Don’t leave me this way…

Since we seem to be heading full steam into SUCK IT territory for the disabled & chronically ill I wanted to talk about my experience of covid. There has been an overarching theme of those with existing health conditions being dispensable from the start, but now it’s pretty much being explicitly stated by our leaders. I want everyone to know how frightening this is for those of us that so many are happy to sacrifice.

As a person with chronic health issues (arthritis, fibromyalgia, stomach disease, anaemia, PCOS) I took covid seriously from the beginning. Lockdown was a complete lockdown for me. I stayed at home. I had no visitors. All my essentials were delivered. The only contact I had with anyone was the occasional driveway visit. My sister or bestie would stand in my drive and I’d sit in my open from door. I didn’t touch another human being or leave my house for months. I had hospital stays without visitors, didn’t celebrate my 40th birthday and spent Xmas 2020 at home on my own. My lockdown stretched on further than the official stay at home orders. Since early 2020 I have spent the majority of my time at home and I have been scared since the beginning. I had no idea what covid might do to me. I’ve experienced catching bugs or viruses that were no biggie for others, but sent me to the hospital. Every time I heard of someone dying being caveated with they had existing health problems, I knew that could be me. This pandemic has always been an emergency situation for me & those like me.

I now regularly see family & one close friend. I wear a mask, sanitise, stay outside as much possible. If I must be inside I go to places that follow all covid precautions and I exercise extreme caution. Doctor appointments aside I leave my home about once a week. I still have everything delivered and avoid contact with those outside my immediate circle. I do home tests before and after I go anywhere. With a couple of exceptions a restricted life has become my normality.

I contracted covid 19 in oct 2020. At that point I was spending 99% of my time alone at home. I was seeing only my sister, mum & nephew and wasn’t visiting anyone indoors. I still managed to catch the virus despite none of the family I was in contact becoming infected. The acute illness was not severe. It lasted about ten days & felt like having a stomach flu. I had more gastric than cold/flu like symptoms. My cough was very mild. I lost my sense of smell & taste. I felt terrible, but I didn’t require any medical attention. In the following weeks I really struggled with breathlessness & racing heart but assumed this would pass. It did not.

15 months later I am still dealing with long covid. My already limited mobility has been massively impacted. I become breathless even moving around my own home. I have to sit even to brush my teeth, make a cup of tea etc. I have overwhelming fatigue, brain fog and widespread pain have markedly intensified since having covid. I experience palpitations and chest pains on the slightest exertion. My heart rate regularly climbs to heights whilst trying to complete the most basic of tasks. I have been hospitalised on 4 occasions because my heart rate would not slow down to an acceptable level. Drs can monitor and treat symptoms, but they know almost nothing about long covid. They can’t tell my why these symptoms persist or if they will ever go away. My chest x rays are clear, my heart is not damaged. The tachycardia & breathlessness are a covid mystery.

A frightening and very real mystery. It is scary to feel as though your heart is going to burst out of your body. Or to be so out of breath that your head spins and chest burns. It’s a million times more terrifying to be told that the experts have no idea why it is happening or how they can make it better. Fear has been common thread. 2021 has been a really hard year for my health. All of my existing symptoms have worsened. The added problems have caused me serious problems and I think I have picked up every cold, stomach bug & infection going. All of which has been alarming. I’m worried that the next illness or flare might be the big one. I’m stressed about all the work I can’t do and the financial repercussions of that. I am chilled at just how little I am now able to do before becoming too exhausted/sore/dizzy/breathless to continue. Most of all I am terrified of what could happen if I get another variant of covid.

I am fully vaccinated (& boosted). I have masks galore, anti bac in every bag & pocket. I still leave parcels & deliveries by the door for an hour before I touch them. I bought a device to sanitise my phone. I’m never in crowds. I rarely go out. I’m acutely aware that I was being even more careful when I caught covid the first time. Every single aspect of my life has been affected by this pandemic. I know I am not alone. Most people have sacrificed. Many are in the same boat as me & others in far more treacherous vessels. I understand that this has been a collective trauma that everyone is eager to put behind them. I just wish more people would understand that this isn’t over yet.

When you justify the need to ‘live with covid’ by saying that most healthy people only experience mild symptoms I am the exception in that sentence. People like me will die or be permanently disabled if we ignore how dangerous covid still is. I understand that you want your life back. You want to stop worrying and missing out. I do too, but if we throw caution to wind now it’s not without consequence. If we pretend that covid is just another part of life we are throwing the sick, disabled, old & vulnerable to the wolves. I believe that those lives are worth as much as any other. Our needs are already ignored in so many ways, please don’t abandon us altogether.

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We go together…

I received an early Xmas present today. If I get a present early, I open it because delayed gratification is not my jam. However, I had permission to get into this one. In any case, I am utterly in love with it & the person who gave it.

That affection got me thinking about something I saw discussed on Twitter. The old ‘internet friends aren’t real friends’ debate. Obviously I don’t agree. This thoughtful, beautiful gift from a dear friend who I originally met online drove me to elaborate on that. I definitely think it is possible to be catfished (deliberately or not) into friendship online. You can ‘meet’ people with whom you have one thing in common & so can maintain an online relationship with, but it likely wouldn’t sustain an actual in person friendship. You can find people who purposely deceive or folk who are just able to portray a persona online that they can’t quite manage in life. Of course there are dodgy folk, lonely folk & even dangerous people who can use the internet to their advantage (& your disadvantage). I accept that’s all true. However, the flip side is all the wonderful people you might not ever have the chance to meet. This is were I come in.

Due to mental illness, chronic illness and working from home I have been perhaps more online than most folk. Or at least I’ve been more online for longer than a lot of people. As a result of that I have made genuinely good friends via the internet. I found understanding & acceptance from strangers on my computer when no one in real life really got my self harm. I’ve connected with a fat community that I would never have had access to outside of the web. Both of those groups changed my life. Networking with other freelancers has led to friendships along with work opportunities. I have been able to work with editors, organisations and publications via social media connections that have progressed my career. Beyond that I have met & built real relationships with people I have met through appreciating their art, respecting their activism or just firing them amusing online.

Those connection points have grown into really meaningful friendships. People I have gone on to meet and cherish. I have friends I consider an integral part of my life who started out as anonymous screen names. I think social media and the internet in general can generate valuable relationships. I also believe that the notion that those friendships aren’t real is inherently ableist and othering. Disabled and chronically ill people often rely on the internet for many things that others can access by leaving their home. In addition people who for whatever reason find themselves outside the norm can find like minded communities much easier online. The ability to do that is crucial.

All of which brings me back to that gift. My super talented friend Sarah created this wonderful digital portrait. It’s taken from my sister’s wedding and I feel so lucky to have it. I would never have met Sarah in real life. She lived far far away when we met (& even further now). Nevertheless, we have a shared history and understand of each other that is very special. So, thank you internet for bringing this woman into my life. And, thank you Sarah for this gift.

Digital portrait of Ly wearing green swing dress. Standing with her hands on her hips

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If I had a little a money…

In recent weeks the cost of disability debate seems to be all over the place again. Mainly able bodied folk rudely telling disabled folk what we do & do not need. It is of course offensive and exceptionally annoying to be on the receiving end of this. Debating your reality us never fun. Hence, I thought I’d do a little run down of the day to day expenses that my disabilities incur. I am far from the worst case scenario, so bare that in mind when you’re processing this.

It feels important to make it clear that sick & disabled people are rarely just given the things they require. There is a myth that equipment, money, human support & treatments are just handed out to anyone asking. They absolutely are not. Any help we do receive is procured through humiliating assessments, long waiting lists & much general fuckwittery. At the end of which our requests are often denied. It’s a special kind of torture to lay yourself bare to unfeeling beaurocrats only to be gaslit & told you’re fine. Or, sometimes even more frustrating, It’s accepted that you need help & such help exists, but it is not available to you for ‘reasons’. We are screwed over time & again, left with the option of paying for the thing ourselves or never getting it. When the thing that must be paid for is essential, that’s not really a choice.

So, bearing in mind that many disabled people’s ability to work full time (or at it all) is impacted by their conditions, how do you think your pocket would deal with this.

Travel

I can’t get around much on my own as I can’t walk very far. During Covid public transport has been even less of an option for me. I have to take taxis everywhere. Using last week as an example, this costs:

  • Hospital App – £11.80
  • Visit Bestie – £11.30
  • Vet – £8.60
  • Pick up Bronan’s Prescription- £8.80
  • Post Office – £8.60
  • Work Meeting – £22
  • Weekly Total – £71.10

Pain Relief

Lots of really effective pain relief options are simply not available via the NHS. These are pain management related items I have had to buy.

  • Heat Pads – £5 per 3 pack.
  • Tens Machine – £65
  • Tens Pads – £5 per 10.
  • Long Hot Water Bottle – £20
  • Microwaveable Heat Pouch – £15
  • Dragon Balm – £2.50 a jar.
  • Lidocaine Patches – £60 per 10 pack.
  • Vape – £35
  • Cbd Oil – £15 per 50ml.
  • Freeze Spray – £1
  • Paracetamol – 56p per 12
  • Massage – £70 per 60 mins.
  • Kinesiology Tape – £5.50
  • Yoga Mat – £20
  • Foam Roller – £12

Disability Aids

I believe some local councils will fit disability aids in social housing or if people meet certain criteria. Unfortunately I do not live in social housing nor meet those criteria. Thus, I had had to purchase any device I require.

  • Walking Stick Ferrule – £5
  • Easi Reach – £10.99
  • Easy Open Food Containers – £25
  • Jar Opener – £5.50
  • Easy Veg Chopper – £20
  • Multi Bottle Opener – £5
  • Auto Can Opener – £15
  • Lotion Aplicator – £8
  • Walking Stick Seat – £25
  • Sock/Tights Aid – £8
  • Bra Angel – £17
  • Hook/Zipper Assist – £6
  • Suction Grab Handles – £28
  • Shower Seat – £35
  • Wearable Tens Holder – £20
  • Press on Lights – £10 per 3 pack.

Services

There are jobs that must be done regularly that I am incapable of doing. There is no support for such things, so I must pay people to do them.

  • Grass Cutting – £45
  • Hedge Cutting – £60
  • Weeding & Garden Tidying – £100
  • Wheelie Bin Cleaning – £8
  • Window Cleanimg – £8
  • Bathroom & Kitchen Deep Clean – £175

On top of the costs outlined most disabled people also report spending more on bills. My gas bill tends to be high as I have a greater need & more difficulty keeping warm. My electricity bill soars with the need to charge various essential aids & technology. My food shopping is increased by the need to purchase lots of pre prepared fruit & veg, free from items to accommodate my dodgy stomach, plus the cost of food waste when I am unable to cook/eat. Having everything delivered incurs a cost as does working from home, which both add to my outgoings. In fact, Scope reports that on average disabled people face extra costs of £583 per month. That’s only accounting for necessary day to day living.

Should a disabled person attempt to do anything beyond the basic there will of course also be additional costs. Try going on holiday, trying a new hobby, undertaking to study a new discipline and you will find that there are always extras/different apparatus to enable a disabled person to take part. Almost every aspect life presents a bigger bill.

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Ordinary pain…

I have shared some of my pain management techniques in the past. Recently I’ve been experimenting with some new methods and I thought I would share how I have been getting on.

First is a product I have mentioned before, but have only recently been able to properly try. Lidocaine Patches are hard to come by in the UK. They’re expensive and so can only be prescribed by the NHS for a very limited number of conditions. They’re mainly used inpatient and for short periods. I had been able to try them for an incredibly short period of time a few years ago. I found them helpful, but wasn’t able to get a longer term supply. The surge in my pain levels this year sent me into research overdrive. Time and again I read articles & personal accounts of how amazing lidocaine patches were for arthritis & fibromyalgia. I discussed it with my GP who agreed that they would be a good option for me, but she wasn’t permitted to prescribe them. After much searching I found a way to source the patches and bought them myself. They are not cheap. I had mine sent from Canada, 10 patches were approx £60. For me, they are proving worth it. The patches offer excellent relief for my joints. They don’t eliminate pain altogether, but they do vastly reduce it. Patches can be applied directly to the skin and remain on for 12hrs. They offer pain relief for that entire period (the last few hours you can feel their effect lessening). I have also found the patches ease my more extreme period cramps. My approach is to use the patches on my very worst or most active days. I wish I could afford to apply them everyday, but with head to toe pain, that’s just not possible right now. I’m not happy that NHS treats chronically ill & disabled patients this way. Tying a Dr’s hands & leaving then to prescribe treatment that they know is ineffective is utter bullshit. I am however crazy happy that I can now access the patches. I know that not everyone has the means to buy things like this themselves (I won’t always). There is much to be done in the fight for disability rights. In the meantime I am doing what I can to get by.

I’m late to the simple concept of squared breathing. In all the therapy, meditation, pain management sessions etc I have done it’s strange that I didn’t learn about before. I’ve tried umpteen breathing exercises. All touted as a wonder cure, none ever succeeded in doing anything but annoy me. Imagine my surprise when the simple act of breathing in for four, hold for four, out for four, hold for four and repeat actually worked. Squared breathing doesn’t reduce pain, it reduces the panic I feel when my pain starts climbing out of control. Holding off that panic is game changer. All the tension that comes with freaking out increases pain. The whirring fear severely impacts my ability to make clear decisions. In short, the panic makes a horrible situation worse. Carving myself a little bit of time to think with this exercise actually makes a big difference in those unbearable moments.

Diagram explaining squared breathing

Finally, we have CBD. Not a new or unknown thing. This is another one I tried before, but only recently perfected. In the past I tried cbd gummies & oil. I didn’t have much success with either. I found the huge array of products overwhelming. I couldn’t quite work out what strength & how much I needed to find relief from my symptoms. The gummies had no impact. The oil was a little better, but the taste made me gag (& sometimes throw up). The after taste contaminated my mouth the whole day. Every site I looked at seemed to offer different advice. I became confused and favs up. A couple of months ago I tried some disposable CBD vapes. A very knowledgable member of staff in a local shop helped me. In no time at all I had finally worked out the right strength for me. I have now invested in a refillable vape & stocked up on oil. I’m using 10% organic vision cbd oil with a minty fresh flavour, which is very palatable. It’s helping with headaches, muscle pain & stiffness.

Multi coloured vape pen on wooden background

As always, I want to remind everyone that I am not a medical professional. I am only describing what has worked for me. Please consult your Dr before making changes.

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Be running up that hill…

Chronic illness is great at kicking you when you’re down. Lamentably, it also likes to give you a dunt when you’re flying too. It would be taxing to say which is worst, but falling from a height certainly hurts.

That was me last week. I was on a lovely break in the cutest cottage by sea. Soaking up the calming sea side views and thoroughly enjoying time with my nephew. The sun was out, we headed to an incredibly beautiful beach. I watched the boy run around having the time of his life. I paddled in the refreshingly cold sea. Took deep breaths, listened to the lapping waves & felt happy.

Tide coming in on st Cyrus beach

As it edged towards late afternoon people started to leave. I began to worry about the hill I’d have to climb to leave the beach. As we packed up I saw people stroll up. I knew it was going to be a problem.

And I was correct. That little sand dune fucked me up. I started trying to ascend it alone, but quickly realised that wasn’t going to happen. It’s hard to get your footing on slopping sand. Even harder to get purchase in moving ground with a walking stick. With every step the sand slid down the hill pushing me back. It was all working against me.

Foot with black painted tie nails on the sand with wave approaching

My sister saved the day. She let me lean on her, literally & half dragged me up that hill. Every step was excruciating. My knees felt like the where going to explode. My back, wrists, elbows & shoulders were all screaming. I couldn’t catch a breath, my lungs felt as though they were filling with the sand I was slipping on.

That little sand dune appeared to go on forever. The bench at top a promised land I’d never reach. Listen, the pain was bad, it wasn’t the culprit of tears at the summit. As my sister helped me struggle I saw my 3yr old nephew gamble up the slope. An old couple comfortably passed us. A nice man with a very concerned look stopped to ask if he could help. I focused on breathing whilst my little sister pepped talked me up that hill. I repeated ‘you’re nearly there’ in my head and tried my upmost to hold back the tears.

When I finally had my bum on that bench my nephew ran to give me a cuddle. The tears started streaming. I looked at the beautiful view as I silently cried. I didn’t want to make eye contact with my loved ones. I didn’t want my little rascal to see me in this state. I recognised the concern in my sister’s voice & the love in the silent shoulder my Mum offered to hold me upright. As much as I loved them for it, I hated that I have to be this way.

View from hill over a beach.grass & wildflowers with sand past leading down to the blue sea

It was another one of those ‘how did I get here’ moments that chronic illness brings. I never imagined it’d take a support team to get me up a hill at 40 years old. I’m not a person who likes to be publicly vulnerable, yet here I am. Regularly fragile & exposed as I try to scratch out something close to a normal life. I felt guilty and embarrassed and pathetic and grateful and burdensome and scared and loved. All crashing over me with more force than the waves below could ever muster.

I concentrated on the nature around me as fought to compose myself. I attempted to ignore the curious looks from strangers & the pain coursing through my body. I listened to the the waves and birds. I let the blue horizon pull me through all the heavy implications placed on the people I love. I dried my eyes. I got back on my feet.

The day continued. Me, making my way slowly behind the others. Stopping to rest. Taking pain relief. Zoning out when we got back in the car. It was all so much bigger than that stupid hill. I was hoping I hadn’t distressed the others. Dreading the pain that I knew was still to come. Feeling sad at the thought that I probably wouldn’t ever return to that blissful beach.

It is painful to accept one’s limitations. I find it incredibly hard to let more & more go. I hate that I’m always the one who has a problem with the plans. I despise that my difficulties are so visible. Gasping for air at checkouts that take a fraction too long. Sitting on floors when there’s no seats available. Calling in advance to check if my malfunctioning body can be accommodated. I don’t like being on display, don’t want to answer questions about my stick, shake off the exasperated sighs or smile at pitying strangers. No matter how kindly meant, I’d rather be suffering in private. I’m exhausted by the knowledge that I’ll pay for every slice of fun. Even more so by the battle with myself to keep reaching for those good times anyway. Most of all I’ll forever regret how much this impacts all the wonderful people in my life. I wish I could stop being a hindrance. I never want them to have to worry. I appreciate every tiny thing they do for me, but I still wish they didn’t have to.

This is chronic life. It’s not just the pain & illness. It is all encompassing. Lots of the time the only way to deal with that is to push it to the very back of your mind. These moments of brutal clarity never stop taking me by surprise.

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Is it really ok?

‘It’s ok not to be ok’. I can’t remember when it started, but it certainly picked up steam. It’s now the standard social media friendly, I support mental health awareness tag line. I know it is well intentioned, but increasingly, it doesn’t ring true.

Of course, in theory, it is true. It is normal to experience mental health issues. It’s fine to admit that you struggle. It is important to normalise mental illness. If you say it out loud, I am not ok, what happens next? If you’re lucky someone listens; someone cares. Maybe they ask what you need. Perhaps you get that help. The first time. Maybe.

It’s ok not to be ok in orange text with green quotation marks

What happens when the person you tell has no idea how to respond. What if you spill your guts to a doctor who doesn’t take you seriously. Or who does want to help you, but only has waiting lists to offer. Around 70% of those referred for mental health assessment in Scotland wait at least 18 weeks*. That’s a very long time to feel helpless, especially when there is no guarantee of treatment. What do you when the not ok doesn’t go away? Or if it keeps coming back? You try really fucking hard to be ok. You do the therapy and the meds and the hard work. It takes a long time. It’s gruelling and painful. All the time you know lots of people aren’t getting any treatment. You feel guilty that your receiving assistance that others aren’t. Even more so when the help hasn’t helped. You’re aware that the people who love you are scared. Your hurt hurts them. They want ‘ok’ as much as you do.

And you want it for them. When it slips from your grasp it’s harder to say it again. People have their own lives. Sometimes they might be struggling. Or they may be fabulous; enjoying some well deserved happiness. Everyone has stresses and responsibilities. Our lives keep us busy with the good and bad. Everyone must earn a living, manage their relationships, have fun. Who wants to be the person who complicates that? Not me.

When you’ve already done everything you’re supposed to do it’s hard to know how to banish the cloud. If the expert advice doesn’t do the trick how can well meaning friends help? Even when you really want to reach out there’s always an impediment. You don’t want to add extra strain when they’re in trouble. Nor do you don’t want to darken joyous life events. Sharing begins to feel less a problem halved & more a problem spread.

Very few mental health problems are a simple fix. None of the big issues in life are that black & white. When you fall back into the grey it’s terrifying. Especially when you know you’ve already had your shot. Ask anyone who has tried to access mental health services after discharge. It’s almost impossible. Drs will say you aren’t sick enough for referral. The NHS lacks the resources for early intervention. Access to talk therapy is limited. Almost 40% of those who received treatment reported that they did not have sufficient sessions**. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is by far the most frequently offered intervention. Not because it is the most suitable, but because it is the cheapest & easiest to administer. Recovery is hard enough with appropriate support. When treatment is bungled it can do more harm than good. As already stated, re referral is doubly hard.

While you wait or fight for professional help (that may never come) your life is disintegrating. Friends who were initially supportive fade away when you never quite get all the way better. Employers sprint. They’ll talk a good game; train a mental health first aider or make a donation. Test their commitment with sick time or requesting accommodations & watch them run. You are left with the people who care enough to stay. Your predicament remains. You don’t want to worry them. You don’t want to ruin anything or be the thing that tips their bad news scale. It’s never the right time. We all want to believe that catch phrases are enough, but buzzwords will never cut it. What happens after I say I’m not ok?

The truth is, more often than not, nothing. The pandemic has only increased strain on an already buckling system. I don’t have all the answers. I do know that a cute Instagram post during an awareness month isn’t it. We need huge institutional shifts. More money, more training, more oversight. Our political representatives need to know that we want action. 1 in 4 adults will experience mental illness in their lifetime. Telling them that’s ok isn’t enough. We have to be advocates.

If someone in your life is suffering without help you can contact your Mp & express your concern.

Find out how long waiting lists are in your area & ask you Mp what they’re doing about that.

Stop voting for people who are actively defunding our health service.

Be proactive. Ask loved ones what specific help you can provide.

Use your social media to contact politicians directly. Ask questions publicly. Embarrass those whose voting records go against their constituents interests.

Accompany a friend to appointments if they require support. Insist that interactions are recorded in medical records.

We have to demand more of ourselves and of those with the power to make changes. Truthfully, it doesn’t feel ok, not to be ok.

Open shouting mouth with the text your voice has power

* Information Services Scotland ** SAMH

Not to blame…

As this pandemic continues to wreak havoc there is an increasing need for a scapegoat. Predictably, fat people have become a convenient target. Navigating this strange new world is hard enough without all the finger pointing.

Magnified image of covid virus

If you’re feeling hounded, I get it. I’m fiercely fat positive & always prepared to fly the body liberation flag. Even I am finding the constant barrage of fat phobia exhausting. With our feckless PM giving credence to a BMI/Covid link and the tabloids eating it up it is understandable that we feel attacked. When the government makes weight stigma policy it absolutely feeds the trolls.

For the record, losing 5lbs will not make you less likely to contract covid nor will it effect the severity of the virus if you do. Like much of the Tories covid 19 response it is not rooted in science. In fact, it is too early for any studies to provide reliable data on the impact of covid on fat bodies. Especially when the intersections with poverty, disability, poor medical care etc are often not factored into research.

Fat phobic newspaper headlines

You are not irresponsible for living in a fat body. You are not a burden on the NHS. You are deserving of the same care & respect as anyone else. If you need help reinforcing these facts or dealing with others who refuse to accept them I highly recommend checking out the resources below. I have linked to their Instagram accounts from which you can find all their links/books.

Jess Campbell (haes_studentdoctor) is as her insta implies a student doctor with a Health at Every Size approach. She shares excellent information in a really straightforward manner.

Dr Natasha Larmie (fatdruk) is a GP in the UK who campaigns to end medical weight stigma. She shares her own experience along with insightful analysis. Definitely a must follow.

If you aren’t already aware of Dr Joshua Wolrich where have you been? He is an NHS surgical doctor who promotes HAES, debunks junk weight loss science & has a much anticipated book due very soon.

Lindo Bacon is a body liberation author, speaker & researcher. Their first book, Health at Every Size completely changed my understanding of how my body works & the effect of dieting. I cannot recommend their work enough.

Image of book,  health at every size lindo bacon

I only recently discovered HPWAS (Health Professionals Against Weight Stigma) and I am so glad. As a fat person it can be difficult to deal with the medical community. It is therefore very reassuring to know there are professionals trying to change things from within. They are currently collecting lived experiences of medical fat phobia. Please do consider sharing if you feel able.

Big fat love to everyone struggling.

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We’re on each other’s teams…

On Thursday my Dr confirmed that she believes I have ‘Long Covid’. It’s been two & a half months since I tested positive and symptoms persist. It’s likely they will continue you to do so for some time.

My Gp took bloods and checked my vitals. My oxygen levels are a little low, but not worryingly so. My heart rate in the other hand is way too fast. We’ll need to keep an eye on that. The Dr is trying to get me referred to a covid rehab clinic, but in the meantime, there’s very little that can be done. At all stages of this illness drs have stressed that there is still so much that no one knows. New complications are cropping up all the time. The more complicated your medical history, the more complicated covid can be. For me it’s constant breathlessness and fatigue. All my usual chronic symptoms are heightened. My pain levels are through the roof, my appetite is decimated and when I do eat my digestive tract objects.

Ly is Weston big glasses and a feminist af face mask

Long term effects of the Covid 19 are far reaching. Everything from strokes to kidney failure has been reported. This virus is dangerous. Please take it seriously. I know the safety measures we have to take are hard. I hate spending so much time at home on my own. The emotional & financial toll has been huge for many, but we can’t afford to be reckless.

If you can, stay home. Wear a mask, wash your hands and observe social distancing rules. Everyone wants to be seeing loved ones & spreading merriment at this time of year, but it just isn’t safe. It will take time to get the vaccine out. Covid doesn’t care about Xmas. There will be more opportunities to celebrate. It won’t kill us to scale back festivities. It could kill people you love not to.

A mask in blue background with  text ‘wear a mask’

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Not your pin up girl…

I recently received delightfully BoPo gifts that instantly inspired an idea. Since the presents in question are a hat & socks, they seemed perfect for a cute top to tail photo.

As I put my vision into action I became frustrated. My attempts to capture a simple, joyful picture of my fat body were complicated by the reaction I knew it would receive. No matter how carefully one covers provocative areas or unseductive the pose female presenting bodies are sexualised. Marginalised bodies receive even more pressure to up the sexy in order to be perceived as worthy of viewing.

Nudity isn’t inherently sexual on green and purple swirly background

As a fat woman I know from experience that any picture I put in the public domain will be insulted & ogled. No matter the context or reason for my showing the world the image I can predict a portion of the responses. Some creepy men will always make creepy remarks and fat phobic comments will appear. It can feel like I am being asked to either apologise for or eroticise my form to make it acceptable.

I’ll never apologise. I won’t forever play the sexy fatty either. My body is just as worthy as any other. I am attractive, I can be alluring. I’m also just a person. I like myself in jammies & unwashed bun. I like myself with hairy legs and tired eyes. I’m worthy when I’m limping along with my walking stick. I can find pleasure in my body just as it is.

Plus sizesd naked women sitting on floor one arm across her breasts and one leg crossed to cover pubic area.Wearing a hat & socks
Riots not Diets Beanie – The Spark Company
Socks – Crudely Drawn
Glasses – Where.light

Naked doesn’t equal sexual. All bodies are glorious and remarkable. I Iove the idea of embracing the normal. I want to celebrate all the different incarnations of me. I want others to see that they are enough.

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When will they stop…

I used a hand sanitiser in a train station the other day. It was one of those super strong types that you find in hospitals. As soon as it hit my skin I was whisked back in time. For a second or two I was somewhere else. Somewhere I didn’t want to be.

The cold sensation drifted through my body. A zoetrope of mixed up images spun in my head. Blurry flashes conjured by the clinical scent. I felt dizzy. I sat down, took some deep breaths. It passed. I was grateful.

Blurry spinning image of trees & sky

It wasn’t entirely gone. That night the whirl of disjointed scenes dipped in & out of my dreams. Random words have jarred memories. My mind has wandered mid thought or conversation. I have felt the panic rising. Spells of forcing my head to connect with my physical reality have emerged. Struggling to focus on what I can actually see, hear, smell in this moment. Ignoring the feelings climbing my throat.

Tonight in the shower I couldn’t shake the feeling that the hot water streaming down my legs was blood. I couldn’t wipe the hospital aroma from my nostrils. Nor soothe the ache that spread from my back to my thighs. The hand sanitiser has triggered a reaction. My body is recalling the trauma stored deep within. It’s a phenomenon associated with PTSD known as body memories.

I haven’t experienced this symptom in quite some time. It lies dormant; rising unpredictably. Sometimes reacting to obvious & painful stimuli. Or, like this week, triggered by a tiny insignificant detail. My olfactory senses seem particularly attuned to old wounds.

New born baby feet with words birth trauma Association

This time it’s the initial loss. I feel my body failing. I know it isn’t happening. I have learned how to pull myself back to the here & now. Still, those moments when I’m dragged to the past feel completely real. I am not just thinking about unpleasant events. I am feeling them. My flesh & nerves & senses are reacting to something that happened 20 years ago.

Body memories are excruciating. It becomes a battle between what you know & what you feel. Fighting strong emotions is a challenge. When you add physical sensations grounding yourself is an onerous task. I have experienced these episodes replicating the sensations I felt during miscarriages & pregnancy. At times these physical memories are accompanied by flashbacks & other PTSD symptoms. Other times they occur in isolation. They mirror my actual experience so completely that I’ve found myself taking multiple pregnancy tests when I knew it was almost impossible for me to have conceived.

Sands logo

It’s another aspect of PTSD that I rarely see discussed in the mainstream. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not only (or even mainly) associated with combat trauma. Yet, it’s the link most people draw. The violent outbursts in media portrayals of the illness are not accurate. New studies are highlighting how prevalent PTSD is in women who have experienced baby loss & birth trauma. For most of us, managing PTSD is an internal process. Distress may leak out, but the grind is with yourself. Accessing the right help, surviving that help (trauma therapy can be brutal), learning to manage symptoms, accepting the parts you can never fix & the impact they will have on your life.

It’s painful & exhausting & many of us never completely recover. To stand any chance of healing specialised therapy is essential. There are so many barriers to reaching that help. It can take years to obtain any psychological intervention without the resources to pay privately. Even longer to receive the specialised therapy that can actually help. So many people can’t afford to wait.

This month I’m supporting The Birth Trauma Association and Sands. Both organisations support families who have experienced trauma surrounding baby loss & birth. Please join me if you can.