Category Archives: relationships

The fault in our genes and the guilt that goes with it

When you’re child is seriously hurt you can feel so helpless. You might feel guilty for not having a sharp eye on your little one when they injure themselves. If you have a faulty genes and a genetic condition that you’ve passed on to your child, there’s an added guilt.

Last Saturday two year old Ollie Pops N’ Clicks was playing happily with her Dad. We had a lovely day up till then, hubby and I were celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary. My Dad cooked us a beautiful lamb dinner and after we retired into the sitting room in front of the stove. Despite having a pain flare, I was content. That is until Ollie started screaming.

She was pulling on her Daddy’s clothes and then all of a sudden her arm was hurting. Nobody could touch it and if we tried to move it she cried. Hubby knew immediately that we were faced with something that happened in 2015. Ollie was just seven months old then. Her elbow was dislocated. She was behaving the same way she did that cold night in November of 2015.

Ollie 7 months
Ollie the morning after she dislocated her elbow the first time

So, we had to leave Bendy Boy with his Granddad for the night as we sped up to the Accident and Emergency Department (A&E) of the University Hospital. She fell asleep before we even made it out of town. I thought maybe she was OK now but when I touched her arm she woke up screaming.

What is a 45-minute journey felt like hours. We arrived into A&E and we were surprised to see how quiet it was for a Saturday evening. Then again, it was still pretty early. The drunks and those involved in fights wouldn’t be in for another few hours yet.

At the hospital

After we checked in, we sat in the waiting area. Looking around I saw a teenager with their arms in a sling, an old man with bandages around his head and another man with a black eye. I was worried that this scene would upset my already frightened two year old. You could tell exactly what was wrong with these people. All you could see when you looked at Ollie was a little girl with a sourpuss face protecting her little arm.

Just like before, the Triage nurse saw us fairly quickly, when we explained what we think had happened and that I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. This is a result of my faulty collagen genes. We were taken into the ward.

The last time Ollie was seen in A&E at just seven months old, she had to have an X-Ray. It was torture for us both. I had to move her tiny little arm around in different positions. She cried, I cried. This time however, there was no need to X-Ray because of her history.

When I told the on call doctor that I had EDS, he asked could he have a look at my hands. He bent my fingers back and pulled on my skin. He nodded and turned to little Ollie who was finishing off her second ever dose of painkillers. In two years she’s never been ill enough to need any type of medication. The only time she’s had Calpol is the first time she dislocated her elbow.

Like a punch to the stomach

me and kids
You do what you can to protect them

Anyway, he attempted to take Ollie’s hand but she was petrified. He did eventually manage to get it and within seconds. He confirmed it was dislocated and he said it’s pretty safe to say that my beautiful daughter has EDS. She has inherited my faulty genes. It was like a punch to the stomach.

We knew this since pregnancy but every time I hear a doctor say it again, the guilt gets to me. Ollie is not officially diagnosed with EDS. We hope to rectify that soon just in case social services do get involved during a future trip to A&E.

Like nothing ever happened

Within forty minutes of arriving at A&E we were out the door. Ollie was back to her old self again and I’m pretty sure she was on a sugar buzz after that medicine. She kept talking about how the doctor fixed her and that she was all better now. We arrived home and the three of us sat on the couch to unwind after a stressful couple of hours.

Ollie climbed on me and fed until she was ready for sleep. She then sat up and threw herself on to the couch. I watched her sleep for awhile. She looked so peaceful and you’d have never had known she was in agony just an hour before. We carried her into her new room and didn’t see her till morning. It really is amazing how resilient kids are and that does make it a lot easier to live with a condition like EDS.

Ollie after hospital
Like nothing happened

I know I cannot control my genetics and that I shouldn’t blame myself for Bendy Boy’s diagnosis and Ollie’s inevitable diagnosis. But, I can’t help it; this illness comes from me. If Ollie is dislocating this early on in life it doesn’t bare thinking what will happen, as she gets older.

What does the future hold?

When she starts playschool, when she’s old enough to play outside with friends, when she climbs a tree for the first time. Then there’s puberty. The majority of girls with EDS experience an increase in symptoms when they reach puberty. This is because the hormone, progesterone wreaks havoc on our bodies. Progesterone makes us lax. It’s why girls and women suffer more during their periods and in pregnancy.

How many more times is she going to be in hospital with an injury? Is she ever going to work or have a normal life? These questions whiz around my head. I try to say to myself what I would say to anybody in this situation; cross that bridge when you come to it.

Overcoming the guilt of faulty genes

But, I will eventually overcome this guilt. How? Because I know I am the best person to get my children through what they will face later down the line. I know what they need, who they need to see and where I can take them to make all this happen. The fight for access for appropriate medical care of which there is none in this country will be my biggest challenge. I will take them to the doctor or hospital as many times as they need and I will do it with empathy.

They will be believed when they tell me they are in pain, because I know what it’s like not to be believed. Not being believed by my parents, by friends and by doctors affected me greatly and I still carry that pain around with me. That pain can be just as great as the physical pain my genes have caused me. An old friend once said that she would rather face a pack of rabid Rottweiler than a parent who wants to protect and fight for their children. If you mess with my kids and their health, I’ll go through you for a shortcut.

Be your child’s champion

The Fault in our genes

Having EDS myself makes me the best advocate for my children. Any patient with a rare disease becomes his or her own expert. I will now be the expert for my children too. From how their genes work to the treatment they need, I will be their champion.

It is a great comfort knowing that they will always have each other to lean on for support. Even when I am not there anymore to fight for them, they can fight together.

So, for anyone out there who is feeling guilty for passing on their crappy genes, know this; it is not your fault. I know more than anybody that it’s hard not to. Take a leaf out of my book; take that guilt and turn it into something positive. Raise awareness of the condition, fight for proper treatment, do everything in your power to make your child’s experience with their condition better than what you experienced.

Until next time,

Z.M

x

 

 

Disability and Social Media

Hey there, hi there, ho there!

Sorry for the radio silence, I had been in London again for tests and treatments and then I had some pretty bad issues with my neck. After almost two weeks and muscle relaxers, it’s finally under control. Interestingly, the muscle relaxers seemed to help my general widespread pain. I do have chronic tendinitis pretty much all over my body so obviously muscle relaxers would be helpful. Unfortunately my GP won’t allow me to have them long term in case I start sublimating and dislocating more often. Anyway, I’ll update you with London in next week’s post but I really wanted to get something off my chest this week.

How many of you out there have had people accuse you of faking your illness based on things you post on social media? It really can be a lose/lose situation for those of us with disabilities. If you post yourself getting out and having fun, you’re not that sick and if you post yourself lying in bed in pain, you’re attention seeking. If you do both? You’re not being consistent and therefore lying about your illness. It seems people are under the impression to be truly disabled, you have to be miserable, housebound 24/7 and silent. Out of sight, out of mind.

Recently I had the displeasure of being accused of faking my illness by a family member. Why? Because the wide range of photos on Facebook show my life for what it is; inconsistent.  Some days I am in my wheelchair and some days I socialise with friends. Anybody with a chronic illness knows that you have your good days and your bad days. When you do have your good days, you take advantage of them. I was told by said family member to get off the internet and “go for a long walk.” I’m sure some of you reading this are scoffing at the very idea. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of my non spoonie friends stood up for me especially when the conversation got nasty. Funny thing is this person hasn’t seen me in five years, so it’s not like they have seen me at home contorted in pain with heat packs attached to me and medicated up to my eyeballs.

Disability and Social Media

I’m sure a lot of us with invisible conditions face these judgements and questions pretty regularly. Unless you live the spoonie life, you don’t know what it is like to be ridiculed and made to feel insecure simply by sharing your life, the good, the bad and the ugly.

For most, social media is a way to pass the time. It’s entertainment. But for those of us who do not have the luxury of having a vibrant social life, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat etc are what keeps us connected to the world on a personal level. Have you been told you’re “always on Facebook”? Well, I don’t know about anyone else but many of my fellow spoonie friends also use Facebook to connect with loved ones. I scroll through my feed to check in on them and to see how other loved ones are doing since I am not able to get out and visit people as much as I would like to. Of course I do enjoy the entertainment aspect of social media, I like the Buzzfeed quizzes and the odd meme too. I am vocal about all aspects of healthcare and politics too. I’m a pretty opinionated person, I don’t think that should be frowned upon though.

Social media is a fantastic way to raise awareness of the various conditions that fall off the radar. Thanks to selfie campaigns and social media challenges like the ice bucket challenge for ALS (or my beloved REDS4VEDS campaign) the general public know more about diseases that previous generations may not have ever heard of. Even simply sharing a meme or infographic about a condition can educate thousands or possibly millions of people worldwide.

me good day:bad day

Posting our feelings about our condition or how the health system/Government let us down may come across as moaning or self pitying but for the majority of us, we just want to be heard. It is so frustrating to live in a country where there is an incredible lack of care (both senses of the word) and to witness the poor quality of life those with chronic conditions have. Again, when you’re isolated from the outside world, you don’t get to vent to someone in person, like most people do. We can’t just get up and leave the house to visit a friend for a cup of tea and get things off our chest. Most people ignore these posts, and you know they will but, you also know that your fellow spoonie friends will respond and be empathetic. Sometimes just seeing a comment saying “I hope you feel a bit better tomorrow,” can brighten up your day.

Posting a wheelchair selfie or a “good day” selfie doesn’t have any motive, we post photos without thought, just like everyone else. People post photos of themselves in the gym, or their food. What’s so wrong with us posting photos showing the complexity and inconsistency of our lives? Again, it’s about awareness. I think so many people are under the impression to be truly disabled, you must be missing a limb or in a wheelchair full time. As I’ve said, we do have our good days, they are far and few between and so on those days, we take photos and post. To be honest, most of the time it’s just a way to keep all the photos in one place. I also love when Facebook sends me a memories notification. I often get to see photos of a day I’ve completely forgotten about or a post of how ill I have been. I look back and see I’ve survived so far, and that can sometimes boost my motivation to keep fighting for recovery.

The thing about social media is it has given people the confidence to be cruel and rarely have to deal with the repercussions of their words because they post in the comfort of their own home. In reality, the majority of keyboard warriors wouldn’t say these things to your face. Also, these people forget they have the free will to scroll on by or unfollow someone if they don’t want to see “depressing” posts (yes, my life was too depressing for this lovely family member). There’s a plethora of posts on social media that aren’t to everyone’s liking or taste and most of us choose to either ignore them because it’s not worth loosing a friend or a family member over.

Anyway, I just wanted to get this off my chest because it is something that has been bothering me for awhile.

Until next time,

Z.M

 

 

 

How ‘attachment parenting’ helped me with my chronic illness

Hey there, hi there, ho there!

Soon I’ll be back to London for my next round of tests and physiotherapy. The smallies will also be seeing their paediatric physio in the Hypermobility Unit in London. Going abroad with small children can be so stressful and takes up so many of your spoons. I remember with Alex, everywhere we went, even for a short trip to the city we had a truck load of things to bring with us. This time with Olivia it is so much easier because my parenting technique is so different.

Attachment Parenting&Chronic Illness

So what is “Attachment Parenting”?

Well, for me I just call it parenting, it’s the biological norm to raise a child so I hate putting a label on it.

According to parenting science.com:

“Attachment parenting” is an approach to child-rearing intended to forge strong, secure attachments between parents and children.”

Attachment Parenting is often referred to as AP.

But how does AP differ from any other type of parenting?

AP is associated with a number of practices, including:

Baby-carrying or “baby-wearing”
Breastfeeding on cue
Nurturing touch (including skin-to-skin “kangaroo care” for infants)
Being responsive to a baby’s cries
Being sensitive and responsive to a child’s emotions (e.g., by helping her cope with nighttime fears)
Co-sleeping

In addition, attachment parenting advocates often promote “positive parenting,” an approach to discipline that attempts to guide children by emotion coaching, reasoning, and constructive problem solving.

However, proponents of AP–like William and Martha Sears, who coined the term “attachment parenting”–note that there is no checklist of rules that parents must follow to qualify as “attachment parents” (Sears and Sears 2001).

Family circumstances may prevent parents from carrying out every AP practice. What’s really important, argues these authors, is sensitive, responsive parenting-— understanding and addressing your child’s needs in an affectionate way.

Similarly, the founders of Attachment Parenting International argue that that attachment parenting is really about adapting a few general principles–like providing kids with a consistent, loving, primary caregiver–to the particular needs of your family.

This is not the same as being overly-protective. By definition, securely-attached kids are not overly clingy or helpless. They are the kids who feel confident to explore the world on their own. They can do this because they trust that their parents will be there for them (Mercer 2006).

So how has AP practices helped me with my chronic illness?

Babywearing

When I was pregnant my Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome wreaked havoc on my body. I was wheelchair bound by 5 weeks into my pregnancy because I developed severe Symphysis Pubis Disorder (SPD)  and my Autonomic System was all over the place.

I knew that there was a pretty good chance that I would still be affected with the SPD post partum and I was right. Two years on and I still suffer with it. How was I going to push a buggy while in a wheelchair?

Babywearing was my answer. Even on days where I couldn’t wear Ollie for whatever reason, Daddy wore her. It was a lovely way for them to bond. While I liked my ring sling, he was more into the wrap type slings. My coordination couldn’t handle the wrapping at all.

Three months after her birth, I didn’t need the wheelchair as frequently but I still carried her. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to manage lifting and opening up a heavy buggy so just popping my sling into my bag was the easiest option. After the ring sling I opted for the Rock n Rolla Fidella buckle carrier it was badass. Then I switched to a beautiful pink Fidella Mei Tai before going back to a buckle carrier (Nova) as my shoulder became to sore for wrapping. The Nova hasn’t had much use as Ollie likes to walk but I do use it for when I need walk to collect Alex from school or when we are in London. We brought a stroller on holiday once and it went unused, plus it is a pain having to bring it along with the other luggage.

Me sling

In retrospect, I wish I had gone along to a babywearing group to try things out before I bought the Mei Tai. It was only after I rented a Nova from the group that I realised it was exactly what I needed, lightweight, breathable and tidy enough to go in my bag. I would absolutely recommend people to try before they buy.

Babywearing allows you to be hands free as well and baby sleeps contently snuggled into their parents chest.

Marty fence BW

It really is a win/win situation. Baby is happy therefore Mommy is happy.

I can imagine people who are unfamiliar with babywearing wondering how I possibly managed to carry extra weight with weak joints/muscles and pain.

If you’re wearing your baby correctly, you should be well supported and you shouldn’t feel the extra weight bearing down on you.

0532aca066939dca1b8e3ca8d2c6499f

Interestingly, I was sent a link to a blog called Babywearing with Disabilities recently. Until I began writing this post, I hadn’t opened it. Imagine my surprise to find out the woman who wrote the blog actually has hEDS too! She offers some very good advice about how to babywear when you’re disabled. Really worth a read. Further reading about the general benefits of babywearing for parent and baby can be found here.

Slings come in so many gorgeous prints and designs. Say goodbye to your shoe/handbag addiction and say hello to telling your other half “Oh I won that on a dip.”

Marty Ollie

Breastfeeding on demand

Sadly due to poor support and advice, Alex was only breastfed for just over two weeks. He had an undiagnosed tongue tie which caused me to be in a lot of pain when feeding him. Yet no healthcare professional said anything bar “it happens”. No. Breastfeeding should not hurt. That’s a different story that you can read about here.

Anyway, I remember being so exhausted when we switched to formula. Having to make up bottles in the middle of the night, dealing with reflux and constipation, the usual drama with formula was just so much hassle. Even with two of us taking turns to get up. I was also pretty annoyed that the weight that had been falling off me for the first two weeks stopped melting off me.

Luckily, armed with evidence based information and a fantastic network of breastfeeding mothers, I was determined that this time it would work out. It’s crazy the amount of misinformation being spread not just by ill informed loved ones but by actual health care professionals too. I actually interviewed one of Ireland’s leading IBCLCs and the world renowned, Dr Jack Newman about breastfeeding myths.

Anyway, unlucky for us, Ollie was also born with a tongue and lip tie. But, this time I was determined to get it sorted as quickly as possible so that we could continue our breastfeeding journey. After exclusively pumping for 3 weeks and then pumping while also    learning the skill of breastfeeding, we were on our way. Ollie is just two weeks shy of two and honestly, feeding her has been one of my greatest achievements as a parent. Breastfeeding is the biological norm but in Ireland where just 2% of babies are fed by 1 year, it’s a pretty big deal to even get to two years.

Breastfeeding forced me to relax and properly recover after the birth which in itself was pretty traumatic. I had to give birth early as my waters had broken. I ended up loosing half of my blood but the consultant managed to stop the bleeding just as they were calling for blood bags. I was very weak and ill after the birth so lying on the couch for the first 2 months while Ollie built up my supply was ideal. I didn’t have to get up in the night to make bottles and the lovely hormones released during feeding time helped me feel content and loved up. Plus with the extra hand it meant Alex could join in on the cuddles.

BF OA

Breastfeeding also meant that I didn’t have to bring a huge bag filled with bottles and powder everywhere we went. You literally just have your breasts and you grab a nappy and off you go. Babywearing while breastfeeding also meant that I could get on with whatever I needed to do while baby was getting everything she desired; being close to mama and her milk. Best part is that my meds are all compatible with breastfeeding as 99% of medications are, again unfortunately that is another piece of information that isn’t well known amongst a lot of healthcare professionals and new mothers.

You can read more about breastfeeding while being chronically ill here.

Cosleeping/Bedsharing

safe_sleep_7_leaflet-page-001

We intended to have Ollie sleep in a cosleep cot that Daddy made following this hack. FYI total cost was 65 Euro in comparison to the phenomenal amount of money you spend on a store bought cosleeper crib! The new mattress was the most expensive part.

Anyway, so we had the cosleeper cot attached to our bed and by the looks of it, Ollie would fit into it until she was at least four! Well, nope, this happened:

cosleeper

You know what? It worked out for the best because having her closer to me meant she could feed as I drifted back to sleep and it became a place to keep all her clothes and cloth nappies! Now she is able to undress me and help herself while I stay asleep! Research shows that parents who bed share and breastfeed get more sleep than those who don’t.

Once you practice the safety guidelines, there is virtually no risk in bed sharing, in fact a lot of research shows that babies who are exclusively breastfed and bed share with their mothers are actually less likely to die from SIDS. You only have to look at every other species of mammal to see that the dyad sleeping together is a natural part of child rearing. Hey, the Gruffalos cosleep too!

997034-the-gruffalos-child

You can find some evidence based articles about infant sleep and bed sharing here.

As stated before, AP doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can formula feed and babywear, you can breastfeed and use a buggy. I just know from my own experience that following my mammalian instincts has helped me to cope with parenting while having a chronic illness a whole lot easier.

Until next time,

Z.M

x

 

10 things to do with your children when you’re stuck in bed

Hi there, hi there, ho there!

It’s Mother’s Day here in Ireland. While most moms enjoy having a day to relax, those of us with chronic illnesses would love nothing more than to actually get out and about and do something fun. However, no matter how much we want to, sometimes it just isn’t possible to move from our bed, let alone leave the house.

As a Spoonie, days where I have a random burst of energy come far and few between. When I do feel good I take advantage and go on a spoon spending splurge with my children. Our favourite activities are going to the beach for a walk, going for lunch/dinner or searching for fairies in the woods. Unfortunately, those days don’t happen very often as my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Dysautonomia wreaks havoc on my body. There are days where I can’t move from my bed never mind actually leaving the house. My illness not only affects me, but my entire family. The children have to endure many days stuck inside because mummy is unwell. So, for those days we try and do things together from the comfort of my own bed. Here are some of the things we do together. I hope it helps another Spoonie parent who may be at a loss with their children on the days they’re stuck in bed.

10 Things to do with the kids when you're bed bound

Read books

One of my favourite things to do as a child was to read with my Father. Going to bed when I was little wasn’t the big fight it turned out to be as a got too old for bedtime stories. His voice even to this day is so soothing. His Anglo-Irish accent is so pleasant to listen to that I could quite happily listen to him read the dictionary to me. Quite often I did! If I didn’t know what I word meant I was sent to his study to fetch the dictionary. There was no Google back then! My favourite book as a child was The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.

The_Magic_Faraway_Tree

Considering the first edition was published in 1943, I’m sure the everyday lives of those children brought back some fond memories of my father’s own childhood during the 1940s. When we finished one chapter of that, Dad used to make up stories about a mischievous little girl called Yvette (hmmm I wonder where he got the inspiration for the name) who used to get up to all sorts of mischief. When her parents found out what she did the story always ended there with her parents shouting “Yeeevette!” A few years back I dug out my copy of The Magic Faraway Tree and gave it to my son Alexander when he was about 4 with a note:

“Dear Alex,

I hope this book brings you as much joy as it has brought me.

All my love,

Mum.”

I love reading The Gruffalo with the kids too. Sometimes Alex and I turn it into a song. Alexander will beat box while I rap the story. It’s great fun! Every now and then during the summer when my pain isn’t too bad, you might hear us in the woods reciting the story aloud by heart while we stroll through the rows of beautiful green trees and bunches of bluebells and daisies. Recently we started putting on the torch and getting under the duvet to read. It gets a bit stuffy though.

Watch movies

For as long as I can remember TV and movies has been a massive part of my life. Most things I know about life I’ve learned from television! I try to limit my own kids TV limit but sometimes when you can’t do anything but lie there, TV is a Godsend. I do love the days where I snuggle up with the children and show them the movies and TV shows I grew up watching. I get such a warm feeling watching their little faces in wonder at the magic of Mary Poppins or the original Doctor Doolittle. Of course the old school Disney films like Pocahontas, The Lion King and Aladdin are a must. Movies bring me hope and joy, watching others overcome their struggles sometimes give me a boost or inspire me and that’s what I want for my own children.

Watch funny videos

Sometimes looking up fail or funny animals videos on YouTube is just the thing to cheer you up. Laughter is a great medicine and the children get such a kick out of watching them. Of course do make sure that you are supervising the children when giving them access to the Internet!

Art

Art is a great therapy for everyone, young and old. Grab some crayons/markers/pencils and   a few blank sheets of paper or a colouring book. Art is proven to be beneficial for mental health, something many chronically ill patients suffer from, unfortunately. Creating art relieves stress, it encourages creative thinking, boosts self esteem and a sense of self-accomplishment, increases brain activity and so much more! Make art work a hobby if you enjoy it, it’s a great way to forget about your illness for a while. Creating art can help you work through the feelings you have about your illness.

family art.jpeg

Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are not just for rainy days; they’re great for bed days too. If you have a tray a table that you’d usually use for breakfast in bed, you can use that to make your puzzle on. A duvet is no good as one movement and the whole thing will fall apart. Soul destroying!

Play games

Board games are a great way to pass the time and are so much fun. I personally like playing Guess Who with my son because it teaches him to use his descriptive words, improve his concentration and his observational skills. Operation is another great option for fine motor skills, which many children with EDS have difficulty with. Travel sized games are perfect for playing in bed. Sometimes we forego the board games and play I Spy or Simon Says.

board game.jpeg

Creative writing

Creative writing can be very therapeutic for people suffering from mental and physical disorders. Using your own experiences can help you gain perspective and work through emotions and obstacles in your life. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be so serious. Sometimes it can just be funny to take turns making up sentences of a story. So for example if I said, “there was once a unicorn,” My son, Alexander might continue with “who had rainbow coloured poo,” or something as equally juvenile and silly.

Put on a show

Shadow puppets, actual puppets or just themselves a lot of kids like to entertain their parents and show off a song/poem/dance they’ve learned in school. I just love when my children sing and dance for me. It reminds me of when I was a child and my cousin and I would put on shows for our parents at Christmas time. There is a really cringey video of us doing our own version of Father Ted, a comedic show about three Irish priests. Our parents laughed a lot but I’m guessing it was the combination of alcohol and their 10-year-old children saying the iconic lines “Drink, Feck, Arse!” or “That money was just resting in my account.” The two of us really loved being the centre of attention, I can see that in my own children now.

child play.jpeg

 Have a sing song/listen to music

I have to say it but the majority of modern music pales in comparison to the music of “my day”. I grew up listening to Nirvana, Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins, ABBA (I know), The Police and Fleetwood Mac. Now I am partial to a bit of Ed Sheeran, Hozier, Rag N’ Bone Man a few other singer songwriters. But I feel that music isn’t as big on the story telling anymore. Stick on iTunes or a CD player (whatever you have) and introduce your kids to the tunes from your childhood. Take turns with your child and let them introduce you to the music they like. Again, my Dad’s influence comes in here. Driving to/from school or to a hospital appointment used to be my time to have Dad up to date with “new music”. As a teenager I was a big fan of Avril Lavigne and Dad was a fan too. We used to bond with music a lot. Sitting down on a Sunday morning listening to classical music is still a time in my life I look so fondly back on. Sometimes I put on some classical music like The Four Seasons and my son and I close our eyes and talk about what we imagine when we hear the music.

Knitting/crocheting etc

 Learning to knit/sew or crochet is a skill that will always be useful and also enjoyable. The sound of the clicking needles in a rhythm has always been comforting to me. Sadly, knitting isn’t an option for me any more since I began dislocating my wrist. Knitting was dying out for a while but it has gained popularity again when many celebs said it has helped relieve their stress. Teaching a child to sew a button is a skill that they’ll always have as they grow up. These practices are also a good way to improve motor skills.

child knitting.jpeg

Pick something to learn about

My kids love learning and my son’s choice of book is more often than not, an encyclopedia or history book of some kind. His thirst for knowledge is contagious; I love to learn with him. Even as adults there is still so much about the world we have still to discover and learning about it with your children is so, so rewarding. If my son asks me about how something works and I don’t know, we will try and find a book, or if we don’t have time (or I’m ill) we will Google it. This probably stems from my childhood. Whenever I didn’t know what a word meant, my Dad used to send me to his den to get the dictionary and look it up. This led to me knowing the longest word in the English dictionary by the time I was six (it’s floccinaucinihilipilification in case you’re wondering). Interestingly, this word never came to use in my days as a journalist! YouTube has some great educational videos produced for children. Netflix also has a brilliant selection of kid friendly documentaries. Our favourite are the dinosaur themed documentaries.

 Have a conversation

Every now and then I’ll ask my son questions like “What’s your favourite book?” “What’s your favourite colour?” Anything I can think of I’ll ask him. It makes him feel important to talk about what he likes and that mom is taking a real interest. Every time I ask his answer changes, it’s the nature of children, I guess. Ask them about their friends and school or what they want to be when they grow up. You could plan a nice day out for when you’re feeling better.

mom and child talking.jpeg

“Feeling guilty often comes part and parcel of being a Spoonie parent. But remember; you can only do your best and you won’t help anyone, including yourself if you run yourself into the ground. All our children want is to know they are loved and have some quality time with their parents.”

Until next time,

Z.M

x

A letter to my fellow chronic illness sufferers.

Hey there, hi there, ho there!

Recently I’ve read posts from fellow chronic illness sufferers about having to endure ignorant comments from strangers and sadly, friends and family about how how hard it must be for those in their life caring for them without their own difficulties being acknowledged. Now, I’m not saying that life for carers isn’t hard. They have it so tough but, what outside observers tend to forget is that there is a vulnerable person, in pain, unable to look after themselves who have feelings of loss, despair, grief and insecurity. Many sufferers are still dealing with the fact that they are not 100% independent. That can be a very difficult pill to swallow.

For those of you who have had to endure such ignorant comments, this letter is for you.

Do you ever have days where you think: “God, I’m such a burden.” or “I need something but I don’t want to ask for help again.”?

I do. All. The. Time.

How many of us have been with friends or family and listen to them go on and on about how wonderful your husband/wife/partner etc is for taking care of you? Most of them will be somewhat diplomatic but, there are times when you are unfortunate enough to endure a conversation with an ignorant friend or stranger.

You know your spouse/partner is wonderful that’s exactly why you are with them in the first place. You don’t need someone to tell you how hard it is for them to put up with your moods that are a result of fatigue, pain and pure unadulterated frustration. You don’t need  them to remind you that you depend on them to help you with tasks that any healthy person could do for themselves.

When someone says: “Isn’t he/she great for looking after you?”

This is what we hear:

“You’re a burden on your husband. You know that, right? If you didn’t have him you would struggle and probably be alone.”

OK, OK. It might sound a bit dramatic but if it’s what you hear almost every time your illness is discussed it grates on you. Words are funny things. When people are already insecure in themselves they can read into things that may not have any ill intent. Chronic illness eats away at our bodies but it also eats away at our minds and self confidence.

You hear how great your partner is more than you hear how great you are for not getting into bed and never coming out of it no matter how much you want to do that sometimes. But that’s the nature of having a chronic illness, isn’t it? People simply don’t get it. Unless you have a life threatening illness, nobody really listens. Chronic illnesses aren’t “sexy” diseases that can be marketed as well as life threatening ones. People don’t get that your symptoms are for as long as you live-there is no cure and there is no looming death sentence.

Yes, it is really hard for caregivers. Especially for parents and partners of people with chronic illnesses. Caregiving can often be a full time job without the pay. But, imagine how hard it is for the person who is being cared for. Having to be cared for can be downright humiliating. You need help getting off the toilet when your hips are giving you trouble, you need to be lifted out of the bath because you’re dizzy. You need help dressing because your so fatigued after having a shower. You need someone to cook and clean for you because you simply can’t. It takes years for people to come to terms with this-if ever.

You shouldn’t have to be considered “really special” to take care of your significant other, isn’t that the whole point of committing to each other? In sickness and in health etc, etc? Isn’t it part and parcel of choosing to have a child or deciding to spend your life with someone?

I have so many friends who are chronically ill who have their husbands/wives/mothers etc acting as their carers. I know they have had to endure ignorant comments from strangers about whether or not they should have children, that they are a burden on their partner and that their partner is “a really, really great guy that puts up with a lot”. But, I know those same people fight every single day to face their illness and a world that is filled with so much ignorance head on. I also know that these people are so appreciative of everything the people in their support system do to make their lives that bit more bearable. I see them declaring their love and appreciation of their caregiver to the world. But I also know that these same people lay next to their partners on the couch or in bed after a really hard day. They look them in the eye and thank them for everything they have done today to help them endure the pain, the fatigue and all the horrible symptoms they put up with every single day.

Of course you should thank them. They didn’t ask for this life either and yet, they do it anyway and without complaining (well, most of the time anyway). Doing something special for your caregiver every now and then is a nice way to show your appreciation. If your significant other is your carer, sometimes the romance can dwindle and the relationship can go from lover to carer. So it is important to do something together that keeps that passion between you going. Even if it’s snuggling up on the couch and having a kissing and cuddling session. It goes both ways, though. Sometimes those needing to be cared for can feel inferior, childlike, useless,unattractive and yes, a burden. We will explore maintaining romantic relationships next week.

So you, reading this. If you’re chronically ill and have a loved one caring for you remember this; you’re not a burden. You didn’t choose to be sick. You take on the biggest task of all. Surviving.

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Life has given you a pretty crappy hand but you’re still here and that should be applauded. You put up with more things in one week than most people deal with in a lifetime. You are good enough. You are not “lucky” to have a parent/partner caring for you. Sure, there are people who wouldn’t be up to the task of looking after a chronically sick loved one but that doesn’t make you any more “lucky”. Luck has nothing to do with it. You fell in love with a good person and they fell in love with you for the same reason. You are not your illness. It does not define who you are-unless you want it to. Being chronically ill does bring out the not so pleasant side of people but it also embellishes all the wonderful traits of you too. You learn to be more compassionate, more appreciative of the little things in life like a walk on the beach or an hour in the playground with your child. You learn to take opportunities-when you can. You learn that saying no is perfectly fine. If you’re not up to it, you don’t do it. Chronic illness takes so much away but it allows us to see the world in a unique way.

Bottom line is your caregiver is a wonderful person but, so are you.

Till next time,

Z.M

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