Tuesday’s child…

Routine is hard to establish routine during a pandemic, but the last few weeks Tuesday adventures have returned. I am delighted.

For this week’s adventure I even managed to put together a cute ootd. I’m doubly impressed with myself as I uncovered a forgotten wardrobe gem. I have no idea when I bought this dress. I’m not sure if I’ve ever worn it before, but I bloody love it. I couldn’t find my footless tights, so I just cut the feet off these lovelies. Worked a treat.

ly stands on pier in brightly coloured dress.  Loch Lomond is behind her and she has a walking stick

Dress – Primark
Kimono – Boohoo
Tights – Asos Curve
Glasses – Where Light
Jelly Shoes – Primark

As usual I went for all the colour because why not? I added my very favourite brooch for added fat posi vibes and my look was complete. My sister’s take was ‘it’s very you’, which means I hit the mark.

Pink felt brooch with ‘thunder thighs are go’ embroidered
Brooch – Poise Grenadine

My sis only had a little work to do. After, which, we all headed to the Bonnie banks. Luss is one of my very favourite places. My thoughtful wee sis had noticed I’d talked about being sad at not visiting this year and suggested we take a trip. The boy loved it as much as we do. With ducks, a chance to build sandcastles & a a sneaky ice cream before home he was a satisfied rascal.

Two adult sizes feet & two toddler feet in water on pebble beach.
Views of Loch Lomond & Luss village
Ly sitting on rocks laughing with a toddler on her knee

Shining down on me…

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.

Ly poses in white towel in hotel room
It’s not a hotel stay if I don’t get posey.

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.

Glass of rose & pint of beer . Ly in black shirt dress with illusion tights.
Deserted Buchanan street with lots of bright lights

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.

Glasgow street art,  toddler feeding birds
Woman  screaming on child’s death slide
Mummies need a little play time too.
Glasgow street art, don’t you forget about me.

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.

Plus size woman and toddler on a trampoline
Toddlers running up steps to a slide
Mirror selfie of ly in sheer dress & sunglasses.
Trying my best to remain a cool auntie.

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.

Down by the sea…

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.

Culzean castle, formal garden with  large decorative water fountain on lawn

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.

Will you feel better…

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.

Orange & pink neon foam roller

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.

Blue body with spine lit up orange & red

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.

The Fear…

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.

Orange light is sunset shining in to a dark room

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.

Yellow road sign with text, I’m scared my good days will be used against me

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.

Darling, hold my hand…

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.

Skirt – Asos Curve
Vest – Primark
Kimono – Boohoo
Sandals – Next (kids)
Glasses – where.light
Both in need of trim.

Despite now being predictably sore all over, I regret nothing. These little rascals are irresistible & their Mummies aren’t bad either.

You keep making me ill…

Body Positivity has crept into the public conversation. On the surface it seems body diversity is gaining ground. We see larger models in ad campaigns. The high street is beginning to pay a little more attention to fat customers. Social Media is awash with bopo content. However, if you scratch the surface virulent fat phobia still thrives. Any progress is good, but the dangerous aspects of weight stigma remains strong. Medical bias against fat bodies wreaks havoc. As a chronically ill fat woman I frequently face this issue. In ten years of battling illness and the medical community, I have seen little improvement.

When I began having health issues, I accepted the consensus that was fat was bad and thin was good. I was in the process of some seriously unhealthy dieting when I initially experienced quite serious gastric pain. There were other symptoms, vomiting & difficulty eating, but pain was the standout. I progressed from short bursts to hour long stints of excruciating pain. My GP said it was most likely indigestion and/or heart burn. They could be surprisingly painful, I was told. Change my diet, lose some weight and things will improve. I tightened up my already drastic diet and continued to lose weight. My symptoms did not improve. In fact, they worsened. I began to have prolonged periods of pain. It would last for days at a time, leaving me unable to eat or move or sleep. It felt torturous. By this time, I was being sent to A&E by my GP and attending myself when the pain become unbearable. Drs continued to tell me it was heartburn/indigestion. They all said the same thing, change your diet and lose weight. I was prescribed omeprazole but had no investigation. No one listened when I told then I was hardly eating. No one cared that I was losing lots of weight. All the DR’s were dismissive of my pain. Most were patronising. Some were hostile. No one helped. This continued for over a year. On my penultimate visit to A&E I was in so much pain I could barely talk. I had thrown up so much that I was only bringing up bile & blood. I saw a deeply unpleasant man who vacillated between me being an hysterical woman and being convinced I was an addict seeking drugs. He gave me a cup of peptac (which I promptly threw up) and sent me home. I felt utterly beaten that night. I knew something was very wrong.There was no way I could feel this bad and there not be problem. But no one would listen. I was tired of being judged and looked down upon. I went home and cried.

Luckily, my mum visited me a few hours later. She was shocked when she saw the state I was in and insisted we return to A&E. With someone fighting (& I do mean fighting) fit to advocate for me I was finally taken seriously. A Dr finally ordered the simple blood test that would diagnose me with pancreatitis. By the time those bloods results came back my body had gone into shock. Had I not returned to the hospital that night I would have likely died. I spent 7 days in HDU. I was catheterised. Fed only fluids via drip and given a morphine pump. I don’t even recall that first week in hospital.

Afterwards I discovered that although I didn’t fit the usual profile for pancreatitis (often older men, big meat eaters, heavy drinkers), I did have classic symptoms. The pain I had been describing was textbook. The onset and progression of symptoms was exactly what was to be expected of pancreatitis. Had someone taken a minute to listen to me I could have been diagnosed on my first trip to A&E. I really believe if I hadn’t been a fat woman, that’s probably what would have happened.

I had several more bouts of pancreatitis and a number of gallbladder issues were diagnosed in the subsequent months. Ironically, I was to discover that my weight was not the problem. The most likely culprit was spending my 20’s yo-yo dieting. The fad dieting & resultant weight loss that Dr’s had always encouraged made me ill.

Almost dying because medical professionals wouldn’t look past the size of my belly wasn’t horror enough, I have also since been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. A condition I did not suffer from before all the trouble with my pancreas. Pain specialists have told me that the physical and emotional trauma of such a prolonged period of undiagnosed severe illness is likely to have caused the fibro. So, I not only had to suffer multiple times with acute pancreatitis, I will now deal with chronic pain for the rest of my life. I wonder how different my story would if I were a size 10.

Near death experiences aside, almost every medical interaction I have involves some discussion about my weight. With multiple chronic conditions I am a complicated case. Every new symptom no matter how unconnected involves answering questions and listening to lectures about how fat I am. I must push for investigations & interventions because the first advice is always ‘lose weight’. Often, I must identify possible problems via my own research. You would be shocked at the number of times professionals have dismissed my concerns only for my theory to be confirmed when they finally do the necessary tests. I have my cholesterol, blood sugar and pressure tested an inordinate number of times and am usually met with shock that they all measure within ideal levels. When I tell medical professionals that I do not wish to discuss weight loss, my request is usually ignored. Explaining that I endured years of disordered eating and misery related to trying to reduce my size has no impact. My mental wellbeing seems entirely unimportant. Even when I am brutally honest about the fact the I used to starve myself, purge & use appetite suppressants Dr’s still advise diet plans. When my eating was at its most disordered, I was never dangerously thin. So, I was never considered at risk. The sizest attitude towards eating disorders is a whole safety issue in itself. For the record I am vegan with digestive issues that limit my diet. It would be difficult for me substantially change what I eat even if I was inclined to. All this falls on deaf ears. Weight loss remains a priority for almost every Dr I see. When I have stomach flares and lose weight because I can’t eat, I am congratulated. When I am in hospital unable to stop vomiting nurses will joke, they wish they couldn’t eat for a while. It is relentless and exhausting.

*

It really doesn’t have to be this way. Fat does not necessarily mean unhealthy. Even for those who would benefit from lifestyle changes will not be motivated by harsh judgement. The impact on mental health of all this fat shaming is enormous. We know that diets do not work. Most people regain all the weight they lose and more within a year. We also know that yo-yo dieting damages our bodies. Medical weight stigma makes people less inclined to seek medical advice. If you know you will be shamed and belittled and ultimately get no help anyway, you stop asking. This bias against fat patients is dangerous on so many levels. It’s a risk to our mental health, to our physical wellbeing and to our very lives.

* health-and-the-fat-girl.tumblr.com

Got the city on lockdown…

How are you? We’re deep into lockdown now, are you managing to feel sane? It’s hit and miss this end.

I’m realising that although I spend a lot of time at home alone, I really do love the things I do get up to. Recent weeks have been lacking on outside interest. Throw in a nasty flare (& injury) and I’ve really been dredging the spoonie resources to fill the days.

The obvious place to find gentle entertainment is my beloved library. I have been re reading some old favourites. Thus providing myself with diversion & comfort. If you haven’t ventured into the world of Barbara Trapido, you’re missing out. She creates seemingly sedate middle class stories. On closer inspection her interwoven plots & sprinkling of the otherworldly are magical. One of my tattoos is partly inspired by a Trapido book. I never tire of her words.

Thumb & forefinger  holding book open

Podcasts have been another lifesaver. Excellent insomnia salve. Equally good played loud to ease me through the dreaded housework. My latest discoveries couldn’t be more different, but I am loving both. True Crime Brewery is pretty much what the name suggests. A married couple who like beer & true crime take us through a different case every week. They pick a beer from the location of the crime & give a wee review too. Dick is a paediatrician & Gill a nurse, their medical input really adds to the analysis. They both possess soothing voices that make listening to even gruesome events relaxing.

Chachi Chats is a must listen. Danni from The Chachi Power Project welcomes a new guest each episode to discuss all things Bopo. The first two episodes have blown me away. Packed full of information that everyone should know. Full disclosure, yours truly will be popping up in this podcast soon, but I am learning so much from the other guests. I can not recommend this one enough.

I did get out of this house, but only for hospital nonsense. I had a transfusion & a chest X-Ray, which revealed two cracked ribs. The good news is I look exceptionally cute in my mask from Rosana Exposito.

I’ve taken full advantage of our move to phase 1. I had some lovely garden visitors. It does me good to see these faces in person. Long may the good weather continue.

Two mum’s sitting in garden with toddlers on their knees
Black and white image of plus size women in sunglasses

In between times it’s video calls galore and taking advantage of my garden. It is a real luxury to be able to relax outside. Especially when the sun helps a little with my joint pain. Not to mention all the gorgeous wild flowers that bloom in my borders. I only wish I knew how to reach Bronan’s level of chill.

Wildflowers in a vase, women eating an ice lolly, girl laughing on FaceTime
Toddler on a swing & with shark filter
Sleeping cat
Women & child with dragon filter on video call

My quarantine in pictures…

It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that I haven’t been developing new skills in lockdown. My novel remains unfinished & my sour dough never got started. I’ve mostly been entertaining myself with much less useful activities.

Internet nonsense has been a fairly good diversion. I’ve killed some time with insta challenges and silly filters. I alarmed my mother with candy floss hair (I’m almost 40 & she still doesn’t want me to touch my ginger locks). I’m a little bit tempted.

Hair day filter candy floss colours

The cosmetics procedure filter was less enticing. This is not a good look. Neither was the art work I produced when. I joined in on one of those Instagram tags. It was rather pleasing to do, though.

Pencil sketch of house plants

The pillow challenge was a bit more successful & even more fun.

Plus size women  naked apart from teal pillow

I’ve done a fair bit of online shopping. Mostly treats for little ones, but the odd random item for myself too. I seem to be more easily influenced during lockdown. I baked more biscuits than I could eat. Got this gorgeous digital portrait oh my niece & I to add to my wall art.

Digital portrait and photographs on wall

I’ve made a million video calls. Tonnes of Hi jinks with the the kids. Cocktails & gabbing with adults. I’ve done foot peels & face masks. Organised sock drawers, finally arranged my photos into albums & listened to podcasts galore. I even had socially distanced picnic lunch in the driveway.

FaceTime of toddler in ball tunnel
Video  call with two faces in lemonade filter
Video call with dragon filter

Basically I’m trying to defeat cabin fever & stay sane. The fact my darling sister talked me into learning a tik tok dance questions if I’ve managed it.

Two women doing tik tok dance on summer dresses