Image

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.

hidden 1

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.

millions missing.jpg

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

 

Catching some zzzzz’s

Sleep.

When you think about that word, what does it mean to you? Is it a thing of beauty, does it conjure up images of an inviting bed made up with the softest, fluffiest pillows and prettiest of covers beckoning you to snuggle down and rest and recuperate? Or does it simply mean a thing that you need and have to do in order to function for the next day?

Do you need a certain amount of it in order to feel human and happy?  What is your minimum amount that will allow you to be human and not become a monster when anyone dares to talk to you?! Are you a late nighter or a 10pm-er? Do you enjoy a lazy lay in or are you an early riser? Is sleep a thing just for nights, do you revel in a cheeky little nap or have you trained yourself in the art of power naps? Do you need to set an alarm or is your body conditioned to your work schedule?

Does sleep bring you a release? A place to be you, to be quiet and thoughtful, to dream and escape? Is sleep and your bed a place you welcome when you return from a holiday or can you sleep anywhere?

sleep 1

Sleep, for most, comes naturally. Our body clocks know when we need it and how long for. Our bodies are very clever like that, it knows when we need more or when we can possibly cope with less. That is, until our bodies’ works against us and that leads to some very tricky situations as I have been learning. Sleep has become much more of a nightmare for me since becoming ill. Having researched more it is very clear that many ME CFS sufferers have this same problem; the feeling of overwhelming fatigue is there all the time, the ease to nap during the day out of necessity unlike in the university days when a nap just helped you for the upcoming night. Yet when it comes to the evening and the night-time, sleep seems to evaporate. Our bodies pain sensors kick into overdrive and sleep gets further and further from our reach.

I have never had issues with sleep before, I’ve always needed between 7-8 hours and that has always suited me well. But now, insomnia/painsomnia is in my vocabulary and it sucks. No one can really explain why this happens but it clearly does. As with the rest of the research with ME CFS, there isn’t enough of it to explain all of the side effects and symptoms. I guess it’s almost like when people say you’re overtired or you’ve had too much sleep and your body gets confused. But with my body, I can’t sleep because the pain intensifies and I simply can’t get comfy…even with my pregnancy pillow! I have tried sleeping tablets which to be honest worked a little but not enough and in any case, I can’t stay on them as they are addictive. I have started using herbal remedies but they just don’t seem to match up to the discomfort and insomnia.  I do manage to get some sleep when my body literally crashes but it is always broken and it is never deep, restful or refreshing.

I’ve tried everything in the depths of the night to distract myself from the pain and discomfort.  I’ve tried laying there and persuading my body to rest and sleep. I’ve tried watching box sets and TV programmes, listening to music and audio books, colouring, blog writing, pacing around my room every half an hour to move my stupid aching limbs. Nothing works and that’s when the frustration kicks in, that’s when the mind starts to act against you too and the endless thoughts go round and round your brain tormenting you. It’s such a lonely, scary place to be. It’s a feeling of being trapped and not being able to escape, a feeling of the unknown. And this goes round on repeat until eventually the body can’t take it anymore and shuts down and sleep occurs. Then I’ll wake every hour or so until I make myself get up ready for another glorious day!! Our bodies and minds really are a marvellous thing but sometimes I just don’t understand them. They are meant to be wired up to help and protect us so why do they work against us at times?

Sleep is just another thing I’m having to approach differently these days and that is just how it is. It’s not nice but it’s not the end of the world –  it’s just another thing I just never appreciated enough at the time..but then who does?

Hope you all sleep well tonight, sweet dreams.

#hairlesshannah

Unwanted visitors

So many people I know have had some, metaphorically speaking, unwanted visitors knock on their doors lately that you can’t turn away or shout at or send an e-mail to because they are part of you. Illnesses, diseases, things that you can’t slam the door on.

I am obviously purely speaking about my situation and therefore my experiences, feelings and emotions so they may not correlate with anyone else so don’t get cross if you don’t agree!

My illness is hidden so I find myself in a situation where I have days when I look better than others which seems to indicate to people that I’m getting better. I’m not. That is why it is called a hidden/invisible illness and that is why it is so frustrating. I think I become even more prone to this kind of comment because I don’t show my true feelings and emotions so therefore it is even easier for people to assume I am getting better and feeling great. I’m not.

Because my ‘complex’ case is STILL under review by many doctors and specialists, it seems like I am forever waiting for answers, fighting tirelessly to get people to fight for me! I’m 16 months into this now which I know is a long time. So much can happen in 16 months and has done to most of the people in my life – good, great, bad and bloody awful. But it also means that due to no fault of anyone, and I mean that wholeheartedly, life goes on. My life is stuck but other people’s aren’t. So therefore I have become lonelier, felt more isolated and even more desperate for healthcare professionals to take me and my life seriously and help me.

But it seems that healthcare professionals, even those at supposedly the best hospitals in the country, don’t feel or see the urgency in my eyes. I am acutely aware that what I have is not life threatening and don’t ever want to compare it to those who are living with those illnesses or are no longer with us because of them, but what I am living with is totally life changing for me. Last week I met with the first doctor in months that actually listened, took time and an interest in me and gave me hope. Only for that to be totally shattered when he phoned me Friday to tell me most of what he’d said was incorrect. The referral will take months and even then may not be accepted as it has to go through funding applications and that the help he’d promised in the interim was for those who live in Southwark only – when did I ever tell him I lived there?! So here I sit once again, being totally let down by the only people who have the power to help me.

I don’t recognise my life anymore. I described it this week by saying I feel like I have an existence, not a life. Most of the doctors and specialists fail to see me as a human. As a 30-year-old woman who has so many hopes, dreams and aspirations,  who’s existence is mainly lived out within the four walls of her bedroom. The pain I have is constant and worsening, I’m experiencing pain insomnia on levels I never knew existed. It takes an age to get up and get ready and in all honesty it’s taking all I have at the moment to even do this because really, bed is the place that comforts me most regardless of the pain.

In bed, I only have to move to change position and shift the pain locality. In bed it’s quiet, the curtains are shut and it’s dark. I can drift in and out of consciousness, cry or just contemplate and dream. If I’m up, I feel like I have to put a face on things, I manage to hide the pain because that’s easier than revealing the truth. If I’m up I can’t manage to do much which frustrates me. My hands are becoming even more painful so even typing for long periods hurts. All I really have is my blog to make me feel purposeful but creating the content for it often causes more pain than I feel the blog is worth. But then through the blog comes the communities I’ve become part of – the spoonie and chronic illness heroes and heroines that give me hope and strength are incredible.

The doctors don’t see the life that I seem to have left behind. I can’t drive, I can’t socialise, I can’t stay up late, I can’t shop or treat myself, I can’t save for holidays or beautiful bags and shoes, I can’t treat my friends and family, I can’t blare my music out and dance around my bedroom whilst getting ready for a girls night out. I can’t even drink a cider because of the tablet concoctions I take daily – it comes to something when a practically teetotaler is craving a cider! Lately, I’ve even come to wish I hadn’t experienced the life I had in Dubai because life was so good. Even though work is more than likely the trigger for this situation, socially life was amazing and the opportunities that fell into my path enriched me more as a person than I ever dreamed of, I had plans that were unfinished and unaccomplished which means I know what I’m missing and then I start to resent that.

I know there is no easy fix to this. I know there is a long road ahead and so much more uncertainty but all I can tell you is that I wish this bloody unwanted visitor would f**k off out of my circle as quickly as it arrived.

I read a quote another spoonie posted the other day and I loved it – it’s not me that’s unreliable, it’s my health.

Rant over! Be nice to people today and remember, they may be going through something that you just might not be able to see. So be kind.

Happy Saturday.

#hairlesshannah

 

Image

Out with the old, in with the new.

2017 is almost upon us – I find it so difficult to comprehend that this year is almost done. The other day we sat around the table and did our annual, “what have your highlights been this year?” game. To be blunt, I couldn’t think of many. There have been many headlines about how 2016 has been the pits in terms of celebrity deaths, Brexit and Trump and my year fits quite neatly into that box of crap.

2016-deaths

Obviously I enjoyed our joint birthday bash and there have been the other days out that have lifted my spirits but all in all the year has been littered with appointments, frustrations, tears and sadness….oh and lots of sleep!

I do understand the whole ‘new year new start’ business yet when the clock strikes midnight on Saturday, things won’t magically change. As I did last year, I still have hope that in another year’s time things will be ever so much brighter but I now also have an inkling of fear that that won’t be the case. I’m still no closer really to a diagnosis, medication is still being figured out and if anything, I am in a worse state than I was a year ago. Therefore I approach New Year’s Eve with trepidation. Whereas last year I found Christmas much harder, this year I find myself getting emotional even thinking about the countdown to 2017. I don’t have any plans and 2016 feels like a total waste of my life. I know people will say, it’s not, you’ve done so much in other ways, but to me, this year has been rubbish.

I usually make resolutions like most people do…give up certain things, lose weight, take up a new hobby etc but this year I’m not making them. I’m just going to see what comes along and embrace moments with the aim of getting and feeling better about my life and myself. I guess this is because I fear that making any resolutions about my true hopes could end in more disappointment and to be honest, I couldn’t really deal with that. I think I’ve reached a level of stale mate. I’m now an accomplished actress of disguise but I’m finding it harder and harder to “be strong” “be positive” “have hope.” Living through 16 months of this has, in all honesty, been a living hell and because most of what I’m experiencing is invisible, it makes it even harder to explain and cope with.

Watching my friends and family go through their own hardships this year and not being able to help in the way healthy Hannah would have, has been hard to deal with. It’s been a learning curve to think up new ways of helping. I think this year has seen a lot of us having to really grow up and face grown up issues but thankfully we have grown together and it’s made us stronger. Life can be so cruel and unfair but unfortunately that is life and we have to keep going because what’s the other option? It’s the relationships we make along the way that help us put one foot in front of the other and that should never be taken for granted. Any type of relationship needs to be worked at, they are two-way interactions and sometimes cracks turn into great big crevasses that can’t be repaired but that is also a lesson worth learning.

relationship

I’m aware that this post seems very doom and gloom and don’t get me wrong, I will be thrilled to see the back of 2016 and start a fresh. Maybe a new year will make me feel stronger again and I do hope that’s the case. I have lots of things to look forward to; watching my friends move into new homes, watching their children grow up, seeing my little brother move out and start making his own home with Yaz and seeing what my parents will get up to now they’re both retired! I live vicariously through all of these things. I don’t want to be tip toed around incase I get hurt or jealous. I want to hear what everyone else is doing, in the same way that I want to hear if they aren’t having a great time of things. Just because I have a long-term illness doesn’t mean that what anyone else is going through is any less important. I can still listen, give cuddles and be a shoulder. Like I said – relationships are a two-way thing.

 

I truly hope that 2017 is much perkier for all of us and that there are more moments of sunshine that we don’t have to make for ourselves. Here’s to light at the end of tunnels, to giving each other strength when we can’t muster our own, to bringing smiles to each others faces and to providing love, kindness and compassion as and when it’s needed.

Happy New Year everyone…see you on the flip side!

#hairlesshannah

 

<a href=”https://www.bloglovin.com/blog/14626483/?claim=udwfj58w5bf”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

 

 

1 year blogiversary!

Can you believe it is one whole year since I wrote my first ever blog post? I certainly can’t. Although this year has felt like one of the longest, toughest years,when I read over that first blog I realised how much has changed. How much I have changed.

Throughout the year I have had to learn to deal with a wide range of emotions. It seems like whenever I take a step forward, inevitably (it seems) something happens to knock me back again. It’s like I am constantly swimming towards shore and as it comes into sight a strong current comes to sweep me back out to sea again. I have almost come to accept that now which makes me sad. I continue to be as positive as I can be but I must admit, I am finding that hard.

However, having said all of this, I finally feel like things are beginning to move in the right direction. The neurologist we are seeing has been brilliant. He wants to get to the crux of all the medications I’m on by seeing which ones are actually helping me and which we can get rid of or even replace with something better. He has also prescribed anaesthetic patches which I can put on my head to hopefully numb the pins and needles and dull the burning sensation. I’m on day 2 now and as yet nothing has changed but I am hopeful that with perseverance they will be the best Christmas present ever!

patch

I definitely feel like I am braver than I was last year. Because I’ve lost some of my independence, well, quite a lot of it, it makes me even more determined to be strong and brave when there is no one to support me. For example, this week I went up to Kings by myself and had a skin biopsy and more blood tests. Dad tried his very best to get to be with me but London trains decided to mess things up and mum was in Wales and I told her in no uncertain terms that I’d be so angry with her if she came back! And anyway, she has always said that if she’s not there in person, she is always on my shoulder to give me love and support. I must admit I was so nervous but I survived it. Yes I cried in the middle of the blood test waiting room but who cares?!

I’m also much better at asking for help when I need it. Telling dad I need to hold onto his arm because I’m shaky and my legs are weak. Before I would have struggled on. Not feeling embarrassed when I can’t open a bottle or carry something heavy because of my stupid joints! Little things but huge steps for me.

I may have bought a flat and lived alone for several years, lived in Dubai and travelled the world but this year has been the biggest learning curve for me. In many ways I feel I’ve reverted to childhood because I need to depend on my family so much in every way imaginable but I also feel more of an adult than ever before.

Like I have said many times, I have concentrated on focussing on the small things to make me happy. Last week a group of my beautiful friends organised a Christmas meal for me. They took into consideration all the hurdles that prevent me from doing things and eliminated them so that I could enjoy the evening. They will never know what that meant to me. I sat back that evening and looked around the table and also thought of my other friends who weren’t there and thought about how amazing they have been over the last twelve months and I actually felt slightly emotional. These girls have all been though unbelievably tough times over the last year, some for more time than that, yet they aren’t inward looking. They are always there when you need them, always supportive, always the friends that have become like family. I sat there and just thought how blinking lucky I am. Some people won’t ever experience friendships like I have or have the bond that I have with my family.

xmas-1

Christmas is fast approaching and last year there is not one photograph of me. This year there will be, with the patch on my head and everything! I’d never really experienced the emotions that some people talk about when it comes to Christmas but last year I did. It was a bizarre experience. Christmas is another social media aspiration; everyone laughing and joking in their jumpers, sipping champagne,eating the best lunch and playing games. But life isn’t like that. Last year I didn’t want Christmas because I hated my life, I wasn’t in a happy place. It is one day but I didn’t really want it to happen, it was the first time I’d ever cried at Christmas. It’s such a funny time of year but it has always been one of my favourite times. I am all in for lights and festivities! So this year, although so much is going on and there’s no hair, still a world of pain and uncertainty, I am going to treat it like another day but just with a little more fun thrown in.

So, before I sign off I want to have a moment to write a mini Oscars speech! Firstly by saying thank you to everyone who keeps reading my blog and sends messages of encouragement and love – they mean the world and keep the positivity levels up! To all the people who have given up their own precious time to help me with reiki and reflexology and provide support with trying to do a little bit of work. I often wonder why I have been so lucky to have relationships with such amazingly talented, kind people – thank you, everything you’ve done has helped me deal with my circumstances and take steps in the right direction. Thank you to my friends who keep me laughing, help me feel normal and hold no grudges when I have to cancel or leave early. Each one of you are diamonds and I look forward to 2017 where we can continue to work out life’s ups and downs together! And finally, thank you to my family who goodness knows have also had their lives interrupted and turned upside down – there are no words but I think you know how grateful I am and how much I love you.

All that’s left to say is Merry Christmas and may 2017 bring you good health, good luck and good times.

xmas-2

#hairlesshannah

Autumn leaves are brown

So I’ve just had a Peter Kay moment…I always thought the first line of ‘California Dreamin’ ‘ by The Mamas and Papas was “Autumn leaves are brown.” Turns out it’s, “All the leaves are brown.” Gutted. It was the perfect title for this blog but as you can see, I still went ahead and used it anyway!

You will probably notice that from now on my blog might not always relate to my ailments. I will of course use the blog to update as and when I feel I want to write about it but I also need to explore other avenues for my writing. I just hope you continue to read and enjoy the content; nearly a year on and I have had over 10,000 views which is an achievement I am thoroughly proud of so thank you for taking time to read about my life!

Autumn is here and I couldn’t be happier about it.  This time of year, leading up to Christmas is my favourite and I seem to be relishing it even more since I missed out on any seasons apart from Summer in Dubai. It’s a time of change. I learnt the seasons by watching the huge tree at the bottom of our garden change colour as the year ticked by.  I remember enjoying jumping in the hundreds of leaves that would float down and end up all over the place in Autumn and swinging on the swing set, gazing up at the green leaves in the Summer. It’s such a beautiful tree, that’s the only thing that’s slightly wrong this year because the tree owners had it pollarded  so it isn’t quite the spectacle I’ve grown to know and love. In a funny way, that tree and I have much in common. We both lost our ‘hair’ at similar times last year but as I lost more, the tree grew and went from strength to strength.  Eventually it will be back to its former glory, however, there is no knowing when or if my hair will grow and flourish like the leaves on the tree. Regardless of whether my hair returns or not, I won’t return to my former glory because I’ve changed too much in this year to ever be able to.

When I lived in Dubai, I adored the new landscape that I saw from my balcony but I did miss the seasons. I have always enjoyed taking photos and since being given a “proper” camera a few years ago, I have become even more interested in the skill. I never really understood why people would take photos that didn’t include people  – they were boring, yet I have now been let into the secret! It’s actually quite fun to try and capture moments in life that perhaps only you see the beauty in. Those moments don’t need to involve people, it could be the beauty of a sunset or the simplicity of a cloud formation. And although there are countless times throughout the year that warrant capturing, in my opinion, Autumn through to Winter is the most photogenic.

sky 1.jpg

Autumn signals the start of candle season for me. Mum has always been a candle enthusiast but I didn’t truly understand why until I discovered Bath & Body Works in Dubai! That shop opened up a whole new world for me and one I’m not sure I will ever be able to leave. I bought and burnt so many candles in Dubai but it never felt quite right because it was so flippin’ hot outside. When I was researching Dubai back in 2013, I read on one of the many forums that someone missed the Winter at home so much that they would increase their air con until it was freezing and emulated what was happening in their own town!  Only then did they feel it was right to do some baking with candles lit and Christmas music playing in the background…you’ll be pleased to know that I never went to that extreme! However, my poor dad was also privy to my slight candle obsession when he came to Dubai to help me pack up and leave. I think one entire shipping box could have been filled with candles; we don’t have Bath & Body Works here so what was I supposed to do?! Since being home, I have refrained from burning any apart from the half used one that I still brought back with me! But now that Autumn is here and the cold weather is setting in, the candles will slowly be brought out in their full glory and I can’t wait! **disclosure..if anyone ever visits Dubai or America or is coming home from Dubai, any Bath & Body Works deliveries are willingly accepted! Particularly Mahogany Teakwood!**

candle 1.jpg

Now I will broach thermostat wars. I am sure these arguments are happening all over the world let alone up and down the country and especially in our house! It becomes a little game with us – mum will sneak upstairs to turn it on and then when dad or Jack finally realise it’s on, they storm upstairs to switch it off. Then I will switch it back on as I head up to bed…and so on and so forth! For the majority of the time, girls win – we are a much better tag team! But then I am also a HUGE blanket snuggler! To me, there is literally nothing better than on a cold day, putting on your comfies, warm socks, grabbing a hot Ribena and snuggling down to watch TV or a film under a blanket. My point here is, if the heating is on too high, the blanket becomes like an incinerator and doesn’t bring the joys it should, so it’s all about balance, the right degree of heat so that the blankets purpose can be fully enjoyed. I tell you, it’s an art form that so many don’t appreciate! Most of my Autumnal love is based around an idyllic weather type – really cold but sunny. Inevitably though the rain comes and that shatters my idealism although I do love the sound of rain, it’s my go to sound for relaxation. Sleeping in the loft room is perfect on rainy nights when I can’t sleep, and if there’s a thunder storm the velux window provides an excellent viewing deck.

I have also come to be an advocate for Lush, in particular their bath products. When Autumn comes round, that means hot bubble bath season has begun and bathrooms must be stocked at all times with everything Lush. They also change their products with the seasons which pleases me greatly. At the moment the Autumnal/Halloween products are on sale but also, you can start to purchase the Winter/Christmas bits. Lush isn’t to everyones taste; I remember when I was at Uni, myself, Sarah and Deborah went to a Lush open night and after about half an hour I was aware the two of them were outside the shop, Deborah with her head between her knees (insert laughing emoji!) The fumes coming from the shop were too much for them and had made them all light headed and queasy – still to this day I don’t think they enjoy walking past the shop let alone going inside! I have already started working my way through some of the products and am in love. This bath process precedes the pyjama, socks, Ribena, blanket scenario – it’s a ritual! So far I have loved the Autumn Leaf Bath Bomb and the Golden Wonder Bath Bomb – which, incase you’re wondering, spits out  little golden stars as it fizzes away! Heaven. This is the part when most bloggers/vloggers state – this isn’t sponsored by Lush…but I blinking well wish it was!

And now I come onto clothes. The transition from Summer to Autumn/Winter wear is glorious. Personally, I believe there is nothing cuter than seeing little ones in knitted bobble hats, oversized coats and wellington boots trudging along to go and feed the ducks or ride their bikes in the park! But for us adults it brings the joys of oversized, warm, comfy jumpers, jeans and boots, scarves and hats – it’s just the best time of year. I have always adored wearing hats at this time, I hoard them almost to the extent that I hoard my shoe collection! Hats last year were even more important due to the lack of hair although I found that some of them looked ridiculous without hair flowing from them. This year I miss them already. The crazy sensitive, painful head scenario still rages on meaning having anything on, near or touching my head is a living hell. I have no idea how I am going to survive this year – I may hibernate, which doesn’t sound bad when I think about all of the for mentioned rituals I have! The other day I did however purchase some ear muffs. Yes, you heard right, ear muffs. I am well aware they probably look utterly ridiculous but as mum stated, if it keeps an ear infection away, who cares?! And to be fair, I’ve mastered the art of braving the bald in public so let’s see how a bald girl wearing ear muffs goes down – I  am always up for a challenge!

Halloween and Firework night also fall into this time slot that I so enjoy. We never really celebrated Halloween in our house although we did always carve a pumpkin and have sweets ready for Trick or Treat visitors. One year mum turned our house lights off and had a mask ready to open the door and scare the older teens that wanted to try their luck. It sort of backfired though as when she opened the door in her mask and let out a huge scream the kids ran off. She later had a phone call from a friend she hadn’t heard from in years to say that her son had returned home, petrified and with unfortunately, very wet trousers, yes, he’d wet himself because some woman had scared him half to death! We laughed so much at that story and continue to do so to this day!

autumn-5

Bonfire Night was always something I looked forward to. Walking down to the Chislehurst Rec, when I was little I was always on dads shoulders, and spending time walking round the fun fair and eating my annual allowance of candy floss. Then standing, watching the stunning fireworks go off to music, watching the Catherine Wheel and giggling at the odd sounds people made as the fireworks display continued. Then we’d either get fish and chips on the way home or return to jacket potatoes and chilli – just such blissfully happy memories. We would also, without fail, always get sparklers and play with them on our patio trying to write our name and capture it in a photo but never succeeding – I think this could be an achievable target for this year Dad if you’re up for it?! We continued to go throughout our time at Uni but since being in Dubai and being ill last year, I haven’t been out on Fireworks night for years. This year, I am going to try to get to see some because it really is one of my favourite nights of the year.

autumn 6.jpg

And then, for me, there is Greenwich Park. It is probably in my top three favourite places ever. It holds so many precious memories – dancing around on the bandstand pretending I was Mary Poppins, riding my bike in all seasons, being chased by squirrels, feeding the ducks, having pic-nics, going to the Sunday Market. I just love it. It’s a place to go when you need your faith restored in humanity. You go there and see that families are still doing the things you did when you were a child. They aren’t cooped up inside playing on their play stations or glued to a phone. There are families actually interacting with each other; playing football, roller skating, walking dogs, kicking up leaves and flying kites. It was the place I wanted mum to take me when I got back last year more than anywhere else. Although it is nearly always busy, it’s uniquely peaceful and I love it.

For those who know me, I’m not big on alcohol – like my mother, I don’t need it to have a good time! But, at this time of year, there is nothing better than being at Borough Market, having a mooch around with a hot apple cider or mulled wine – delish! My love for Borough Market isn’t specific to Autumn/Winter, that’s an all year round love of mine but when it comes to London, the best place at this time of year is Covent Garden. They have the most beautiful lights, the most festive live music and just the right amount of shops to start your Christmas shopping…or just treat yourself!

And that really sums up my love for this time of year and brings me to the end of yet another blog.  I wonder if you have any Autumnal rituals or places you like to go at this time of year? Let me know.

autumn-7

Before I sign off, I would like to thank Jane for running the half marathon a few weeks ago and also thank those of you who so kindly sponsored her. She raised £383 which will help Alopecia UK greatly.

Have a wonderful week,

#hairlesshannah

x

 

 

 

The art of saying no.

How often do you use the word ‘no?’ And I don’t mean in the usual way, like answering a child in class who asks – “can I gowa toilet?” or by replying to your mum when she asks, “can you empty the dishwasher?” I mean, saying no when that is really the answer you want to give but feel you can’t for fear of upsetting someone, letting them down or in case you encounter the guilt that may follow after using it.

no 2.jpg

I have come to the conclusion that there are three types of people in the world. The ones who say and do what they want with no thought at all, ones who internalise the reality of what they want and think but on the surface and on the whole, give answers that will please and keep the peace and finally, those who are just genuinely, sickeningly nice people who do anything and everything to please others! And I suppose, there’s a possibility that some people are a mix of all, or some of the aforementioned.

All too often, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will occasionally find ourselves in situations where we are being asked to do things or spend time with people we don’t know too well and have no inclination to either. However, when we are put in that tricky situation when you are asked by them or a mutual friend to do something, we, well, definitely myself, find ourselves automatically spurting out the word – “yes.” And all the time internally thinking, “why on earth did I just agree to that?” and spending the days before worrying about the upcoming event.

no 3.jpg

Over the past year I’ve been placed in a position where the word ‘no’ or variations of it have had to be used more honestly than ever before in my life. I’ve always been a mix of the three ‘types’ of people I just mentioned, depending on how I’m feeling on a certain day, week or month! On the whole, I am a people pleaser. I like to be kind and nice and really, really hate confrontation. But, due to life experiences thrust onto my path in recent years, I’ve had to grow some balls and realise that actually, we only get one life and we should live it, as much a possible, how we want to, with people we want to.

Now, of course, there are people and situations in life that you want to avoid but that doesn’t mean you have to be nasty to them. On the contrary, there’s no need to be nasty to people, a lesson in life is that we can’t and won’t like everyone that enters our lives. Some people will always just be colleagues, some acquaintances and some become treasured friends. But no matter what category people end up in, unless something truly catastrophic has happened, you should always be civil, because let’s face it, if we said or did things to some people that we’d like to, we might get into trouble!

I’ve had to learn to say ‘no’ more often to protect myself and help myself heal. I learnt quite quickly that by saying ‘yes’ to people when really my mind and body were saying ‘no’ (I’m sure there are a few of you singing lyrics in your head now to R.Kelly!) I was disadvantaging myself and my recovery. I have been extremely lucky that the majority of my support system understand that when I cancel things, it must mean that I really and truly can’t be there and function like a normal human being. There have, of course, been the odd few times when “friends” have not understood this and that is when the self doubt comes into play. My mind has then questioned whether I have upset my friends, let them down, maybe I have even pushed them away. But, again, as I have learnt the hard way, those people really weren’t your friends in the first place. That’s such a hard concept to grasp when all you’ve done is be ill and they just can’t deal with that.

no4.jpg

On the outside to many people, they will see me as a strong character but I’ve had that stronger exterior bumped and bruised over the past year. I’ve questioned many things but that has also meant I’ve had time to evaluate many aspects of my life. Working as a teacher means that you form very close bonds with the people you work with and as I have found, many of these people become very close friends. But moving to Dubai and working in such a ridiculously large school meant that you can’t be as inclusive as you may once have been! I learnt that actually, it’s okay to have colleagues and it’s okay that some of these colleagues become friends and some don’t. It’s a matter of who you want to spend your social time with, talk to about things of meaning and who you can be totally yourself around. It was hard in Dubai because there is that element of becoming part of an expat family and supporting each other. But after that first year when you cling to anyone and everyone for dear life, you start to filter out and spend more time with the people you have more in common with and I learnt that that’s okay. As I said before, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t ‘friendly’ to others, it’s just that those relationships were of a different nature.

no 8.jpg

In smaller environments it’s much harder to do this but I think because I had so many new life experiences in Dubai, I’ve come back feeling more confident in thinking, I don’t have to include everyone because it’s alright to not be friends with everyone. Sometimes, we have to be selfish. I’ve pondered this word because it throws such a negative light on whatever your’e talking about. I had several conversations with a few people about what the word is I’m looking for to describe this ‘selfishness.’ Is it really ‘selfish’ to spend time with the people you care about most and do things you want to do? Of course there has to be give and take, but if they are people in your circle then that’s not a problem. If you know what word I’m looking for, please let me know!

Learning to say ‘no’ is so hard when it doesn’t come naturally. I have this overwhelming need in me to not let people down, for them to not be disappointed in me. It has been educational to me to realise that actually, whether in your personal and professional life, if people know you and care about you, they would rather you were open and honest with them and then together, you can find a way forward. In my case I also wear a mask a lot at the moment, I want to appear ‘fine’ to people and I’m learning that that doesn’t always help me. By not being honest and saying, “well actually no, today’s not a good day” people think that’s the truth and wonder, why isn’t she coming to things, why isn’t she working, why, why, why? So gradually, I’m being more honest without becoming the moaning Minnie no one wants to talk to.

no 1.jpg

I honestly think this is a much more female problem. In my experience, men are much more care free about who and what they spend their time on. As women, we fret and worry about hurting people or people then talking about us behind our backs…and believe me, as women, we all know that person who is vicious behind our backs – we aren’t that stupid! So therefore, unless absolutely necessary i.e organised events, meetings where your paths may cross, it’s important to turn things on it’s head and consider – do they include me? Do they benefit my life like I benefit theirs? Do I know of times when they’ve made me feel rubbish about myself? And if that’s the case, they are an acquaintance, someone to be civil to but not to spend your treasured personal time and space with. It’s a hard thing to grasp at first but believe me, it gets easier. That person will never call you out on it and if they do, remember, you never, ever have to justify what you do in your own time, period.

no5.jpg

Social media plays a part in this so much more than it did even a few years ago. Being un friended is the ultimate low…but is it? I’m not talking here about the friend you made at the pub ten years ago that you haven’t seen since, I’m talking about the people you see often and are actual face to face friends! If they un friend you without having the guts to call you or see you to talk about things that may be getting under their skin, then that’s their loss not yours. If your “friendship” with someone ends by an un-friending or blocking on FaceBook, they have a lot of growing up to do and it’s more of a reflection on them than you.

no 7.png

Even as a thirty year old woman, I felt I needed to write about this topic because it is something that affects me and I know affects many of my friends. How sad is that? Surely by this age we should have the self confidence to do what makes us and our lives the happiest? Life isn’t about social media updates, likes and shares. It’s about time, love and memories. I don’t see some of my closest friends for weeks and sometimes even months but that doesn’t stop us being in touch and I know when I see them it will be like nothings changed. I know that with any of them, if I say ‘no’ or ‘I can’t’ they won’t be angry, they’ll be sad I can’t be there (maybe!) but it won’t alter our friendship in the slightest…and that’s what is worth more than anything else in the world.  It’s something to ponder on anyway…

no 6.jpg

Spend your time wisely because you can’t get it back.

#hairlesshannah