Autumn has always been my favourite season. The drawing in of the nights & cooling of the air used to be welcome. These days this time of year is more complicated.
All of my babies were due in August or September. As the weather changes I am beset with anniversaries and reminders. People who were pregnant with me throw birthday parties. I quietly mark dates I had hoped to celebrate.
This year my orbit is congested with pregnancy announcements creating a perfect storm of emotion. All are depressingly familiar. I’m sad and lost. I don’t know how to find a purpose big enough to fill up my life. Each time I begin to believe I’m approaching acceptance I’m overtaken with this stale grief.
It’s so heavy and I’m so tired of dragging it around. I want to be able to move past this, but there are too many ghosts. A million tiny pricks. Triggers lurk everywhere; always something to yearn for. Even in my happiest moments I’m aware of what’s missing.
I can’t comprehend ever making this ok. Yet, I don’t wan’t to be this tragic old bitch. I’d like to stick all my consolation prizes together & collage myself a happy enough ending. I’m scared I’m not sufficiently good/strong/grateful to make do & mend.
I have been quiet because I slipped away for a wee break. I joined my Mum, sis, nephew & Sebby for the perfect seaside getaway. My sister found the most wonderful cottage by the sea and man alive did I need it.
We stayed on a tiny village with only a church, a corner shop & hotel. Oh & of course a stunning beach. The view from our patio was wow. It was the perfect place to take some deep breathes & refresh my head.
Add 24hrs with the boy to all that soothing scenery and you get a very happy ly. I did bath, bedtime and constant carry on. It was bliss. The little man is a total beach baby. He adores the seaside. Rain or shine he can’t wait to get his toes on sand. His doggy big brother can’t get enough of it either.
When the sun was out we built sandcastles, jumped waves & found big sticks. Followed by chilling on the patio whilst the sun went down.
We didn’t let the rain stop us, though. We donned our waterproofs and headed to Cullen. The beach took my breath away. A wild deserted beach is my absolute favourite; the Moray Coast did not disappoint. I felt calmer & more centred on that wind battered beach than I have in months. With soft golden sand, dramatic rock formations and clear blue waves crashing on the shore it was blissful. My nephew was enchanted with the ‘fairy pools’ and couldn’t wait to do some splashing. Meanwhile Seb was able to run free.
Our encounter with nature over we headed into town to check out a magical antique store. It was packed with stunning pieces. Plus more than a few whimsical items to please a toddler.
On our final night my sis & I decided to play some scrabble. We set up by the patio doors to enjoy the view while we got our words on. Mum enjoyed the real fire in the next room with a sleepy boys. I was very rusty, but still managed to just beat my sis. Don’t tell her I told you, she’s a tad competitive.
To soften the pain of leaving we broke journey home at St Cyrus. We again found ourselves on a dream beach. I am continuously amazed at how beautiful Scotland is. I feel so very lucky to live here. St Cyrus is also a nature reserve, so if you’re interested water birds and wildlife it is an amazing place to visit.
I started last week with a trip to Edinburgh to do my first out of the house project in months. I have to be honest being out in the world was incredibly stressful. Until that point I had only really been out in parks, quiet streets etc. Bustling stations & city centres were a whole other deal. My train anxiety was through the roof. Thankfully, my hotel had taken every possible precaution. I was able to close my room door & breathe easy. I take my hat off to all you amazing folk who have been out there throughout this entire crisis.
On my last day in Edinburgh I managed to catch up with my very favourite man. I found a bar with great socially distanced corner table & we had an al fresco tipple. The months of separation led us to lose track of time and gab for 8hrs. All that delightful conversation meant I got back to a deserted Glasgow. These days silent streets are my jam.
After a few days recovery I got back to my usual pursuits. Last Friday brought my first solo adventure with the boy. We fed some birds & discovered some new street art. Then it was time to find Mummy & hit the swing park.
This week I returned to beavering away at home. I’m finding the transition to the next phase of lockdown tricky. I just cannot feel confident about what is safe & that leads me to continue to limit my activities. Outdoors is much more comfortable for me, especially in places controlling numbers. Thus, I was excited to take the kiddies to a farm park with strict pre booked admission. My sis & I teamed up with my bestie to get these two rascals together. We ended up missing most of the animals because they were having so much fun in pirate ships, digger parks, schutes & sandpits. The weather was perfect. It was such a good day that we had some tears at home time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am often asked how I learned to feel good in my body. Whilst the answer to that question is long & winding there is one thing I always suggest. I’ve noticed tonnes of folk in the Bopo community offer the same advice; immerse yourself in fat positive content.
It’s an easy starting place. You can follow social media accounts, read articles & watch shows without having to make deep commitments to changes. Removing messages that make you feel bad and replacing them with joyous fat imaging works. It was my first step into accepting my body as it is. It remains something I expand upon.
This is how I came to create my sexy self love wall. The deep red wall in my bedroom long hankered for some art, but I could never decide on what I wanted up there. When I commissioned my first Spunk Rock piece a vision began. I decided to create a kinky, feminist ode to myself. If that sounds conceited, I don’t care. It’s a private part of my house. My bold proclamation is for me.
Which leads me to my newest pretty. This gorgeous water colour is by Mia Macauley . She reproduced one of my all time favourite selfies. I am in love. Hot curves, delicious rolls & leopard print knickers too. I cannot wait to get me up on the wall.
Friday has taken over from Tuesday as my adventure day. This week was a really good one. We took a wee trip to Culzean Country Park & had all the fun.
I started the outing by throwing up in a car park, so I was really hoping the day picked up. It totally did. We had a picnic lunch (I stuck to water )in a gorgeous courtyard & then headed down to the sea. The boy has been asking to go to the beach for ages & Auntie ly has been yearning for the calming waves, excitement ensued. There’s no guarantee of a sunny July in Scotland, but grey clouds didn’t impede our jubilation. The beach was almost entirely empty, it had a conveniently large log for sitting & sand castle supplies were abundant. We all bloody loved it.
Once we shook the sand from our crevices it was time to capture the castle. Atop the ramparts awaited a serene view & rest for the older members of our party. Meanwhile our ickle companion exuberantly explored the castle grounds.
I always find being close to the sea very calming. It did me good to combine a spot of serenity with a big scoop of rascalling. The further reduction of lockdown that comes into force this week will allow me to restart my life somewhat. I’m both excited & nervous about tackling things like trains in the time of covid. Thus, it was extra nice to dip my toes in the water & recharge before facing the world.
My recent flare up has been tenacious. Stronger pain killers aren’t a practical long term option. As a result I’ve been trying other pain relief methods to back up my existing medication. Thankfully I have had some success, which I’m happy to share.
I’ll kick off with the simplest & easiest to access tool; the foam roller. I saw some insta posts about their usefulness with muscle pain. I had previously associated them with sports injuries & hadn’t realised it might be worth trying one myself. Over to eBay I go & purchase myself this neon friend. Including postage it cost around a tenner. They’re available in various sizes to suit different body parts. I opted for a bigger version to use on my lower back. It couldn’t be easier to use, simply amply a little pressure & roll the problem area. I’ve found it to be helpful for brief periods. I use it whilst sitting at my desk to reduce pain & stiffness. I also use it before bed so that I’m getting into bed in less pain. I’d definitely recommend giving this a try.
Lidocaine patches are less accessible, but more effective. They deliver topical pain relief directly to a painful area. NHS guidelines on prescribing this treatment have recently changed due to cost. Meaning it is very hit & miss on which GP’s are permitted to prescribe them. The patches are only licensed (& mostly marketed) for treatment of shingles pain. However, this is only because shingles patients were used in the testing of the product. Pain specialists are increasingly prescribing this product for ‘off label’ uses. I found the 5% patches really effective at reducing pain in my arthritic knee & also fibro pain in the other areas. They don’t remove the pain, but I found a significant improvement. Unfortunately I’m not sure if I will be able to continue using them due the new restrictions. I will absolutely be pushing for them. I’d certainly suggest asking your Dr about them.
My latest discovery is Capsaicin cream. It’s derived from chilli peppers. It’s a topical cream that works by interfering with pain signal to the brain by reducing the level of a chemical (substance P) that binds with pain receptors. Studies are showing good results with Arthritis patients. I have been pleased with the relief it provides on my knee & other joints. My Gp suggested this cream & is happy to prescribe it. You can buy it over the counter (but it’s seems is not widely available yet). If you’re dealing with fibro, arthritis or similar conditions this is something to jump on.
For reference I use regular pain medications along side these treatments. I’m not a medical professional, I share my experiences in the hope of helping others. If in doubt, always seek professional advice.
Spoonie life comes with many challenges. There are the obvious constrictions. Then there’s the hidden toll. The less apparent complications that pack a punch. It’s those tricky unseen issues that I want to talk about.
A major component of my chronic illness is anxiety. I have mental health issues which include anxiety, but my physical difficulties bring their own particular stresses. There’s the guilt; a feeling that’s perpetually nestling in the background of my consciousness. Guilt over letting people down, asking for help, using resources or saying no too many times. I have a million things to feel guilty about and every one of them has it’s own additional worries. I feel huge anxiety about cancelling anything due to illness. I worry people will be angry, upset, left in the lurch. I analyse every response and feel certain someone is annoyed. I overthink every request for help. Surely I can get this done without inconveniencing others. Am I asking too much? Always, always I worry that I’m just not worth all the extra effort.
Unfulfilled potential offers me unlimited scope for guilt. I am sure that I have disappointed. There are expectations that I have not met. Chronic illness has interrupted or ruled out so many things. I know my limitations have impacted more than me. I am haunted by the moments I may robbed folk of. To not live up to the hopes of those you respect is crushing. Not reaching your own is no party either. On an existential level it feels negligent not to maximise one’s talents. I spend more time than is reasonable worrying about all the ways in which I have short changed society. I am ashamed of all the things I cannot do.
Shame looms large. Intellectually I know I cannot control any of my health issues. However, I’m not always great at translating that knowledge into feelings. I’m embarrassed about how little I can get done during the bad times. I often feel less capable, less valuable, just less. I stress about the judgements that will be passed. It’s very humbling to be unable to keep on top of all the housework. Likewise to have a head like a bird’s nest because your body just won’t allow you to shower & do your hair. I cringe at needing help to stand up. Wince every time I have to explain why I’m ordering a taxi to take me round the corner. Each unproductive day is a dent in the ego. It’s hard to feel worthy when writing two paragraphs & heating soup are a whole day’s accomplishments.
Then, some days you’ll wake up and feel relatively good. That should be lovely, but so often it’s tainted. Coloured with more guilt. How dare I enjoy myself when I’m supposed to be sick. Imposter syndrome creeps in. I start to feel if I can manage doing this nice thing I should be able to handle everything else. I feel bad for feeling good and I’m scared. I fear that I’ll be judged on my good days. I’m terrified that everyone else is thinking I should do better. When folk see me having a couple of glasses of wine with a friend do they think I must be fine? If I succeed professionally I’m convinced everyone believes I’m faking it. It’s such a difficult juxtaposition to live with; feeling terrible for all the things one cannot do whilst also believing the things you can will be held against you.
Even writing this is giving me anxiety. Will this be perceived as whiny? Or as me making excuses for myself. It’s not intended to be either. I just want to have honest conversations. Large aspects of the disabled/chronically ill experience are never acknowledged. Too often we’re judged or dismissed without ever having been listened to.
Friday seems to have become my social hub. I’m still mostly pottering away at home. Shops & indoor pursuits still don’t feel safe, but I am down for a wee afternoon in the park.
Since the little ones no longer need to social distance my bestie & niece joined us for an adventure. We went to one of my favourite places & had a ball. It drizzled a little, but with highland cows, dinosaurs & fairies to find the rain did not dampen our spirits.
I paired up some striped staples with my new kimono and felt cute. The rain might not have spoilt our fun, but it did ruin my hair. Oh well, no one’s locks look tip top during a pandemic.
Despite now being predictably sore all over, I regret nothing. These little rascals are irresistible & their Mummies aren’t bad either.
The R number is going in the right direction & phase 3 is here. Is everyone else as excited as I am? I’m still going to be staying at home rather a lot, but at least now I have options.
Obviously, I chose the boy & his Mama for my first excursion. I’m elated to know I can also see other people I’ve been missing like crazy. Today we tried out Cranside Kitchen , a lovely outdoor bar & restaurant. It’s entirely outdoors, but has a some shelter if required. I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to relax, but I actually felt very safe. The tables are nicely spaced & the staff have gloves etc. It was so lovely to sit in the sun & eat some yummy food (that I didn’t have to make). I even had some new purchases to try out making it an excellent Friday.
The boy seemed to enjoy being out in the world again. He loved his sausages & was very taken with the Finnieston crane. We followed up brunch with a trip to an almost empty bookshop. Again I was pleasantly surprised by how considerate everyone was. Hand sanitiser by the door, everyone in masks, folk very careful to keep their distance. I’m hoping Glasgow is going to smash easing lockdown sensibly.
Books purchased & nap taken there was just times to hit the park. We had it mostly to ourselves & I discovered a kids toy that makes my aching back feel much better. How do I go about having one installed in my garden?