Understanding invisible illness: An Introduction.

As I write this, I am sluggish and fatigued, in fresh pajamas, with a hot (and I mean ‘hot’) water bottle and a steaming mug of Horlix. Adam and I have just arrived in from a late-night visit to our local Boots Pharmacy where I’ve just paid £12 for 14 tablets with the hope of them putting me out of pain.

I suffer with un-diagnosed IBS (I think) – I phrase it this way because for the 14 weeks I’ve been suffering, I am yet to feel as though anyone in my GP Surgery cares enough to conduct further tests.

I’m not bashing the NHS. I spent 3 and a half years Nursing in the NHS. Missing nights out with friends, days out with friends, sacrificing entire weekends working four 13 hour nights a week, one day (half a day) off and back to days. I’ve missed important family celebrations, firsts, lasts and only special times. I understand the short-staffing and lack of funding issues more than anyone from first-hand experience, leading to my decision to leave Nursing completely. This is why I cannot excuse having 10 appointments in 14 weeks surrounding a serious health issue and still be as far away from a diagnosis as when I started.

I finally went for a blood test this week after pushing my ANP and the Nurse couldn’t even get my blood. Back to square one.

I’ve sat in many doctor’s surgeries, pharmacies and an Emergency Room over the last 3 and half months and can feel myself being judged as I’ve not got an arm hanging off or struggling to breathe. I’ve also suffered with awful depression and anxiety in the last two years which I can openly speak about now – no shame. In that time, I may have used the disabled toilets in Asda once or twice because I couldn’t bare to face anyone that day and again, I’ve witnessed the death stares on leaving because I’m not on crutches or with a buggy.

There’s not really much else I want to write about here; I’m not really feeling up to writing much more today, but I just wanted to address an introduction to this topic on my blog when I feel most passionate about it, as I have a feeling with increased media around this topic recently, that I’ll have more to say.

Just remember: not all illnesses are visible.

xxx

You don’t have to be skinny to be a Yogi!

I have always wanted to be the kind of person who gets up when the sun rises, performs a wonderful sun salute and hour-long yoga practice, showers, eats a healthy breakfast and still has twenty minutes to read her book before contemplating setting off for work. I’ve always wanted to naturally pick better food choices and choose to exercise rather than enduring a mental battle with myself prior to pealing myself off the sofa. – This is the type of person I aspire to be. I tried yoga a few times last year, delving straight into the hard stuff, following tutorials on You Tube and being extremely frustrated at myself when I couldn’t perform like the instructor who had ten+ years of practice and teaching experience behind her. Back then I suffered with extreme anxiety and what was the start of a horrible bout of depression for me. So sitting, day by day and working to get stronger was not on my to-do list, as I didn’t have the patience or mental resilience to wait for a bus never mind to become an expert at Yoga.

Almost twelve months on and I’ve been feeling physically unwell for a few months and I’ve been eating low gluten, low lactose and low fodmap to control my body, or I’ll end up glued to the sofa crying into a hot water bottle. I’m still only a few weeks into this struggle but I like to think the pain is more or less controlled. One thing I knew I needed to begin was regular exercise, I was willing to try anything to feel better (yes, even exercise). I’ve been known to begin a swimming-hype, where I’ll be obsessed for 2 weeks but this might stop anywhere in between due to still suffering with anxiety and unfortunately not owning my own private pool in the middle of no where, where no one can see me.

In a much better mindset than I was twelve months before, 14 days ago I decided to start yoga again. Not to master it, but to start with the pure intention of learning something new and persevering instead of giving up with something. I started in the same place that I started last time and that was with Adriene Mishler’s Youtube channel ‘Yoga with Adriene’. I continue to use Adriene’s channel because she is a wonderful teacher, never shaming you for returning to the mat after a while, empowering you through each of your practices with her and quite frankly I love her little catch phrases a lot #FindWhatFeelsGood.

I was initially sceptical about beginning yoga as I’m not small, I have excess fat where I shouldn’t and I have no upper arm body strength. At all. Body positivity is growing to be a big part of my life and strongly believe that all body shapes are beautiful. But from a personal point of view, I thought because I wasn’t skinny, I wouldn’t be able to physically take part in yoga. I was wrong. The first three days I found the most difficult. I followed Adriene’s beginner’s playlist, working through the 40 minute strength and flexibility foundations video once a day on top of a gentle practice. The videos rely a lot on upper arm body strength even if it doesn’t seem like it, but remaining in a table top position for longer than minute absolutely killed me in those beginning days. I don’t know whether it was myself gradually getting stronger, or Adriene reminding me to remain focused, mindful, centred in my foundations and press up and out of them if I was feeling the strain but two weeks later and I barely notice any strain in these beginner’s poses at all.

One thing I love about these videos is that Adriene constantly reminds you that it’s okay if you can’t fully complete the pose/stretch like she can in the beginning of your time using this video, and I have seen such a huge improvement in my poses and flexibility in these two weeks.

I’m a huge fan of Instagram and on searching through the various yoga hashtags I have found some wonderful ladies who are so talented and display their yoga on their accounts, some of which have offered me wonderful advice also. It’s through these lovely ladies that I gained confidence to start videoing myself for improvement and even plucked up the courage to post some clips online.

Some of these fab accounts are @naschue @moveshakebalance @healthylivingaims and @taytay1494.

My personal account is @taylorxjamesx and my account for posting meals and yoga is @taylorxmadex

I enjoy scrolling through the yoga hashtags and seeing beautiful people of all shapes and sizes doing AMAZING poses with the most wonderful mindfulness and flexibility. It’s slowly, day by day increasing my confidence and I hope one day, my posts can do the same for someone else who is unsure of their own ability. If you’re thinking about or have always wanted to try but haven’t managed, grab your phone/laptop, a towel, some comfy clothes and just do it.

#Namaste

xxx

FODMAP living: Day 9

Two weeks ago when I was faced with the reality that I would have to change my lifestyle forever, I remember feeling extremely deflated, almost, and I’m obviously being over-dramatic, as if life wouldn’t go on. I’m such a foodie. I love food. Going out to eat excites me. Baking makes me extremely happy. Going for tea and cake is my favourite thing to do. And having a weekend takeaway or 2 tops my week. I literally didn’t know what I’d do and wondered how long I’d be miserable for before I just got used to it.

I’m currently eating gluten free, limited lactose (I love cheese) and low FODMAP. Over the 9 days where I have been changing my lifestyle I’ve enjoyed some lovely meals and treats like GF and LFM chicken tikka masala courtesy of my fiance, tomato pasta, sunday dinner, lemon cake, chocolate cake, rice cakes etc. My problem is that I’m lazy. I miss being able to whack the oven on or ring a takeaway.

It’s made me (or started to make me) take more effort into planning and preparing meals. I do feel better. Not completely but a huge improvement on where I was. There were times over the last 12 weeks where I haven’t been able to get up off the sofa because of pain, bloating and lack of energy; it’s something you can’t understand fully unless you’ve experienced it. I think sometimes others think I’m overreacting. My stomach is relatively flat for the first time in months and I’ve had the motivation to re-start yoga and I genuinely want to continue it!

I guess overall in this little time, it is helping me take control of my life. I’ve wanted to lose weight and eat better for the last 5 years and now I have no choice. I’m seeing the positive impacts already and the pain is enough of a reminder to know that I can’t slip up.

I would love to hear from anyone else who eats GF/LFM.

I track my meals on Instagram @taylorxmadex / @taylorxjamesx

Until next time. xxx

 

My Fresh Start

Anyone who knows me well will know that since the age of around 16, I’ve had a complex about my weight. I’ve always been the biggest of my friends group, even when (looking back) I was a decent size, everyone else was still smaller than me.

I look back at the pictures of 16 year-old me and am disgusted at my younger-self for thinking I was ‘big’ when in actual fact I was a slim, good size 12. This continued throughout my life and will forever if I don’t make a change.

13884516_1625091657821296_685290226_n

Like others before me, I’ve re-joined Slimming World around 64 times, swearing on my last slice of chocolate cake that I would stick to it this time; needless to say the cake would be gone within 48 hours and so would my promise to myself. I’ve really hated myself for having no self-control or motivation to stick to anything for longer than a few days. I expect to see a dramatic 2 stone weight-loss in those few days of dieting and when that doesn’t arrive quickly, our Domino’s delivery driver does. And back to square one. I often wished something would just push me to have no other choice but to stick to eating healthily.

13900645_1625092224487906_146565049_n

In May, I started getting severe abdominal bloating, to the point where I looked about 4 months pregnant. I was constantly nauseous, full of self-loathing and couldn’t wear anything clingy due to how bloated I looked. Several Doctors appointments were a waste of time until one Friday evening I saw an out of hours GP at our local hospital who suggested I was suffering with severe IBS bloating. I have taken medication after medication without tests until I visited Accident and Emergency in a lot of pain 4 weeks later where a blood test was conducted with no abnormality detected. A further few visits to my GP and no help.

I have done a lot of research online which led me to a ‘low FODMAP’ diet. FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that aren’t absorbed well in the small intestine. This list provided lots of different types of food in each section that I should avoid. I’d also read about people having the same issue with gluten and lactose. I’d thought about trialling this sort of diet before for no reason other than my weight but I was left in a position where self-help may be the only solution for me.

Later that day Adam and I did a small gluten free (GF), lactose free ((LF) apart from the odd bit of cheddar) and low FODMAP shop for me to trial for a few days and to see if it would allow me to start feeling more myself again, which it did. This diet is initially supposed to be conducted under the supervision of a dietitian (which I have eventually had a referral too) and is temporary and week by week you are suppose to introduce something high FODMAP in to see if you can tolerate it until you know everything you can and can’t tolerate. I will eventually start this but I’d like a while of normality first.

13866630_1625092424487886_1942357876_n

I couldn’t believe I felt so… normal? It took about 4 days for my bloating to go down and me start to feel fine again, which was the best feeling in the world. A few days later and we decided to have our usual Friday night takeaway. I’d tried Dominoes GF pizza and I was far from impressed so I tried Pizza Hut’s. It was delicious, quite light and the base didn’t taste like cardboard; I was extremely happy. I then spent the entire weekend in bed/on the sofa in agony, feeling violently sick and bloated and was unable to do a thing. On closer inspection with some fellow FODMAP followers, it appears Pizza Hut use ingredients in their sauce which are high in FODMAPs; something I’d not even considered. It literally took me 48 hours to recover and completely ruined my weekend.

It was this weekend that made me realise that this is the lifestyle change and push that I needed. I don’t have a choice now, if I want to feel happy and normal, I have to avoid these sorts of foods or pay the consequences; and they really aren’t worth it.

I’ve began yoga again today for the first time in around a year, in order to start feeling more mindful and as a form of exercise in hope of toning up too! The hardest thing I’ve found is choosing meals and recipes suitable for me and making the effort to cook and find substitutes for things you can’t eat anymore.

13872529_1625093011154494_796891577_n

It sounds silly but after only a few weeks of eating like this, I can see the weight coming off and my body shape changing and I am starting to feel a lot more confident. And although I know I’ll never be a size 6, this lifestyle change will hopefully get me back down to a more comfortable size for me. It’s made me realise that I could have done this all along, but this is the push I’ve needed to ensure I stick to it.

Taylor-Made living room details

Ever since we moved in to our current home almost 2 years ago, I’ve gone a little bit home-ware-crazy. I’ve gone from using my wages to buy new outfits and fund nights out to finally treating myself to that teapot I’ve wanted for ages/getting unnecessarily excited over that new rug.

My Instagram has slowly turned from 2/3 selfies a day complimented by funny memes which represent my life, to solely our home and any new bits and bobs I come across.

I’ve been pushing myself to continue blogging for quite a while so what better to re-start it than a good old home-ware based blog giving details of our living room!

We live in a mid-terrace, two-bedroomed house which is just the right size for Adam and I. Our living room is not large, but it isn’t small either. It’s largely occupied by our 2 grey 2-seater sofas and our dining table. We have a medium-sized cream rug in the centre of the room to draw attention from the sandy coloured carpet which I dislike and I try to keep the remaining accessories/furniture white to brighten the room.

When we first moved in, we spent the first week in the living room sat on camp chairs with no other furniture and I am so humbled at how far it has come. I’m always moving everything about but I think my current layout maximises the space perfectly.

One of my favourite little features is the space between our television and fire place. I bought this grey set of drawers in Matalan in the Christmas sale initially for the bathroom but I’ve since relocated it to the living room as it’s one of the only pieces of furniture to match our sofas. I love the detail on the art and the ‘shabby chic’ effect, which is sort of the look that I go for if you hadn’t noticed! The glass pillar candle holders and candles are also recently from Matalan, I really wanted them different in size to add more levels to the space. The left lantern was a gift from my Dad a few birthdays ago, it’s perfect with battery-operated fairy lights inside. The right hand lantern was bargain of the century for £9.99 from Dunelm and again looks GORGEOUS with fairy lights inside!

DSC_0413

On top of the set of drawers is a bird-shaped lamp from what I think was The Range, I unknowingly started collecting bird-themed accessories a few months ago and I have now ended up with quite the collection! In front of the lamp are 3 matching candles which I am currently refusing to light as they are so pretty! They are from Asda and are very ‘me’ but they also have some bohemian/nautical themed ones and again, another bargain for a fiver!

DSC_0080

Moving clockwise throughout the living room, we come to the fireplace. Central, is a wonderful, fun portrait of Adam & I by @kelldoodles (Instagram) in a white, modern frame which I found in an outlet store near me called New Life.

DSC_0414

Left of the fireplace is one of my favourite candle holders I’ve ever had. It was a gift and is similar to tempered glass, the candle light is visible through the holder and it creates a soft/dim light. On the wall behind the fireplace is a white, multi-frame which holds 7 pictures which I bought from Ebay when we first moved in and currently I have some lovely flowers in a bargain £1 hourglass vase from a local charity shop.

DSC_0079

Right of the fireplace is a handmade bird house (again with the birds) and an Angel made out of book paper, both of which were gifts. I chose to divert from one large mirror behind the mantle piece and went for 3 small, oval mirrors in a triangular shape. They were £1.99 each from B&M.

DSC_0417DSC_0419

Right of the fire place is a bargain table I picked up from New Life for £5 and upcycled myself. It holds one of my favourite vases from the lovely @bluebellrow on Instagram, 3 brochures from my favourite places to shop, Cath Kidston, Emma Bridgewater and Dunelm, a heart shaped frame which was a gift from my Mam and I love the print so much I can’t take it out. A coaster from my Nan made out of welsh slate, an enamel heart that I received on a gift wrap. One of my favourite trays from Store Twenty One, a stunning shabby chic frame from Matalan, a Dunelm candle and flower made of feathers which again, I received on a gift-wrapped present.

DSC_0083DSC_0421

On the back wall are two of my favourite prints from the talented @_rachelread_ on Instagram in bargain hanging frames from The Range, I think they were around £3 each for the frames!

DSC_0415

Next is sofa no.1. Covered in A & T cushions from Matalan. A floral rectangular cushion from Dunelm and 2 hand-made Cath Kidston cushions from @patchworkandlace on Instagram. I have a cream throw (£9.99 – B&M) covering the grey sofa to brighten the room and a pink throw with birds and flowers (£3 – Matalan) to add a bit of colour.

DSC_0420.jpg

Under the stairs is our white/wooden dinner table with a lamp (Asda) and tray covered in Cath Kidston Highgate Rose/Ditsy products which I am collecting along with the matching table runner.

DSC_0433.jpg

Left of the table holds a tall, white shelving unit holding anything from my favourite Emma Bridgewater pottery, Cath Kidston tea sets to photo frames and candles.

DSC_0426DSC_0428DSC_0429DSC_0430DSC_0431

As the months go on and I collect more and more of my favourite bits and bobs, I begin to wonder what I’ll do when there’s no space left! It’s turned into a little bit of a hobby, collecting, placing and photographing new home bits! I do enjoy seeing and enjoying what I spend my wages on though, even if I’m constantly ‘treating myself’ when the last day of the month comes along, leaving me skint for another four weeks… But at least our house looks pretty!