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...

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.

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.

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!

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.

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


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?

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Being Chronically Ill at Christmas

Each year I am so thankful I make it to the festive period and survive it. 
Christmas for me is a time to reflect and see what I've been through. It gives me strength for the year ahead. We can draw a line under what has happened and focus on continuing my good streak. That's what it always feels for me; I am in a game with my health, praying nothing goes wrong, praying I don't catch something, praying I make it through another season without an admission. 

This year I look back and despite having had two surgeries and many months of agony, I am not hateful or woeful. 
I am extremely thankful. 

Isn't it ironic that to see what you're most thankful for you have to go through something awful? I know that my surgeries might not be the 'most awful thing ever' but to me, in those bleak moment, it was awful. Those days unable to eat, unable to drink, feeling weak and feeble, dependent on everyone else helping me, not knowing if I needed medical attention or just waiting it out. You already know how my summer ended, with my ostomy being created. 

But those months in between surgeries and even leading up to the first one, I was in agony and I did wonder what on earth I had been doing before hand to let it get so bad. But I needed to hear it wasn't my fault and that it was just my disease, it couldn't be helped but it could be fixed. It would be fixed. It would need fixing twice, but it would be fixed. 

I would be fixed.

So who do I thank and how do I thank them?

That's something for another day, another post. Another train of thought. 

Being chronically ill at Christmas is different than any other time of the year because it is hard to shy away from being sociable. It hard to be away from family and loved ones. I am not necessarily forced into be out and about but I do feel that obligation pulling at me to with people who love me, so I can show and tell them that I love them too. 

Being ill yesterday - or any day surrounding Christmas - is hard. You have to muster strength and mental ability to get your body through the day. I struggled abit but I slept well for it. Sleep is so important this time of year for me. What else is key is maintaining a regular routine; eating breakfast at the same time, trying to stick to the 'correct' foods and not indulging too much. This has been key most years but even so much more now with the new ostomy. I have to keep hydrated. I haven't restricted myself in food or drink but I've been sensible and thoughtful about what I've had. The only thing that is some times unavoidable is the time we have been eating, but I respect that aspect and allow it to be more flexible at this time.  I am just happy to be here, in the presence of my family and not in hospital. I am healthy and grateful.  

Being ill now has a slightly different meaning, but by no means will it go away. I will always have issues but I am learning to be better informed, take more of an interest in my body and respect that my IBD will always be around, it would be cured. Accepting 'my fate' hasn't been easy but I am not fighting against my body. I am fighting to save it from being or getting worse. 

Each day is one more chalked up for a win over my illness. Every. Single. Day.  For both my ostomy and my IBD, each day is a learning experience. There isn't always something to battle or to win over but it is one more days with my illness than without it. 

I am here despite having a chronic illness. I am here because I have an ostomy. I am so relieved that I am. 

Friday, 23 December 2016

Tis the Season to be "Merry"!

Christmas is a time of cheer, yes? It's a time to be full of happiness, magic and hope. It's a fun time of year and a time to celebrate and love. It is one of my favourite times of year, without a doubt.

But there is one thing that I really dislike about the season. 

And that is the assumption that to enjoy Christmas fully, you have to drink. Even if it is just one glass, drinking just seems to be an obligatory event of Christmas and people really struggle to take no for an answer. 

This is something that people struggle to accept at any normal time but at Christmas it seems to be even more suspicious when you decline an alcoholic beverage.

Jenny mentioned this on her twitter the other day, which is what inspired me to write this blog post today. I was going to write this earlier in the year but never got around to it so thought it was the perfect time to bring this up now. Just to see if anyone else really struggles with this or if it is just me.

Being a non-drinker seems to be the one thing that a lot of people find really hard to accept. The minute the words "no, thank you" exit my mouth after I've been offered an alcoholic beverage of any kind, I always get a response which tries to change my mind. Often along the lines of:

  • "You only have to have one."
  • "But it is soo good, you have to try it!"
  • "Are you sure? You're going to be missing out."
  • "But it's free!"
  • "I promise you won't regret it."
This can definitely get frustrating. At one point in time I actually used to respond with "I'm driving so I can't" or before I'm even offered would admit that I was the designated driver and that I don't drink and drive. But even sometimes with that in people's minds, I often still get a similar response. Sometimes it'll be that it's just one, sometimes that I'll be having food too or it's a long time before you leave so it's fine.

But it's not, is it?

Because I said no. And I mean no. 

If someone offered you a cigarette and you said no, the person would just leave it be. But when it comes to alcohol, it just seems that people cannot take no for an answer and I really struggle to understand this mindset. Alcohol is a drug. It's a socially accepted drug but it is still a drug and if I tell you I don't want it, please do not shove it down my throat or keep mentioning it. I have made a decision and I demand that you accept that.

Sadly, I have gotten to the stage where I now admit I cannot drink because I'm on medication and that usually gets people to back off - but surprisingly not always - and it is just so frustrating that people don't just take no as an answer from the offset.

How is it possible that alcohol has become this thing that everyone must drink? 

So if you hear someone say that they would not like to have any alcohol this Christmas - or at any other time in the year - can we all just please nod and accept that they have made a choice and will not change their mind, no matter how much you try to get them to? 

Because, at the end of the day, we all have our own reasons for drinking or not drinking and we are entitled to our own opinions. So it's time to just respect that, right?

Sunday, 18 December 2016

It's okay to cry.

I’ve been thinking a lot about grief lately, in particular dealing with grief at a young age like I’ve had to do. It’s messy and tricky and there’s no manual to it. Adults a lot older than you will tell you that they know what you’re going through because they’ve also lost someone recently – but they’re a lot older, wiser and more experienced than you and it’s not the same.

There was a particular phrase people used to say to me a lot shortly after my mother’s death, one that I loved hearing at the time but now I hate. People frequently would say to me ‘You’re so strong!’ Because I didn’t cry, because I went to school and did my work, because I got on with my life immediately after with a smile on my face. And because people kept praising me for this, I felt like I was coping well. That this ‘strength’ of not crying and feeling my emotions that were lying underneath was a good thing, and that if I ever did cry or feel upset I was weak.

I know now this is so wrong.

For so long I withheld my emotions because I thought that way I was ‘strong’ and that was good. People seemed so impressed by my positivity and lack of emotions that I suppressed anything I felt. And because of this, I didn’t grieve. Instead of feeling my emotions and dealing with the death of my mother, I pretended it didn’t happen. Part of this was because I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to even comprehend my mother’s death, but the way in which people reacted to my behaviour also inadvertently encouraged this behaviour. Nobody sat me down and told me it was okay to cry, that I needed to deal with my grief and try and process it. At one point I do remember trying therapy, aged 17, because everything was beginning to feel overwhelming and there were some days I couldn’t even leave my house and go to school.

But I couldn’t talk. Every time I tried to talk about how I felt, the words wouldn’t come out and I would just cry. After one session I decided therapy wasn’t right for me at that point and I went back to burying all of my grief.

Looking back, I can acknowledge that there were a number of reasons why I didn’t deal with my grief at the time. At 15, I just wasn’t emotionally mature or ready to deal with something as monumental as the loss of my mother. I also wasn’t a very emotional person anyway, as I barely cried at anything. I also understand that everyone grieves and reacts differently. But there were little things that people said to me that contributed to my denial as well.

I’m not blaming anyone in particular, and I know it’s hard to figure out what to say to someone who’s experiencing a great loss. But sometimes being ‘strong’ isn’t the right answer. Crying and feeling your emotions is healthy. It doesn’t make you weak, and don’t let anyone ever make you think it does. Grieving is a long process, and a hard one at that. Whether it’s the death of a family member or the loss of a close relationship in your life, please remember it’s okay to cry. Let yourself feel things. It will get easier, eventually.

Friday, 16 December 2016

So... I'm confused. Please Help.

A fair few months ago now, we had a guest post on here from Caitlin about going braless (you can read it here) and ever since then it is something that I have been thinking about... a lot. Now, I am a female with moderately large boobs. They're not massive by any means but they're not small and perky either. And, (*cough*notsurewhyi'madmittingthisonline*cough*) they also already sag. Which is so completely and utterly saddening but that is a story for a different day, no?

So... with my boobs, the thought of going bra-less was a big no-no. It would not work. I had big, heavy boobs that literally wanted to be on the ground. I needed a bra to keep them upright and in place. To stop them from just going wherever the hell they want to go while I got on with life.

But then I did more thinking and more time without a bra inside the house. And I realised that it is so nice to feel free. Yes, I have even gone out of the house without a bra on. (Of course, I also have one multiple t-shirts and a big hoody but STILL). However, each time I did leave the house, while feeling free, I also felt naked. Of course, I wasn't but it felt like everyone knew I was braless and that they were staring. Ewww.

Add to that the stupid time I went out when it was cold outside and didn't realise until I got home how perky my nipples had become. (*hides in embarrassment forever*)

But what did happen is that I understood the bras that I have been wearing were a) really, really old and b) did not fit.

There had to be a reason that I needed the bras to come off so desperately at the end of the day right? I mean, sometimes my boobs even tried their hardest to come free of the bras before the day ended too and nobody needed to see that, and it certainly wasn't comfortable!

So... I plucked up the courage and I went to a bra fitting. And I tried on a non-wired bra. And it was FABULOUS.

No really. I loved it.

So comfortable. So wonderful. Just perfect.

I wish I could go back to that moment. To understand why the heck I ever thought that feeling could be re-created all day long.

I am now just baffled.

I have since bought a few more bras in the new size that is supposed to be my size. All under-wired. And all of them fit perfectly when I first put them on. I feel snug, secure and comfortable. Just as we all want to be.

But then, halfway through the day I become so uncomfortable, more uncomfortable than I was in my old bras and it makes me want to whip the damn thing off and throw it in the bin. I've tried bra extenders to make it even longer. I've tried changing the straps to see if that made a difference but no.

No matter what I do, I seem to always be uncomfortable in a bra.

And this makes me sad.

And confused.

So I just wanted to write this post to see if maybe you know that I'm doing something wrong? Do you have a solution? Do you have a bra that is so comfortable you'd never go back?

Also... please confirm that I am NOT alone in feeling this way!


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Please, Just Repect my Decision, OUR Decision

When I turned sixteen, I announced to my best friend that I wasn’t going to have kids. It was just something I wasn’t interested in; becoming a mom, raising children wasn’t any part of the life I had planned for myself.

She laughed, quite amused by my statement. How can you know that at sixteen?! She asked me, confused. I bet you change your mind. In fact, I bet you’re the first of us to have children, Lou! I told her I wouldn’t, I would make sure of it. I was a foolish sixteen-year-old.

So, off I went to university two years later, fell in love and started feeling that maternal instinct pulling at me inside. Did I want to have children with this person? Was he the right person to start a family with? Could this – our relationship – work in that way? It turned out it couldn’t, but that is another story for another day. The thing is, those warm, fuzzy baby feelings bubbled under the surface for a long time after we broke up, long into the years that followed until my world was rocked by my Crohn’s diagnosis.

Let me preface this next ‘chapter’ by saying that having IBD does not hold anyone back from having children. It does not mean you pass it on to your offspring, nor does it mean that they are affected by your medications or surgeries. They just have to be planned, that is all. And I commend anyone who has children and has IBD. That must be one heck of a struggle some days.

Having my Crohn’s diagnosis wasn’t the first one I had encountered. I was almost seventeen when it was confirmed I had PCOS – Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome – meaning I have very erratic or none-existent periods and it could be very difficult to conceive a child. Of course, being seventeen I wasn’t interested in fertility rates and future treatments for conception; that for me was either a very long way off or wasn’t going to happen. Excellent, one less thing to worry about I thought. 

So, considering all this, I decided quite early – probably on one of those long afternoons whilst in hospital isolation, a few months into my Crohn’s adventure – that I was back on the no-baby bandwagon. For the most part, I’ve sat there alone; not a lot of people willing to share my views.  But it’s an opinion and a decision I am open about and my main reason behind it is because I don’t want to be a sick mom. There is no guarantee that any medication I tried would get me into ‘remission’ nor would it hold long enough to conceive, give birth, and raise a child. And despite doctors’ best efforts, I continued to get sicker and sicker as the years went on, I tried more and more medications to help me just live my own life. I couldn’t have imagined what that would have been like with a husband and a child. I am lucky to have found my current partner, given the circumstances. And the guilt I’ve felt already about being chronically ill and needing help; the pressure of me being unwell has put on my family, my partner and trying to continue to work, has only solidify my choice to not want to have children.

Selfish, I know, right?

Well, no I don’t think so.

It’s my body and I can choose not to have children. My partner feels the same way; it is one of things we  agree on 100%. Our life together with my incurable illness is more than enough, thank you!

So, imagine my shock when, in the months that have followed my ostomy surgery, I find people asking me when we will start a family.

Why is there an assumption that because I am well again now, that we must procreate? It hasn’t even been four months into this recovery and yet people want to discuss my womb like it needs to be filled pronto by life!

Why is there no respect for the decision we have made together as a couple to not have children?

I am surrounded by baby stuff these last couple months; as my brother is becoming a dad in the Spring, making me an aunt. That is all great news and I’m completely excited for them, but I am filled with anxiety. What if I change my mind and do want children? Is this why my Crohn’s got bad enough to need my ostomy to make me realise this? Or am I just clutching at straws? Would I want it? I feel pressure to be ‘normal’ and want to want to have children because it feels unorthodox to be against procreating. There is an expectation from both my own and my partner’s family to have a child together; give them grandchildren. If anything, that makes me feel more guilty for being sick and that being my life, my world, my future.

My life. My world. My future.

Is that for me to decide...?

Yes, my ostomy surgery has saved me from a life of pain. But it has not changed my view on having or wanting children. The freedom that I now feel because of my ileostomy isn’t making me pine for a baby of my own, it makes me want to go out and do new and exciting things. It makes me feel grateful for my body, the way it now is. It makes me realise that I have been through plenty already, I just want some normality for a while. And normality should be buying a house, living with my partner, having a couple of dogs, and enjoying being together. That’s what I want for my life.

Despite everything being different, I feel the same as I did twelve years ago. I now feel like I can achieve that.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Fast and Furiously through Life

Not many of our readers will have met me in person (you're the fortunate ones), but anyone who has probably can think of a few words to describe me, hopefully some of them nice. But the word which I think would be screamingly obvious within a few minutes is... fast.

I don't mean that in the Austenian/bodice ripper novel sense of a "fast woman" but in the literal "opposite of slow" sense of the word. I walk, talk, eat, drink even read at a speed that most people find disturbingly quick. I have to be yanked back when I'm walking with friends, I try to say half a dozen things at once and fudge them all, I'll have finished a meal in the time it takes anyone else to eat half of theirs and I will read an entire book before your eyes if you give me a few hours.

Despite people's admonishments and my own meagre attempts to rein myself in I can't seem to slow the pace at which I barrel through the world. I've been somewhat served right for this propensity recently when I got caught speeding and had to attend a speed awareness course yesterday. Maybe this is a necessary reminder that I should slow down in more ways than one.

It Me

I often wonder if my breakneck consumption of food, tea, books & the world is actually slowing me down in the long run? I'm so impatient to get to the next thing that I'm not savouring the experiences I'm having at any one time. It's the kind of illusory shortcut that makes people overtake you at stupid speeds only to have to slam to a stop 500 yards in front of you. You haven't gotten anywhere any quicker and all you are is frustrated.

My life is mostly blurs of mindless absorption punctuated by grinding halts of anguish when I suddenly *can't* do something quickly - like writing. Oh boy does it bother me that I can't seem to get any kind of momentum with writing at the moment, I'll make several sputtering attempts to jump-start the rust-bucket of my writer's brain, give it up as hopeless then swerve back into the fast lane for another burst of high-speed monotony.

If I slowed down, took my time and really lived each day, maybe everything would flow. A steady stream of attention for all the things I want to do, if I approach problems at a more manageable speed perhaps I can work out how to solve them before I've crashed straight into them. If I wasn't in such a desperate hurry to finish my book maybe I'd be able to get somewhere without constantly stalling.

Slow down, enjoy the view and get to your destination in one piece. Something to apply to life and the road.

P.S. Don't be a fucking idiot while driving, something that always bears repeating, even to me.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Fantastic Besties (and Where to Find Them)

I am a massive Potterhead. I am part of the generation who grew up with Harry Potter, who eagerly awaited each new books release. I cried when I watched the last film, was one of the first people in the world to see The Cursed Child and I have Harry Potter merchandise scattered around my bedroom. To say that I am a fan is an understatement, Harry Potter is part of who I am, and it makes up my very essence as a person.

Naturally, like many Potter fans, I was very excited when Fantastic Beasts was announced so much so that months in advance I made plans with my three best friends Chelle, Ray and Faye to go and see the film, however this wouldn’t be a normal outing.

Those who have followed my journey here on Safe Space will know that I’ve been making massive progress with my agoraphobia, PTSD and anxiety this past year and I decided that I wanted to tackle my biggest challenge yet: going to the area where my abusive ex lives to go to the cinema and watch Fantastic Beasts. I haven't set foot in this part of town for years and I finally felt like I was ready to tackle my biggest demon.

And then, the Johnny Depp casting news was announced.

For some Potter fans, this was nothing more than a distasteful choice (if problematic to them at all) but when I read the news I actually broke down in tears. You see, Harry Potter has always been a safe space for me. It was also a massive source of comfort to me when I came out of the abusive relationship. When I was bruised and broken it gave me the strength to get up and fight and restored my faith in humanity. So Johnny Depp, a known abuser, being cast felt like a massive betrayal to me, I felt so let down and for a time I felt lost. I made the personal choice to not support this part of the Wizarding World and cancelled my plans to see this film telling my friends to go and see it without me. That was when something unexpected happened.

I woke up to a message saying that they’d been talking and they would rather not see the film and see me instead, a decision that I found incredibly moving. So on the 20th November, the day that we were supposed to go and see Fantastic Beasts, we got together and went for a meal at a pub right next to the cinema so that I could still face my biggest trigger with them by my side.

Looking back I still can’t quite believe that I did it, especially because I was so incredibly anxious that morning but my girls got me through. Over the past year I have faced so many of my demons and they have been by my side every step of the way. They are my Harry, Ron and Hermione not letting me face the darkness alone. They are the tribe that I dreamed of someday finding ever since I was a little girl who learnt what true friendship is from these books.

Magic aside, at the core of Harry Potter is the message of standing up for what you believe to be right, which is something that I feel like I did that day for the women and men in the world who live in fear of their abusers, but also for myself. I took a stand that said this is not okay, I am not supporting that and did something for myself instead and my friends cared about me enough to support me in my decision. Forget Fantastic Beasts, I have fantastic friends and they can be found by my side, always.

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

Friday, 2 December 2016

Getting My Fitness Back Again... Maybe

If you've been following my posts here on Safe Space for a while, then you probably read this post where I discussed that my physical health isn't great, and this post where I talk about my current progress. This is something that I've been struggling with for a long time. It's hard to not be able to do all the things you used to do, not because you don't want to but because you're physically incapable of doing it. 

I had a bit of a set back since that latter post. I stopped exercising almost completely again because it became too much and too painful. So for the last few months I've been trying to get my fitness back. It's been a long and difficult progress and I am nowhere near where I wish I was and that keeps making me want to just give up and just be the lazy person my body is screaming at me to be. But I just don't think I can be that person. 

First of all I started walking more. I drove to the park and ride near work and then walked 25mins from there to work and 25mins back too. I did well with this until my muscles and joints started screaming for pain and I realised I couldn't do it every single day. So I changed it up. Walked some days and took the bus on others. I soon started to feel stronger but also still a little deflated that I couldn't do it every day.

Then I went back to the gym and tried pilates. The first session was tough. I almost cried in pain in the class so I just stopped that exercise and was just unable to finish any of the exercises they did. But I felt better at the end of it. But also exhausted and destroyed.
And I continued to feel that way for the next three days. I had the normal muscle pains but on top of it I had an aching feel that wouldn't go away.

But I went again. And it was tough, again, but I still managed to do just that little bit more. And this time the pain lasted a little less.

I'm now without a car so I've been walking to and from the stations everyday, I have plans to go swimming and go back to pilates but I'm also getting aches and pains on random days again. My arm has been a pain recently where it's been so painful that I couldn't sleep. It's a daily struggle but I know that I need to lose weight and if I want to do that, I need to exercise. One way or another. Just push through the pain.

So I'll keep going. But I will remember my limitations. I do not want to be bed bound again. I will not push it. But I will push myself just a little bit.

Do you have any exercising tips for someone who is often in pain?

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Remaining Positive in the Face of [Chronic] Illness

Once the battle of being diagnosed with an illness, be it chronic or not, has passed – with elation, fear, and exhaustion – it is not long before the next battle comes.

For me this was “finding my feet”. I spent six weeks or so in hospital over the space of four months, as we sorted out my medications and relieving my symptoms. Once I was on an upward path, everyone began to tell me this little nugget of wisdom:

“You've got to find the positive strength to get through this”

Hear it a few times, you take it on board and try your best to be positive. All of the time. But you forget you are fighting your own body, draining yourself of important and fundamental energy that healthy people just don't need to do or even contemplate doing. And on top of that, you feel somewhat hard pressed to be positive. Even when things go wrong. When your meds start to make you feel worse, you try and ride it out and hope it gets better; you don't want anyone to think you're not being positive about this terrible illness you have.

I tried about five medications in those early days without success. In this period, I hid away from people, quite easy when you're stuck in hospital. On those multiple admissions, my doctors tried hard to figure out what was now causing me a problem, a pain, a side effect; just why I wasn't getting any better. Then I received funding for a biological drug called Humira and it seemed to change everything. Once I could do my own injections at home, I had my disease staged with a MRI scan and I went back to work. This is when the big ‘push’ of practically everyone I saw telling me “how brave I was” and how it was “important I just tried to be happy and remain positive” throughout all my “bad spells”.

I didn't have bad spells.
I didn’t feel particularly brave.
I wasn't happy AT ALL.

This was the start of 2012. I was trying to find out who I was in a time where everyone wanted me to be happy that I was alive and well.
My bad spells were masked by my medication. It helped me a great deal but it didn't fix me. It certainly would never cure me and I still felt awful a great deal of the time.
My bravery? I was utterly heartbroken as I mourned my old, wonderful, normal life that was now just an endless barrage of tests, managing my diet and tracking symptoms. Being in hospital for so long, being so unwell, made me paranoid about when I actually did feel well – Me? Well? Something must be wrong! Ensue panic!

I just wasn't happy at all. I struggled to find my own new identity in being sick. I couldn't deny what I had or the simple fact that I had it, so I sat and thought long and hard about what I wanted to do. What I wanted to be, who I wanted to be. I read books, articles, spoke to other patients, confessed a lot to my counsellor and slowly I came around. But I struggled a great deal – and to a certain extent, still do – with being told to “be happy”. I don't think it's necessarily that simple, nor is it that easy to do. And why can't you have some time to be angry about things, about this type of thing?

It is not easy to be happy all the time. It is incredibly hard and draining to be positive all the time. I appreciate good advice but not when it is being constantly rammed down our throats; from doctors, medical staff, loved ones, it’s all said with that compassion that leaves you feeling grateful, although through gritted teeth. I don't feel as if I can be unhappy about my health. Especially now in my current situation; going through two major surgeries in four months, coming out with an ileostomy and a forever changed digestive system. Let alone how my scars and my actual ostomy makes me feel and look. I can't always be smiling about it. I need to be angry, some times.

So, remaining positive; harder than it seems. More complex than first meets the eye. Not always for the best.
Please, let us be negative and grieve for a while.
Chronically ill people are the strongest and most resilient people I know. I'm sure that's not just down to being positive, they get angry too.
Let us. We always come back to being happy and finding the funny side. Especially when it comes to bowels!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Time Out

I am a person who likes Doing Things. This has been true for many years. My mum always used to wonder how I can manage to fill my time, especially summer holidays. I was always busy, never really bored. Even though I have brothers and sisters, I was very good at entertaining myself and finding something to do. Even if that something wasn’t useful. Sims 2 anyone? 

I recognise this in myself as a good trait. It means I am more inclined to try new things, to explore the world, go to events by myself and generally whittle away the hours in contentment. 

Lately however, its become more problematic. I have a job which takes up quite a lot of my life, and more recently its become a little unbalanced so I’ve dedicated more of my life to work. Which is fine, except something else has to give. There is no wiggle room. But the problem is, I really like my life. I enjoy spending time with friends, eating out and going to the theatre and cinema, travelling and going to new places. I’m also working on my 30 Before 30 List. 

So as a result, my juggling became more and more chaotic until I started dropping balls. My mum got upset that I wasn’t talking to her much. Friends were annoyed that I kept cancelling or disappearing. I was trying to run (literally, 5k) on very little sleep. Consequently, my mental health suffered. My anxieties shot through the roof. I was stressed out and ironically I didn’t even have the time to plan how to deal with it. 

As many of you know, lists are my thing. I love a spreadsheet and a to list. But sometimes, I forgot that life shouldn’t be one giant task. I was so busy ticking things off that I forgot to actually savour the moment. While its great to have lots of amazing stuff planned, sometimes spontaneity is okay. Not doing anything is also okay. 

Luckily for me, work is going to calm down a little for the next few months. And of course I am seizing this opportunity to get lots of things done (like finally teaching myself to cook!!) but I also recognise the need to look after myself too. Because I haven’t been, and that needs to change. There is no point accomplishing things if I am tearing my hair out whilst doing it.

So right now, I am curled up with a blanket writing this blog post. And when its done, I’m going to treat myself to a film. No social media, no blogging or net surfing or multitasking. Brains deserve a break too!

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