought a house or I’m planning my wedding, we think about the cost, the time, the little irritating bits and pieces that happen along the way and we focus on them rather than the big picture. We are all prone to it, I am too but I guess I am now more tuned in to the fact that we shouldn’t take these moments for granted. Yes we should have a moan and feel overwhelmed by the big bits but then we need to step back and think, wow I’m so lucky, I’ve worked really hard to achieve XYZ and I should be enjoying this!

I guess this realisation comes as you get older. And sometimes you only get this jolt of reality when something life changing happens to you. Because now, I can’t necessarily plan day-to-day let alone plan for the big chunks of happiness and therefore I find myself taking note of the smaller things, day to day that make me happy. In January, my cousin suggested that every night before we went to sleep, we should write in our phones something from the day that made us happy, no matter how small and then at the end of each month we would swap and read each other happiness diaries. It is so interesting to look back over the past ten months and see the things that have made both of us happy – family and friends feature highly, almost every day this is what we have written about. Not material things or planning for what is coming up. The here and now. Not material things (although bath bombs and bedding features highly!), not things that we have to save up for, the things that surround us every day. Sunsets, camping, dog walking, a funny thing that happened at work, trying out a new recipe and people liking it!

And that’s the difference between my twenties and thirties – planning for future happiness and finding happiness in the here and now. It isn’t always easy because some days are dire but with some practise, I’ve taught myself that in every day there is something good and something that makes you smile – even if it is a chocolate digestive whilst watching Neighbours!

So, your task now is to think of something that has made your day happy, note it down and when you look back at the end of the week, month or year, you’ll find that all those small things add up to a not so gloomy picture.

Happy Tuesday.

#hairlesshannah

 

Taking the positives from the negatives

I’ve been “training my brain” of late to focus on the positive things that happen day-to-day rather than dwelling on the negatives. Without thinking about it, we do tend to talk about the negative things that happen rather than all the good things – whether that’s for fear of irritating people with your happiness or for me, fear of people thinking that that means I am ‘a-okay.’ It’s true of many aspects of life – we talk more about our problems and issues relating to work, relationships, friendships etc rather than regaling in the things that are making us happy. Yes, of course we DO talk about the good, happy things but they tend to come after the things we need to get of our chest.

Typical conversation you may be involved in or overhear:

“Oh hi, so lovely to see you, how are you?”

“Oh, you know, I’m ok but my damn hips are causing me jip and my sleep is all over the place which means the kids are driving me insane and everything that *Rupert* says or does makes me want to scream!.”

“Oh I know exactly what you mean, I’m the same. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done for everyone else, there’s never anytime for me and when there is it’s always interrupted.”

WHY DO WE DO THIS? Don’t get me wrong, I totally fall into this category a lot but I do try to make a conscious effort to not be like this because it’s something that drives me insane. Negativity breeds negativity and that is only going to make you feel worse. I am hands up a total advocate of talking and moaning every once in a while, after all it’s something us women would all get an A* in and that’s why we aren’t all totally insane because it’s a way to work through things. What I’m really talking about here is how important it is to always try and see the positives in things, I truly believe, no matter what situation you are in, there is always something you can take from it. You may not see it, or want to see it at the time but if you look closely enough, you’ll find it.

I’m going through a patch at the moment where I feel CBT is nonsense and a waste of my time. I seem to be coming across every single bad report or experience people have had about how it doesn’t help ME sufferers, I’m not looking for them, they just find me on the internet.  Therefore this influenced me for a few days with me thinking, see, you’re right Hannah – it’s rubbish. But then I pop my level head on and think about my thoughts and realise that actually it’s not that it isn’t working, it’s just that I’m not giving it my all because I’m scared that it might not work. How ridiculous is that?! It will be a hard slog, it will take time to notice a difference and that’s okay, no one built Rome in a day.

So, over the last week or so I’ve started to consciously think about the positives that have come from the last two years and I have been totally flabbergasted by how many I could come up with. I didn’t honestly think I’d come up with many because I am so aware of how many negatives I’ve taken from it and how it’s impacted my life in a bad way, so to turn it on its head and look at it from a different view has been liberating. If I come up with a positive I can often follow it with something negative because I worry about others i.e. the strain it must put on my family for having me home for so long BUT in this blog I’m not going to mention anything negative…so here goes!

  1. Spending time with my family that I wouldn’t have done before. Being back at home with mum, dad and Jack has been lovely. Going back in time almost to all being round the dinner table chatting, laughing, debating – I can’t explain how much I will treasure that. Little trips out, celebrating birthdays together – I love it. We are so lucky that we are such a close family and although we drive eachother nuts at times, we love eachother and would do anything at any time for one another and that’s very special.
  2. Being at home whilst Jack trained and became a fully fledged teacher. Being able to offer help, advice and support (which mainly was received well!) has been amazing. I would of course have been involved anyway but nowhere near to the extent I’ve been able to and as always, it’s just made me so proud of him.
  3. Being around to watch my friends have babies, getting engaged, moving homes and entering the next stages of their lives; you can’t put a price on that.
  4. Discovering my love of writing. My blog has been a saviour for me and I wouldn’t have discovered that without this situation I find myself in. Writing manuscripts for books and finding out about the publishing world has been so exciting, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s been a dream come true.
  5. Having the time to spend on my other interests like baking and crafts and developing a little business (website to follow soon – eek!). Again, something I’d never have had time for in teaching.
  6. Having time to spend with people I possibly wouldn’t have before and realising just how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who are so talented and are willing to use their talents and time in order to help and support me.
  7. Realising that actually, you really do work to live and not live to work. Many things have been put into perspective for me, the stress and time I put into my job – something I don’t regret because I love teaching and care so much for the children but at times this has been to my own detriment and ultimately, it’s not worth it. Recognising that sometimes you have to put yourself first has been a hard one to get my head around but I’m working on it.
  8. I’ve had a lot of time to think about how society works and how I feel and react to certain aspects of life. I’ve always tried to see things from different perspectives but now that I’ve been in a minority group by not having hair, I’ve been able to see how cruel people can be and in turn it’s made me more empathetic and aware of people’s feelings.
  9. Just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean you’ve got a bad life. This has been a revelation for me recently. I’ve had days where I have genuinely convinced myself that I 100% hate my life and hate isn’t a word I’d use lightly. I looked back in my diaries yesterday and I have written this soooo many times. But actually, I don’t. How could I when I’m surrounded by so many wonderful people and can still do so many things? My life has changed dramatically and isn’t what it used to be by any stretch of the imagination but I have to learn that that’s alright. My cousin in Canada came up with such a wonderful idea at the start of the year, to keep a note of something good that had happened every day that made us smile or lifted our spirits and at the end of each month we swap our mini diaries so we can keep up to date with each other’s lives. I have loved it – we are much closer because of it and it really does mean that before you go to sleep you are (hopefully) focused on something good rather than bad.
  10. I’ve discovered audio books and podcasts – small but significant discoveries!
  11. I’ve actually…wait for it…become a bit of a dog person! Mum and dad signing up to Barking Mad was something I was SO nervous about because we’ve never had pets and I have always been wary of dogs but wow – I now understand how incredible pet therapy is. The calming influence they have has made such a difference to me and I miss them when we don’t have one – I haven’t gone so far as picking up poo yet but you never know!
  12. *cheesy point alert* The world we live in is so beautiful. I have always appreciated nature but on a low-level but when you’re stuck inside a lot of the time, you really get the time to look at things. The clouds, the seasons, plants, flowers…I guess I just appreciate it all more and I have loved spending time with Dad being geeks and learning about photography and capturing those things that weren’t necessarily on my radar before.

And there you have it, my positives from my negative – not too shabby if you ask me. I wonder what you would come up with if you spent some time thinking about it. That’s your challenge, next time you see someone and they ask how you are – start with a positive response and move on to the less positive later on, it honestly makes such a difference. And anyway, if you leave the moans and groans until a bit later, chances are the kettle will have boiled and biscuits will be out and we all know a moan and groan is made better with biscuits and a cuppa…or in my case a Ribena!

#hairlesshannah

PS: September is coming round again so get those fun hats back out and let’s raise some more awareness!