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Mind Full Less

My dog gets anxious from time to time. Usually about stupid things, like when we stop petting him for 5 seconds and he panics about where his next head pat is coming from. Or when he loses sight of his tennis ball and digs into the ground in terror. He worries when the door gets knocked and he doesn’t expect it. I look at him and shake my head and think ‘what a loveable idiot’.

I get anxious from time to time. Usually about stupid things, like when I post a selfie to Instagram and no one responds, and I panic about where my next ‘like’ is coming from. Or when I lose sight of my phone and rummage in my handbag in a cold sweat. I worry when the phone rings and I’m not expecting it. I look at myself and shake my head and think ‘what an idiot’.

So why am I so laid-back about my dog’s anxiety and so hard on myself about my own?

Well for one, my dog is adorable. I consider myself less so, if only by a small margin. Although we share many similarities; the anxious nature, the wet nose, the fur, the as yet un-removed balls; we are also very different creatures (quite literally). His anxiety is instantly resolvable, he just needs a quick head bop or munch on a dog chew and he’s already forgotten he was ever distressed in any way, (or that he’s lost his 15th ball in a river this week alone).  It takes quite a bit more for me, and many of my fellow humans to shake off our anxiety.

My anxiety usually stems from doubts in my own capabilities; in work, in social situations, in comparing myself to others. The latter I’ve struggled with more recently, as I forge ahead with attempting a writing career. I find myself, against my better judgement, constantly comparing my words, achievements, success to that of my peers, or those who have been in this world much longer than myself. I constantly put myself down, doubt my having any talent, worry about whether I’ll ever be able to make a living from this, worry I’m not advocating well enough for my fellow patients. Sometimes I worry about all of this to such a degree that I am overcome with anxious thoughts. These manifest themselves in overthinking, panicking about the most seemingly insignificant things, feeling incredibly low for long or short periods.

Having an illness is also an incredibly anxiety inducing situation to be in. So, any outside stresses alongside coping with a chronic condition can be exhausting both mentally and physically. What then, can we do to help ease the anxious burden? Here are some suggestions which can be helpful in day to day situations or the longer term. You’re welcome I love you xo

1.       Talk to someone you trust – seems to good to be true yes? But confiding in a trusted good listener can be a massive relief for those of us who regularly find ourselves trapped inside our own heads. If you don’t have that person on hand, or would rather talk to an outsider then the Samaritans and Anxiety UK are great places to start.

2.       Look after your physical health – there are a few small steps you can take to make strides in improving your physical health. I know, ‘steps’ and ‘strides’ all sound exhausting and nausea inducing but don’t worry I’m not asking for much from you, get back under the covers. Start by trying to get enough sleep, this helps increase your energy making it that little bit easier to face the day. Consider your diet; eating regular meals and keeping your blood sugar stable make a big different to your mood and energy levels. Some small and regular exercise can also be helpful for your mental wellbeing. Don’t panic I’m not asking you to take up hand-gliding I don’t even really understand what hand-gliding is if I’m honest, just go for a walk or something, GOD.

3.       Try breathing exercises – this is a great one that a therapist once suggested to me, that naturally I instantly scoffed at like she was some sort of daft hippy while I urgently scanned the room for her qualifications. But it turns out she was qualified and these exercises actually help. (Kudos to you Carol!) The idea of breathing and remembering to breathe (and in most practices of mindfulness) is simply to ensure we are giving full attention to the present moment. This isn’t for everyone and doesn’t help in necessarily every anxious situation, but its certainly something to consider.

4.       Keep a diary –  I’m a huge diary fan. Dairy is great too, mmm butter, but we’re here to talk about diaries, stop trying to distract me with butter. A phrase I’ve said more than you may expect in my short life. Anyway, keeping a diary of sorts can be helpful when you get anxious or have a panic attack. It can help spot patterns in what triggers these experiences, or allow you to notice early warning signs they may be about to happen. Also keep a note of what’s going well. Anxiety doesn’t allow much room for anything but worry, so noticing the good things is also a great way to be a little kinder to yourself.

5.       Try to manage your worries – this can be a seemingly insurmountable task when you have anxiety. Try to start slowly by setting aside a specific time to focus on what’s worrying you; that way you reassure yourself you aren’t ignoring them but are not allowing them to cloud your entire day. Try to accept that although these moments can feel awful while you are in them that they will pass, accepting that simple fact can make it much easier to get through whatever treacle-like slog you have to wade through.

(If what you are worrying about is treacle, then your own cos that stuff is vile.)

Go Compare Dot Com

It’s no secret that life becomes infinitely easier when we focus on making ourselves happy and stop comparing ourselves to others. Even more so in this modern age of constant and often overwhelming social media outlets. Every time we pick up our phones, or open up a laptop we are met with friends, friends of friends and strangers, all looking beautiful (and filtered to within an inch of their lives). We can’t help but compare our looks, and lives to those we see in the little box on our phone.

We see people we went to school with on glamorous holidays we can’t afford, eating meals containing ingredients we can’t pronounce, getting married, having babies, getting promotions. Regardless of where we are in life there will always be some element we pick up on that makes us feel like a bowl of Gazpacho on a Winters Day. (That’s a cold soup by the way, losers who can’t pronounce stuff).

It is often impossible to ignore; the seeming success and perfection in the lives of our peers. Of course it’s also easy to forget that most likely that perfection is surface only; for what we show on social media is merely a snapshot; what we want people to see. That usually doesn’t contain those moments where we are crying over a gas bill or eating microwave macaroni cheese from the packet.

There are many issues with comparing yourself to others; self-esteem drooping further than your Great Aunts’ bosom, mental health taking a battering, overspending/overacting to compete, losing self-confidence, becoming obsessed with appearance. None of these sound great let’s be honest, but I don’t doubt many of us have experienced at least one of those issues at some point of another.

When chronic illness is thrown into the mix it can create an extra level of internal turmoil. Here we are likely to compare our illness to others; this can in many cases be absolutely terrifying.

I personally tend to steer clear of forums on my illness because I don’t find them helpful; I find them a little intimidating. Mainly because there are always people willing to tear one another down; that sadly doesn’t stop just because someone is diagnosed with an incurable illness. Some people are just Gazpacho, mate.

I’ve found myself shamed for not being ‘ill’ enough, for not having knowledge on certain procedures or medications, for not talking about my disease too much, for talking about it too much. None of it is necessary. When we are ill we need support, inclusivity and care. We need to feel confident to discuss our concerns with those who know what we are going through and can educate us without stirring in any additional spoonfuls of humiliation. They do not help the medicine go down.

So when comparing our lives, be they healthy or otherwise, to others, try to remember that it doesn’t serve to make us feel better, often just bitter. Choose kindness when interacting with vulnerable people/ANYONE and if your mood is dipping after spending time online then rethink your internet activates. There is porn on there instead you know! And Gazpacho recipes… xo

 

Kathleen NichollsComment
Fail Force Wind

Sometimes I feel inadequate. Quite a lot of the time if I’m honest. That’s ok. It’s not ideal I grant you, but it’s manageable.

I feel inadequate in my abilities; at work, in my role as an author, as a partner, as a patient. I spend a lot of time worrying I’m not performing as well as I’d like, I’m not achieving my goals as quickly as I’d like, I’m not getting better. Of course, logically I know most of this is not true, and most of this is ABSOLUTELY FINE. I’m not letting anyone down; I’m not failing at the game of life. These insecurities and frustrations are all of my own doing and therefore it’s only me torturing myself with thoughts of failure.

I know I’m not alone in these feelings of inadequacy. We all struggle with these feelings from time to time, in all areas of our lives. Well that’s a sweeping generalisation I suppose, I mean we all do UNLESS YOU ARE A SOCIOPATH, ARE YOU A SOCIOPATH?? Sociopaths aside, many of us worry we are not ‘enough’. We don’t have the confidence we think we should have before undertaking a new job, a new task, a new relationship. The truth is that the confidence usually isn’t there beforehand – it comes later. It comes with experience and knowledge and the overcoming of nerves. It shouldn’t be waited on because much like me, for everything, it’s generally always late.

I don’t make new year’s resolutions because I think they are a bit counterproductive and I don’t like setting myself up to feel bad. Failure doesn’t feel great let’s be honest, so knowing I cancelled my gym membership after one panicked glance at the rowing machine doesn’t make me feel superb as we enter a new year. (JOKING: I’ve never set foot in a gym). Of course as a new year begins there is absolutely no harm in making plans as to what you hope to achieve in the coming months, and what you’d like to change. That’s just part of growing and learning. Something we are hopefully constantly undertaking.

When we are young we are told we’ll understand when we ‘grow up’. Little do we know that we still won’t have a single clue about life welllllll into adulthood. That’s fine. It’s ok not to know it all. It’s ok not to have your faeces together. (I’d say ‘shit’ but my Mum reads this and I don’t want to offend her oh wait it doesn’t matter cos I’ve said it now sorry Mum) See what I mean about feeling inadequate?

So happy Christmas and happy new year to you all dear readers and bowel aficionados, I love you dearly.  You mean the world to me, you are more supportive than my favourite bra, and please take it as gospel when I tell you, you are more than adequate.

Kathleen NichollsComment
Whine Dining

Today I met with the dietitian to start the ball rolling on another liquid diet for yours truly. It's an appointment I've dreaded, as for all the jokes and light hearted comments I've made in the recent build up to this, I HATE IT.

I hate that I won't be able to eat because I love to eat. I hate that I'll be unbearably grumpy and a nightmare to be around because this is no one else's 'fault'. I hate that I'll feel utter fury and green-eyed jealousy more intense that the mintiest toothpaste when I see other people talk about food, post photographs of food, eat food within 30 yards of me. I hate that supermarkets, restaurants, coffee shops, canteens and burger vans will become redundant to me overnight. I hate that it's almost Christmas and I'll be drinking protein heavy milkshakes instead of eggnog. (For the record I don't even know what eggnog really is but it works for with my analogy so SUCK IT UP LIKE SPAGHETTI OH MY GOD I CAN'T EAT SPAGHETTI). I hate that my disease is making me do this. AGAIN.

Most of all I hate that this makes me feel weak and filled with self-pity. I hate having to laugh off something that really isn't funny. I hate it.

Do you get the general idea? Ok so now that the wallowing is out of my system I thought I'd try and do something productive with my misery. After chatting with my beloved, I've decided I'll record a little video diary for those interested and for those also on my liquid-only train to show a bit of solidarity and to show what life is actually like with chronic illness. This is frightening because although I share a lot on here and in my books, there are still moments when I am afraid and vulnerable and feel utterly alone, and I hope that sharing these with the wider world will help myself and others feel we are in it together. Although not literally because some of you TRAITORS WILL BE SCOFFING TURKEY AND CHIPOLATAS AND BRUSSELL SPROUTS AND YOU DON’T EVEN LIKE THEM BUT LOOK SHUT UP ABOUT FOOD OK?

So I will keep you updated with my miserable mis-adventures whether you like it or not. Please wish me luck in settling my gut while unsettling my relationships with an irritable attitude more foul than those brussell sprouts you keep eating look will you STOP GOING ON ABOUT BRUSSELL SPROUTS?! GODDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD SAKEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Kathleen NichollsComment
Parking Fine

Something you’ll hear me say more than is entirely necessary, especially for a well-read woman and author who knows upwards of 12568922 words, is; “I’m fine!”

This is most commonly spouted when someone asks how I am. It’s not an unusual turn of phrase of course; it’s what most women say when they are furious about something but prefer to undertake passive aggressive cleaning instead of genuine communication. It’s what overly-polite patients say when they are actually experiencing extreme discomfort and the nurse asks if she is hurting them. It’s what most people with chronic illness utilise instead of verbally vomiting a seemingly endless stream of symptoms.

Many of my loved ones are utterly infuriated by this phrase because it’s now so well worn it wouldn’t even pass as vintage. They can also see right through ‘I’m fine’ clearer than a freshly washed window or a Harvey Weinstein alibi.

Lately I’ve been trying to morph ‘I’m fine’ into ‘Not too bad!’ when people enquire as to how I am.  This at least implies I’m not ‘fine’, but that I’m not bad enough for you to have to worry about. It allows me some sort of validation I haven’t blatantly lied yet again, but also absolves the recipient of any potential guilt.

The problem is; what I’ve done the majority of my life, and continue to do, is deny my own feelings for the sake of someone else’s.

Again this isn’t by any stretch of the imagination unique to me. It’s incredibly common and can be incredibly stunting. You see there is absolutely nothing wrong with being selfless and putting someone else’s feelings at the front of your emotional queue every now and then; but when you choose this option over allowing yourself to share your own, it becomes more problematic. For me this choice quickly became habitual, and as we all know, bad habits are hard to break. Especially the most destructive ones; you’ve come back to this blog again so you know exactly what I’m talking about. It might seem trite to place something as simple as ‘I’m fine’ in these grandiose terms, but it is just a symptom of a wider sense of self that can be lost when we choose to lie about our illness.

For me it just became easier to say I was fine over talking again and again about the state of my health. Eating, sleeping, breathing poor health is exhausting and the last thing we often want to do is discuss it. Also I found the majority of reactions to an honest response were jarring to say the least. When I spoke honestly about how I felt I was met with a myriad of reactions from physical recoil to awkwardness levels akin to bumping into your ex when you’re with your new beau. The truth is many people are uncomfortable hearing anything remotely medical. Even if we don’t talk in gruesome detail you can see the panic flash across their face that we just might. They take the handbrake off and flee from our conversational alley before we’ve even started down it. And that’s where the circle meets; we experience negative reactions to discussing our illness so we stop.

I suppose what I would like you to take away from this blog if anything, is that it’s OK not to be OK.  If someone asks how you are, tell them. If they are uncomfortable with your response then they probably won’t ask again and you’ll know it’s a no go area with that particular individual. That’s ok too; there are plenty of others grown-ups who actively care and will listen and will have shoulders wide and absorbent enough for you to openly sob into if that’s what you need.

Please don’t hide your pain away for fear of judgment; it only serves to exacerbate an already anxious and isolating experience.

If you’re not fine then that’s fine.

 

Kathleen NichollsComment
Love Sick

I've been thinking a lot lately about the importance of love. I know what you’re thinking; here comes some SAPPY OVER-EMOTIONAL NONSENSE. Well FYI, yes I have PMS, and yes when I remember that one day my dog will die I openly sob my eyes drier than the Sahara, and YES I almost cried today because I failed to successfully complete a captcha 3 times in close succession, but that DOES NOT MEAN you should assume I am going to bore you senseless with hearts and flowers. OK?!

So; love.

When I mention that immortal word I’m not necessarily referring only to love of the romantic variety, before all my single readers switch off while doing a Mexican eye-roll across the globe. Love comes from many outlets; a romantic partner, parents, siblings, friends, pets. I've not often stopped to consider how much of an impact love has in our relationships. But since my diagnosis my already sappy persona has gone into overdrive. Where once I cried at the drop of a hat, now I cry at the mere idea of someone's hat dropping. I mean, imagine it’s an old man’s hat? His head will freeze!! What if he hurts his already arthritic back trying to pick it up?! What if the hat was given to him by his inevitably dead wife?! Oh god it just doesn't bear thinking about.

Look I’m not saying chronic illness turns us all into emotional wrecks, but for many it certainly makes us appreciate our own mortality to a much greater extent, and value what support we have along for our sickly ride. Love is trying and beautiful. When I fell in love with my partner it was overwhelming and exhilarating and terrifying, like all good romance should be. It’s different now, but just as lovely, if not more so; now it feels safe and comforting. Now it feels like home.

With an incurable illness that stability might not sound massively thrilling, but it is so important. Knowing we have people we can rely on is a massive relief for so many reasons. The people we love tether our ship to shore when it feels like we are losing control. They remind us we are loved in return and show that love in their concern, their cuddles, their ‘checking in’ with us.

So love for me is a huge, sappy, emotional BIG DEAL because it’s one of the few things in my life with solid foundations. It’s something I can work to maintain, work to improve and strengthen when it feels that I’m often incapable of doing the same for my body. I can appreciate the people who show me love and aim to return it tenfold. I can accept the ebb and flow of relationships and understand that when they get difficult the love doesn’t cease; it just might mean a little more inward-looking or communication is required.

So trust in the people who show you love and believe that they are by your side for nothing more than selflessness. Love endures, and so my love, must you xo

Kathleen NichollsComment
The Future Looks Right

When I was younger I was in a relationship that positively reeked of predictability. Our future was planned to a startling degree and I, happy I suppose to be free from any big decision making, sailed along for the ride without much thought for the potentially stormy waters we were headed into. It was a few years in when I began to long for a little more freedom, a little uncertainty, a little FUN. To me not knowing what the future held was exciting and exhilarating, but for him it was terrifying. That in itself was more than enough to make me want to disembark from our particular ship and find the nearest desert island.

So in those days I craved the unknown. I looked for spontaneity and impulsiveness and I thank-fully found it in the man I now love and share my life and private parts with. But since I got sick my priorities changed beyond all recognition; what I once thought was of vital importance was suddenly resigned to the back of the queue while I fought to just stay alive.  Because life is a cruel mistress, my once rose-tinted future spectacles through which I saw only frivolity and impulsiveness were now looking at a future where unpredictability was the name of the game.   

You’d think I’d be happy then; that my life was about to be more unpredictable than Trump becoming President, but as you can imagine it wasn’t quite the type of unpredictability I’d once bargained for. So now I crave something more solid; security, certainty, and a solid idea of what the future holds. Heartbreakingly, like too much dairy or Jon Hamm, all things I can’t have.

When you have a chronic illness life is an often constant stream of anxiety and doubt. Patients struggle with the uncertainty of whether treatment will work, will we need surgery, will we cope with new drugs, will we get worse, will we get better, will.I.AM etc. We need to know that something, anything is for certain, and sadly the only certainty we do have is that we don’t have a cure. So we stride forward into the unknown looking for some form of reassurance that everything is going to be OK, knowing deep down that no one, no matter how qualified can give us that confirmation.

So here are some things I know for sure:

-          My life is going to be a lot harder than I thought it was but that’s ok because I’m a lot tougher than I thought I was. I opened a jam jar by myself earlier if you need confirmation of that claim.

-          There might not be a cure for my disease within my lifetime, but the strides medical science has made in the short time since my own diagnosis fill me with hope that it will happen in time, and that I’ll be very well taken care of in the interim.

-          Unpredictability is part of life – we never truly know what’s around the corner. If you are unhappy with your lot then change it. Just because life throws a few curve balls from time to time doesn’t mean you can’t catch them and smash them back into life’s face breaking its nose in several places and causing irrevocable damage to its sinuses. Or something along those lines.

-          Life is so, so short. Don’t waste it wishing for something you think you can’t have or don’t deserve; make it happen. Love deeply and be kind to one another, everything else will fall into place. I never got that My Little Pony pencil case I craved in Primary 2, but it’s something I rarely think about. I do think a lot about people I’ve upset, or worried or hurt.

My life might have been better had I had that pencil case, who can tell, but I know for certain it will always get better when I make myself and the people I love happy. Chronic illness may cause confusion and apprehension but I have a solid foundation in my family and friends. So when waters get choppy I can always rely on them to pull me to shore.

(So many water-based analogies today, I apologise and now I really need the loo).

Keep well xo

Kathleen NichollsComment
Back Once Again with the Ill Behaviour

Recently I received an email from a man who wanted to get in touch to tell me he liked my book. [I cunningly deduced his sex as he signed off with ‘from Dave’*]. Not massively uncommon, which is GREAT of course; lots of people who’ve read my writing reach out to tell me they’ve liked it, just to ask questions about IBD, or have someone to tell about their own experiences. All lovely and a very nice position to be in, where people feel they can share and open up with me about their own thoughts and fears. The point of my books is to help other so I am very grateful that they’ve had any form of impact on anyone!

But back to Dave.

Dave began his electronic correspondence with a compliment, as most initially charming idiots do. He told me he liked that I was funny and was able to joke about serious conditions without being offensive. He said he’d read my book and followed my blog. Lovely!! Then things took a strange turn. Dave told me he was uncomfortable with me talking about bowel disease. Strangely enough this criticism is one I’ve received upwards of 10 times now. It still continues to baffle me every single time. My first book is about living with Crohn’s Disease. Therefore the subject of bowels is pretty impossible to ignore. In fact if I were to ignore the area where bowel disease lives in a book about bowel disease I would have to channel Sister Patricia who attempted to teach us about sex at Catholic school without mentioning the word ‘sex’ or any relevant body parts. Quite the skill.

The idea that Dave is unhappy about bowels being spoken about in a book about bowels is hilarious to me. I love imagining him flicking through the pages, sheer disgust spreading across his face, but physically unable to stop due to his intense and overpowering love of my puns. Poor Dave. It’s almost as if he has no choice but to read my writing. When I finish writing this blog I’m setting up a crowdfunding page to offer some sort of support to men like Dave who suffer from this increasingly common infliction where they can’t help but read books they are disgusted by. It must be awful. I do know what he’s going through to a certain extent; I once almost made it through The Da Vinci Code before realising I was in charge of my own destiny and could actually just burn it instead.

I don’t mean to mock the afflicted like Dave. Well I do a little. But I more want to remind people that a book about bowel disease may contain information about bowels. When I talk about bodily functions it doesn’t make me less of a ‘lady’ – it may shock some of you, but women have the same requirement to expel waste as men do. I know, disgusting, but try to keep your lunch down and stick with me. For men like Dave who view women through sepia-tinted glasses in a sort of Downton-Abbey-corseted-frock-wearing-be-seen-not-heard situation I hate to break it to you but women have as much right as men do to discuss their bodies. In fact when we bottle it up through shame and embarrassment we delay potential diagnosis, we put our health (and potentially lives) at risk.

So I’m sorry Dave, but if me talking about bowels makes you unhappy but helps one other person talk to their doctor, then I’ll make you miserable til the toilet stops flushing. Or you could just read The Da Vinci Code. I hear its 100% bowel-free.

 

*Names haven’t been changed to protect identities because Dave is a massive prick

Kathleen NichollsComment
House of Carbs

I’ve been taking a steroid called Prednisolone for almost 7 weeks now. This steroid in particular will be familiar to many Crohn’s, Colitis, and chronic illness patients as it’s commonly used to control/reduce inflammation in sufferers, either at the point of diagnosis or during a flare. Many patients are on this drug for anything from months to years; which let’s face it, isn’t ideal.

I’d usually blog on my changes in treatment and symptoms as they happen; in real-time like some sort of trendy self-aggrandizing millennial, but this time round I’ve just been exhausted by it all. I’ve tried to focus on writing about other bits and pieces, distracting myself from what’s going on internally. It’s too much on top of everything else to worry about what’s ahead; I’m trying to learn to balance a natural and healthy (LOL) amount of worry with my penchant for overthinking every aspect of my existence, and I can’t say it’s been easy. I seem to have instead focused my obsessive overthinking onto everything else in my life, which, as my dog who’s been fading away to nothing since I couldn’t decide on Tripe with Beef or Tripe with Chicken will attest to*.

My consultant directed me to board the Pred-train again due to a recent, severe and prolonged flare. My symptoms have been steadily progressing since I became increasingly unwell in mid-August. While awaiting further tests and result after result steroids are being used to reduce the worst of my inflammation and increase my appetite to allow me to eat. And increase my appetite they have – this drug quite rapidly turns a normal person into a food-crazed maniac within days. My urge to eat is such that I don’t really care what I’m eating so long as I’m able to greedily feed my pie-hole with speed and volume. Sadly, not a euphemism. I’m far too busy eating for starters. Mmm.. starters…

But let me give you a little background on Prednisolone. As with any steroid medication it can weaken your immune system. This basically means it makes it easier to catch an infection or worsen an infection you already have/have recently had. Decidedly more risky when the issue you have is already directly linked to the immune system. Patients are advised to avoid people who are sick or have existing infections; a good rule for life you might say, but difficult to action unless you enter a literal protective bubble and live there for the entirety of your course of medication. I found this a challenge; mainly getting upstairs to my office - I just kept rolling back down and don’t even get me started to trying to access my laptop, all in all, not ideal.

When on steroids it’s important you follow the course as directed, don’t stop the meds suddenly and don’t take more or less than prescribed. You should also be given a card of some sort to carry with you so anyone who treats you is aware you are taking steroid medication.

Unfortunately, Prednisolone comes with quite an abundance of pretty unpleasant side effects. Some of the most common being;

-          sleep problems such as insomnia, mood changes;

-          acne, dry skin, thinning skin, bruising or discoloration;

-          slow wound healing;

-          increased sweating;

-          headache, dizziness, spinning sensation;

-          nausea, stomach pain, bloating;

-          changes in the shape or location of body fat (especially in your arms, legs, face, neck, breasts, and waist).

This time round I’ve experienced and continue to experience all of the above and more. The most aggressive symptoms have been excessive sweating and insomnia. Most nights I manage to sleep for around 3 hours, waking several times, and in a pool of sweat. I sweat so much I am literally dripping with water; my hair feels like it’s just been towel dried. It’s so uncomfortable, and in the grand scheme of things no big deal I hear you cry – but every night, for weeks, it rapidly becomes the bigger deal than that time I got too F-cup bra’s for £5.00.

Talking of boobs – those have dropped two sizes in 3 weeks. My waist has shrunk too but my face has swollen to resemble a sort of giant red balloon with googly eyes pushed into it. Needless to say, my self-confidence is at an all-time high.     

When taking Prednisolone it’s recommended to take your dose first thing in the morning as this comes as close as possible to when the body naturally secretes a corticosteroid, cortisol, which helps to maximise the effectiveness of the drug. Taking it early in the morning also helps (to varying degrees) with the insomnia. The issue with taking it first thing however is we become more susceptible to dizziness and headaches, so it’s best to stick to whatever the doctor orders and bite the bullet with what side effects are more manageable for you.

I know I’m not exactly ‘selling it’ here, but then I’m not trying to. Prednisolone is a mean and oft vicious drug that ravages our bodies in many ways, but ideally it should serve its purpose and aid a more severe issue for a short period of time. I’ve only (I hope) got just over a week left of my course, and then I face a decision on what treatment we can work with going forward. It feels uncertain and frightening and for someone who’s been on this diseased roller-coaster for many years, I feel a little like I’m back to square one. This time though I know I can do it. Whatever ‘it’ is I’ll face it with gusto and a lust for life because that’s something my disease can’t infect. Now pass me a 17 triple cheeseburgers I’ve got work to do.  

*no dogs have been harmed in the making of this blog post

Kathleen NichollsComment
Womankind VS Predator

In the wake of the recent Harvey Weinstein ‘revelations’, I’ve been surprised at the various responses of men to his being outed as a [allegedly: I don’t have enough money to buy one of his films let alone get sued] contemptible sexual predator. Upon hearing a powerful man has consistently used his power and influence for his own selfish and seedy gain does not come as much of a surprise to most women. The surprise for me has been that it seems many men are still unaware that the majority of women have at some point in their life, to some degree, experienced sexual assault.

The idea that women being assaulted, abused, attacked, made to feel intimidated and vulnerable, is reserved for those in the public eye is simply inaccurate. The idea that only conventionally ‘beautiful’ women are preyed upon is also an erroneous and perilous way of thinking. All women, of all ages, shapes, sizes, in all professions would undoubtedly be able to relay a tale of when a man has made her feel essentially lesser; at the very least.

Myself, I have been thinking about my own uncomfortable experiences a lot lately in reading the barrage of articles on Weinstein. Many of the responses to actresses speaking out on their abuse at the hands of Weinstein have been met with questioning and suspicion rather than empathy. “Why didn’t you mention this at the time?” “Why are you mentioning it now?” “What are you trying to gain?” – all of this serves as a very public neon-flashing-sign reminder of why so many women don’t talk about experiences of sexual assault. When the first reaction is one of accusation rather than compassion where is the hope that our stories will be believed?

When I was around 17, I was at a party where I was in a boy’s bedroom. I say ‘boy’ because they were boys and I was a girl; we were teenagers. I was with around 5 people, I was completely comfortable, amongst friends (male and female) and the furthest thing from my mind was sex. We all moved to another room,  but as we did I found myself alone with one of the boys for a few moments, we were chatting and giggling and within seconds I was lying on a mattress on the floor with him on top of me. He’d pushed me over and pinned me down without warning or a sniff of encouragement. I was stunned and frozen and panicked – this had gone from a giggly ‘ha ha what are you doing?’ scenario to utter disgust before I’d chance to catch my breath. I called out – nothing came out. My friend came upstairs and found me and pulled this boy off me, he might have hit him I can’t recall. I spent the rest of the party avoiding him and feeling confused and embarrassed. I knew I was being talked about – I was undoubtedly ‘frigid’ or ‘a tease’ or the like. This just distracted from the reality – that someone had just tried to assault me and other than my hero friend no one seemed to give the first toss about it.

When I was 19 and worked in a pub I was walked home by a colleague. Halfway home he drunkenly pushed me into a wall and tried to kiss me. He shoved me so hard he scraped my face on the brick and cut my head. My saving grace here was his drunkenness – easier to fend off. Which I did, and ran home, not looking behind me as I did for fear he might have been chasing me. The next time I saw him (and had to work with him) he ignored me, and when forced to engage with me was mocking and rude, again leaving me feeling I’d somehow been in the wrong by not giving in to his whisky-breathed advances.

When I was 20 I was at a work’s night out, and a colleague, who for a while had been making overt verbal advances towards me on an almost laughable daily basis, slipped something into my drink which caused me to blank out the remainder of the night. My boyfriend at the time picked me up, but I have no memory of what happened prior to that. I am utterly convinced this man did it and utterly convinced he would have done more had I not been ‘rescued’. My then-boyfriend didn’t believe I was spiked though, just assumed I’d went on some sort of bender (something I never did). He didn’t push for me to tell anyone, didn’t trust me. So if he didn’t then who else would? That was the end of that.

That’s just 3 occurrences in my life which have left me feeling humiliated, afraid and so, so angry. There have been countless more, to lesser degrees, where men have touched me when I didn’t give them permission to, where men have commented on my body, talked about me as if I were a piece of prime rib, or just made me feel unworthy. Too many to list and too unpleasant and depressing to relive. So you can see why women in particular are not massively surprised to hear of a man abusing his power over women. It happens to us every day and we don’t talk about it for so many reasons, but mainly because we are doubted. So believe us – when we tell you we feel afraid believe us. When we tell you we have been made to feel less than the living, breathing, EQUALS we are; believe us. And help us.

 

Kathleen NichollsComment