Denial is my sword and shield

My daughter has just had a week long holiday from school and I? I won the extreme delights of a respiratory infection. I can’t remember the last time that I was this, antibiotic requiring, ill. And it is hideous, but the somewhat odd thing was, that it took me a really long time to realise that I was actually ill in the first place, and I wondered why I went through this level of denial.

To start with I get intermittently terrible hay fever. It would likely be fine if I consistently remembered to take the tablets (I don’t), use the salt pipe and Rudolph machine (see my previous blog ‘my glorious ailment’ for a truly sterling picture of me!). However, for some reason, I have decided that I am quite clearly invincible, so daily usage is not required. Until I start to seriously suffer, which is what I thought was happening, so I started taking some meds. Then the cough began.

Now I don’t usually cough with hay fever, but with denial as my sword and shield, clearly, this was hay fever extraordinaire! A mighty beast of hay fever to be slain! So the coughing continued, and I risked using the salt pipe.

Then the tiredness crept in. Rather than attributing this to anything illness related, I simply surmised that I had been having a few too many late nights and needed a catch-up, and likely it was all just related to my hay fever. The monstrous beast was fighting hard.

Then maybe around ten days later I decided to hedge my bets. I went to see my doctor. He got the stethoscope out and put it on my back as I breathed in and out. He then told me that he needn’t have bothered with the stethoscope as apparently me breathing a little deeper than normal, he could have diagnosed me from across the room. He gave me antibiotics and told me that my hay fever was likely bad too (I knew, I knew!).  But why the denial in the first place?

I think it comes from having very many chest infections in my late teens. I had bronchitis three or four times, once it then exciting developed in bronchial flu (cue laying on the carpet, curled into a ball, making the tiniest clearing my throat sound instead of the big cough that I wanted to do, as I had shredded all muscles over my ribcage, coughing seriously hurt!!). I just no longer perceive myself as an ill sort of person, whereas back then, the onset of winter appeared to always bring cough. That lasted for, well, pretty much winter. I also rocked ordinary flu a fair few times too. I have not been doctor requiring sick for such a goodly while, I think I just forgot that it was an option. Or I was scared to acknowledge the truth.

I think that sometimes the memory of what was before can feel so similar to the present. Realising that just because something has happened before, doesn’t mean it will be identical if it happens again. In fact, it could never be identical because so many variables will be different. Including me.

But anyways,  am mid antibiotic course and now no longer need to sleep during the day in order to recharge enough to keep going. Am considering this a massive win! And clearly, this means I am better?

Map Point. Where am I expecting the past to reoccur?

My remarkable day

I have had the strangest day. I woke up in the night, massive storm outside. It wasn’t so much the noise keeping me awake as the continual flashes of lightning. It was incessant. Finally I put a pillow over my eyes and eventually got some shut eye.

I then woke up really late, even by my occasional bad standards, maybe around half past nine, and eventually got as far as breakfast. I made toast. Now usually my relationship with bread products has been all good, I eat it, it is delicious and sublimely beautiful. Okay that was too far, I have an emergency frozen sliced loaf in my freezer for when the good breakfasts run out. I then assessed the things in my fridge that could be applied to toast. My daughter opted for strawberry jam which I know was a recent buy (we made jam tarts; they were exceptional) and I opted for the somewhat slightly more suspect lemon marmalade. I clearly must have bought it at some point, but as to when that might have been.. I have no idea. I opted not to check the date, having made the rational decision that marmalade lasts a long time (its basically liquid sugar, right?) thus was all good for my breakfast topping.

Whether the citrus topping was delectable or not I never found out. On my first bite, I managed to bite and puncture my tongue, blood and mushed up toast issuing forth from my mouth. It was painful, possibly rivalling the plug that I trod on last week. But I am tough, after the blood had stopped dispensing I got ready to go out. I went back to the kitchen, and then inadvertently stubbed my little toe on my right foot on a table leg. It hurt. But was still intent to crack on with my day!

Now the previous night my daughter appeared to have mild food poisoning from a sandwich place that we frequent (that will now be getting a strongly worded letter) and when I was ready to leave the house, it appeared that I suffered the same fate. It was not happy making, but I remained optimistic! I read for a bit before dosing off to combat the feeling of ill.

I woke up later on, feeling much improved so I started making a roast dinner. This went really well, beautiful crispy fluffy roast potatoes, and all sorts of other things. Which when I reached into the oven to get them, I burnt my fingers. I was almost flippant! And I didn’t swear either when midway through my dinner I bit my tongue again. In the same spot as before, it was a proud moment.

Then my daughter wanted to watch a film, so I amazed myself by working out how to find it online and we watched it. The film was The Maze Runner and she had watched a version of it made in Minecraft. The film was somewhat more brutal, killing off one of her favourite characters at the end which led to much sobbing. And then a bit more. Then I cried too, just for a bit.

Then I fully noticed the level of catastrophe that my house becomes if it isn’t tended for a whole day and then I became massively productive, and finally got to writing this. Now am optimistic that no more injury or emotional distress will befall me for the rest of the day, but despite the days mishaps, am feeling oddly marvellous. Also today has included seeing my Mum, three enquiries for friends as to my well being, one offer of a shop run and a feeling of amazing love and productivity.

Map Point. How can see things from a different angle?



My glorious ailment

It is hay fever season. Actually, for me, there is rarely a time when it isn’t hay fever season. Mine starts when the trees blossom and ends when they have finished spawning whatever they spawn when the leaves are dropping off. A few years back I was tested at the hospital with multiple drops of things on my arm. And officially, it’s trees that cause me mischief, and also very slightly, dogs.

My hay fever didn’t emerge until I was nineteen, I escaped childhood blissfully unaware of the horrors that itchy eyes, itchy nose, itchy throat and all the other delights that hay fever would soon bestow upon me.

I was offered at the time a genetic therapy as my hay fever can get pretty bad, but for an assortment of reasons, I decided not to go with it. ‘There must be a better way’ I thought. Am not sure if better has ever truly cut it, but it has been an exciting sort of journey!

Antihistamine tablets. I have tried almost every variety of these. And mostly they work, sort of, for a few hours. However don’t take more than one each day or your doctor will get excited and send you for blood tests to see if you are frying your liver. My liver is still happy. Apparently, some will work in different seasons dependent on what’s in the air. I have no idea how true this is, but I find this method to be massively frustrating. I muchly dislike things that I am snot free and then a couple of hours later discovered that this is very much not the case!

Then there were the nose sprays. These I have never got on with, despite various assurances from the pharmacists who have sold them to me. The most scary of all was Prevalin. It smelled like minty clay, which wasn’t particularly a bad thing, what was a bad thing was that after application, I sneezed. Whilst looking into the bathroom mirror. What sprayed all over said mirror was strings of white gelatinous goo. It also landed on me. This could most utterly be the best product for hay fever ever invented, a panacea for all things allergic and I would still never use it again. The memory still triggers a slight sense of terror.

Possibly the most amusing device I have tried was something that turned me into a Christmas reindeer by the name of Rudolph. This marvellous device (its the photo with this post) has little led bulbs that you push into your nose and then after a couple of minutes, you remove said light bulbs and all is well. It was strange, It causes mass hilarity from all who see it, and it was curiously effective.

I have tried local honey, which had almost no effect, but the honey was tasty! And then I went for this pollen. This was a new one for me, but I started adding it to morning smoothies, and despite a slightly weird taste that I have got used to, this one appears to be reducing my symptoms.

I have also tried herbal type tablets. I am currently using them in conjunction with the pollen. I have no idea which is working most, or whether it is a combination of the two, but am very much enjoying a lack of hay fever currently, so am going to go with these are a good thing!

Something that was recommended to me by a friend last year was a salt pipe. It is calming to use, completely no idea as to whether or not it actually works. But I do like using it!

Any allergy complaint I have ever had in my life has always been deeply irksome. Apparently, it is when the body thinks non-toxic things are suddenly toxic. Sometimes I think that my hay fever is a manifestation of all the times that I have not been happy with myself. I have caused my life to be more difficult when actually dealing with things would have made my life easier. So all of the amusing remedies above are ways I have been treating the symptoms, and now it is time for me to address what hay fever is maybe trying to teach me.

Map Point. What am I putting off doing?

The joy of the carpark

After a recent visit to the doctor’s surgery to check out a couple of moles, the helpful nurse mentioned that I also had two skin tags on the top back of my right leg, almost bottom area and that she would freeze them off. No biggie I thought, I recalled having some verrucas dealt with in this way as a child. I figured the area to be a little more sensitive than the soles of my feet, but no skin tags that I couldn’t particularly see anyway? Win!

Not win, not win, not win! The pain or ‘discomfort’ started almost immediately, it felt like a little pinch, I can cope with this, was my initial thought. After a week one little pinch had becoming two big fat pinches that bothered me at all times. So I went back. The nurse agreed that they both looked kind of angry. She sent for the doctor, so twenty minutes and a packet of jaffacakes later, the doctor looks the angriness. And what is her opinion? More liquid nitrogen. During the process, I was composed in my language but she did offer the addendum that I could swear if I wanted. Where my brain was going was a place slightly beyond swear and had entered the realm of the unintelligible. She then told me that frozen peas would help, alongside salt water baths and some strong antiseptic cream that she gave me.

I left the doctors surgery, doing my most accurate impression of John Wayne to date and got to the car. I felt filled with an equal mixture of mirth and agony, and the shininess in my eyes confirmed this. I then drove my car to the supermarket. Pain or no pain, people need to eat! Mid shop I pondered whether or not I had been the first person to rub Lidocaine on my arse in Sainsbury’s carpark. I hoped yes, but reasoned that this world is a strange one, so went with no. The Lidocaine got me round the supermarket and for the journey home, I am just incredibly grateful that there were no small children in the car in need of a more colourful vocabulary.

I am not quite sure what insights this offers, other than leave well enough alone of things that you can barely see, and don’t let anyone with liquid nitrogen near your bottom. But should this situation ever arise in your life, the salt water bath really helped! On a more serious note, this has reminded me how important it is to look after myself and I have immense gratitude to how amazing my body is!

Map Point. How can I look after myself better?



Limiting my expectations

Bodies. We all own one. They are beautiful and many splendored. However, in the last year, I have found mine has become more contentious. Possibly it always was, but now I want to do more with it, I am more aware of its limitations.

For most of my life, exercise was an endurance. Occasionally I went for a swim which is an exercise that I deeply love, but this was only ever occasional, owing to the faff involved of hair washing and draconian pool schedules. When I have been on holiday I have enjoyed cycling, but as an adult, I have never owned a bike. I have had memberships for multiple gyms (I paid hard for the level of guilt that a seldom-used gym membership can bring), but none of these exercises truly inspired me to maintain any sort of regular exercise, and then I found running.

Since I have begun running I have only maintained a couple of knee and ankle injuries, nothing particularly supreme or interesting. But this is the first time that an injury has prevented me doing what I love, and I was unaware of the level of frustration that this brings. It brings a good deal. I also run with people who are all really established runners. Most days this massively inspires me, some days this frustrates me as I can’t see a time where I will be anything like as good. It isn’t that it matters if I can run faster than others or not, just I am more aware of my limitations.

However, on the flip side of this, a couple of years ago I couldn’t run at all. Well, that is possibly an exaggeration, I could likely run about twenty-five meters then look as if I might require medical assistance. On my worst days now, even with somewhat suspect knees, I can always run between two to five kilometres. I find this theme occurring more and more in my life, I judge myself way harsher than anyone else ever would.

I wish I could isolate the moment in my life where rather than feeling that sense of childlike optimism, I felt a wave of disappointment in myself. Rather than falling down and getting back up to try again, I started setting standards lower to only achieve small things, as the disappointment of not achieving what I really wanted was too hard. Today a good friend asked me what I wanted to be. I am still pondering this, but to summarise my current thoughts – a lot more than I currently am.

Map Point. Where do I need to raise my expectations?

My world of unlikely accidents

I nearly just crushed my number four toe on my left foot, however, I had to look to see and see which foot it was, because it could well have been the number two toe on the right foot. It was definitely the left, it had impacted with a somewhat unyielding box under my desk. There was big pain. Despite considering myself to be in good health with a happy diet and exercise, I accept that injury will also be present, both through questionable spatial awareness and outright stupidity.

Now many of my daily injuries I no longer notice. Door frames neatly marry with shoulder blades, radiator pipes are the twins of my little toes, really heavy objects are obviously asking my feet to ‘bring it’ and they do, with both force and precision. I find random bruises and cuts, but this is all good as if I haven’t noticed doing it, then clearly it didn’t hurt!

Occasionally though, my acts of injury are somewhat more spectacular. Domestic endeavour is truly not for the faint of heart. I was once winding up a vacuum cord and got slightly too much momentum, cracking myself squarely in the head with the plug, which knocked me to the ground. After washing up once, I bent down to pick up an errant spatula from the floor (it had tumbled down from my ‘how high can I stack my washing up’ personal challenge) and I stood up too quickly, thumping my head into the handle of a particularly heavy saucepan. Also ended up sat on the floor, somewhat bemused with my new immediate surroundings. I have been knocked over a fair few times by other people shutting the boot of the car on my head, as I have dived back in to retrieve something and it is probably best never to share the details of the swollen knee I ‘won’  by walking off the pavement into a parked van when playing the eyes closed challenge. It wasn’t a good game.

I guess that there are parts of ourselves that will always vex, always try us a little bit. Things that we keep doing without really understanding why. Most of my injuries come from lack of patience or forethought (and some do come from idiocy) so perhaps this is where I need to focus my efforts, taking my time a little more, and attempting to be a bit more gentle with my body.

Learning to look after ourselves better can be a really hard task, we simply get used to certain things and accept them as perfectly okay, they have become familiar. Looking at these things and working out how to make improvements is the easier bit, learning how to put those into practice is where we can genuinely make improvements to our lives, and that bit is harder.

Map Point. How can I stop hurting myself?


How I (begrudgingly) started running

It was the Fitbit (which I have since abandoned). Miles spotted it at work. I was making myself a cup of tea at the time.  Hadn’t really spoken to him a good deal before other than mostly pleasantries. And he asked if I ran. This seemed likely, as the wrist tracking activity devices generally indicate that you are involved in activity worth tracking. I was not however, I liked the idea of starting running, but I had actually purchased this marvellous device to track just how horrendous my sleep had become. It was bought purely with masochistic intent to prove to myself how bad my insomnia had become. So I said that I was thinking of starting, to which Miles told me that he could give me the names of some local groups that went out running in the evenings. This was mostly impractical, what with being a single mother and all, but I thanked him. He then seemed to pause a bit, and said that if I wanted to, he would go out running with me. Now this was a more exciting offer. Someone was willing to invest their actual time in helping me to start running. I was nervous, apprehensive, but ultimately I had clearly set the intention by buying the flashy wrist gear that I was ready to run. So I agreed.

What I actually agreed to was a six-week program involving a twice weekly run. So I found my running clothes (proper activity wear.. it sort of makes me giggle how prepped I was to run, without ever having done so before) and met up with Miles. Miles looks like a hardcore long distance runner, the sort of man who could run for a week and still be able to hold a sensible conversation. We stretched, this seemed okay, this bit I could definitely do! I felt so accomplished. Then he said we would walk for a bit, then run for a minute. In this first minute of running, several ages passed. Polar icecaps melted and reformed, however, am something of a stubborn beast on occasion, so I powered through. My legs had no idea what they were doing, my breathing was laboured, and my posture felt peculiar. We continued in this vein, walking a bit, running a bit. And I improved. The first time I ran for five minutes straight was a massive achievement. Hills were the same. I then started running with other friends too, Kate and Robert. Running gave me activity based social time. And it felt good.

A minor knee injury took me out for a while, but am back out running again now. This morning I complete my first 5k in an age, with a knee support, in forty-five minutes (which is very slow for me) and it felt amazing, around the 3k mark, I found my zone again. This is where I lose myself and everything feels amazing.

Running for me started as something of mass trepidation, actual fear (likely a hangover from the hideous words in school ‘cross country’), but actually breaking through that, with the help of someone else, empowered me so massively, and I am grateful.

Map Point. What is fear preventing me from doing?

Actual Mirrors

There have been times in my life when I have looked into the mirror and irrespective of how fat or thin I was, I saw nothing but negativity, judgement and humiliation looking back at me. This was a hard place to start my day from and didn’t exactly boost my self-esteem.

The absolute worst time in my life for doing this was when I was in my twenties. There were a round six months of my life where I found that I was actively choosing not to eat. I was a student at the time; my mum lived close by, so some evenings I would go and have a proper dinner with her, and that felt nice. But for the rest of the time, I drank black coffee and ate a couple of biscuits here and there. My weight tumbled off. A healthy weight for me is around eleven to eleven and a half stone. I was around thirteen when I began this endeavour and when I began eating normally again, I was down to ten stone. I am a tall person with a large frame, all of my bones were visible. I was incredibly unhappy with a variety of issues in my life, a relationship had ended, a new one had begun that was problematic in some ways, my uncle was slowly fading with dementia, my grandad had died. I don’t think that it was any one of these things that made me take the actions that I did, but likely a combination, I regained control of my life by limiting my food intake.

Any addiction or denial gives us back the control that we feel is missing, and for me, lack of food was empowering. I found that feeling hungry made me feel alive, made me feel good. I would stand in front of the mirror naked, pinching bits of skin, deciding that I could go another half stone. I didn’t see beauty or anything positive, just something that I could control. I was also getting many compliments about how skinny I was becoming. I guess this must have been nice, as it further endorsed the choices that I was making. It was truly one of the most unhappy periods of my life.

As I began to deal with my sad experiences, I became a healthy weight again, and I found myself naked in front of the mirror, telling myself and utterly seeing myself as beautiful. Maybe this was to self-endorse, maybe I needed the reassurance, but it occurred to me a few day ago that I don’t do that anymore. I am now around a stone above my ideal weight, so maybe my level of self-love has dropped, but although this is a possibility, I don’t think that it is true. I think that I have reached a stage in my life where it no longer matters. I eat really well, I exercise, meditate, socialise with exceptional people. Viewing myself in terms of how my body looks is no longer relevant. I still like to look nice, but I no longer tie my emotional state to my physical one. If I receive a compliment, I have immense gratitude to the person giving it, but it doesn’t further endorse me. I have self-endorsed, thus I have left the emotional weight of the shape of my body behind.

Map Point. How do I feel about my physical state?