A Twitter Crohnie Club Reply

Last night one of the people who tweets from the Twitter Crohnie Club account, @TwitCrohnieClub, asked three questions relating to having Crohn’s Disease. I thought, rather than tweeting the answers, I would blog my replies!  So here goes……

 

HOW DIFFERENT A PERSON WOULD YOU BE IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE CROHN’S?

I would be a very different person if I did not have Crohn’s. I would still be working within a government department wondering whether I was one of the one’s being made redundant in the latest line of cuts. I would still be going out getting drunk as often as possible not worrying what people thought of me getting so drunk all the time. I would still be getting used as a doormat by certain people from my past. I would not have to plan my day around medication, hospital appointments and toilets. I doubt I would be as strong a person as I am now. I have changed massively because of Crohn’s, some parts of my life have been completely changed and others changed a small bit.

 

DID BEING DIAGNOSED WITH CROHN’S CHANGE YOU AS A PERSON? PERSONALITY WISE?

Dramatically, I am so different personality wise now to how I was prior to diagnosis. I resented my body for causing this chronic illness, for making me need life saving surgery to remove bowel. I have, and some may be a little shocked here, become a lot more reserved. I am not as outgoing as I used to be. I have found, due to steroids making me put on 3-4stone, I have lost my confidence too. I do not consider myself as attractive any more, I used to like what I saw in the mirror you know? I have also, thanks to oral Morphine (oramorph – a syrup containing strong opiate painkillers), lost a couple of teeth. I am a shadow of my former self, personality wise. Privately I worry I will never find someone to love me and not be frightened of my illnesses various. I mean, who would want a 12 stone scarred and toothless woman? Not many am sure.

 

IF YOU COULD TAKE ANYTHING POSITIVE OUT OF HAVING CROHN’S, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I have found several things positive out of having Crohn’s Disease. I know my body better know than ever and no my limits when it comes to certain aspects of life. I have met, and am meeting, some amazing people (roll on the 17th) because of this disease who understand what I am going through despite the fact everyone experiences CD (and other bowel diseases) differently. Above all of this, I have discovered what the best ever toilet roll is – Andrex of course!

 

So there we go, I hope this has enlightened you all.

Until next time xxxxxxxx

 

 

I Am Worthless

On Wednesday night Channel 5 screened a documentary, it was called My Secret Past. Jodie Marsh was discussing her past as a victim of bullying.

In at least one article on my blog I have mentioned the fact I was bullied at school, and beyond.

People can be bullied for any reason whatsoever, it really should not happen in this day and age but it does sadly. The reasons I was bullied were because I was an Officer’s daughter but predominantly because of my partial hearing loss as a child. It started once I begun primary school and went on beyond school years into my 20s.

I want people to understand how bad bullying was for me so they can understand a little more about me. The experience I am going to discuss is not one I recall without tears or panic rising through my body. I apologise to anyone who may be affected by reading of such experiences.

At the age of 10 my parents decided that going to a boarding school would be better for my education than having to keep moving around every few years with the rest of my family. I was, naturally, rather excited at the prospect having been a big fan of Mallory Towers (or for non Blyton readers, Hogwarts, if born after 1990). I still had problems with my ears but had managed to handle it well, or at least I thought so. My day of arrival coincided with my 10th birthday, I was proud to be wearing my school uniform and I arrived to discover I was in a dorm with 2 other girls. The 2 girls were incredibly well spoken and sounded like they should be royalty! The first few weeks of term were amazing. I even learnt that the Housemistress had ‘affectionately’ been nicknamed Jabba the Hut. Gosh kids can be cruel eh?!

I spoke with my parents every day and was excited to be going home for half term, my dad was due to deploy to the Falklands between then and Christmas so it would be valuable family time. My dad collected me and my regulation green suitcase. We had a lovely, for once, week as a family unit. I thought I was the luckiest girl ever. Life was really exciting for me at the time.

On the three-hour drive back to the school I talked my daddy’s ears off, something I still manage to do at 30! I was pumped up full of happiness knowing I would be back with my friends soon and also knowing I felt so grown up. That night I cried myself to sleep knowing I would not see my dad for months.

This is when it all changed, and I mean all changed.

The girls from my dorm teased me the following day about the fact I had cried myself to sleep. When PE came around we played hockey as a year group. The girls had told others that I was a stupid bitch for crying. I was tackled to the floor, face in the mud I was kicked and stamped on repeatedly for what felt like hours. The teacher supposedly supervising the lesson was more interested in her newspaper and ignored what was actually going in front of her. The beatings continued on an almost daily basis. I was too scared to tell the teachers as the two girls had said they would actually throw me off the roof or stab me. These were girls of 10, not 21.

I would choose to wet myself at night rather than leave the room in case they knew I was awake. From then on I was known as pissypants, not something I look back fondly at for obvious reasons.

Christmas was approaching, my body was full of bruises. I found some foundation (make up) in the shared bathrooms one day and felt I should use some of that to hide my bruising from my mother. Well, this was not going to work. She spotted the bruises one night as I undressed for my bath. I refused to tell her what was going so she made me speak with my Auntie J. I told her everything. Between her and my mother they spoke to the school who then felt, bizarrely, the best option was to put me in a dorm on my own.

Upon my return to school I felt more and more isolated, it did not stop the bullying. My dad sent me a postcard with some penguins on, and one of the sixth formers used it to pick up some dead bird outside saying it was nothing more than I deserved for letting slip about what was going on. I used to try to get out of lessons by throwing myself down the stairs of the boarding house. It only served to cause further issues for me as the girls would catch on. It felt like I was literally the only girl in the world being attacked.

Eventually my parents pulled me out of the school.

The girls were spoken to by the Headmistress, they basically made out it was all in my head. The school believed the girls because their fathers had donated large amounts of money according to the information I read in letters and what my mother was told at a meeting prior to my being withdrawn to the school.

I could not possibly tell you how badly I was affected by this episode. I was affected mentally, emotionally and physically. I do not recall the time between leaving the school and when I started my new school.

There have been suicide attempts because of this, and many other incidents that followed. I did not ask to be born with health issues yet I have been punished heavily by the vicious bullies for having health issues.

I am never going to recover from what happened through the years. Maybe one day I will be able to completely block out all the nasty remarks or brutally painful beatings, but for now I shall persevere and hope that I never encounter such events again.

I do have low self-esteem and I never feel I am worth anything more than dirt on the ground. I do not ask for you to feel sorry for me. I do not ask for sympathy. All I ask is that you, if a parent or a sibling, make sure you encourage any bullying victim to speak out as well as educate people that bullying is wrong.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share.

M xxxxxxx

Le Reseau de Soutien or The Support Network

What is a friend? Well my dictionary states “A friend is someone you know well and like, but who is not related to you.”

I found a lovely quote yesterday, “A true friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes when everyone else believes the smile on your face!” Very apt for someone like myself who experiences physical, emotional and mental pain on a daily basis. If anyone knows who said this then please let me know so they can get the credit they deserve.

In my 30 years of life I have been used and abused by so-called ‘friends’. People who knew my vulnerabilities and used them to their advantage. At 5 years old I was in situation where a ‘friend’ offered me what looked like a mushroom, it turned out to be a toadstool – I became really rather poorly within minutes and the result was me having to have my stomach pumped. There have been many more incidents through the years, too many to mention in fact and all varying in degree of nastiness. Believe me, dear Reader, there have been way too many. Sometimes you do have to wonder why people call themselves ‘friends’ when they are only going to drop you like a hot coal or tell others about things you have said in confidence. It has made it considerably more difficult to trust people that is for sure.

Then there are the bullies that have been prevalent in my life. In childhood it was horrific and has left me scarred mentally as explained in a previous article. The bullies would often befriend me then cruelly taunt me about hearing issues or even health problems, it went beyond taunts though. I was physically bullied too. Memories I have of happy moments at school are overshadowed by the vicious girls/boys there.

In recent months I have found some truly amazing and inspirational friends. They vary from a modelling background (you know who you are) to a Forces background to even fellow Crohns Disease sufferers. The support I get from them is something I have never experienced before and I like it, no scrap that I love it. I try to be as good a friend to them as they are to me. I am truly blessed with the friends I now have. I love each one unconditionally, and individually.

When you are good friends with someone it does not matter whether they are 5 minutes away or 50 hours away, they will be there for you!

So, dear Reader, if you are one of my friends I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you and have faith in everything that you do or decide to do. You can do whatever you put your mind to. I shall be the one holding your hand along the way and cheering you on at the finish line.

Life is a mountain, a very steep mountain. If you have friends at your side it makes the climb far more fun and far easier.

Next month I am meeting some fellow IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) sufferers. I look forward to, hopefully, making some more lovely friends through that meeting. I already know one of my best friends is also going as a fellow Crohnie so am very excited about the 17th February!

For now I shall leave you to your thoughts; coursework; homework or even housework. Until next time stay safe and keep smiling as it confuses people!

MP xxxxxxx

Eardrums and Unread Patient Notes

When I was born, like all newborns, I had a hearing test. It was established I had a small amount of hearing loss (less than 20%), my parents were told that there was not an issue and I would be able to carry out a normal life.

This so-called normal life was not to happen sadly. Apparently my Mum started having proper contractions when she was about 30 weeks pregnant and said contractions were stopped using medication, I was born on the due date and whilst giving birth my Mum had a heart attack. I was a sickly baby, always picking up infections left; right and centre. By the time I was 18 months old I’d had German Measles and Mumps, not to mention the colds and coughs I seemed to have persistently. The medics put this all down to the medication I had been on prior to birth as well as the fact I probably did not have a fully formed immune system.

Just after my 2nd birthday I became very poorly. I had a sore neck; sore throat; cough; runny nose; light sensitivity and other symptoms. My mum took me to the Station Medical Officer who simply said it was the flu and I would be fine in a couple of days. Being over cautious my Mum took me to A&E at the local hospital where the doctors were about to say the same thing when they noticed I had a rash enveloping my body. Tests were done, and just in time by any accounts because the rash was getting worse. I had meningitis. My obs (blood pressure etc) were deteriorating so much that I was rushed into Intensive Care Unit under isolation and sedation, IV antibiotics pumped into me. They had hoped my condition would improve but it was noticed parts of my feet were becoming blackened, I had septicaemia. The antibiotics were changed and my condition improved slowly but surely, with me being resuscitated twice in front of my Mother. Whilst all this was going on my Dad was trying to get back from the Falklands and back then the Armed Forces were not necessarily compassionate when it came to children being ill, he was denied compassionate leave because I was not ‘on a slab and you are due home in less than 7 weeks.’ In time I was moved to the children’s ward whilst they did checks on me by doing head scans etc. As it was so soon after the meningitis nothing major was really noticed.

Six months later they did the tests again, including hearing tests. Brain scans revealed that I had some brain damage. The section of brain that deals with short-term memory loss was 75% destroyed and the section dealing with my hearing was also damaged, nobody could say whether this would be permanent.

Over the years my hearing loss got a little worse, I continued to have chronic ear infections along with glue-ear. I needed 23 (checked with my Mum earlier today) grommet operations, grommets are little vents for your ears and are recommended for people with waxy ears etc.

School was tough, I found it harder to hear what the teachers were saying and often felt embarrassed to ask them to repeat what they had said missing out on instructions. I could not join in on the class swimming lessons because I could not get water in my ears. My peers were often cruel in their taunts. One girl, Janine, told me to eat this mushroom. 2 hours later I was having my stomach pumped because it was in fact a poisonous toadstool. The bullying got worse as I got older.

My Year 6 teacher suggested to my parents that they see if I can get statemented as a Special Needs pupil, if it was not for the teacher helping them fight for it I would never have had the statement done. It was established having hearing aids would help so the process was started and 4 months later I started wearing hearing aids. The bullying, again, worsened when I started wearing hearing aids and when one of the bullies saw my statement (well part of it anyway). They taunted me about having an IQ over 155. Kids can be really nasty at times that is for sure.

At 18 I had my grommets removed for what was hopefully the last time as well as having my ears hoovered (ie microsuction). I was told, after a hearing test 6 weeks after operation, that my hearing had restored to levels I had when I was born. This then meant a further head scan, it showed that part of the brain had pretty much healed itself which is fantastic. I was so happy, it meant I did not need to wear hearing aids anymore. I was informed I was still not allowed to use ear drops; get water in my ear/or up nose; stick cotton buds in my ear or have my ears syringed. If my ears were to block or need cleaning again I would need to have my ears microsuctioned under general anaesthetic due to the fragile state of my ear drum as well as the sensitive state of my ear canals.

From time to time my ears have blocked up but then very quickly sorted themselves out within a matter of minutes. I have been lucky to not have had an ear infection in over a decade. However, 2 days ago I woke with a blocked ear and I waited anxiously to see whether it would clear itself. Unfortunately it did not so last night I sought medical advice at the Out of Hours GP service at the local hospital. I was told I was to see my own GP and to get him/her to refer me to the Ear, Nose and Throat department as a matter of urgency as my ear was clogged.

Today I called the surgery and booked an appointment for this afternoon. Upon my name being called I realised it was a locum GP. He looked in my ears and could see that one was compacted with wax and the other was starting to ‘fill up’. Despite the fact I explained why I could not have oral antibiotics; olive oil; ear drops or syringed he offered all options. When I explained about the fact I could not have any of it he then said I must use olive oil. He then said someone would need to review the situation next Wednesday and then, and only then, would he suggest I am referred to the ENT clinic on a standard referral. If someone is referred on a standard referral it usually means a couple of months wait. Me being me I am not happy with this at all, it is appalling medical care to leave someone with my history for that long with a blocked ear and not be able to hear anything.

I am, therefore, off up to Accident and Emergency tomorrow morning in the hope they can help me. If the other ear gets worse I shall be using sign language! I will, of course, update where possible with regards to the situation but I hope this goes some way to explaining why I am so frustrated.

Take care and keep well dear reader xxxxxxxx

Buses, Trains and Funerals

I would like to thank one of my best friends for the title of this blog, I was stuck for ideas and he kindly offered the title up, he is one of those friends who really does go out of their way to be there for me. I love him lots for just being awesome. So, thank you D for your assistance and your support!

As you, dear reader, know I lost my grandfather 2 weeks before Christmas. A death is hard at any time but so close to Christmas I think it is made harder. I did not really get the chance to see him before he died, this saddens and angers me. I live several hundred miles away and as I do not drive or have lots of money for the train fare it is hard.

The funeral was arranged for 3 days after Christmas and it was arranged that I would go up North the day before to stay in the same hotel as my Mum and ‘stepdad’. Well I shall now explain why this blog article is entitled Buses, Trains and Funerals.

I was due to arrive at the other end for 546pm, leaving from St Pancras at 355pm. My train from this end would allow me plenty of time to get the tube to Pancras. This was not to happen. I got on train here and was sat, with many others I hasten to add, waiting for it to depart. The departure time came and went, all of a sudden an announcement was made over the tannoy saying that they DID NOT HAVE A DRIVER FOR THE TRAIN and would we all mind catching a different train that was going to same destination. This would have been all very well and good but this train would get into London at 315pm. You have to bear in mind the train was now running 4 minutes late which meant it got in to London at 319pm, I literally had 35 minutes to get to St Pancras from London Bridge as well as go to the toilet and get a drink. By the time I got to the tube at London Bridge and got on said tube it was close to 330pm, 10 minutes later I got to St Pancras needing the toilet. I had to catch the 355pm or I would have to fork out more money for ticket as I was actually booked on said train, I literally got to the train with 3 minutes to spare. I did not even have time to get a drink. The conductor came through the train to check everyone’s tickets and she noticed I was looking a little on the cross side, when I explained to her about the situation she was sympathetically got me a cup of tea and a bottle of water so I could take my pills. I arrived safely at my destination and checked in to the hotel room that had been booked for me. A family meal was held that night, it was good to see my maternal side of the family even if they are a little mad.

The following day was the day my mother had been dreading. It was at breakfast it suddenly hit me that I was there to say my final goodbyes. My grandfather was a very well loved and liked man, we are a big family and we all have our own problems but for one day we all united to say goodbye to him. There was laughter, there were tears and there was a lot of hugging going on. Soon the time came for me to leave, it was a little earlier than planned but my Mum was more than happy to fork out £60 extra to get me home (read that sarcastically). I got home 3 hours earlier than I was actually due to but it was a good thing because I was shattered.

On New Years Eve I was due to go to my Mum’s house for a couple of days. I was not booked onto any specific train. I had decided to get the 224pm train from here which would get me to the other end for 419pm. I worked out I would need to leave home at 130pm so I could get the bus to station, the bus I was expecting to get was about 7 minutes late. The bus being late had a knock on effect to the rest of journey to the station. I literally got there with enough time to board the train. It was thanks to my best friend mentioned earlier that I was calmer before the end of the first train journey.

I came home yesterday evening by train and it was not as busy as I thought it would be.

I do find I am a bit of a stresshead and I should really learn to calm down quickly or try to not get stressed so easily. Maybe that should be my 1 New Years resolution? What do you think?

Anyone made any interesting or funny New Years resolutions?

Keep safe, well and sane but more than that keep laughing – it is good for you apparently.

With love xxxxxx

Sadness, Loss and Boobs

I apologise for the subject matter I am about to cover in this article. I was fully intending to write it next month but after recent events it feels only right I do this now. Sorry for any upset caused by what is said!

Unfortunately on Saturday night I was told my grandfather had passed away in his sleep. He was 90 years young. Despite heart disease and asbestos related lung cancer he was expected to live for a few more years at least so this was a tad on the sudden side for my liking. I feel it was made harder by the fact we lost my grandmother (his wife) literally two years before, almost to the date. She, too, passed away on X Factor finale weekend. The family all felt that he would go soon after his ‘Annie’ because he loved her so very much that he could not bear to be apart from her, I do not know if she knew who he was at the end but there was so much love. I would love to find someone like that, someone who could not bear to be without me. I did not take the news at all well, several friends have had news of loved ones being unwell or passing away. We are nearly at Christmas and I recall saying to someone ‘What is it with people at the moment?’

Obviously the passing of my grandfather is still very raw but as I had intended to write, on the anniversary, about the loss of my Aunt I have brought this forward.

In the late 1990s my Aunty J found a lump in her breasts, in her mid 40s she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lost her breasts and lymph nodes but still required chemotherapy etc. She delayed getting her lump checked out because she was fearful of what the news would be but after some ‘bullying’ by family she did, her worst fears were true. She had 3 children, a husband and 2 wonderful grandkids.

She had aggressive chemotherapy, her hair fell out and she would joke she was balder than my father. Eventually the chemotherapy stopped and we all believed she had made it through. Her hair grew back into a beautiful and curly mop. Aunty J was a beautiful person inside and out.

At the end of 2001 she was readmitted to hospital with what was thought to be a chest infection or pneumonia. Upon further tests it transpired she had secondary lung cancer. The cancer had spread, this time it was terminal. She was not even 50 yet. She lost a lot of weight and ended up borrowing her sister’s clothes, a size 6. Her humour was such that she said how dying meant she lost the weight and that her coffin would be lighter, she was a nurse by trade so as many people will know nurses have a weird sense of humour.

Late January 2002 on a cold dark morning at around 530am I woke up suddenly. My alarm was not due to go off for another 45 minutes. It was then I saw 20 missed calls from my Mum. Aunty J had gone peacefully. She must have known that today was the day because she had a supper of fish in parsley sauce, mashed potato and beans – her favourite meal from childhood. I worked at MoD and did not feel like working but knew it was what J would have wanted. I lasted all of an hour, my Warrant Officer sent me home via the Spar to get myself a small tot of brandy to calm down.

I had apparently just sat at my desk staring at an empty computer screen and the phone would ring but I would not answer it. Nobody knew until my WO had called my Dad what had happened. All I can say is now I know why my WO earnt his stripes, he was a truly amazing man whose support was invaluable. I was granted 2 days compassionate leave and was allowed 3 days compassionate around the funeral. I think I went out and got drunk for 3 nights running that week.

My Aunt was survived by both her parents (Gran was in early stages of Alzheimer’s when J died); 3 sisters (one of them my mum) and 2 brothers; her husband of over 20 years; 9 nieces and nephews; 3 children and 2 grandchildren under the age of 5. Her loss sent shock waves throughout the family.

Aunty J was like a second mother to me throughout my life. She was a loving and caring lady who had worked incredibly hard as a nurse. She had a thick skin due to being a nurse that worked the scene at the Kings Cross underground fire and various traumas in the 80s. Her New Years Eve parties were the stuff of legends. If the four sisters got together it was like a coven of witches, their laughter was enough to make anyone either pee their pants or laugh hysterically with them. They were a close-knit, and still are, group of siblings who have yet again experienced loss. J was the life and soul of the party.

I think of J everyday. I know she is with me because of the way some things happen for me in life, well the good things that is. A good thing that has come out of the death is that I am breast aware, I check my breasts frequently. Breast Cancer, if found quickly, can be treated effectively. Do not allow yourself to become a statistic.

Life is precious. It is a gift that you should look after to the best of your ability. You will have ups and downs. Live life to the full because you never know what is around the corner.

Counselling Finished For Now

Sorry for the lack of blogging, I have been having a few technical issues!

So since my last blog a lot has happened. I am single once more and my counselling has finished for now. The single thing I will not go into other than to say it was probably, ok definately, an error to get with someone dating wise so soon after a long term relationship broke down earlier this year.

As for the counselling, well that has been three very worthwhile months. It has really helped this time and for once I feel refreshed. All too often I have walked away from it asking myself if it was at all worth it. The counselling I have had recently is through a Women’s charity. I do actually feel that I cannot believe how low I allowed myself to feel. I am not, contrary to popular belief, a bad person but have often been made to feel that.

I am lucky to have both virtual and real life friends that really do understand the beast that is mental health. I do know that whatever happens in life I will never stop refreshing my mind with counselling.

Depression is something, and suicide, that has been ever present in the press due to the passing of Gary Speed. Gary Speed was a 40 something father and husband who had a successful career within the footballing world. That world is notorious for having hide situations like depression which I feel is a shame. I have spoken, in a recent article, about mental health being a taboo subject when it should not be. Saying to someone snap out of it or it will sort itself out is incredibly wrong, you need to encourage that person whether they are a footballer; pilot or street drinker to get the help.

I have found talking my issues through helpful but not everyone does. Just do the research and keep an eye on those who you know suffer. Persuade them to get the help, you never know you may just save a life!

Battery Like Influences

In life our influences are like batteries, there are positives and there are negatives. Some of us have more positive influences than others may have but nobody ever realises what these influences are until they sit down and think about it. Following the suggestion from a very good friend of mine I did just that, I sat down and thought about what my influences are. You know what? It is actually harder than I thought it would be!

I am going to share 3 positive influences with you. I shall also share 3 negative influences with you too. Those who know me personally know I have had quite a lot of negative influences in my life. However, I feel that my positive influences really do balance it all out.

So that I can end this article on a positive note I shall start with my three negative influences.

Food  As explained in a previous article I had bulimia at 8 years old. Consequently, along with Crohns Disease, I still have food issues. In times of stress and depression I turn to food for comfort and often have the ‘eyes bigger than my belly’ mode. It is daft really to do this as because when I am too full it can trigger off horrific Crohns pain. I also find that I have to eat a whole load of chocolate at once, and yes I know this is a common female trait but it isn’t as if the chocolate is going to grow legs to run off now is it? Maybe one day when my life is lot more settled, and there is a long way to go yet, I will no longer have the need to comfort eat? Who knows?

Health  As you, dear reader, already know I have a multitude of health conditions. These conditions mean that I am in constant chronic pain despite being on painkillers that are stronger than morphine! My health is that bad I am, according to my various specialists, unable to work. This is gutting, so to speak, because I would love to work and not have to rely on the government for financial support. The stress that comes with being on benefits, and keeping hold of this support, is phenomenally overwhelming particularly when there is some changes ahead here in the UK (US readers please feel free to google ‘welfare reform changes 2011 UK’). Another problem I face is that although I look ‘healthy’ people often do not realise that under my clothes and inside my body is riddled with diseases. I find myself having to cancel appointments or meetings with friends because I am being ill. Being unwell is actually incredibly negative an influence but hopefully one day in the not too distant future I will be able to work and get a healthy bank balance (ok something that pays more than what I need).

Mother  My close friends, and Twitter followers, will know my Mum is a great source of stress and anxiety. I love my mum dearly. However, her incessant (at worst 40) calling and texting is awful. It is like she is a stalker. I end up snapping at her, usually after something vitriolic about someone she knows or her moaning about working etc. She has extensive mental and physical health issues too which have meant I have ended up being her carer, and sometimes leading to me feel as if I am the mother in the equation. Say for example I dare to ask for help (financial) a huge deal is made out of it and it leads to a massive row either in a call or via text. She has also refused to listen to me when I talk about my mental health or even when I have tried to talk about when I was homeless. I would love to say at this point the situation will improve but sadly it will not, I shall just have to make sure I remain as a strong as I have become in recent years and not allow her to encroach upon my life like she has done in the past. I actually rely on my friends for some of the warmth that has been missing in the past 30 years!

So those are three of my negative influences. Of course within these negative influences there are some positives.

Food wise I am meticulous at observing strict guidelines on use by dates, or if I have opened something and it says use within three days I will stick to that. Okay this may seem a little OCD here but I really cannot risk getting food poisoning!

Health wise I am constantly monitored so if something new crops up then it is noticed very quickly and acted on as soon as is possible, always handy when you are prone to illnesses!

Mother wise I have become a lot stronger in recent years as mentioned so I am able to control when I answer the phone as opposed to before when I would answer every single call. Answering every single call resulted in me having more stress than was necessary. Also I would like to say thank God for being able to put my phone on silent and that I do not have a landline telephone!

Enough of the negatives, lets move on to the positive influences in my life shall we? I sure some of you who read this blog will be surprised at one of these influences so here goes.

Faith  I was bought up in a Roman Catholic family. I would attend Mass on a regular basis, at least twice a week in fact. I continued to attend church until my late teens when I decided to rebel and did not think going to Mass was cool. Plus, the Priest at the church I attended was not comfortable about my sexuality after my parents made him discuss the immorality of my lifestyle – actually it was my Mum’s request. I recently returned to the faith after the hiatus and found myself just going to be at peace with myself for an hour as opposed to attending for the religious side of things. Don’t get me wrong I have met some wonderful and inspiring people at my local church, but I normally attend when I need to feel that peacefulness. I also have been volunteering on the soup run that provides homeless or vulnerable housed people with some gorgeous soup (it looks divine it is just a shame I cannot try it) as well as befriending an elderly person or 2. I met my 21-year-old godchild at Mass, I was there earlier this year when she entered the Catholic faith and we see each other when we can. She also texts me everyday. It is a privilege to be part of this young woman’s life, even more so when you consider she had her first child at 14 and is now training as a nurse. One of the ladies I know from church here also ensured that I could get to the operation I had back in May this year as well as three other appointments I was struggling to get to.

Father  My dad is far from perfect and was away a lot when I was child due to his job in the Armed Forces, but, he is a very loving and caring father. He is also a very inspiring man, he has fought in wars and put up with my Mum (well until they split a few years ago) for many a year. Dad is non-judgmental and is a totally calming influence on me, very useful for a stresshead like myself. He has some wickedly funny quirks. One of these quirks is that he actually has to put reminders on both his phone and calendar to call both my sister and I! Through the divorce from my Mum he has remained the grown up and kept calm too. I wish I had been able to follow in my Dad’s footsteps and joined the Armed Forces to make him proud. I know that he is proud of me despite my many challenges, he tells me this every week in a text ending in I Love You as well as every call we have too. He makes me proud to be his daughter too by serving our Queen and country for over three decades.

Friends  In the past 30 years of my life I have been incredibly hurt by so-called ‘friends’ who liked to do nothing better than rip me apart as a person, I am lucky that to this day I have acquired some really amazing true friends. Friends who inspire me daily. Friends who I am there for when things are not too good for them or they are there for me when things are not too good for me. That is what friendship is about, it should never be one-sided. You should be able to rely on them as much as they rely on you. It is, actually, thanks to an amazing friend (you know who you are gorgeous) that I am writing this article. She gave me the idea last night and it has taken me until now to decide which influences to talk about. I know with M (my gorgeous friend hehe) she would, if I needed it, give her kidney to me for she is that kind of true friend. I love her to pieces! I am the kind of person who would actually take a bullet for a friend that shows themselves to be true. I love how one of my friends has stuck by me no matter what as well, she knows me and knows what mistakes I have made too but she is still there.

Right so there you have it, you have seen my three negative influences and my three positive influences.

What are your positive and negative influences? Please feel free to share them, even if it is just the one.

Thank you for reading, keep safe and take care dear reader. Each one of us is special to someone!

My Life In Forces

I am a Forces child.

I am a Forces grandaughter.

I am a Forces niece.

I am a Forces cousin.

I am a Forces great grandaughter.

I am friends with Forces partners and wives/husbands.

I have worked for the Ministry of Defence within an RAF base.

I think it is safe to say I have a strong military connection!

 

==================

Today is officially Rememberence Sunday. The day in which we remember those who have fallen serving their Country whether it be in the World Wars or in today’s conflicts in Afghanistan. It is the day we were our Poppies with extreme pride, well it must be just me then!

Poppies have been on sale from the Royal British Legion, or RBL, since 1921. It is the 90th anniversary of Rememberence Sunday. The reason Poppies are sold, and the inspiration behind the idea is in the following poem.

In Flanders’ Fields
John McCrae, 1915

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row
on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely
singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw
sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands
we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us
who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ Fields.

It is a beautiful poem by McCrae and I can only say that this poem is one that stirs my emotions every time I read or hear it.

I watched the Festival of Rememberence on BBC1 last night and, apart from Cliff Richard (sorry I cannot stand him), the entertainment was excellent. The sight of the troops performing in their various bands was amazing. The Gurkhas band and dancers were fascinating. For me, however, the highlight has to be when they held a 2 minute silence with Poppies falling from the rafters at the Albert Hall. The Poppies created a carpet of red with some petals resting on serving, and retired, personnel’s dress hats. It made me cry.

When an announcement is made that someone has, in the words of a good friend, become a ‘fallen angel’ I stop and pray for their soul. I also pray for their families; friends and colleagues. Each Rememberence Sunday I wear Poppy and head to the nearest service, I mourn the loss of all service personnel. I cry openly. I am not ashamed to respond to people who ask why I am crying by saying ‘I am mourning the loss of troops past and present’. I am also not ashamed to admit my strong military connection.

My father served in the Royal Air Force for well over 3 decades. He retired earlier this year. I am immensely proud of him. He, to me, is a hero. He flew fast jets as well as took part in a well known display team and taught others how to fly (including 2 members of our Royal Family). Okay so he doesn’t have a million medals or an OBE like my late grandfather did but he has served in some of the most dangerous conflicts since World War II.

It upsets me when people feel or state that they will not attend such services of Rememberence or even buy a Poppy. If I dare to ask them I get told that the Poppy is outdated and not relelvant anymore. Well here is my response.

Thousands of men and women are currently fighting in Afghanistan and Libya to name two places. There has been nearly 400 British deaths since the beginning of the Afghan conflict which began after the horrific terrorist attacks in New York. We lost many more in Iraq too. Add that to the many who have died since the beginning of World War I in 1914 and you have a lot of people who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect this country. Whether you agree with the recent conflicts or not you should remember those who fought for our freedom between 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.

We also need to ensure that the next generation and the generations to come after that are told about the sacrifices our forefathers made. We will remember them and we will not let their memory fade like a candle.

Who Are You? Who Am I?

I must state now that this is a difficult area to approach, I am going by own experiences not those of anyone else. So I wholeheartedly apologise in advance if anything in this blog article upsets or causes any distress to you dear reader. The blog title credit goes to a good friend, you know who you are and thank you!

I will start at the end.

On the 13th of December 2009 many people were sat watching the X Factor finale show, it was the one with Olly Murs and Stacey Soloman (yeah that bird from Dagenham). I was one of the many people watching and waiting, I remember wishing Stacey or Olly would win. In fact it was almost time for the winner Joe to be announced, much to my disappointment (sorry Joe). I had my phone on silent but could see a call from my mum on the screen. I was too engrossed in X Factor to answer so I thought I would wait until the whole show had finished. I was also painfully aware that on the Monday I was having a colonoscopy at a hospital that was miles away. My mum kept ringing. I knew something was wrong as the calls were non-stop, I remember 23 calls in total with 18 text messages. On the 24th call I answered and heard an upset Mother saying that her Mum, my Grandmother, had passed away around 2 hours ago. I did not know what to say other than “She is in a better place now” and that “She is with the angels and her beloved Julie (my mum’s big sister who had passed away from breast cancer in 2002)”. When the call ended I cried. There was something different about these tears, they were tears of relief. Why the tears of relief? My maternal grandmother had battled Alzheimer’s Disease for well over a decade. As anyone who has experience of AD will know you experience so many emotions on a daily basis.

My grandmother was buried 3 days before Christmas 2009 with the majority of her family present. I was, sadly, too unwell after a recent hospital trip but had already said my goodbyes years ago when she first made the journey into what would be the hardest thing my Grandfather would ever deal with.

Alzheimer’s can affect anyone, and at any age. I am not qualified in medicine despite having a vast knowledge of certain conditions I did have to look up what the main symptoms are (thanks Google).

Symptoms include confusion; irritability; aggression; mood swings; trouble with language and long-term memory loss to name but a few.

It caused all the aforementioned symptoms within my maternal grandmother. She was officially diagnosed in 1998, shortly before my 17th birthday in fact. I knew what dementia meant as my 100-year-old great-grandmother (paternal side) had been diagnosed with it 3 years before.

As well as the AD my grandmother experienced a number of strokes between 1998-2009. By 2005 her quality of life was poor and she did not have a clue who anyone was. She would call her husband Daddy, her children were all called Betty and she kept calling me Maud. It was hard on her children as well as her husband, it affected us grandchildren too (there were a lot of grandchildren). Eventually it was decided to have a DNR, Do Not resuscitate, put on her medical notes. Initially the home she was in ignored such an order but when she was moved to a lovely private care home it was adhered to thankfully.

There were incidents aplenty both before she moved into the care home and after. She would be found walking around at 3am after telling my grandfather (in a whisper I hasten to add) she needed to feed the chickens – despite not having any chickens as they lived in a town. She would go to the local public house and down shots with the locals – she used to have a sherry a week so this was very out of character. She would spend £500+ on irrelevant and pointless purchases – this would sometimes be all they had left in their bank account after bills etc. She would gamble on the horses – again out of character because she hated it when my mum got a part-time job for a bookmakers whilst studying. She would swear so much – this was a woman who found the word bloody offensive but had turned into a foul-mouthed wotsit (I must add I did laugh at times but there is a limit).

When she moved into the second care home I was advised by my Gran’s doctor that I should, whilst she had some sort of memory of who I was, say goodbye and allow myself to grieve. It felt weird grieving for someone who was still alive. My friends at work and college comforted me when the waves of grief hit me.

I last saw my Grandmother, the way she was before this evil disease took hold properly, in 1997. That is how I remember her. She was a beautiful young woman in her heyday and served in the WRAF during WW2. She had 6 children, one of them my mother. She was an amazing cook. Her presents were always thoughtful. She would always listen to me as I babbled on about how much I loved the Take That concert I had been to the night before. She had a gorgeous Cockney accent with the slight Derbyshire twang. She would go to church every Sunday and always have a roast dinner cooking whilst she was out. She was always one to crack a joke, it would never be rude as the ruder things would come from my grandfather back then. She was so full of love for her brood. With 6 children who produced 21 of their own babies it was always a noisy event when we all got together for New Year’s. That is how I choose to remember her, not the weak and childlike person who resembled my grandmother and sounded like her.

Everyone who experiences AD, whether it be a parent; spouse; friend or even child, will know that you will always have their ‘before’ memories. It is hard knowing that they do not know you, it is hard knowing that they will go never knowing who you truly are, it is hard knowing they are incapable of even making their own decisions anymore but I think the hardest thing will always be that the sufferer does not know their own history. They revert back to childhood or maybe even their early 20s.

So Grandma, I miss you with all my heart. I have missed you for years. I love you for who you were as a person. I mourn for that person as opposed to the person you were at the end. RIP Flora.