Monday, 20 February 2017

Love is in The Air

February is the month of love thanks to Valentine’s day so here on Safe Space we wanted to take this theme and run with it but instead of the traditional love of another, we wanted to talk to you all about self-love. In this post you will see what self-love means to some of the team members, how hard it can be to love ourselves in a society that constantly points out your flaws and imperfections, and what actions we take when it comes to loving ourselves and putting our needs first.

Jess: I used to think that people who said that they loved themselves were lying. That’s such a sad statement to write, but it’s true. I was brought up in a society that encourages you to constantly want to change and tells you that you’re not good enough and if you dare to love yourself is quick to shut you down and tell you that you’re being big headed. As women we are taught to be humble and play down our achievements, that nobody likes a show off. Society constantly sends the message out to girls and women that loving yourself is not okay. So yes, growing up I found the idea of loving myself an impossible concept, so much so that I didn’t believe it when people told me that they felt that way about themselves and I find that incredibly sad.

This all changed for me last year when I started following women online who promoted self-love and body confidence whatever your shape or size. These women were bright, vibrant and from all walks of life. They all looked completely different but the one thing they had in common was that they radiated self-love and positive energy, not only for themselves, but for all women. I found their confidence beautiful and I realised that if they could love themselves then I could too. Something clicked for me and when I looked in the mirror I started to like what I saw. I’ve never felt so confident or sexy and yet nothing had changed except my own attitude towards my body. Other people noticed this change in me too and I started to receive so many compliments from the people around me.

Around the same time I also went into recovery for my mental illnesses and started doing things I never thought I would do. This gave me a huge surge of confidence in who I am as a person. It made me feel strong and capable and I gained a new level of self-respect that I’d never had before. This woman I was discovering was a badass and I liked her very much.

Over the past year I finally learned to love myself both inside and out, but like any relationship it’s not perfect. I still have days where I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see and there are still times where I doubt myself and think I’m not good enough but for the most part my attitude towards myself has completely changed. In learning to love myself I have also learned to take better care of myself, to be kind and to treat myself as I would a friend whether that is by giving myself a break when I’m not feeling well, knowing when to say no, or treating myself to a new lipstick. You’re the only person you’re with for your entire life and the relationship you have with yourself is the most important one of all. Loving yourself in a society that encourages you not to is a constant struggle but finding that inner love will give you an aura of confidence and self respect that you will carry with you for the rest of your life that no magazine or mean comment will ever be able to take away.

Louise:
I have a seven inch scar down the middle of my abdomen. It’s red and an ostomy bag sits on the right-hand side.
Scars are the map to my past.
My scars are also the battle wounds of my previous fights. Yep, fights. I’ve been a long-term battle with my body since September 2011. My invisible illness of Crohn’s Disease meant that I secret fought my body both physically and mentally. Most of the mental acceptance of having this invisible and chronic illness has been come from others being unable to see what is wrong with me; they can’t see how ill I am, they can’t feel my pain my guts have given me, they can’t understand how much I wish this wasn’t my life.
I still fight my body but now I am winning not only the physical battle but the mental one. It has taken five years, two big surgeries and multiple wounds to realise that my disease doesn’t mean I love myself any less. If anything, I have grown to appreciate my body and how I see my body because despite having something physical for people to identify my illness with – my ostomy bag and midline scar – I have grown to accept myself; scars and all.
People would consider my flaw to be the fact that I poop out of my abdomen now but I see that as my quirk. It isn’t a normal thing but it is by no means a rare thing either. So many people have ostomies and no one knows because they are concealed under clothing. I show my ostomy when I choose too; it is my little secret. I am proud of my secret and you are privileged if you have seen my ostomy bag. Don’t mistake my secret as a dirty little secret, I am supremely proud of my ostomy because it has changed my life and without it I would be still living a life of chronic pain, or possibly not even be here. I celebrate the fact that medicine has come this far to give me this in order to live a life I am proud of. I love my ostomy; it gives my life purpose. It gives me hope. I keeps me out of hospital. Its taught me that my body is a wonderful thing, despite its differences. I’ve accepted that it might look different, it might operate differently but it is still worthy of love. And I love it, for all that it is, and all it will be.

Lily: Learning to love and accept myself has been a long process that is still ongoing. For a long time, particularly growing up, I hated the way I looked. I hated that I was gangly and tall and I didn’t feel feminine, I hated that my hair was neither curly nor straight but this weird in between frizzy mess. I hated my spots and my braces and my nose. Honestly, I could go on.

Thankfully, a lot of that has changed, but it’s taken a long time. I try to embrace my height as much as possible, but there are still days I find difficult (trust me, clothes shopping when you’re a 6ft woman is not a fun or easy experience). I’m learning to love and embrace my natural hair for what it is despite society telling me all of the different products I could use to make it straighter and prettier and ‘more normal’ (don’t even get me started).
Growing up I can’t necessarily remember hating my personality but I think like many people I didn’t particularly like myself either. I’ve always just spoken without thinking and things have come out wrong. I don’t like a lot of the things a lot of people my age enjoy like drinking and clubbing – which is perfectly wonderful and valid if you do like those things, it’s just not for me. There was a period of time about two years ago when I hated myself for not being like other people my age – for being introverted, for having anxiety, for preferring a night in with pizza and Disney movies to ‘the sesh’ as it’s not referred to.

Over the past two years I’ve come to really start to accept that part of myself, and that it’s okay if I want to do things a bit differently to the rest of my peers. I love my interests and that sometimes I care maybe a bit too much. I know now that I can be a good listener and that people feel comfortable coming to me for advice and comfort and I love that about myself. It’s definitely a process that’s still ongoing, but I think I’m getting there.

Faye:
Only a few weeks back I wrote a post about how at the moment I am struggling to love my body. I keep looking in the mirror and not liking what I see. Cursing myself as my clothes feel tight and just do not seem to fit the way they used to. And of course, on top of that are all the connotations of what being bigger than people leads to and how it feels like I am taking up too much space - literally. However, today I wanted to talk a little bit about how despite not particularly loving my body right now, I do quite like myself. There are times, naturally when I hate my personality and I end up questioning everything I do and whether I am even a nice person or very good at what I do but more often than not, I love me.

This is something that has taken me a long time to do. For years I have struggled to love myself, did not feel that I was worthy of any love, let alone my own. But I have finally come to a place in my life where this has changed and I am so very happy about it because in my opinion, if you don’t love yourself then you will struggle a lot in life - as I did. I’m not entirely sure when or why I changed my mind about myself, but I did and I am glad for it. I love that I know who I am now. I love that I am stubborn, emotional and organised. I love that I am also messy, closed off and easy-going. Because these contradictions are what make me human. I love that I can be high as a kite just on air and that I can make people smile just by being me. I love my laugh and my weird quirks. These make me, me. Now I am not saying that loving myself is easy, there are times when I hate everything about me but it is my love of myself that keeps me alive and keeps me going and that is good enough for me. Plus, if I can’t love myself, who the hell else will?

Friday, 17 February 2017

In Light Of Valentine's Day!

First of all, I want to start this post by being completely honest with you. I hate valentines day. And it isn't just because I am single. It is also because it is just an awful day. Yes, go ahead and celebrate that you're in a relationship. Please, do. But maybe, just maybe, you could celebrate a few times a year? Or just on a day you create yourself rather than this commercial and overblown day?

*cough*

Anyway... that's not what this post is going to be about because as much as I do really, really dislike this particular "holiday", it is sometimes nice to reflect on love, isn't it?

So today I wanted to discuss with you something that I thought you might be intrigued about. Last week I discussed how I knew I was asexual (read that post here), so this week I wanted to talk about what I want from a relationship. I'm not ready for a relationship at the moment, but at some point in the future I might be and this is what I would like to happen... what I would hope for.

First and foremost, I would want my partner to be my best friend. Corny and cheesy and all that good stuff but I feel that it is also fundamental. This is someone that you will potentially spend the rest of your life with and even if that isn't the case, you're probably going to be spending more time with them than anyone else so yes, I feel it is very important that the person is my best friend.

And by that I mean someone that I can trust with my whole self. Someone who makes me a better person, someone who knows that I have rough edges and still loves me anyway. Someone who loves my little quirks. Who understands my issues and has compassion. Someone who makes me feel that way about them too. Because without all of that, our relationship is never going to last.

Of course, I'd also need to find someone who is okay with my asexuality and my lack of desire for sex. It's kind of a big deal breaker really, isn't it?

Once I've found that person, and we're settled in our relationship, I have some very odd things I'd love to happen which I thought would be easier to list.

  • When we move in together, I'd want separate beds at the very least, if not separate rooms. 
Maybe I'll change my mind on this once I'm actually in a relationship but for right now I find it so difficult to sleep in the same room as anyone else unless I really have to. So it would be more comfortable for me if we slept in different rooms. I also think it would make the waking hours more precious. 
  • I would want cuddle time but also my own time.
I'm still an introvert and I still get overwhelmed by being around people so I would need my partner to understand that and to allow me time to recuperate - and hey, what do you know, I have my own bedroom that I can go and hide in!
  • I'd like to have pets. Maybe a cat. Maybe a dog. Maybe both.
I'm not sure I'd ever be able to have pets on my own, which is sad, because of my OCD and anxiety issues but if I had a partner, I think it would be really nice to also have pets. Especially as they could be around to keep us company if one or the other of us was away for a little while. 
  • Eventually I'd want kids.
Either fostering or adopting. This is definitely somewhere in my life plan. Currently being an aunt is more than enough for me to deal with but when I'm a little older and settled with my life, I would quite like to have a child or two of my own. I can't imagine this not happening.

I can't think of much else at the moment and of course, all of this may change in the future or when I do eventually end up in a relationship with someone. But for now, this is what I would like to happen. And maybe it will one day, eh?


Friday, 10 February 2017

A Little More on Asexuality

Recently I was asked a question by a friend and I thought that it was quite important and probably quite helpful not just for said friend but for asexual awareness. And I really want to help other people to understand asexuality a little bit better.

The question was quite simple. How do you know you're asexual and that you haven't just found the right person yet?

Now I'm not saying that meeting the right person won't change how I feel about sex, so it is possible that I simply haven't met the right person.

However, despite that, the reason that I know I'm an asexual is a lot more to do with meeting the right person and simply knowing what I am like and what, incidentally, I like.  


As a person growing up in this world, it is hard not to see all the references to sexual attraction. It is there in books, there in films and most likely it is there with the people around you as well. That reaction that people get when they see someone physically attractive. The way that they want to have sex because of how someone looks. 

This is not something I have ever felt. I have admired a lot of people for their beauty and very much enjoyed looking at handsome men on TV but I wouldn't end up daydreaming about them or feel anything sexual towards them at all. It is more just an appreciative-ness for their beauty.

Of course, that in itself does not make a person asexual as it might just mean that they've never found someone sexually attractive. But when this feeling is combined with a lack of fantasising about sex at all, questions need to be asked and answered within yourself. Which is where I found myself. And I tried. I tried to have sex and I tried to be sexually active but I never truly got into that "zone". 

When I fantasise, I always imagine other people having sex. I never, ever imagine what it would be like to have sex myself. It literally never even comes into my brain. Trust me when I tell you that when you read books and watch TV or film and people fantasise about sex all the time, it makes you very aware of how little you care about it.

I am not going to lie to you. I have been with three people in my life sexually. And each and every time different things happened. In the first instance, my body reacted. I very much enjoyed my sexual experience but what I liked most was not so much being pleased but being able to please my partner (who was also my boyfriend at the time). The second time wasn't very good at all. He was a little too forceful in trying to get me to touch him that when he tried to touch me I ended up pushing him off and leaving. And the final time I was too drunk and he was too drunk and I just didn't want to do anything and as soon as he realised he wasn't getting any, he left sharpish.

So maybe my sexual experience isn't enough to determine that I'm asexual. Because I haven't given anyone enough chance to see if I might like sex, right?

But here's the thing. I don't want to see if I might like sex.

I literally have no desire to have sex.

And that is why I know that I am an asexual. And I am 100% okay with that. And maybe one day I will find someone to spend my life with who feels the same. Loves me for who I am and all of that.



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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Fearful


I’ve already had five and a half years with my chronic illness. I’ve gotten used to it disturbing my life and disrupting my plans. It seems to have a knack for doing this, a lot.

What I am not used to is being without medication.

It feels foreign, almost like we are testing the IBD gods, tricking them into thinking I am well.

For all intents and purposes, I am well. Latest multiple test results came back clear; things are looking up for me since surgery last summer.

But that doesn’t mean I feel content with being in remission.

If anything, I feel more scared. I feel fearful.

I could take the medications and I got comfortable with knowing I needed to take them. My life was a schedule of medication, appointments and managing my IBD issues.

So much has changed, its overwhelming.

Despite going through hell before surgery, knowing that that wasn’t normal but I needed to go through it to come out the other end, fit and well. I also needed to get my ostomy to have the life I am currently living, and it is the only reason why I am doing so well. That, and my surgeon’s faith in physically removing my colon to improve my Quality of Life. And it sure has! And managing a stoma isn’t as bad as I have conceived it to be in my head. I have had nothing to be scared or worried about, the support and care I receive for my stoma is beyond anything else.

To go from that hellish Summer of 2016 to this remission of January 2017 – a mere five short months – is beyond comprehension.

Remission is one of those words that medical professional within IBD care throw around cautiously because it’s not exactly an easy road and doesn’t always happen, let alone being quite a complex goal to achieve. I have more important goals when it comes to my medical care; so, remission wasn’t high on the list. I had expected to need my mediation for a little while longer, be on the radar for a lot longer, just so they were watching me. I take comfort it that.

What do I have to take comfort in now?

I am more fearful being without my medication than I was taking it; and I was taking things which were potentially very harmful, but it was all outweighed by how absolutely rubbish my disease was making me feel, how much of my life it was taking away, how utterly miserable I was. And ultimately, those medications led me to surgery and this life I now lead. So, I appreciate all the shit I’ve been through, but I am still scared. Apprehensive and nervous, to boot.



I hope my remission lasts but I know it probably won’t. My ostomy has been life changing, almost saving my life – I can’t disregard my care nor my TPN days for also doing that – but how will it react to my body being unwell? So far, I’ve only had a stomach bug. I dread to contemplate how I’ll feel in a full-blown Crohn’s flare. But considering that that might not happen, I am here enjoying my good days, appreciating the NHS and loving my life, being proud of being an ostomate.



Friday, 3 February 2017

Being Ill And a Hypochondriac

I am not good at being ill. I'm one of those annoying people who complains about being ill and how run down I feel and how I just want to go out and do all the things and not sit in my bed doing nothing. I more or less get cabin fever within the first day of being ill. Unfortunately all of this means that I am also very good at ignoring that I'm ill. It means I will still go places and do things when my body is practically screaming at me to rest because I hate being ill.

But aside from the actual illness being a pain and a nuisance, the other reason I hate being ill is because I am a hypochondriac. In case you haven't heard of this term before, it means that I am incredibly anxious about being ill. Jess wrote a brilliant post about it here on Safe Space as well which you can find here and which had me nodding the entire way through as well. 

What being a hypochondriac as a healthy person means is that every ailment I get - headache, muscle ache, itchy eye, etc - is over-analysed. It means that I am dying. I have an incurable illness and I will die a long slow and painful death. The problem is that as with every other anxious thought, I know it's not rational to think this way but I also cannot help it. What this means, of course, is I end up with other symptoms because of the anxiety flowing through my body.

Now add in an actual illness and you can see how everything might just be a little bit worse. For me an every day common cold is the flu and I am going to die. A stomach bug is the worst stomach bug and I am going to die. So on and so forth. It means that I am constantly anxious when I'm ill. Constantly alert and constantly wishing to be better so I can confirm that I am in fact not actually about to die.

But where this all gets contradicted in my brain is that I also hate going to the doctors. So while there is a theory that hypochondriacs are always at the doctors asking for advice about certain ailments, this is not true for me. In my head, going to the doctors means that they will actually insist that I am correct and I do have an illness which is killing me. Not rational, of course but that's how my brain works.

The reason I'm writing this post today is because I have had a cough. It is a cough that I've had for over three weeks and it is a cough that came with no other symptoms. I have thus been worrying myself silly about it. Telling myself I have lung cancer and am on my last legs. And so on and so forth. All the while more or less refusing to go to the doctors about it. Also because of the "only if it lasts longer than three weeks" advice we're all given.

Turns out, when I finally went to the doctors, it was confirmed that I have Bronchitis. So I'm not going to die - huzzah! - but if I don't kick it soon, I may develop pneumonia so with that thought weighing heavy in my mind, I've been taking antibiotics for the last few days and really hope that I might soon be back to my normal health. Keep your fingers crossed for me?


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Staying Afloat on Rough Seas

I haven't had anything worth writing about in quite a while. I still don't if I'm being honest but I've got to write *something*.

I started off 2017 with positive aspirations for myself - I was going to start taking better care of myself and being more productive especially since I had 5 uni deadlines in the first 3 months of the year. I actually got two of those assignments in EARLY with my next looking to be nearly 2 weeks early as well which considering most of my assignments previously got completed using this method of idiocy it's pretty damn impressive that I'm ahead of schedule with my deadlines.

I've also been trying to improve my sleeping & waking up habits so I'm not ignoring all my alarms and sleeping in until 10am. This has improved *somewhat*, I'm waking up around 8am when my alarms go off but I am still lying in bed for another hour scrolling twitter on my phone & obviously with the world in the state it is this usually ends up leaving me mentally exhausted before I've even extricated myself from the duvet.

God knows I'm not the only person feeling like this right now. Over the last two weeks it's been significantly harder to feel like I'm getting anything productive done and I'm not even being directly affected by the shitstorm raging on the other side of the Atlantic. Every day there's at least three new awful things happening and although the resistance is building online and around the world it still kinda feels like we're slowly being overwhelmed by a tidal wave.



I don't have a lot of helpful advice for dealing with these feelings. I know I probably should take more breaks from my twitter feed but as I'm otherwise sat at home all day on my own, shutting myself off from the internet leaves me isolated and without anyone to talk to which isn't exactly great for my mental health. At some point in the future I might write a post about loneliness when all your friends are online or too far away to visit easily.

So I'm kinda treading water right now, trying to stay afloat when it seems easier to just let all the madness overwhelm me. Believe me I'm fully aware that in the grand scheme of things my life is barely being impacted by this Nonsense but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be aware of those who are and acknowledge their struggles.

Be kind to yourself and each other. Don't be nice to nazis though - punch those fuckers.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Mirror Mirror on the wall

Once upon a time a girl looked into a mirror and was satisfied with the reflection that shone back at her. She had defining face shapes, no double chin and while she was curvy, she was just the *right* size. Exactly where she wanted to be and she did not care if other people thought she should lose weight because she was happy and she loved every single aspect of her body.

Then one day she returned to that mirror and she did not recognise the reflection. But worse of all, she hated it.

Girls. This is my story.

I used to love my body. I was large but I was proud. I was fit and active and strong. My spirit reflected out of the mirror and it was incredible. Sure, I had bad days but I felt so secure and happy with the view that I went and bought dresses. An item of clothing I had vetoed wearing as a teenager because I did not find them to be suitable, wanting instead to hide my garish body that no one should see.

And now I am back to that place. Back to buying overly bulky clothing to hide everything. To crossing my arms across my chest to try and feel smaller and take up less space than I know I already do. Of hating to have her photo taken so the world sees just how large and bulky and ugly she really is.

I know what changed. I got ill. I lost my fitness. And I ate my feelings.

My energy lowered and lowered and cooking for myself became too hard so I gorged instead on takeaways and microwaveable meals and now I am at a place that I hate. Because I can not look into a mirror and feel pride in my appearance. But the more I look, the more I hate; the more I eat.

And I don’t know how to stop.

I still have no energy so I know that too much exercise will destroy me. But I cannot stop eating because I don’t know what will be left of me if I do. Shouldn’t I still love my body even though it is larger now?

Society has drummed it into us that skinny is pretty and I have always thought back against that stereotype. I think larger girls are beautiful. I admire them so much. Curves are wonderful and brilliant and I would not change that for the world. And I used to love my own. But I seem to have lost that feeling. It's almost as though societies views on larger women has been drilled back into my brain again.

I am once again wishing more than ever that I could be a different person, that I could live in a different skin. And it is depressing me more than anything because I want to love my body. I know there is nothing wrong with my size. I know I am loved. I know I have more qualities to my personality than just who I am in the mirror but for right now, that just doesn't seem to be enough for me.

I just… I’m at a loss and I thought the best thing to do would be to share with you my thoughts and feelings so maybe you could help me bring the love back?


Monday, 23 January 2017

27 Things I've Learnt in 27 Years

Today I turn 27 years old and so I thought I would share with you 27 things I've learnt in my 27 years


1.) Life rarely goes to plan but that's okay, you will always end up where you need to be
2.) Whenever you can, do something creative and have fun whilst doing it
3.) It's okay to love your body and imperfections even when society says you shouldn't
4.) Friendships are the best kind of relationships
5.) Find a skincare routine that works for you and stick to it
6.) Not everyone will like you and that's okay
7.) Consulting Dr Google always ends in a death diagnosis
8.) Creating boundaries against toxic people and negativity is good for your mental health
9.) Sometimes the best things in life are unexpected
10.) Making mistakes is how you learn and grow as a person
11.) If you haven't got time for anything else, lipstick always makes you look more put together
12.) Your gut instinct is usually right
13.) Chinese food will always follow the end of either a very good or very bad day
14.) Stepping outside of your comfort zone expands your comfort zone
15.) Always make time for the things you love
16.) It’s okay to change
17.) Endings can be sad and scary but they’re also always the start of something new
18.) The people who truly love you will love you for your imperfections not in spite of them
19.) Being in recovery is not linear
20.) Shaving your legs is usually far more effort than it’s worth
21.) The most important relationship you’ll ever have in life is with yourself
22.) What you consider to be your weaknesses are usually your biggest strengths
23.) Being kinder than you have to be is always a good idea
24.) A new book makes everything better
25.) Things usually aren’t as scary as you build them up in your head to be
26.) Surround yourself with people who bring out the best version of you
27.) Who you are right now is enough


If you enjoyed this post, you can find more on: 

Friday, 20 January 2017

The "O" Thoughts

One of the hardest things about having OCD, in my opinion, are the obsessive thoughts. It does not matter how irrational the thoughts are or how much I tell myself they're not true, it doesn't stop them from appearing and when I'm at my weakest, I listen to them. The reason I'm talking about this today is because this past week has been incredibly difficult for me. As I've been physically ill, I've not had a lot of strength and this has meant that the thoughts have been powerful and hard to ignore.

And they are horrible thoughts. Thoughts that tell me that I am unworthy of love. Thoughts that make me believe I am a failure and worthless and nobody actually cares about me. Thoughts that tell me I'd be better off without being alive. Thoughts that tell me that I'm not worth worrying about. That my concerns and opinions are pointless and pathetic. And in turn, I am pointless and pathetic.

Over and over these thoughts bombard my brain. Sometimes it's easy to just push them aside and remind myself I have friends who love me and that everyone is a failure at some things, etc. But this week has been hard. I've been too ill and I've gotten behind on things and there have been some friend issues on top of that and it's made me just listen and believe in these horrible thoughts.

Fortunately, despite all of this, I did talk to a friend and it did help. It helped to know that I wasn't the only one who got thoughts like this and that I always had someone there to talk to when things went wrong. Or when my thoughts spiral out of control. 

OCD is not easy to live with but knowing that I have loved ones who are supportive and understanding makes it that much easier to deal with. I am so grateful for those in my life who help to keep me grounded time and time again. And I will just ignore my brain when it tells me that they are completely and utterly over hearing me complain or moan about the same thing time and time again.

If you're suffering from the O thoughts and you don't have anyone, please know my direct messages are always open if you need to chat to someone. And I promise that you are loved, you are wonderful, and you are worthy.


Monday, 16 January 2017

Another Year, Another Us

We've all heard the expression New Year, New You, right? It's an expression that some people really dislike and some people jump onto like it's their saving grace but everyone can do what they want to. So at Safe Space we thought we would do a post that is sort of like the motto but is also slightly different. Because instead of looking at the things we can do to change our lives, instead of listing resolutions and looking to better ourselves, we are instead looking forward. We're looking and deciding where we would like to be this time next year. We want to be able to look back next year and work out if we actually achieved what we set out for. But we also just want to give ourselves an ultimate goal. So... without further ado, here is where some of the Safe Space team would like to be next year...

Faye:
When I was younger I always had a plan. I knew where I was going and how to get there. This, obviously, was made easier with the education system as most of my plans consisted of going to x school and studying x subject. But honestly when it came to the wider future, what to do after school, I was always a little bit stumped. I have been through so many potential career options and now, at 26, I still do not actually know what I want from my life. So over this next year, I want to try and feel a little more settled in life. I do not necessarily have to know my career aspirations, but I just want to feel settled. Currently I just feel lost and uncertain which definitely doesn’t help my mental health.

So this time next year I want to feel better mentally, I want to have a plan or be working towards a goal. I want to feel certain or at the very least to be okay not feeling so lost. But most importantly, I mostly just want to be happy. It’s a feeling that was very fleeting last year and I really want to change that.

Louise: 
This year I want no medical issues. I'd like a quiet year on that front.

Of course chronic illness doesn't abide to the calendar and it can be unpredictable in its nature. It won't matter if it's still the same year, things will happen and it waits for no man, no matter what.
So saying "I want a year with no medical issues" could be potentially overly ambitious or just plain stupid because my body *never* plays fair. But I will settle for no surgery and no hospital admissions. I want to spend this year getting comfortable in my new skin, working on the current challenges I have and improving my mental wellbeing; at how well I am able to cope with having an ostomy.

I want to be able to sit here in January 2018 and reflect on what I've done and be proud. Even if I don't do huge important milestones in that time, I want to be able to look at myself and be happy.
And for the first time in five years, I'm able to feel happy about planning for the future and being able to commit myself to activities and plans. I don't fear being away from home, away from my comfort blanket of my own room and bathroom;  I am able to see beyond my disease because of how my surgery has changed my life. Even my lifestyle. I am finally able to see ME instead of MY DISEASE.
Even if I just find some peace with my lot in life, I will gladly chalk 2017 up as a success.

Jess:
It’s true what they say, life really does happen when you’re busy making other plans. My life is nothing like I imagined it would be back when I was a teenger carefully mapping out my life ahead and that’s okay, because some of the best things that have ever happened to me have not been part of the plan and have just happened naturally because they needed to. So this year I want to loosen the reins a little bit and let go of my need to control everything. I’d like to be more spontaneous, letting life happen to me and just enjoy the journey more instead of being so focused on a set destination. A big part of my mental illness is about needing to be in control this can mean following a set daily routine or planning a trip months in advance but one thing I have learnt is that you can never predict what life will throw at you whether it be good or bad.

My goal for 2017 is to be more open to possibility, to say yes when opportunities come my way, and to do what I enjoy and see where it takes me. The times where I’ve thrown caution to the wind have been some of my happiest moments and have lead me down a road that I wouldn’t be on if I hadn’t taken a chance.

So here’s to a year of possibility, I can’t wait to see what road life puts me on next!

Lily:
For years I have made resolution upon resolution and almost always fail at them. This year I’ve already made the decision to have no real resolution, other than to be nicer to myself. I often get upset with myself when I don’t do as well as I expected at a job or at school, or when I’m not doing what is expected of me by others. But this year I want to say ‘screw it!’ to all that and to do what I want guilt-free.


This time next year I will be halfway through my degree which is kind of scary. I’d like to pass my first year with at least a 2:1. I’d like to feel more comfortable talking about my mental health to people IRL (which I’m working on) and also my sexuality (which I’m struggling with a bit more). I’m currently in a relatively good patch with my mental health and I’d like to still be in the same kind of place with it next year. Whilst my initial instinct is to be in control about everything, I’m trying to go with the flow more now. So whilst I would like to have figured out what I want to do post-studying a little more by January 2018, I don’t necessarily need to have a clear plan. Most of all, I just want to be happy and to make sure I do want I want, and not what other people want for me.

 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

A Monster Calls, Grief, and Guilt.

*Spoilers for A Monster Calls in here*

This week I went to go and see A Monster Calls at the cinema, which is a story based on one of my favourite books. The story is about a young boy called Connor whose mother is sick, and every night a Monster comes to visit him to tell him stories about life, but eventually Connor must tell the monster a fourth story – his truth. This is a story that hits very close to home for me as you can imagine, and I knew going into the theatre that I was probably going to cry. I took all the necessary precautions – I went on my own (just me and a couple of pensioners quietly crying in our respective corners, it was great), took some tissues and plenty of water, and wore my favourite comfy clothes.

Whilst I knew I would cry, I don’t think I was prepared for how much I would cry. I read the book nearly two years ago so I had forgotten most of the details. So I was pretty shocked to find myself crying at practically the opening scene. It was a scene that most would probably not think twice about – Connor is getting ready for school alone, making his breakfast, putting on a load of washing and generally just doing anything that needs to be done before he goes to school. Before he leaves, he checks on his mum who is sleeping in her room, evidently tired and sick. It was like someone had taken a scene directly from my own life, reworked a few things and put it on screen.

There was so much to this film I could relate to – how everyone around you is talking about you behind closed doors, but won’t answer your questions. Taking on responsibilities you normally wouldn’t have had to until you were older. Teachers approaching you and quietly asking in class if you’re holding up okay and that you can always talk to them. Being whisked away to a family member’s house who you know, but don’t necessarily get on great with. But the thing that rings so true with this story is Connor’s ultimate truth – which is that he wants it all to be over.

I remember the moment extremely vividly. I had spent most of the day in the hospice, reading and eating pizza and wandering around. I didn’t want to see my Mum anymore, she couldn’t talk anymore and was barely ever conscious and I didn’t want to remember her like that. So I got taken home by my stepmum and had been home about an hour when my brother and dad walk through the door crying. And they told me she was gone.

I felt many things in that moment, but one of the strongest emotions was relief. Relief that it was over. And I know that sounds bloody awful but it had been four years – four years of her going through countless chemo and hospital appointments. Four years of growing up too quickly and having to constantly face the idea of my mum dying when my friends seemed to be just facing the idea of which boys they liked (which I know of course, they all had other stuff in their lives as well, but that’s how it felt). I had watched my mum lose her hair, heard her crying at night when she thought I was asleep, never known when I was coming home from being out with my friends what I was going to find when I got home. And finally it was over. She was out of pain, she wasn’t suffering anymore. And in my fifteen year old mind, I thought I could finally have a somewhat normal teenage experience (of course what 15 year old Lily failed to understand was that I know had to deal with a whole other beast – grief and loss).

I felt guilty about that feeling of relief for so long. I thought I was an awful person for feeling that when I was told that my mum had died. I’ve never really told anyone other than my therapist for fear of being judged harshly. Like Connor, I just wanted it all to be over. I was tired of seeing her in pain.

I also just want to clarify here that yes, I lived with a person who had cancer, but I can of course never understand what it is to live with cancer and to face your mortality in that way. Yes I had to watch all this happen to my mum, but I never had to actually go through it. I can never understand that pain and would never want to undermine that.

Of course I felt other things one would expect when I was told my mum had died. Sadness, anger, fear of a future without her. But relief was also there. Like Connor, this is just my truth.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Damage Cover Reveal

Hello All!

We have a bit of a different post here on Safe Space today. We're throwing all the toys out the pram - so to speak - as today we have for you a cover reveal for an upcoming book. 

But why?

Well, the book in question is called Damage by Eve Ainsworth and it is a book that covers mental health and I don't know if you've noticed but we sort of like shouting out about Mental Health issues so we're really actually quite excited for this book to be released on 2nd March 2017.

Also, do keep hold of your hats here, but we're also going to have a guest post by the wonderful Eve herself nearer the time of her release date so do keep your eyes peeled on the blog for when that happens!

But enough of my rambling...

Here is what you came here for today...

The cover to Damage.


Synopsis:
Outwardly confident, skater girl Gabi cannot move past a traumatic incident - and turns to self harm to take away the pain. 
Warning: includes content that some readers may find upsetting.


Also... psssst... the book is available for pre-oder!

You know... just saying




*finally stops looking at the pretty and walks away*

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

What Does Chronic Illness Rob You Of?

It wasn't long before I was thinking about how things had changed and how that upset me so much. What else was Crohn's disease going to take from me?

I wrote this the day after my first relationship since my diagnosis with Crohn's disease broke down. I wasn't at all shocked but it did stun me. I had to change. I had changed. But I was fed up and feeling awfully sorry for myself, I started to question who I was and what I was putting out there. I saw my illness as something no person would ever want to be apart of, let alone live along side. I thought my life was over, sadly. 

Crohn's disease robbed me of many things in the first year. My hair due to mediation. Weight loss due to inflammation. My confidence because I had a "pooping disease". Friendships vanished because no one was willing to talk to me or let me talk to them. I felt isolated, alone and depressed. Going back to work was the only thing I was doing and even that I wasn't doing well; I rushed back sooner than I needed to because I missed my old self. I didn't realise my old self was dead and gone with that diagnosis, I had to build a new me, a new self. 
It was a chance for redemption. A chance I needed to take. 

So what has Crohn's disease given me?

It was a long and winding road to today. And I doubt that what Crohn's disease gives me isn't just this list, I build on it every day. 
It's given me great IBD friends, a community of support, knowledge and humour. 
It's given me purpose. A sense of direction. A stronger moral compass.
It's shown me how truely brave I can be. 
It's shown me that you can not judge a book by its cover. 
It's given me empathy, more than I knew of before.
It's taught me to not take good days for granted. 
It's taught me how to enjoy my life. To be in the moment and do what makes me happy.
It's taught me how essential it is to listen to your own body and respect it. 

It sometimes makes me wish and pine for the old days on no hspitsal appointments, no needless, no tests, no doctors, of being healthy. But I know that in some way, shape or form this life was given to me, like this, for a reason. And I just have to find reason and purpose. And that is an adventure. 

An adventure with a chronic illness. 

A blessing , not a curse. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

Ch...Ch...Changes

Recently I have been through a lot of changes in my life and there are still a fair few that I need to make in 2017 too. So today I thought I would discuss how changes affect me, now and when I was younger. Because, ironically enough, how I deal with change has drastically changed in the last few years - and sadly not in a good way.

When I was a child, I would just go with the flow. Things would change in plans but I was just a child so it was never really up to me anyway. I may have had a few tantrums but nothing that I can really remember. Essentially I was well aware that change was a big part of life and that I just had to deal with it.

As a teenager, this was even more noticeable to me. After Primary school, I transferred to a secondary school on my own. It was the biggest kind of change I'd ever faced but I was ready, excited and happy to accept the change. It was tough at first but I soon fell into a friendship group and we got along well for two years. But then two of the four of us left for a different school and my last friend decided she no longer wanted to be my friend. Thus began my jumping from one group of friends to the next for the next three years.

Change was a constant in my life. But it was getting harder to embrace. It felt like I needed a constant in my life. And that was where the internet came in. I formed friendships. Found my writing and wrote every single night. It was, essentially, what kept me sane. It helped me to deal with all the changes going on in my life.

After secondary school, I moved to a sixth form college, again I did this alone. I had to make friends again and was very fortunate to meet some on my very first day, friends who I still see and consider my closest friends, ten years on. But it was a change that I could deal with - I had already done it before. After college, I went abroad for six months to Canada. While this time I did go with my step brother, when we got there, he was in one job and accommodation, and I was in another, once again alone.

But the past few years had taught me how to deal with that. And I made some friends and I got stuck in and I really enjoyed my time there. A few ups and downs occurred but that was to be expected on a gap year so far from home. Then when I came home, I went off to university alone too and found some more friends easily enough. I knew what I was doing. It was good.

So now we come to the present. And change was something I used to embrace. I loved changing things up, meeting new people, steering my life a new way. But now? Now change scares me. I'm not entirely sure when this happened but whenever I think about something changing in my life, I freeze up, feel my stomach turn and want to just stop it all from happening.

I need change. I'm not currently happy in myself so I need to do things to make me feel better again but I also feel panicked at the thought of change. For example, I hate many aspects of my library job but I also love my colleagues and a lot of the work that I do do so the idea of getting a new job, of changing it, fills me with dread. I want to leave, I need to leave but at the same time, I am just too scared to do it. I know this job and these people.

I think the problem is that I'm settling. For the first time in my life, I'm not sure where my future will be or go. I haven't got school to look forward to or move on to. It is just an open space in front of me and the amount of possibilities of things that could change or could happen, makes me want to stay where I am. Because it's not the worst job in the world but if I get a new one, well, that could be worse, couldn't it?

So I need to just push past my fears and my lack of control, and just put myself out there and embrace change again. But it's probably going to be more difficult than before. But I know that 2017 is going to be my year. Last year was awful but this year is going to be the year that I finally work out where my life is actually going.


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Resolutions For 2017?

Happy New Year Everyone!

Today I thought I would quickly talk about my priorities and goals for 2017. Everyone year, without fail, I make a list of things I want to do or change in my life. The generic ones are usually on there like exercise more and eating less junk food (these are almost always NOT successful). There’s usually a reading goal somewhere in there, as there is this year. I read 70 books in 2016, but due to school and other commitments this year I’ve decided to half that down to 35 so I don’t feel too pressured.

Last year I remember one of my goals being to watch what I said more and to try and be kinder to others. I have a tendency to not word things very well and not think before I speak. I hardly ever mean for anything I say to be malicious, but I often wouldn’t think about the words I was using and it would come out that way anyway. I think I’ve definitely improved on that in 2016 and I’m really happy that I did.

For 2017, I’m scrapping my regular goals that I set myself. I’ve decided that my one goal for this year is to not be too hard on myself in general. I often feel bad for not exercising or eating that chocolate bar or not going out with my friends for a drink. And of course some of this is just down to me, but sometimes I am far too hard on myself for not doing things that I know, in reality, would have a negative effect on me and my mental health. I’ve been trying to get better at self-care and self-love for a while now, but for 2017 I’m making it my goal. To look after myself and not be too hard when things get a bit much.

And that’s it. I’ve found in the past setting myself lots of goals at the same time is all a bit overwhelming and I can’t deal with all the alterations to my life at once. So this year I’m keeping it simple and short, and I’m going to try to be nicer to myself.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Time For A New Start

The new year is almost upon us and while it is really only just another day in the span of our lives. I actually really like the start of a new year. It doesn't make any logical sense - but when does anything I do make logical sense - but I just feel like a new year also feels a little like a fresh start. A chance to celebrate the past, welcome the future and also to just move on if you need to.

In all honesty, 2016 has been a tough year for me. There has been a lot of horrible things going on in the wider world that has made this year pretty awful but I've also just had a really difficult year personally as well. I'm not going to go into too many details but lets just say I'm ending this year feeling incredibly glad that it's all over and I have a chance, metaphorically, to start again.

Often I make new years resolutions and never stick to them because I am who I am and I usually just go with the flow but because last year has been so horrible, I wanted to come up with a way of dealing with 2017 a little better. So I'm not saying these are resolutions as such, but more just things that I hope to achieve next year to help me be a more rounded and balanced person. So that maybe, just maybe, when it comes to be the end of 2017, I can feel just a little bit better about the year that has passed.

First up, I want to get organised.
I've always been an organisation freak. I like things to have order and I like to know what I'm doing and for everything to just flow well. But this year, I've been all over the place. With my mental health issues and physical health issues, keeping on top of things hasn't been a priority but I have come to the conclusion that doing so will help improve my well-being in the long run so I'm planning to be more organised next year.

Secondly, I am going to relish in the good moments.
While 2016 has been pretty dire, there were some good moments but now looking back, I keep focusing on the things that went wrong which isn't great. So for 2017 I am going to re-think my life and remember that there will always be good and bad things, and the bad should never cancel out the good. One way in which I'll be doing this is using a memory box (thank you Jess!) to write down things that have made me happy and popping them into the box to open at the end of the year.

Lastly, I want to stress less.
Okay, easier said then done right? But I'm sure I've spent far too much time this year stressing about things and I really want to not do that next year. I would very much like to not stress so much next year. Things may well be awful and annoying but if it's out of my control then I need to work out how to let it out of my mind or if is in my control then I need to come up with a plan to deal with the situation. I want to, essentially, be more zen about things next year. I can at least try, right?

What are you hoping for next year?