Saturday, 29 April 2017

Ari You Gonna Be My Girl?

In a few days my friend Ari is coming all the way from Argentina to holiday in Scotland (and see me). She’ll be staying with my partner and I for lots of the trip and we will even go away on a little mini holiday of our own in the middle. This will be the first time we’ve ‘met’ face to face after talking on the internet for maybe 3 or 4 years.


That’s rare in this day and age (and certainly for me) probably because I don’t feel that interesting or engaging most of the time. Yet this friendship is easy, fun and loving. It puts me at ease and there are no judgements on either side. She just makes me laugh and feel precious and our bond feels effortless. I can’t wait to meet my darling Ari in real life (and prove to everyone she isn’t a 45 year old man from Croydon).

Although I feel I know Ari very well and am not in any way nervous about meeting her, I’ve been thinking about how bold a move it is for her to fly halfway across the world for the sake of a friendship (and vegetarian haggis obvs). Friendships often get harder to make as we age so that’s one of many reasons why this one is so important to me. It came into my life at just the right time and now feels like it (she) has always been there.

I’m in my 30’s now.

So as these things do, many of my childhood and teenage friendships have dissipated over time; wrapped themselves up in quite a neat and healthy bow. Without meaning to sound harsh, some friendships just serve a purpose at a certain time and struggle to survive beyond their particular environment. 
Work relationships for example: once a close colleague leaves, or you move on it can be a tricky tightrope to walk in terms of whether or not you should maintain what may essentially have been kinship over a water-cooler and not much more. Thank-fully I’ve made a few AMAZING friends through work in my own life and I can’t see those relationships ever fading. I think the feeling is mutual on both sides and that’s comforting (and pressure free).

As most people with chronic illness will understand, maintaining relationships can be hard, and often disappointing. When people we love prove themselves to be flaky or uninterested in what is essentially a massive part of our lives it can be a bitter pill to swallow. And we already have enough of them to ingest.

Friends who love us will make an attempt to understand what we are going through, they will check in with us regularly and make us laugh, or simply give us a shoulder to cry on when we need it. With us returning the favour of course. Friendships when you are sick should still be a two-way street; we don’t become patients rather than people, but they may just need some adaption.

When anything changes in life we try our best to accept, adapt and move on, and the same goes for pals. We become adaptable. Adaptipals if you will. You won’t? No problem, I still love you, pals. xo

Sunday, 23 April 2017


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much a chronic illness can change a person. Typically this phenomenon isn’t unique to a diagnosis of illness of course; a person can ‘change’ for countless reasons. But one of the most substantial is a sudden and drastic alteration to our life. An unexpected shock. A bombshell.

Of course not all diagnoses of illness follow this ‘bombshell’ route – many of us are eventually diagnosed with something after a long and protracted period of sickness. Symptoms build and we experience all the ups and downs and confusion that goes alongside being continually ill, rather than just waking up one morning and finding ourselves ‘diseased’.

It might not seem much of a revelation to talk about a person changing due to illness. It’s not. Being told you have an illness which is incurable and/or will be a continual struggle for the remainder of your life has a huge mental and physical impact on a person.
The bright side of this process of change is that said change doesn’t have to be negative. That’s something I certainly found difficult to grasp for a long time after my own diagnosis; I focused solely on what and whom I’d lost, what I could no longer do and what this illness had done to strip away from who I used to be. It made me sad, frustrated, despondent and so, so angry.

Anger is powerful.

It can be a cause for action, a good catalyst to spur us into productive fight – we use our anger at the injustices of the world to fight back against governments, against unfair laws, against sexism, racism, bigotry of any kind. So undoubtedly anger is not always a bad thing. For someone like myself who has routinely hated confrontation I’ve tried to appreciate that anger is something that cannot (and shouldn’t) be contained forever. It has to have an outlet, and that choice of outlet should be one of our choosing which doesn’t cause damage to you, others or your own heart.

What I mean by that is I’ve been on the receiving end of anger which hasn’t been funnelled in a safe way – where it comes out as spat-out obscenities you’ll regret later, where it comes out through hasty and stupid choices, or through a clenched fist. None of these scenarios end well, and they certainly don’t lend to us being well.

Anger for me is a part of life.

I’m angry a lot and I wish I weren’t. I have a lot not to be angry about – I have a job I enjoy, I get to write, I have a loving family and friends, and I have a partner who without whom I’d surely turn to dust.

But I am angry because I have a chronic illness that causes me to spend my life in pain. I have learned (as best as anyone can) to live and adapt to it, but my condition is ever changing and unpredictable. I’m angry because I am someone who now struggles massively with anxiety and suffers from depression. That may all have come to my door with or without Crohn’s, but nevertheless it’s here and it’s the ‘thing’ I’m angry at.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling some form of anger at being ‘sick’, but like every aspect of this illness what matters now is how I cope with it. How I choose to act and how I live despite it. I hope that that is without bitterness and resentment, because as much as I wish I wasn’t a permanent patient, I am grateful for whom I have ‘changed’ into throughout my sickly-life.

My heart is full of love and lust for life. I want to live life to the full and I get angry and frustrated when it feels like that life is being stunted or shortened. But as I can’t use my anger to paint banners and march to Parliament to rid myself (and all of you) of this illness, I can use it to remind myself that simply feeling it means I’m alive. If that isn’t something to fight for I don’t know what is.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Back On The Pain Gang 

Like many, many people with an incurable illness I suffer from chronic pain. 

Pain is not often the crux of my writing because I tend to favour focusing on talking about things I feel I have some semblance of control over; like my relationships, my mental health and my attitude towards my illness. 

Pain is a whole other topic that I don't usually discuss in detail for many reasons; namely because I know a lot of people who are new to this disease read my ramblings and I don't want to terrify them, I don't like upsetting my loved ones, and I like to not think about pain when I can. Often it's none of those things and I simply can't deal with anything but my pain. 

Pain is often nigh on impossible to quantify. It's also incredibly difficult to explain to someone on the outside of your own car-crash carcass. 

My partner asked me earlier if I was OK when I truly wasn't and I said "Fine... actually no just in excruciating pain" which made him laugh - not because he finds my misfortune amusing, (he's not Christian Grey), but it was a hollow laugh where he acknowledged a bit of relief at me finally catching myself and being honest. 

The reason the "I'm fine" often comes into play is because it's easier. Not in the long term I grant you, but in the short omg-i-think-im-dying term. It's exhausting being in pain and the last thing we generally want to do is talk about it. 

My hair hurts today. My teeth hurt. How do you explain that to someone who doesn't experience pain on a regular if not daily basis? They think you are overreacting. They don't have anything to compare it to so they work backwards from their own experience and assume you must be exaggerating. We see you disbelieve us. We see you pity us. And we resent it. 

We are forced to talk about pain, namely describe it, a lot. We have to do it to help our doctors solve any medical mysteries, to get the pain relief we need, to express why we are unable to do something/someone.  

We have to tell if it's 'dull', 'stabbing', 'sharp', 'persistent' and various other words used to describe Law & Order. I don't really know what the majority of these words mean in relation to what I feel but I have to use something; it seems screaming incoherently and performing an elaborate death rattle gets you ejected from the ward and I can't risk that happening again. 

The problem with talking about pain when you’re ‘in’ it, is that it allows room for little else other than feeling it. It can be genuinely difficult to even form a coherent sentence when you are experiencing it. I suppose that’s why doctors have developed these charts; the ‘how many out of 10’ and the ilk, for speed and accuracy in treating us. But those charts don’t apply when you are talking to people outside of the doctor’s surgery. 

Pain is subjective and can be all encompassing. Tolerances of pain differ from person to person and can even change over time. When someone is chronically ill pain is a daily occurrence and something we don't always wish to wax lyrical about. That's why we try to adapt our lives around it. Sometimes that's not always possible but on good days, good moments, it is. 

We might not tell you we're in pain sometimes and that's OK. It's our choice and it might just be our way of distracting ourselves; so please be patient and don't expect miracles from us. Don’t let us see that we are frustrating you if we are. I know that may seem selfish but we honestly won’t have the energy to get into any form of debate with you, from brokering a trade deal between countries to forgetting to take the bin out, it’s all impossible.  

Give us a bit of time to feel ‘normal' again once the worst is over and don’t make us feel that we should apologise for it. Even though I’m 99.9% sure we will later anyway. 

Just be kind to us, it really is that simple.