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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

 

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Guest Post – Hayes Family

If we are talking about positives that go with alopecia, it’s meeting some of the most amazing people world wide via social media. The Hayes Family are some of those people.  Mum Ashley, Dad Zach and daughter Malia, come from America and make YouTube videos primarily to promote alopecia awareness because their beautiful daughter has alopecia. I have loved watching their videos (partly because they are also Disney super fans and that makes me happy) and admire the way they are so open and honest about how alopecia affects their family from a parents point of view and from a child’s perspective.

So, I reached out to them and asked if they’d like to guest blog about their experiences and they said yes! So here you go, a guest blog post from the amazing Hayes family. Please go follow them on their social media and subscribe to their YouTube channel:

YouTube: @hayesfamilyvlog Instagram: @hayesfamilyvlog

Our Beautiful Alopecia Princess

If we could only choose one word to describe our daughter it would be “incredible”. In November of 2016 our daughter Malia was officially diagnosed with Alopecia Areata. However, she has had it since she was a year and half old. 

It all began very slowly. At the age of 2 her hair had completely fallen out; her eyebrows were completely gone and then her eyelashes fell out. This gave us major concern as to our child’s health so as parents due, we took her to a dermatologist. They told us not to worry and that hair loss at Malia’s young age is normal but that it could be Alopecia. She suggested that we continue to watch her hair growth and that if it continued, to come back for another checkup. 

Within a year of this appointment Malia grew patches of black and white hair that would inevitably fall out. This cycle happened often. We would get stares and even be approached by strangers asking if Malia had cancer or how her chemotherapy was going. When we would tell them that she was not sick the next question was, well what’s wrong with her and sadly we did not have an answer. So right before Malia’s 4th birthday we scheduled a checkup appointment and behold she was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata. 
It’s funny how badly you want an answer to something and when you get it, it’s not what you want to hear. I’d be lying if I told you I was not sad and upset. I was and so was my husband. As her mother the first thing that went through my mind was, what did I do or not do properly while I was pregnant? I put so much blame on myself and cried for a week. We realized that being upset about it doesn’t change anything nor help the situation so we decided to face this head on and learn everything that we possibly could. And you know what? It helped! So we began to look for support groups and basically anyone else who has Alopecia that we could reach out to. 
As a family we watch a lot of YouTube. Fail videos, family vloggers, Disney vloggers, theme park vloggers and basically anything funny. So we decided to see if there was a family on YouTube who had a family member with Alopecia. The search came up with zero results. We found a lot of adults with Alopecia which is lovely but no children for Malia to relate to. So that day we decided that maybe we could help other families and children who have Alopecia by making fun family vlogs! We figured if we could inspire someone with Alopecia to live their life openly and freely then maybe we could make a difference in brining awareness and acceptance. And you know what, IT WORKED! We have been introduced to so many wonderful people with and without Alopecia who are not only kind but are wanting to help spread the awareness. 


In the end, as Malia’s parents we try our absolute best every single day to build the confidence she possesses. She is the most beautiful person inside and out, we could not be prouder.

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Me, ME & CBT

On September 21st, we were made aware that Radio 4 would be doing a phone in all about ME/CFS. So, mum, dad and I sat in the kitchen and listened in and I have to say, my reaction was not necessarily what I was expecting.

I assumed that the show was probably picking up on the fact that there has been quite a bit of press attention towards ME/CFS recently because NICE have ordered a review of the “treatments” available. Because of research I have done, I was aware that there are many people who suffer with ME, around 200,00 in the UK and there are only two therapies recommended by the NHS- GET (graded exercise therapy) and CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy.)

The phone in involved many people contacting Radio 4 and giving their experiences of ME and talking about the support and treatments they have tried or been recommended. And that’s where I was astounded, the sheer quantity of people they had contacted them was overwhelming and each person they spoke to or read out an e-mail from was so devastatingly sad, hopeless and in many ways negative. Yes, in some ways I found it encouraging that it’s not just me that has experienced the lack of knowledge around the illness from health professionals, that treatment options are sparse and that language used towards us is often belittling and derogatory. That I am not the only one suffering the way I do on a daily basis and feeling like they’re getting nowhere.

But what I found most frustrating was the views they put across about GET and CBT. Now, I am not a specialist on this and would never claim to be. Everyone’s experiences will differ and depending on the outcomes of said treatments, people will have different opinions on their worth. I am well aware there is no “cure,” and I know that there are many differing levels of suffering with ME and that I am by no means at the severe end of the scale. But that’s what’s tough, my level of suffering is bad enough so to imagine it being worse is unthinkable.

I won’t be commenting on GET as I haven’t any experience of it but as you may know if you have read my previous blogs, I have been given a course of CBT on the NHS. Even though I had heard some negative connotations around it, I really am a – ‘anything is worth a try’ kinda gal so purposefully didn’t do too much research as I wanted to go in with an open mind.  Therefore to listen to so many people’s stories of how it hasn’t worked for them, made them worse etc made me fearful for those who have been offered CBT and haven’t yet started.

I am ten sessions in and am still totally undecided on how I feel about it. It’s hard. It’s emotional and in some ways I have had to take steps backwards BUT I can see the reason why it is suggested as something to support ME sufferers. It has not made me better but it has helped me to “cope” a little more and supported me in terms of learning how to pace myself properly – before was all guess-work and I didn’t know what was best. I am lucky that I immediately hit it off with my therapist. I like her but more importantly, I trust her. She hasn’t once fed me the optimistic bs that so many doctors and specialists have over the past two years, she hasn’t guestimated how long it may take to make improvements and she hasn’t once made me feel stupid or that it’s all in my head.

My mind is still divided and in some ways uncertain as to some of the things we do – sometimes I think if I have to fill in one more bloody diary sheet I might scream!! I am not for one minute saying no one should be negative about CBT because believe me, I’ve had my moments. It isn’t a cure but you know what, if it’s the only thing that can be offered to me then I’d be silly to not give it my all and put my trust in her.

I spent the entirety of my last session talking to her about the Radio 4 programme. She hadn’t heard it but was interested in my thoughts and feelings. I admitted it had made me doubt the CBT process and feel terribly upset and worried that if it doesn’t help me, there aren’t any other options and it had made me feel hopeless. I also expressed my deep sadness for those about to start CBT or those who are only a few sessions in who may have tuned into the programme. At that stage you are so vulnerable and it could totally tip you over into the frame of mind to approach CBT negatively from the start and that surely leaves you in a worse off position than going in open-minded?

I explained how I worried that our sessions were very much based around unhelpful thinking patterns and that although I understood that helps my mental state, ME isn’t a psychological illness, it isn’t in my mind and that made me sad to think that is how I was potentially being viewed – as nuts. Or as it was expressed on the show, an over emotional female who can’t cope!

My therapist then took time to explain how she 100% knew that ME was not a psychological illness. How she’d worked with people who were bed bound, had seen the pain and other obstacles that her patients have to deal with first hand and that she would never want me to think that she thought of me as mad!  Once again she reiterated that she could make no promises with my recovery but that everything we do is with the aim to improve upon the way I live my life day-to-day right now. And that may be simply by increasing my daily activity by five minutes and she would be excited by that. Then we discusses my brain – a scary thing I can tell you! There is so much in the press about mental health which is so brilliant and she explained that although ME most certainly is a physical illness, the psychological fall out is just as real. The impact that ME has on your life is beyond explaining, I still struggle to fully explain the pain and frustration that lies behind my smile and the tears that are always ready to pour – to most it either looks like I’m fine or on the flip side that I’m in a mood (sometimes that’s true but mostly I cope by either smiling or being quiet because words just aren’t enough.)

I am slowly learning that my brain is just as in need of treatment as any other part of my body. If my arm broke, I’d get a cast, if my eye sight starts to go, I’d get glasses, if I hurt my back, I’d get physio. So when my mind is put under stress and strain, why shouldn’t I seek help through therapy? And there in lies the beauty of CBT. I can talk to someone who knows ME like the back of her hand, I’m not saying they all do, but luckily, my therapist is first class. She understands my symptoms and she helps me, asks me what I want to talk about, what I want to aim for, what my ultimate hope is for my illness and the treatment and slowly, gradually we work together to try to aim for that.

We make and monitor targets. I needed to know if and when I should push myself. I have totally reverted to being a teenager again and feel terrible guilt if I don’t achieve my targets or have to turn up saying, “Sorry, I didn’t do my diaries this week because, well, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.” It’s awful, I feel like I’m going to get detention! But that’s something to work on because as you may have guessed, she doesn’t get mad, she doesn’t berate me. She tells me I know my body and mind the best. I know when I can push myself to achieve those targets we set, there is no point adjusting them or pushing for them if they will make it harder than it already is on a daily basis. Now that doesn’t mean she doesn’t push me to some extent but she pushes me within or jsut slightly beyond my limits and always does so with care and consideration. She is always at the end of an e-mail and replies quick as a flash and has supported me in so many other ways outside of the therapy room, in ways no one else has done before. I tell you, this woman really is top class.

It’s hard to see any progress, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack sometimes and I know I get blindsided by time and milestones i.e. it’s nearly two years since I’ve been home and I feel just as stuck and possibly even sadder than I did back then. But at the end of the last session, she sensed that the Radio 4 programme had popped a seed of doubt into my mind so we got out my targets and charts from when I first met with her.

Over ten sessions (24 weeks) I have upped my daily activity by 20 minutes, this doesn’t seem by much but when most of the activities I do link to crafts – using scissors and using my hands, well, that hurts quite considerably so, yeah – 20 minutes is a lot!  I have reduced my daily sleep allowance to 2 hours (not achieved on many days, but on more than not) and when I achieve my ‘get out of the house daily’ (not met on 6/7 days this week, hangs head in shame) I can walk for 15 minutes without needing to stop or get home. I have also started to drive once a week, 5 minutes down the road to get to my reflexology sessions which is the biggest thing for me because I feel like that gives me some independence. I find it daunting and scary because I haven’t driven for so long and I am very aware of my capabilities or lack of them!

So, in actual fact, I have made progress. Yes, I may have achieved these without CBT but I reckon, for me, it would have taken a lot longer because I wouldn’t have known the best way, the safest way, the way which would help me most.

As I said at the beginning, this is my own personal experience and I know not everyone will be as lucky as me to have a therapist so experienced and so wonderful. But I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you haven’t started CBT yet or are nervous to, try not to be. Everyone’s experiences are different. It’s important to be honest, yes, and it’s brilliant to take advantage of that online community because you get so much support through it and learn a lot, however, as we know all too well, online communities can also have a flip side. It’s a safe place to moan and vent, I’ve done it! But that doesn’t mean it should cloud your experience. In the week between listening to the show and seeing my therapist I spent a lot of time online looking into others experiences with CBT and honestly, I only found one or two positive ones. I then felt bad, guilty almost that in some ways I am finding comfort from it. I’m not stupid, I know it won’t cure me, but I am realistic in that it helps me and I’m okay with that, it’s the closest I’ve got so far with any kind of proper help.

So accept those NHS sessions if you’re lucky enough, like me, to be offered them. And if like me, you weren’t aware that you could get access to sessions on the NHS, ask about them, request them, because who knows, you might actually find some benefit from it like I have. I certainly hope so anyway. This blog all began because I wanted share my experiences with alopeica but I think it is so important to share the good alongside the bad. Sharing positive experiences is so important, so please, if you’ve had a positive experience of CBT, let me know, comment below or send me a message, I’d love to hear about it.

Have a good Friday and a lovely weekend,

#hairlesshannah

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April Favourites

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

Health & Beauty

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

zoella

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

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

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

TV

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

Broadchurch

Broadchurch

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

Car Share

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

Designated Survivor

designated survivor

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

Line of Duty

line of duty

I. Love. This. Show.

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

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

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

#hairlesshannah

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The reality behind the photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Mini Egg Cookie Dough Bars

So the Easter Weekend is upon us and I’m sure lots of you will be spending your long weekend/last weekend of the school holidays celebrating with chocolate, entertaining and having some fun! So here is my second Easter baking blog for you to try – super easy, fast and will make everyone happy.

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You Will Need:

  • 275g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 115g butter/stork
  • 55g granulated sugar
  • 135g light brown sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 270g mini eggs
  • 100g chocolate chips

 

Method:

  1. Pre heat your oven to 170 fan and prepare your 9×9 square tin by lining it with some grease proof paper ready for use later. Smash up your mini eggs in a sandwich bag using a rolling-pin – do this on a chopping board! Make sure you save a handful of whole mini eggs for decoration later on.

2.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cornflour.

3. In a larger bowl melt the butter – I did this in a glass bowl over boiling water on the hob but you could use a large saucepan.

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4. Carefully remove from the heat and put onto a heat proof mat. Add in the granulated and brown sugar and which together until you form a smooth mixture.

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5. Now pop in the egg and vanilla extract and whisk again until smooth then mix in the dry ingredients, smashed up mini eggs and chocolate chips – use a spatula for this part as the cookie dough will form and it will be thick so a whisk would probably die a death!

6. Press the cookie dough mix into the tin and when evenly distributed, pop on the whole mini eggs that you saved to decorate.

7. Place the tin into the oven for around 20-25 minutes until the top on the bake is dry to touch.

8. Place the tin on a wire rack to cool, only remove from the tin after half an hour. Once fully cool, cut into bars the size of your choosing and then you’re good to go!

 

I hope you have a lovely Easter weekend with your loved ones and that my recipes help you to entertain the little ones, please the older ones and use up whatever chocolate you may have left over!

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#hairlesshannah

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Tasty Tuesday: Chocolate Easter Bark

Today’s Tasty Tuesday is as simple as it gets! It would be brilliant for your own family to enjoy or to break up, wrap up and give as Easter gifts or as something to display at an Easter/Spring party.

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You Will Need:

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g white chocolate
  • Bag of mini eggs
  • Bag of white chocolate mini eggs
  • mini fudge pieces
  • any other chocolate you fancy throwing in!

This recipe is obviously geared towards Easter but you can use whatever you want in the bark, basically, have fun with it, use dark chocolate, use all white chocolate – it’s up to you!

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Method:

  1. Line a baking tray with grease proof paper, secure it with a little dollop of melted chocolate to stop it slipping.

2. Heat a saucepan of water with a bowl balanced on top – BE CAREFUL, USE OVEN GLOVES AS THE BOWL WILL GET VERY HOT.  Melt the milk chocolate and then pour it onto the baking tray.

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3. Now melt the white chocolate and drizzle on top of the milk chocolate, use a spoon to gently mix it and create patterns.

4. Put the mini eggs into a sealed sandwich bag and crush up using a rolling-pin.

5. Now have fun popping all the different eggs, fudge pieces and sprinkles into the chocolate!

6. Place the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes or into the fridge for about an hour before removing it and chopping it into your bark pieces!

And there you have it, Tasty Tuesday Chocolatey Easter Bark – yummers!

 

Enjoy!

#hairlesshannah