My Ulcerative Colitis Journey: Symptoms and Diagnosis (PART ONE)

Today, the 19th May, is World IBD Day, and I wanted to start a new blog series to raise even more awareness for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I’ve blogged quite a lot about IBD, and I had a fairly popular series where others shared their story, called Voices of IBD. I’ve helped a lot of people share their experiences with either Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, but I’ve never fully shared my own story – so I thought a new series was in order!

This series is going to be all about My Ulcerative Colitis Journey, from the start of my symptoms, diagnosis, trialling medication, coping, and mental health. In part one, I’m discussing all about when I started to get symptoms, and how I got my diagnosis. This is going to be an extremely personal post, but if you’ve read my blogs before, you know I’m not a shy bairn!

Just quickly for any lovely readers who don’t know – Ulcerative Colitis is one of the main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It’s an auto-immune disease affecting the colon and causes the immune system to attack itself. It causes inflammation, ulceration and damage, which leads to pain, bleeding and a host of other issues. For more info check out the Crohn’s and Colitis UK website.

From the age of around 19, I started getting ‘stomach issues’, with bloating, gas, abdominal pain and regular diarrhoea (I just realised I can’t spell diarrhoea, so thank goodness for Grammarly, otherwise a post all about poo would be impossible). I visited the GP a handful of times – probably around 10 times over the space of 3 or 4 years. Each time I was told it was just IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), which is not the same as IBD but that’s for a different blog post! If they weren’t saying IBS, they said anxiety manifests with physical symptoms like the stomach problems I was having and so I was put on anti-depressants, as well as given Ibuprofen for the pain.

For 3 or 4 years, I was struggling with an undiagnosed illness, with no medication and it’s no wonder I got as bad as I did. In the spring of 2016, around May, my symptoms worsened significantly. I had an unreal amount of pain in my stomach, so much so that I could have been ringing the bells of Notre Dame, I was hunched over so often. I started bleeding a scary amount from my backside, so much that the toilet looked like a murder scene. I had an endless urge to go to the toilet as if I was going to full-on poo myself, sometimes I would have watery diarrhoea, and sometimes it was just streams of blood and mucus. I was going to the toilet more than 20 times a day. Passing poo was incredibly painful, and I had to heavy breathe as if I was giving birth. I would be on the toilet for up to an hour sometimes, with intense pain and blood just leaking out. Let that sink in, imagine spending half your day on the toilet and trying to work in a preschool full of 2-year olds. It’s safe to say I wasn’t a very fun person! I’m just glad it was so close to the summer holidays and that I was only part-time.

At the time, I remember thinking it’s cancer. I couldn’t help it, I remembered the adverts about blood in stools and colon cancer on the TV and it didn’t help that every single Google search screamed cancer in your face – I know, I know, slap the back of my hands for googling symptoms… never ever do that! So I was dealing with a lot of stress at the same time, popping Ibuprofen like there was no tomorrow to try and control my pain, and had a butthole that felt like razor blades because I couldn’t stay off the toilet. P.S. flushable wipes are my saviour, and rough toilet roll is the devil reincarnate.

I went to see my GP in the July. I realise I left this ridiculously late and looking back I think I’m a bloody idiot and don’t even know why I waited so long. It was a mixture of fear of what it would be, anxiety, stress, dealing with work and feeling so unwell. But, I suppose we live and learn.

My GP seemed concerned with the volume of blood, and I had the good old finger up the bum. It felt like a shard of glass up my backside, I was already so sore! She decided to send me for an urgent referral to the hospital for investigation. Seeing the words urgent just made me panic even more. I remember Eric and I had a trip to London and Harry Potter Studios for his birthday at the start of August, and again, how the heck I managed that I have no idea. I must have been on some kind of adrenaline spike from the pain pushing me through or something. I could probably give you a tour of all the toilets in London, and I spent a good hour in the one in Hamley’s toy shop while Eric browsed the collectables.

Around 2 weeks passed and I finally got a letter with a date for a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy, along with an enema to take. A Flexi Sig, is a scope that goes into your bum and looks at your large bowel. I had to take the enema a couple of hours before my appointment and my good god – that was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. Because I was so inflamed, all the backed up diarrhoea coming out of me burned like crazy and I cried the whole time. Wasn’t one of my best moments I must say. Bless Eric for being moral support and talking to me through the door, and bringing me water to drink when I felt dizzy and sick. Couple goals, am I right?

I was so stressed for the scope test that my heart rate was too high before I could have it done so I had to be heavily sedated. Some people fall asleep from sedations but nope, not me. I was too stressed that it just kind of dampened that down a little bit, so I remember everything, felt everything and saw everything.

So Ulcerative Colitis is inflammation and ulceration of the colon… now picture a tube being pushed up there rubbing against all the painful parts. It wasn’t pleasant, and I kept pumping because they were blowing air inside my colon to open it out so they could see. So not only was I sedated and drugged up, but I was in pain and couldn’t stop pumping on the poor doctor! I could see how bad my colon looked on the screen in front of me, and they took biopsies. Straight away the nurse placed her hand on my shoulder and said “it’s not cancer”, as I had just told her how worried I was about that during my pre-procedure consultation. After I was wheeled to a room to relax after the procedure, and the sedation wore off enough for me to realise I’m back in the real world, I was given my diagnosis straight away. 

So in August 2016, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I was told it was likely made worse by the Ibuprofen I was taking, and that I needed to see a specialist in 4 weeks.

I felt relieved that it wasn’t the big C I was thinking, but I also felt so much worry and stress about what this meant for my life now. Being diagnosed with an incurable, lifelong condition that affects your everyday life is a bit of a brick to the face. It’s hard-hitting, and I almost didn’t want to believe it. I was glad to have a name for it though. So I could have some kind of action plan, do some research and get the medication I need to control it.

And the rest is for the next post in my series!

I hope you liked this post. I think I’m going to make this a long series since this year I will have been diagnosed for 2 whole years! I have a lot to say from the last 2 years that someone might find helpful, useful, or insightful! If you haven’t already read my other IBD posts, there’s a tab at the top of my blog called Health and you’ll find them all there!

If you’re able to offer any donations – on the 30th June I’m doing the Crohn’s and Colitis UK WALK IT event for the 2nd year running. Last year I could only manage the 5k, but this year I’m pushing myself to do the 10k. I have a just giving page, where the money goes directly to the charity, and I would appreciate every single donation given! 

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Ordinary to Extraordinary through Blogging and Influencing

Let’s talk about Inspiring people on the internet! Last week I was lucky enough to not only attend The Culture Vulture Blogging and Influencing event at the Thought Foundation in Gateshead, but I was asked to be on the blogger panel! This was a huge opportunity for me, so I absolutely had to have it in a blog one way or another.

The theme of the event was #ordinarytoextraordinary and how everyday ‘average’ people (like you and me) can do amazing things through the power of blogging, vlogging, social media presence and influencing. You don’t need a particular background or credentials, a large skillset or even a lot of tools and equipment – you just need access to the internet to be able to use the platforms, a camera (or camera phone), and something passionate to write about or take photos of. For the most part, it’s a free hobby if you already have internet at home, which a lot of people have nowadays!

The night was filled with some fantastic speakers who not only left the audience in awe but offered such valuable and supportive advice for other bloggers and influencers across social media platforms and to brands, PRs and marketers. I thought I would do a ‘round-up’ of what I took away from the event and learned.

Deb Sharratt from My Boys Club, a family and lifestyle blog, was the first speaker who gave advice on having core values for your blog. Your core values reflect not only your blog but you as a person to your readers and to any brands that might want to work with you. She was passionate about ethical blogging, which was something I loved. Things like declaring sponsored work or gifted items, being transparent with affiliate links, and posting honest reviews from your own opinions. Having an authentic and honest blog builds trust with your followers and brands and creates a positive atmosphere for your space on the internet. Deb also highlighted the importance of posting relevant content to improve your DA (Domain Authority), and the use of follow links for non-sponsored content and no-follow links for paid content. Guest blogging and crowdsourcing is also very useful for improving your DA and blog traffic, and helps support other bloggers too. She also listed some very helpful apps and websites like Later, Hootsuite, Stumbleupon, Pixabay, Unsplash, Missing Letter, and Appsumo.

Lisa Dawson was the next guest speaker who is an interior design blogger and Instagram influencer from Lisa Dawson Styling. She spoke about the importance of consistency with your posting and having a minimum amount of posts, whether it’s 3 times a week or just once a month. Lisa also suggested that posting at the right time is a must. If you post a photo in the middle of the day when most people are working, then it’s just going to get lost in the sea of images in Instagram – so posting before 8.30am before people go to work or after 6.30pm, is what seems to be the best time. Instagram has grown so much over the last few years and for photos to be noticed they need to be “shit hot”, as Lisa put it. You need to stand out from such a large, and I mean a LARGE amount of people on the app now, and I agree it makes sense to post your best work. She advised using 30 relevant hashtags because they get your photos to an audience who may not be following you already.

Next up we had Crime Viral, and wow she was such a boss lady, and I admired her so much! Cheish spoke of the importance of engagement with your readers and creating a community around your blog and social media. An example she gave was asking open-ended questions, ask your followers or readers what they think on a subject, and engage them in an open-ended conversation. Creating a sense of community keeps your readers involved with your blog and your posts. She also said that it’s a great idea to reuse old content, which was something I would have never thought of doing. Especially if the content was popular and you can repost it from a different perspective or angle, with a different conversation outcome.

The following speaker was Dominique from All That Is She on Instagram. Dom has such a beautifully creative feed using only a basic camera and props from around the house, with the help of her 2 daughters and husband. She shows that you’re able to create amazing content without the need for the fanciest of equipment – you just need imagination. She recommended using the Weekend Hashtag Project (WHP) from the Instagram official account, which is announced every Friday. Instagram feature their favourite posts using the hashtag in line with the theme every Monday or Tuesday, which gets your post seen by around 230 million followers! Dom has had a few of her posts featured and it gave her a real boost with her following.

The last part of the event was a brilliant Q&A with a blogging panel… which I was on. I was lucky enough to be sat with Pip Milburn, Helen Newman, Hildy Harland, Sharon Sinclair Williams and Cheish Merryweather. Look, there’s me in the photo right in the middle! As I said the theme of the night was ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and here I am, an ordinary person, being able to do something amazing like offer my thoughts and advice in a room full of people alongside some fantastic bloggers. We discussed our own stories of how we got into blogging, starting up and what we did to get seen in the community. As well as how to vlog and do insta-stories in public or to strangers on the internet, our thoughts on sponsored content,  and working with brands. We bounced off each other and the audience, and the vibe was insane!

I know I’ll be taking on all of this advice and I’ll be rethinking how I approach my own blog and social media. Hopefully, this blog has given some useful information to any bloggers out there, new or established, and for anyone who’s thinking of possibly starting a blog. If you are thinking of becoming a blogger - my advice is to just do it! Anyone can be a blogger or influencer, you are capable of doing extraordinary things no matter what your background is. If you have a passion for a topic, whether it’s beauty, lifestyle, parenting, culture, travel, food, or the arts… your voice deserves to be heard.

The Lake District Bucket List

The Lake District is one of my favourite places to go in the UK and I’ve been a few times now. I thought I would draft up some of the things I’d recommend doing whilst there if you decide to take a trip too!

South Lakes Safari Zoo

Probably one of my favourite places in the Lakes. South Lakes Safari Zoo is just a short drive from Ulverston. It’s fabulous, as part of the zoo is a safari so you can walk around with animals like lemurs, kangaroos and peacocks roaming free around you; which makes for a super immersive experience. You can buy feeding bands to hand feed animals like giraffes too which is something you can tick off your bucket list.


Derwentwater is the lake by Keswick in North Lakes, and it’s such a serene sight, especially when the weather is nice. You can watch the boats and the birds while you have a picnic. You can even pop to Hope Park for a stroll afterwards.

Puzzling Place

Puzzling Place is a very intriguing museum in the heart of Keswick, which is less than £5 AND dog-friendly! It has an anti-gravity room, lots of perspective pieces and is just full of brilliant illusions. You can spend hours in this place enjoying the mystery!

Kendal Castle

Take a nice, long walk through Kendal’s beautiful streets, which is in the South Lakes, and up to Kendal castle for a photoshoot in front of the rolling hills around you. Afterwards, take yourself to the local Chocolate House and buy some famous Kendal mint cakes!

Lakes Aquarium

The Lakes Aquarium is right by Windermere and makes a lovely addition to your Lake District bucket list. It’s one of the most well-kept and hygienic aquariums I’ve ever been to, with a section all about the species living specifically in the Lake District itself. Very educational and beautiful! 

Helvellyn Hike

If you’re outdoorsy like me, you'll want to see the amazing views from the top of Helvellyn, the third highest mountain in England. The best advice I can give is to park at Wythburn Church car park by lake Thirlmere since there is a direct route up the mountain from there. Don’t forget your camera and some walking poles!

There are still so many things I'd want to do there, like a hike up Scafell Pike or walk with wolves with the Predator Experience, but I no doubt will be returning to the Lake District soon! Have you done some of these? Let me know your recommendations for my next visit!

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April Favourites 2018

I know this post is a little late, and that it's May now, but I still wanted to share some new finds that I absolutely love!

I don't have a photo of my first favourite, but I am OBSESSED with my new Canon G7X Mark ii camera. I've been using it to vlog, take blog photos and I carry it with me everywhere. I was lucky enough to get it as a birthday present, but I know you can get it on Amazon, or at most electrical goods stores. The quality of this camera is so good, and it's really user friendly too, it's perfect as a multi-purpose camera that you slip into your handbag!

My next favourite is the EX1 Invisiwear Foundation, which I've been dying to get for a couple of months, but they never had my shade in. This foundation has amazing, buildable coverage but somehow still manages to stay lightweight and doesn't look cakey! I never thought I'd see the day where I'd find my perfect foundation!

I had also been looking for the Revolution Conceal and Define concealers for ages but all the lighter shades were always sold out. I ended up ordering online; which I'd never normally do, I hate online colour matching. Now, I've used the same Collection Lasting Perfection concealer day-in, day-out for years, and nothing could ever knock it off its pedestal for me. These Revolution concealers now take pride of place on that pedestal.

I got this Sleek Face Form Contour Palette in the beauty kit for my college course, but when I no longer needed it, I just kept it for myself! It's got such a pretty shimmer bronze shade, with a matte contour and a natural highlight. I've been wearing these most days, especially since we've been doing tanning at college so I'm darker than I usually am. It's cheap and cheerful!

I definitely feel like this has been in a favourites post before... but I can't remember! It wouldn't hurt to mention how much I love The Body Shop Strawberry Body Butter again. It smells divine, and reminds me so much of the smell of Calpol... am I right? I use this every few days after a lovely hot bath and my skin feels silky smooth. The strawberry range at The Body Shop is by far my favourite out of all of them!

Last up, I got this super cute mint green jacket from Primark for just £9, can you believe that?! It's such a pretty colour and a great lightweight jacket for the upcoming summer months. I did find I needed to size down, I'm usually a medium or a 10-12; but for this jacket, I had to get a small which is a 6-8. So if you're interested in getting one, be sure to try it on!

I'm sorry I missed my March Favourites blog post, but I'm getting back into blogging now! You can expect lots more posts from me over the next few weeks to months! ❤

25 Things I Learned Before Turning 25

On the 22nd April 2018 I turned 25 years old, a quarter of the way to 100! I realise this post is a little late… I went on holiday to the Lake District straight after my birthday and I’m just getting back into blogging after a bit of a hiatus. I thought what better way to start back up again than talking about what I’ve learned in my life so far. I’ve seen a few of these posts going around, and I just love the idea of them.

1. Dogs really are man’s best friend.

I was brought up with dogs and animals my whole life, but over the 6 years of owning my own dogs, I’ve learned that they are so important to me in every way. I care for them like they’re my children and every time I’ve needed a cuddle or wanted to go for a stroll to think, they’re always there ready to make things better.

2. Being yourself brings you the best confidence.

For a while, I definitely didn’t feel comfortable being myself due to the remarks other people made (mostly idiots from school or college). But in recent years, I’ve really found more happiness and self-confidence in disregarding them and just being undeniably myself anyway.

3. Eggs make the best breakfast ingredient.

I’m always hungry an hour after eating a bowl of cereal or a couple slices of toast. Yet, for some reason, every time I eat eggs for breakfast, I feel full for so much longer. So now I eat eggs for breakfast almost every single day!

4. A walk a day can help take the stress away.
I attended therapy for a while and probably one of the best things to come from it was that I can practice mindfulness whilst on a relaxing walk. I love walking and especially walking my dogs, and I always feel better after a good stroll.

5. It’s never too late to change your career.

I studied Childhood Studies at university and worked in Early Years Education for more than 6 years, working my way up to management and I was quite successful in my career. I loved my job, but it was never what I truly wanted to do. When I was 24 I decided to go back to college and make a career change and I really do feel like it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

6. Most people’s opinions do not matter.
I used to have a real problem constantly worrying about what other people think of me. Do they like me? Have I upset them? Did I do something? The sooner I realised that most people’s opinions show us their personality, and doesn’t actually reflect me as a person, I was able to be more myself.

7. Drink water every single day.

I’m almost ashamed to say that for a good few years I almost never drank water… seriously! I drank Coke, Lucozade and other sugary drinks, and I have no idea how I never felt as dry as the Sahara desert. It was only this year that I got a Britta filter and started drinking water every day… and now I crave it. It’s cleared up my skin, I feel more awake and I even sleep better at night. Slap on the back of the hand for me, for waiting so long to do such a basic human need!

8. You can and will break bad habits.

It can seem difficult trying to break bad habits and like you’ll never get there but you can and will. Some of the habits I’ve broken are nail-biting, avoiding the doctors, not drinking water and not exercising.

9. A good skincare routine is an important part of the day.

I knew it was important to look after our skin, but it wasn’t until I went to college and learned about sun damage, ageing and skin conditions, that I realised just how important it is to have a good, decent skincare routine. Always wash your makeup off at the end of the day. Cleanse, tone and moisturise, and yes, drink lots of water.

10. Blood is not thicker than water.

Some people have a strong family bond and that’s brilliant. But one thing I’ve learned about family is that just because someone is related to you, doesn’t mean you owe them anything. Family is what you make of it, and sometimes the best ‘family’ aren’t biologically related to you at all.

11. Bedtime is the best time of the day.

I used to hate going to bed when I was younger, but now I’ve realised it really is the best time of the day. I love a good bath on a night, and then some relaxing chill time catching up on YouTube, ready to settle down for bed.

12. It’s OK to not be OK.

Life isn’t always sunshine and roses. It’s OK to go through rough patches, to feel sad or down, and to struggle. It doesn’t make you a failure, or a bad person. It’s OK to be human, and life is a rollercoaster with both ups and downs.

13. Kindness really does make a difference.

Everything is better when it’s accompanied by kindness. I always make the effort to compliment someone, smile at them, or just be there for them. I’ve really learned to appreciate kind acts over the years, big or small.

14. Disney never gets old or boring.

I’ve always been an avid Disney fan and it never became dull as the years have gone on. I still love a good road trip with a Disney singalong, or a good film to cheer me up on self-care days.

15. Photos and videos become so important for cherishing precious memories.

I always loved taking photos, but I started collecting them properly when I was around 20. I have thousands upon thousands of photos. I have them on hard drives, in photo albums and I have a lovely feature photo wall filled with framed photos. I still look back at my albums to reminisce and just last year I started vlogging. Now I have so many videos of my life to look back on too and I love it.

16. Always trust your gut instinct.

I think self-doubt is quite common but over the last few years, I’ve really learned to trust my own instincts, thoughts and feelings. It’s lead me down a path where I I’ve truly found myself, and what I want to do with my life. I now trust my own instincts far more than I used to. 

17. Salad cream is by far the best condiment.
Heinz salad cream goes with everything. Need I see more on this?

18. Self-care is always important.

I once thought drive and ambition were my top priority back when I studied full time and worked 2 jobs on the side. But I quickly fell into a spiral of depression, and after that, I started taking care of myself more and treating my mental health as a priority. When I used to get poorly, I would avoid the doctors. Now doctors, hospitals and healthcare are so ingrained into my life because of my illness I can’t imagine my health being less important than a quick visit to the doctor.

19. Learning to drive was a great choice.

Honestly, driving has opened up so many opportunities for me and getting my license when I was 20 was one of the best things I ever did. I may have spent a silly amount of money because it took me 3 times to pass, but I’ve never looked back. I can travel to places I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have a car, I see my friends and family far more, and it’s just made my life so much easier.

20. Always stay in contact with the friends that show they care.

People come and go in life, but I’ve learned to hang onto the people who do genuinely care about you. I’ve lost contact with people, and sometimes that’s ok, but for some, I do regret it. Now I make sure I put in the effort with people who I want in my life for good.

21. Your GP doesn’t always know what’s best – get a second opinion!

For years I struggled with health problems, being told it was “just anxiety” or “just IBS”. In fact, my GP sent me off with Ibuprofen and dismissed me, when it turned out I actually had a lifelong autoimmune disease and the Ibuprofen was making it worse. I’m not even supposed to take any NSAID medication. If I’m unsure about something, I always seek a second opinion and question it. I know myself better than anyone else.

22. The gym is actually rather enjoyable.

The gym can be such a chore, and I always had a problem with motivation. I used to wonder how people got up and went to the gym, but after going for a while I realised… actually, I really enjoy this and I feel great afterwards!

23. Hard work really does pay off.

I’ve learned that rewards do come from working hard, even if it does take a while. Sometimes those rewards can be small too, like enjoying a small hot chocolate at the end of a long day. Or it can be larger things like achieving blog views, milestones, and doing well at college.

24. Harry Potter is, and always will be, the greatest story ever.

Nothing has ever topped Harry Potter. Ever. It will remain the greatest book and film series of all time. If you haven’t visited the Warner Brother Studio Tour in London, then that’s a must if you’re a Harry Potter fan like me.

25. Happiness is the best life goal to have.

Even when I had my own house, a car, and a well-paid job, I didn’t feel truly happy. Now, I’m 25, living back with my family, a student not in work and forever skint, yet I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I think it’s down to finding my interests, doing things for myself, being kinder to others and the environment, cutting out toxicity and appreciating what I do have. I feel happier than I’ve ever felt in my whole life.

I hope you enjoyed this post. It was quite therapeutic for me to write since it’s quite reflective on my life and what I feel like I’ve learned in my short but sweet life. I might do this blog post again at 30 and see what else I’ve learned or if anything’s changed. Happy April!

Coping with Ulcerative Colitis - My Tips!

Living with a chronic inflammatory disease can be really debilitating and hard to deal with. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis back in August 2016 and since then I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and learn how to cope with it. This condition can affect people in so many different ways, but I thought perhaps sharing my own ways of dealing with it might help a handful of people. If it does then it’s a job well done in my book, so if you think any of these things could help you, then please do give it a try!

1) Take it seriously.

Now I don’t mean this in a condescending way, it’s just based off of my own personal experience. I know when I was first diagnosed I thought it was going to be a few weeks of medication and I’d be right as rain again. Until I realised it was lifelong, with treatment my whole life and that I needed to make lifestyle changes to suit it. It’s so important that you take your medication no matter how unpleasant it may be (I even take medication up my bottom). I have to admit there was a time where I just didn’t bother with my medication because I didn’t feel like my illness was that bad until my health quickly went downhill. As much as I hate it, I know it makes me feel better. Equally, if I need to rest one day, I take the day to do whatever I need to do to feel myself again. It’s important to stick to all of your regular hospital appointments too. It can sometimes feel like a “job” because of all the time it takes up, but it’s necessary for your health.

2) Be 100% honest with your GI Doctor.

When I say 100%, I actually mean 110%. Tell them absolutely everything and get right down to the nitty-gritty. You might not think it’s something they need to know but it could turn out really useful. Talking about poo, blood, and accidents are nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about, and it’s something they hear regularly since they’re specialists in the field. Tell them exactly how you feel about your symptoms too, because you might also benefit from therapy and other kinds of support. It all helps them decide on the right treatment plan for you, to improve your health and day to day life. I even started taking in photographs of inside the toilet so my GI could see exactly how much blood I was talking about, since amounts can be hard to judge, and that led to my medication being bumped up. It could be helpful for you too.

3) Plan and prepare.

This is something I do every single day and I feel like this is the most useful one for me. I prepare myself for the worst-case scenario so I’m still able to go out and enjoy myself. I always carry baby wipes (you never know if you’ll be caught short with no toilet roll!), a change of underwear, my radar key, "can’t wait" toilet card and extra medication. When I’m going somewhere I always look into where the nearest toilets are. Most places, like shopping centres, have maps with all the toilets on it, and I familiarise myself with it. The same as if I’m going for a meal with friends, the first thing I eye up is where the nearest toilet is, just so I’m ready to go if I need it. I don’t like to let this illness stop me from living my day to day life, and this really helps me feel like I can still do normal things during the day.

4) Involve your friends, family and colleagues.

I can’t stress enough how much this helped me. I’m a very open person already, so I guess it might have been a bit easier for me, but I tell everyone, well… everything. I tell my family and friends exactly what it feels like, what happens, what my worst days are like and what could happen in the future – including things like hospitalisation and surgery, just so they are aware of how serious it can be. I feel like this just helps with understanding what I have to live with, and if I need to cancel our meetup, then they know it’s not just for the sake of it. It also means when I ask for help, they have a bit of a better idea of what to do and what I’m going through.

5) Don’t let it ruin your life.

Probably the most important point, don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do. I personally cope a lot with humour and I make light of the darkness in my life. I’m generally a jokey person anyway so I don’t mind joking about pooing myself or how often I’m at the toilet, it sometimes makes me feel a bit more human. I like to enjoy my good health days and try to be productive on them. But even if I don’t feel productive, or if I’m having a poor health day – I make sure I look after myself. In my eyes, a rest day, even if you’re just watching TV all day, is never a wasted day when it’s for the good of your health, mental or physical. If I need the time to recuperate, I take it. If I need to cancel a meal, I cancel it. If I want to watch The Office US in bed all day and eat chocolate, I do just that. I also started making career changes and went back to college because my old job was a bit too difficult to deal with, with my health condition on top of it. Instead of quitting and doing nothing, going back to college to study and do different things with my life means I’m moving forward and not letting this illness get the better of me.

I hope this post helps at least one person. I just want to reiterate that I understand everyone is different, and we all cope differently. These are all just ways that I cope with my own situation, that other people might find useful. Since I was diagnosed I’ve made so many life changing decisions that have led me to where I am today… I went to back to college, changed my career, it got me into blogging and YouTube, and found me new, wonderful friends. While this illness can be difficult and draining at times, it’s brought me so many other things that I’m grateful for. My illness doesn’t define me, it just took me down a new path in my life. 

Let's Be Kind - 20 Acts of Kindness

Why do people need a reason to be kind, or do something good? Nowadays it’s like everyone needs a reward to justify doing the right thing, or to just simply act kind towards someone. I’ve seen it a lot over the last few years and it really does make me sad, I want to make sure I’m being as kind as possible, for the right reasons and not because I need some gratification for my own gain. So I've compiled a small list of things I want to make sure I’m doing regularly for others.

Here’s a list of acts of kindness anyone can do… it’ll make a difference in someone’s life.

1) Donate or give time to charity.
Charity is important to me, and to so many others. There’s probably a large chunk of people around you affected by charities too, so helping them can really make a difference for SO many people. If you can’t afford to donate money, offer a small amount of your time by perhaps getting involved with events, or even sharing posts on social media.

2) Buy a homeless person lunch.
It might be the first meal they’ve had in days. It could tide their hunger until the next meal they manage to come across. It can really make a difference to their day, week or even month.

3) Ask someone if they’re OK.
Often, people don’t open up when something is wrong until they’re asked, so this could really show someone that you care, and if they need it, you are there for them to talk to.

4) Strike up a conversation with someone.
You might be sitting next to an elderly man on a train who hasn’t had any social interaction for weeks, having a little chat with him can really make a difference to his day. Many people live lonely lives through no fault of their own, so having a little conversation when you can, can really help ease their loneliness.

5) Be a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear.
I think this is so important. Be there for someone in need. If someone needs a cry, just be there. If they need to talk, just listen. It costs us nothing, and sometimes just having that person who listens to your problems or holds you when you cry can help you feel like your world isn’t imploding and that you’re not alone.

6) Sign petitions for important causes.
You might not realise it, but a single signature on a petition could make a huge difference on whether that cause goes to parliament for review. Sometimes these petitions are on a shop counter or shared online. Take a couple of minutes to sign it. A good example of a petition circulating at the moment is the ban on animal testing for cosmetics. 

7)  Offer to help a friend or colleague with a task.
There are lots of people who don’t ask for help because they hate to put pressure on others. Sometimes offering help first really relieves them of something they’re struggling with, and helps with stress and anxiety.

8) Recognise and praise someone’s hard work.
Praising someone for something might be the only praise they’ve had for a long time. It’s true that positive reinforcement works. Supporting someone’s hard work encourages them to do it more. Something as little as “well done” or “good job” means a lot to people.

9) Compliment someone.
Some people never receive compliments. It’s sad but true. Offering small compliments can really make a person’s day. “Your hair looks nice”, “you have a lovely smile” or even “you’re such a kind person” can be so uplifting. For some people, it could be the first nice thing someone has said for weeks. 

10) Donate old blankets, towels and duvets to an animal shelter. 
Shelters always struggle, especially during the cold weather. Instead of throwing away any old, ripped or unused towels, bedding and blankets; a shelter would put great use to them for pet beds and keep pets warm in the colder months. 

Donate used books to a library.
You see more and more libraries closing down these days due to the lack of funding they have. They're often run by volunteers and have very little money to keep up the book stock. When you’ve finished reading a book, donating it to a library means a lot of other people can enjoy it too. 

 Pick up some rubbish or litter you see and place it in the bin.
If you’re sitting in the park enjoying your lunch and you notice a crisp packet on the floor. Pick it up and place it in the next bin you pass. It makes a real difference to your local area and the environment.

 Thank someone.
Sometimes being thankful is underrated. Thanking someone is one of the easiest acts of kindness and when practised regularly can become just a slip of the tongue. Some people are never thanked for their hard work or effort, and a simple thank you can be amazing for them.

 Wheel in your neighbour’s bin.
Perhaps your neighbour has been unwell for a couple days or is elderly. Wheeling their bin in or out when you do your own is a great way of helping the people around you. It’s extremely helpful for some people who might have trouble getting out themselves.

 Tell someone you’re proud of them.
I’ve said this in a different point, but there are some people out there who don’t have supportive people around them and never have praise. Telling a friend or family member you’re proud of them can really boost their morale and happiness. 

 Take your old clothes and items to a charity shop.
Instead of throwing away old clothes or items that might not fit anymore, donate them to a charity shop. Charity shops raise much-needed funds by selling unwanted clothes and items and put it to great use. It’s a great way of helping out. 

17) Drop an old friend a message who you haven’t spoken to for a while.
There might be a reason an old friend lost touch, and sometimes dropping a message to let them know you’re thinking of them can show someone that they still have people who are there for them.

 Hold the door open for someone.
Another easy one to do, holding the door open is not just polite and good manners, but sometimes the person behind you might not be as mobile as you are so it can be a quick helpful thing to do.

Give someone a care package when they’re sick or unwell.
If a friend, family member or colleague is unwell, sending a simple care package with some snacks, medicine, a film or activity is a great way to really uplift their mood. It might not seem like much, but it shows you care.

 Smile at the next person you walk past. 
And lastly, let’s finish this off with something easy. Smiling at someone you walk past is brilliant. Like striking up a conversation, a simple smile might be the first bit of interaction a person has had in days. They might feel like someone has noticed them, and they’re not alone. Smiling is contagious and could make someone’s day.

I hope this blog has been useful in some way and that maybe you might try to do more of the little things to help others. I really do think kindness makes a difference in the world, one little step at a time. 

February Favourites 2018

Wow, another month of 2018 passed with a blink. Does anyone else feel like life is just passing by or is that just me?! Of course, I had to end February with another favourites post!

I actually got sent these Marc Jacobs Highliners a while ago courtesy of Influenster, but during February I found myself reaching for them a lot. I didn't think the pink shades (Pop-ular and Pink of Me), would be my cup of tea since I tend to wear black eyeliner constantly; but I really enjoyed them. The formula is creamy and easy to apply, and my god they have some staying power! I had swatches on my hand and they didn't budge all day even after a lot of handwashing!

In my recent search for cruelty-free products since the new year, I started using the Superdrug Dry Shampoo and thank god I picked it up. Not only is it super affordable, but it works just as well as the Batiste Dry Shampoo's I used for a good 5 or 6 years. As I have coloured hair, I tend to only wash my hair twice a week, three times at a push if I'm doing something special - so dry shampoo is a godsend for me. 

During February I attended an extra-curricular Gellux Gel Nail course to become qualified in them alongside my college course (I passed, yay!). Since then I've worn gel nails, done by moi, every single day. I have to be honest, before doing the course I had never had gel nails and didn't see the hype, but now I'm totally on board the gel nail train. They're stronger and last so much longer. 

In the January sales, I picked up these gorgeous black boots for only £6 from Primark. Let's just take a moment to appreciate the detail on these and for that amazing price! During the last month, these boots have been a staple in my wardrobe. The slight platform sole and chunky heel means they're pretty comfortable for everyday use so they're perfect for me. 

There are a few TV shows I've loved this month but new on my list is Mindhunter. It's SO interesting, and the best way I can describe it without giving away too much is that there are a couple FBI agents conducting research by interviewing serial killers to find out the psychology behind it all, and why they are the way that they are. I hope that makes enough sense to make you watch it! 

Of course, is it even a blog post by me if I don't mention Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in one way or another? Eric and I just finished season 3, and it got so much better towards the end. I have to admit I thought it was losing it's 'flare' for a while but it really picked back up and got funnier!  

Last week I was hit by a brick with flu strapped to it... at least that's how it felt. In my moment of need from my sick bed, I had no shows to watch that I wasn't already watching with Eric, so I thought I'd give Riverdale a try since so many people spoke about it on Twitter. Not going to lie, it's now my guilty pleasure. I literally binged watched the whole 2 seasons on Netflix from bed within 4 days. It's like a cute Pretty Little Liars.

I had a lot of time for TV this month as you can tell! Hopefully there'll be more beauty or lifetyle related products in next months post! I hope you all had a lovely February!

Generalised Anxiety Disorder and How Therapy Helped Me.

Today’s post is a little more personal, I’m discussing my own mental health. Now when I’ve done health-related posts I tend to post more about other people’s experiences than myself. But I want to start putting my own personal experiences out there.

I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is where you experience anxiety about lots of different types of aspects of your life. So, for example, it differs to social anxiety which is anxiety around people and social situations. I get anxiety about pretty much everything in my life.
I didn’t realise I had this disorder for several years until my GP mentioned a lot of the physical symptoms I experience COULD be anxiety, and not just related to, at that time, what they thought was IBS (which I later found out I had a more serious condition, but that’s for another post). He suggested a form of talking therapy to help me because it was really affected my everyday life, and I was referred for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT is a psychotherapy, where you essentially challenge your own thoughts and negative behaviour patterns to treat some mental health disorders.

When I started attending therapy, this was when I got my ‘official’ diagnosis for my mental health. It turned out my GAD was associated with worry around health, work, my own self-image, and the way other people view me. Now, I’m not awkward with social situations, I’m a very chatty, forward, comfortable person with people. However, I do worry about what people think of me, which spirals my anxiety. That’s one example anyway.

Now I get very physical symptoms when my anxiety kicks in. I panic, get heart palpitations, my breathing gets deeper and harder. I also get hot or sweaty, shaky and have had several panic attacks throughout the years. I also get angry and irritable, which is probably the worst for me, I hate myself when I act out with anger because it’s not the person I want to be. My therapist taught me about the psychology around this spiral of worry, and why it affects me so much, and why I get such drastic symptoms.

It turned out that the beginning of this “spiral of worry” starts with deep-rooted thoughts that you have of yourself, or other people, based on your past experiences (your childhood for example). I’ll not get into my past in this post, but essentially, these deep-rooted thoughts are extremely hard to change in people. So, the aim of the therapy was to intersect the ‘cycle’ before it became a cycle, by recognising when your thoughts are irrational.

Deep rooted thought (nobody likes me) -> an action or event causes worry (someone doesn’t reply to a message) -> worry starts, symptoms start -> symptoms cause release of cortisol a hormone/ fight or flight response -> more severe symptoms and panic attacks -> more cortisol, and spirals down.

The aim of my therapy was to intersect my worry cycle at the action or event, before I start to worry, by challenging my own deep-rooted thoughts with more rational ones. I was taught to question my thoughts. Why would this person not like me? Would it mean I don’t like someone if I acted that way? Things like that. Now, I do still have anxiety, I’m not cured. But this has really helped me with smaller situations that would really affect me. And I do still spiral and experience bad anxiety over some situations, but it has really improved.

My therapist also suggested practising mindfulness, which I’ve found extremely helpful, and I feel like it’s really opened my eyes to the beauty of the world and made me a more empathetic person. Yoga is one thing that helped me with mindfulness, as well as being aware of everything around me when dog walking... the sights, smells, sounds. 

So, although, I do still have GAD because it’s my brain chemistry and I’ll probably have it for life. Since therapy, I have been able to change a lot of my behaviours that made things worse for me, I have some great coping mechanisms… and I’ve been able to stop taking medication for my mental health. For me, that’s a huge plus. 

I know therapy doesn't work for everyone, but it's always worth a try. You can contact local talking therapies free of charge. It can also be a long process, but if you're willing to put in the work each week, and do your homework (yep, you get homework too), then you should start to notice improvements over time! If you have experiences with therapy, let me know, I love to hear about other peoples thoughts! 

*Stock images from Pixabay & Indoindians

Voices of IBD (20) - Sara's Story

Welcome to PART 20 of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease series, where we talk to people from all walks of life with this condition; to give everyone a platform to share their story, and help to raise awareness.

This week we talk to Sara about her battle with Crohn's Disease.

What is your name and age?

Sara Elizabeth Cain, 35 Years Old

What is your occupation?

Senior Medical Secretary 

What form of IBD have you got?

Crohn’s Disease

How old were you when you were diagnosed?

I was 33 (Nov 2015), however, I had been diagnosed with IBS at age 17 and dealt with it without really getting any additional help or answers from my doctor, who really just brushed me off as a dramatic teenager. After that, I just stopped talking about it.

About the disease...
What were your main symptoms that led to your diagnosis?

I went to the ER thinking I had appendicitis because I was having such severe pain in my lower abdomen. The tech, who gave me an abdominal ultrasound, noticed something severely off about the loop of bowel that showed up on screen and called the doctor. Next thing I know I was being rushed in for a CT Scan. Turns out that in addition to severe inflammation & fistulas, I had an abscess in my abdominal wall and an elevated white blood cell count. They admitted me and started me on IV antibiotics. 

How did you feel when you got diagnosed?

Honestly, I felt relieved that I finally had an answer and some treatment options. I would have liked to say I was shocked, dismayed, and terrified, but the truth was, it felt like something I had been expecting to hear for a very long time. 

What support did you get during and after your diagnosis?

My parents were with me in the hospital all day long. My husband would have been there too but in my feverish mind, I somehow thought I was doing the right thing by telling him to go to work and that I wasn’t that bad. I, to this day, have no idea why I did that when all I wanted was for him to by my side more than anything, and I know that he was extremely hurt by that. I was very sick, in terrible pain, fevered out of my mind, and really thought in the moment that I was doing the right thing. I honestly didn’t know better. Looking back on it I will never forgive myself for making that choice. My husband is a wonderful, loving and supportive man who has been there for me, and continues to be there for me, every step of the way. I will never take that for granted and will always be grateful to have such an incredible human being as my partner in this life. My husband and my parents have been a wonderful support system through all the hell, and I would not have gotten this far without them.

Do you take medication, if so, what?

Right now I take Pentasa, Zofran, and give myself a Humira injection every other Friday. 

I also take Ambien when I can't sleep; I've had insomnia since childhood and not sleeping seriously exacerbates my symptoms and leaves me barely able to function.

What are your experiences with hospitals? Have you had many stays in hospital or colonoscopies? Do you have an IBD nurse?

I've been in the hospital five times in the past two and half years.  Before that, I hadn’t even so much as been to the ER.

The first hospital stay (in which I choose the hospital closest to my home because at the time I thought my appendix was bursting) was a nightmare. I think some of the worst experiences I had were having my vein rupture during an IV contrast injection, having a nursing student disconnect my failed IV and not report it, which led me to be feverish and without any fluids for 9 hours. My mother and best friend came in and raised hell. At which point they brought down a nurse practitioner from oncology to run my IV. She was so sweet, and a true expert. Her name was Shirley. I think if I didn’t have a viable vein she probably would have created one! 

The next few times were just overnight admissions and a few ER trips for pain, nausea, and one particularly harrowing gastritis flare that will haunt me for years to come.

My next multi-day hospital stay came last year on February 27th, 2017, when I had my bowel resection surgery (ileocolic resection in which my terminal ileum and the right half of my colon were removed) after I developed a bowel obstruction from scar tissue. I was in the hospital for five days, and I must say it was an awesome hospital stay. It felt very strange because I had my surgery in the hospital where I work, so the surroundings and the people were all very familiar, and my co-workers came up to visit me on multiple occasions, which was very sweet.

It just so happens that after my surgery I got a room in the “ultra fancy wing” by pure chance.There were no other rooms available at the time and I was told that I would have to give it up and move to a regular double room if this room was requested. Thankfully no one requested it during the duration of my stay, and I had a huge river view room in a beautiful wing all to myself. That was really nice and was definitely a much-needed experience at a time when I was truly depressed and terrified. 

I have a wonderful Gastroenterologist’s who I have been seeing since my first hospital admission and I would recommend him to anyone. Dr Richard Fazio In Brooklyn NY.

What seems to affect your IBD the most? What triggers it?

Stress. Times of severe stress brings out the worst in my condition. That being said so does food, and I have to be very careful of raw veggies and fried food, my worst enemies. Especially asparagus! Ouch.

Do you currently, or have in the past, struggled with mental health? If so, what?

I have struggled with severe anxiety, confidence, and self-worth issues for as long as I can remember.

I was formally diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) when I started seeing a therapist in my mid 20’s.

Was this because of your IBD, or influenced by your IBD or vice versa?

I think it’s just part of my genetic makeup, as it runs in my family. I am sure this has contributed to my IBD, or at least exacerbated my symptoms.

Do you get support for your mental health?

Honestly, not at the moment. I wish I could say yes but the truth is that as rough as things have been in my life, especially the last few months, I have not put the effort into finding a new therapist.

Do you feel like you get the right support?

When I seek support, yes. But truthfully I have a bad habit of trying to be superwoman and often catch myself trying to give my unconditional support to others, even at my own expense. I know at 35 I should know better and that I alone am responsible for the choices I make. That being said I have been making a very big effort to put myself first as often as possible.

How do you cope?

Meditation, and snuggling with my dogs.

What is your go-to routine for when you are flaring?

Rest, medication, a heating pad, snuggling with my dogs, and going on “bowel rest” (aka a liquid diet) for a few days, or sometimes a week.

What do you do to give yourself a break or relax?

Not much. I'm still trying to teach myself this trick. Anxiety issues often impede my ability to relax as I'm constantly looping worst-case scenarios in my head.

Meditation, mainly mindfulness practices help with this. And hot baths... if I do anything for myself to relax it’s taking a hot bath.

What lifestyle/diet/changes have you made to cope with your IBD?

No raw veggies (except for those safety veggies like lettuce and spinach). Lots of fruit, baby food, smoothies, soup, and eggs. If I'm in pain I'll lay on the couch and snuggle with my dogs.

What advice would you give to someone who may think they are experiencing early signs?

Don’t ignore it. See a doctor ASAP.

What advice would you give to the friends and family of those with IBD?

Be patient, sometimes it takes us longer to do what takes you seconds. Be understanding, we are not ignoring you, we are sick. We are not insulting you by turning down food, we may just not be able to safely eat what you’ve offered. Don’t give up on us if the road gets too hard and don’t stop loving us if we get too sick. Don’t judge us at our worst, just know that your loving support and presence helps us to have more days when we are at our best. Know that we appreciate you.

If there is one thing that keeps you motivated and focused through it all, what would that be?

Honestly, it has been a struggle. Some days I can barely get out of bed and the only motivation I have is the need to earn a paycheck. Other days I feel like I can take on the world!

What is your favourite quote?

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. 
Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” 
Winston Churchill

Thank you Sara for sharing your story here on BecxBlogs. If you are affected by Crohn's or Colitis; please go to the Crohn's & Colitis UK website for further support and information.

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