*I have been given this course free of charge as part of a review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the course was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.*
Fellow chronic illness blogger, Esther who runs the blog Life in Slow Motion offers three different courses for people with chronic pain.
Esther is a counsellor and writer. Her aim is to help people address the physical, spiritual, and emotional impact of chronic illness and pain.
I took up the offer of reviewing the 31 Days of Expressive Writing of Expressive Writing for People with Chronic Illness and Pain.
The course aims to help reduce emotional stress, improve physical health and to help patients “find themselves again”.
Reduce Emotional Stress
“Writing that includes a high level of emotional disclosure can improve mood, reduce intrusive thoughts and anxiety, and increase your overall sense of well-being.”
Improve Physical Health
Research shows that expressive writing can reduce stress hormones, increase immune function, lower heart rate, and decrease physical pain.
Find Yourself Again
Expressive writing will help you process feelings and memories, gain insight and meaning, process spiritual issues, and set future goals and plans.
So, what is expressive writing?
Expressive writing is personal and emotional writing without regard to usual writing conventions, like spelling, punctuation etc. You must turn off your inner dictionary and thesaurus. Expressive writing simply expresses what is on your mind and in your heart.
Expressive writing pays more attention to feelings rather than the actual story itself. But, like narrative writing, expressive writing can have a story. But often, expressive writing is difficult and unpredictable, and that is a perfectly normal. Expressive writing is not so much what happened as it is how you feel about what happened or is happening.
What does the Expressive Writing Course include?
The course is broken up into eight “chapters”.
-Introduction to Expressive Writing
-Your Grief and Emotions
-Your Strength, Joy and Hope
Each day you are given an exercise or “prompt”, the exercises range in time but take no longer than 30 minutes each.
The beauty of this course is that there is no deadline, you can do as much or as little of the course as you like in a day. This is ideal for people with chronic illnesses because, as we all know, there are days where we are simply not able to do anything but lie there and wait for our symptoms to ease. Of course then there is brain fog which makes us forget, like, everything!
Over the few days I did this course, I found myself to be in a far better head space than I have been in recent months. Just getting my feelings down on paper on a daily basis, was actually very liberating.
I learned a lot about myself during this course. There are a few particular exercises where you just write, not about anything in particular just wherever you mind takes you for those few minutes. When I read back what I wrote I realised just how much is on my mind, all the things I worry about sitting there on paper was a real eye opener. Interestingly, a lot of them were issues “normal” people would worry about like money, housework etc. Writing them down made them almost more manageable to conquer. That in retrospect, everything I worry about can be fixed, one way or another. Some may take more time and help than others but all in all, I have conquered much more difficult tasks.
Those types of exercises were my favourite and I will definitely continue to use this as a form of self therapy.
I also really enjoyed the more structured exercises such as writing about the experiences I had with the different stages of grief and looking back at all the milestones I achieved since diagnosis.
There are some exercises that are based on faith like reading through bible verses and analysing and applying it to your own experiences with chronic illness. I did skip these particular sections as they didn’t apply to me as someone who doesn’t practice religion.
I did go through the Faith section of the course and from what read, I think anyone who finds comfort in their faith would be fond of this particular aspect of the course. I think it would also be healing for somebody who is struggling with their faith.
There are some PDF attachments which you can download for particular exercises and I plan to use them for a chronic illness bullet journal I’m putting together.
The Expressive Writing Course is $39 which I think is a fairly reasonable price considering the course was put together by somebody who is a licensed Clinical Counsellor with a Master’s Degree in their field . It is really hard (at least here in Ireland) to find somebody who specialises in counselling for chronic illness. Waiting times for mental health services are also some of the worst in the world. I waited two years to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. I started this course just before my first appointment and I already felt much better in myself by the time I saw the doctor.
When you break it down to $1.20 a day for a researched based course, you are getting a a really good deal. Plus you can also redo the course if you so wish.
There are some parts of the course that you may not feel like doing (like me with the faith section) but it’s simply a case of taking what you want from the course and using it for your every day life.
While I haven’t seen an improvement in my physical health thus far, I feel that if I continue to practice the techniques I learned on this course that I will feel better equiped to deal with the daily battle that is chronic pain.
I would have liked if the work could have all been done on the one platform as an online journal rather switching back between word and the website. But that’s just personal preference.
Are you a new mama with under-eye bags that could rival a Louis Vuitton? There are so many hats we wear as humans in this rollercoaster society. As adults, we have endless streams of responsibilities and stress. No doubt these factors can have an effect on your mental health at some point in your life.
As a mother, external stress factors affect you. In addition, you are also responsible for keeping a whole separate human.
It is not surprising that stress and anxiety levels become elevated after the birth of a child. What steps can we take to reassert authority over our overworked stress responders?
Check out these seven ideas for managing stress and cultivating stability. These tips can be useful for in your role as caregiver and primary support system. These tips apply to any parent who may be struggling with their mental health.
Don’t Go It Alone
Talk about what you are feeling. One study conducted by Dr. Michael O’Hara, Ph.D. investigated external influence and postpartum depression. It’s reported that women are more likely to suffer from Postpartum depression as a result of not feeling supported by their partner after delivery.
Whether it be a spouse, friend, or support group, reaching out and sharing your emotional journey will not only ease your mind and soul, it will also allow those closest to you to better understand your emotional situation. Many people find talking about mental issues uncomfortable, but remember; that mental health issues are not uncommon in mothers. You are not alone.
Tip from the Zebra Mom:
There are great Facebook groups for mothers with Chronic Illnesses. Contact The Zebra Mom Facebook page for a list of helpful groups. Having an online ‘village’ can do wonders for a mom who can’t get to support group meetings. It is also comforting to know there are others out there who know exactly how you feel. It is far from unusual for mothers with physical illnesses to struggle with their mental health.
Yoga has earned a powerful reputation in the healthy living sphere, as a cure-all for both physical and mental health. There is a multitude of ways this practice could benefit you. While yoga alone will not serve as a blanket treatment, there is research that shows the benefits of a regular practice to be tangible. Preethi Kandhalu’s article on the physical and psychological effects of cortisol suggests that the levels of cortisol in people with Major Depressive Disorder declined after three months of practicing yoga, pointing to the conclusion that yoga can indeed encourage good mental health.
Tip from the Zebra Mom:
Hypermobile Mama, please talk to your physiotherapist when considering Yoga and Pilates. These practices may cause hyperextension of the joints which can increase laxity and/or cause dislocations/subluxations.
Finally shedding a reputation of hippy-dippy voodoo, the neurological data behind meditation and positive physical changes to the brain speak for itself. The brain is a muscle, and like other muscles in the body can strengthen with tools and exercises. While many areas of the brain are active during meditation, data shows the significant difference in the hippocampus between meditators and non-meditators. The hippocampus affects stress and emotional responses. These sorts of physical changes can have a positive effect on stress levels. There are many ways to begin a meditation practice. Explore guided online tracks or meditation apps like Headspace. You could even practice an individual exploration of a particular mantra or affirmation.
Tip from The Zebra Mom:
Meditation is also useful as a way of pain management. This study shows there is some evidence for the existence of a non-opioid process in the brain to reduce pain through mindfulness meditation.
The vision of becoming a pincushion may be off-putting. Yet, the ancient practice of acupuncture has stood the test of time as a method of physical and mental release. A new study explores the science behind what exactly is happening in the body to relieve anxiety.
Tip from the Zebra Mom:
Some study shows that acupuncture may be effective in relieving chronic pain. A trained, certified professional should always be sought but only after you’ve spoken to your doctor.
Get your Groove on
Music makes us feel. Whether it’s a favorite song in the car or soft background music, the link between the sound of music and the effect on our cognitive abilities and functions is a massive field of research. Instead of scrolling through your Instagram feed before you fall asleep, play some soothing tunes and let yourself drift.
Tip from the Zebra Mom:
Play music that inspires or motivates you. My own personal mood-boosting songs are Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’ and Rudimental’s ‘Not giving in’. Blast them and sing them loud! Further research should arise, but there is some correlation between music and pain relief.
Make Sleep a Priority
Without an adequate amount of shut-eye, many other efforts at wellness are going to seem unmanageable. Implementing a regular yoga and meditation practice often leads to an improvement in the quality of sleep. There are further steps to ensure our bodies are getting enough rest. Explore alternative remedies such as aromatherapy. Using lavender or peppermint essential oil before bed can relax the central nervous system. This results in ease of physical aches, anxieties, and tension.
Tip from the Zebra Mom:
If you’re a new mom, you should consider co-sleeping with your baby. When practiced safe way, this practice allows mom to get more sleep. Studies show breastfeeding moms who also co-sleep get more sleep than those who don’t. I know, that in the early days of being a new mom, co-sleeping allowed me to get a full night sleep. Studies also show that children who sleep close to their parents tend to be more content and sleep better. See Infant Sleep Information Source for information about how to practice safe sleeping. Furthermore, you will also find information on normal infant sleep patterns. See Infant Sleep Information Source
Spend Time with Yourself
A little pampering goes a long way when it comes to affecting mood and sense of purpose. One study investigated the influence of self-esteem and optimism as measured factors before, during, and after pregnancy, with optimism associated with fewer symptoms of depression during pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum, with self-esteem correlating with lower depression along with all points of the pregnancy. Cultivating self-love and existing as your best self can make it easier to radiate the same level of love outward. This love can be for your children and also complete strangers.
Tip from the Zebra Mom:
A pamper session doesn’t have to involve leaving the house. As moms with Chronic Illness, we know it can take a lot of energy going anywhere. Run a bath, light some candles or paint your nails. Even some online shopping can give you the pick-me-up you needed. Whatever makes you feel good; go for it.
About the Author
Guest post by Marcus Clarke BSc, MSc. from psysci.co. His blog focusses on psychology and science.
Marcus has Bachelors (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Health Psychology. Marcus has experience working in a Psychology department within the NHS. He is currently working in the health and social care sector. Marcus supports adults and children with learning disabilities.
You can contact Marcus via email firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter: @psysci_co_uk
If you would like to guest post on The Zebra Mom, email email@example.com
It’s that time of year again, folks! Yep, the summer is well and truly over. We did it! We made it through but now, a new challenge begins.
While getting the kids back to school means our routines will settle again, it also means early mornings, arguments, searching for school books, shoes, lunch boxes, pencils etc etc. Mornings in our house are well, stressful. A symphony consisting of whining, shouting, shrieking and wailing.
In addition to the energy we spend getting ready for the school run each morning, stress can also really take it out of us and even cause our spoons to dwindle before the day has even begun.
This year I am determined in making a change, not just for me and my illness but for the entire family’s mental health. Stress first thing in the morning puts everyone in a fowl mood for the day. I am trying my very best not to sweat the small things in an effort to chill out and ease stress related symptoms.
I know I am not alone when it comes to the stress of the morning rush. Millions of families across the world go through the same thing. We all wish for the same routine, to wake up refreshed, have our breakfast and coffee as a family, to all get ready individually and walk out the door on time and kiss each other goodbye as we all go our separate ways. It may seem like a scene from The Brady Brunch or The Waltons but there are some small tricks I’ve learned over the past few weeks in preparation for the coming school year.
If my chaotic morning routine sings to you, why not join me in my attempt to be more of a Zen like zebra on a Monday morning.
Sunday night, everybody dreads it. You feel you’re wasting a perfectly good day off doing laundry, sorting homework, lunches and looking for books and hearing excuses like “I didn’t have time to do x y and z”.
Below was the trigger for my Sunday night dread. The moment that theme song came on, it was time for bed and began my anxiety, fearing Monday morning.
Not exactly an ominous tune is it? To me it might as well have been the Imperial March or ‘Jaws’ music.
This year, I am going to encourage my 8 year old to help me with the laundry on Friday afternoon. As soon as he comes straight home from school, he is to get changed. This is when his uniforms will be washed. He is well able to use the coffee machine for when Daddy needs his morning pick me up so he is well able to turn on the washing machine.
I know this will serve him well when he is older. I have met so many men (and women for that matter) over the years that didn’t have a clue how to use a washing machine once they cut the apron strings and flew the nest from their mammy.
During the week, my son will get changed straight away and put his uniform away while I prepare a snack for him. If the uniform gets dirty during the week, I usually just do a spot clean. If it gets particularly dirty, a quick wash will usually do the trick.
For now, my son does not get homework for the weekend. But during the week he can spend quite awhile doing homework due to his sensory issues and poor writing skills. Luckily his Occupational Therapist is going to recommend a laptop this year so hopefully that’ll speed things up. Bendy Boy usually does his homework in the kitchen. He is so easily distracted so we will set up a designated homework space for him this year. After he gets home from school, I usually let him have an hour of rest before we begin homework and physiotherapy. Then he must do his homework and physio if he wants to go out and play with his friends or watch some TV. This has worked for us for the most part in the past but when the days are sunny (almost a rarity in Ireland), I much prefer him to spend time outdoors in the fresh air and socialise with friends. Unfortunately we have had issues getting him to do his homework after play. “I’m too tired. I don’t want to etc etc”, there is nothing to look forward to now.
It’s Sunday night. Sugar! No bread! No lunch meat! No fruit! This is also a regular occurrence and sometimes it even happens on Monday morning. Jesus, we really sound like the most unorganised family, don’t we?! If you have a chronic illness though, you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from. Brain fog…am I right? Anyway, this year all lunch box items will be organised on a Friday and rationed for the week.
Lunches can be so stressful, especially when you have a child that’s fussy or has sensory issues. One day they’ll eat sandwiches, the next day you’ll find them squished at the bottom of the bag (I was guilty of this). I am gagging at the very thought of bread in my teeth at the moment! We can’t all be like Martha Stewart or Bree Van de Camp and cook up uber healthy three course gourmet lunches (regardless of health, who has the time?!).
Give them what they like. It’s that simple. No use sending in kale and cucumber sandwiches if you’re just going to find them buried in the bottom of the school bag.
Bendy Boy gets hangry and I mean hangry. Don’t know what hangry is? Let me enlighten you. You know that feeling you get when every little thing bugs you? Someone’s breathing, chewing or you know…their very existence? Then you eat something and everything is alright again. That’s hangry. Think of the Snickers ad. Well, that’s Bendy Boy. When he’s hungry he’s in no fit state to be in school.
Obviously send in nutritious food but make sure it’s something they enjoy! Looking for some lunch box ideas? Check out this blog by awesome sister and nutritionist, Fiona.
As noted in Fiona’s blog, getting the kids involved with lunch packing the night before can take the stress out of what should be a pretty stress free job.
Like Fiona, for me, nothing could be touching and nothing could be soggy. Our poor, poor mother.
Make sure each day that you or your child empty the lunch box and clean it when they get home from school.
I refuse to have a screaming match every weekday this year. Nope. It’s not happening. If we sleep in, we sleep in, if we are late, we are late. It’s school. The world isn’t going to end. I am not going to give myself a migraine by stressing out. I’m not going to dislocate a hip running up the stairs like a crazy woman.
Between Friday and Saturday we are going to get everything ready so that we don’t suffer from Sunday night fear and we can enjoy the day relaxing or going on a family outing. So uniform will be ready on Friday and books will be sitting in his bag and by the door waiting.
On Sunday we will prep lunch and make sure coat, hat, scarf and shoes are waiting on the coat hook and shoe rail (right next to the front door).
One of the major causes of arguments in the morning with Bendy Boy is his distraction and forgetfulness. He goes and plays with toys instead of getting dressed and washed, he spends time singing instead of brushing his teeth (if he even remembers to do it). Half the time we have to remind him to do the next thing (now get your shoes on etc). So we have come up with a plan. He will have a chart in his room that will help him get ready on time in the morning. These are available all over the internet like this one . We are going to make one ourselves from card paper (spoon friendly activity) and write each task for the morning.
Put dishes in dishwasher
Put on your shoes, coat and schoolbag.
Because kids have the attention spans of well, children. We can’t rely on them to be responsible for all school prep. So have your own chart on the fridge to check off over the weekend to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Check for notes in bag about school trips or events
Make sure books and pencil case are in the bag
Have your own clothes ready for the morning
Keys ready by the front door
Check forecast. If the weather is particularly cold make sure to get up earlier to defrost your windscreen and in case traffic or road conditions are difficult to get around.
Set your alarm.
If your kids are getting off school early set a reminder in your phone to pick up or organise someone to pick up in case you have an appointment or other engagement.
One final thing, make sure you try and get a decent night and wake up before the kids and take your meds so you’ll feel more equipped to deal with what lies ahead.
Do you have any tips or tricks to help save time in the morning? Let me know in the comments below!
As my Dad always taught me; fail to prepare and prepare to fail!
I have been given this product as part of a product review. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.
Hey there, hi there, ho there!
So, I’m on a mission right now to find the best gadgets for “spoonies”. Things that make life bit easier can mean the difference between living a normal life and being bed bound. Last time we looked at the Oska Pulse which is a truly life changing device. However, there are some meds that I still need to take multiple times on a daily basis.
I am useless at remembering to take my meds. Brain fog has a lot to answer for that. So I could just set a reminder on my phone, right? Yeah, I could but I live in a house where the minute you set something down, it gets swallowed. Plus, when the alarm goes off, I usually just silence it and if I’m in the middle of doing something I say to myself “Yeah, I’ll get my meds there in a minute.” Then I forget and wonder why I’m in so much pain or feeling dizzy an hour or so later. This is where the Pill Drill comes in.
What is a Pill Drill and how does it work?
Wired.com have described the Pill Drill as “the FitBit for taking medication”. I couldn’t agree more (not that I have a FitBit).
So the first thing you need to do is to set up the hub. The hub is the heart of your kit. Once you set it up in whichever room you tend to keep your meds, it will remind you when to take your meds and keep track of your intake.
Once you’ve taken your pills, you scan the pod from your weekly pill strip. Each pod has a built in scanning tag. The lids are very easy to open and close. Which is handy for people like me with weak hands so ensure you keep it out of reach of children.
The weekly pill strip comes with two pods for each day (e.g Monday 1 & Monday 2). If you take pills more than twice a day, you can order extra pill strips (RPP $29.95). The pill strip also comes with a strap to keep the pods secure while travelling.
In Ireland we generally don’t get medications in pill bottles but rather in boxes so I haven’t used the scanning tags myself. But, if you have pill bottles, you can attach scanning tags to them. You will receive 12 scanning tags (A-L). You can order an additional tag set should you need them (RPP $12.95). They would also be helpful for items such as inhalers, injections eye drops or other irregular shaped items. The tags are can be placed in the three tag holders provided. More are available should you need them ($4.95).
In addition to scanning your pill pods, you can also scan your mood cube. The cube has five faces which displays a range of feelings you may experience on a day to day basis. These include: great, good, OK, bad and awful. The cube will register your mood and track health patterns over time. This cube is also especially handy for those who care for loved ones. If you’re not around, you can be notified in how the person taking the meds is feeling over the day. Once you scan, the carer/family member/loved one will be instantly notified. This is an optional feature.
The Pill Drill app syncs with your hub in real time. Here, you can edit and modify doses, receive reminders and log doses, receive adherence updates and track mood and symptoms. The app is totally optional.
My thoughts on the Pill Drill
I did have slight issues setting up the Pill Drill and connecting it to the WiFi. It didn’t take long for us to sort it out though. If you are not tech savvy you might need someone to give you a hand. The Pill Drill website does have an FAQ page to answer the majority of questions you may have in setting up.
Once everything was set up, it was pretty easy to use. I no longer forgot to take my pills and taking them at a scheduled time every day did improve my symptoms.
Each week my husband fills the pill pods (I find it very difficult getting pills out of their trays) which means I don’t have to spend five minutes fumbling around trying to get pills out each time I needed to take them. I do need to order a second set of pill strips as I take some meds up to four times a day. Pill Drill states that they ship to the US, Canada and Australia but you can contact them if you would like to order them in your country. I will use my addresspal (An Post) account to have the extra strips delivered to me.
The kids enjoy scanning the mood cube for me. I didn’t use the option of linking the Pill Drill to my carer but I do plan to do this as he is away for entire days every week or so. I really like the availability of this feature for those who do need caring for. It is reassuring to know that even if you’re not around, that you can make sure the patient is not putting themselves in danger or causing unnecessary symptoms by missing their meds. Knowing how their feeling is lovely too. If you get a notification that the patient is feeling very unwell, you can go to them/call them/doctor.
The app is really only needed if you need to modify dose and/or are out of the house and away from the hub. If you’re away from the hub, your phone will remind you to take your meds and you can log your dose so that you your adherence score stays consistent. I would recommend relying on scanning the pills on the hub rather than logging the dose on the app (if you’re at home) so that you’re not tempted in knocking off the alarm the hub makes. This is because you may forget or delay to take your meds. So if you’re home, use the hub as consistently as possible.
One thing that would make the Pill Drill even better is a feature to remind you to order more pills from your doctor and/or pharmacy. Since it tracks your in take already, I imagine it wouldn’t be difficult to incorporate such a feature. You might say you would know how many pills you have left seeing as you put them into the pill pods each week but if you suffer from brain fog, you live a busy life or someone else is filling your meds, you may forget to order a new script.
Product rating: 4/5
The Pill Drill Smart Medication Tracking System retails at $199.00 with a 30 day money back guarantee. The kit includes:
Pill Drill hub, 2 pill strips (Monday-Sunday x2), 12 scanning tags, 3 elastic tag holders and the mood cube. The app is available on the App Store (Apple) and Google Play (Android).
I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.
Hey there, hi there, ho there!
I contacted Oska Wellness a few months back as I had heard about the Oska Pulse and had seen some reviews. I’ll be honest, I was skeptical. But, my curiosity and desperation got the better of me so I made contact with Steve Collins one of the founders of Oska Wellness. He requested a Skype call and what a call it was! I felt as though I was talking to a friend, we spoke about music, Ireland and his family heritage. We spoke about the device and I was carefully hopeful after hearing about some of Steve’s stories. Steve told me “be skeptical, but don’t be surprised if it works. You won’t even realise it’s working, one day you’ll find you’re doing something you haven’t been able to do for a long time”.
“Oska Pulse mimics the body’s own recovery processes to relieve pain, muscle stiffness and inflammation, using optimized pulsed electromagnetic field technology (PEMF) to encourage recovery at a cellular level.” It is a first grade, FDA approved medical device.
What are Electro Magenetic Fields?
Sounds a bit Star Trek, right? Ok, so I’ll break it down a bit.
So first of all, I think it’s important to know what electromagnetic fields are and how important they are to our survival.
The Earth has it’s own electromagnetic field and without it, we wouldn’t be here. The Earth’s magnetosphere is a shield that protects us from the powerful solar winds given off by our sun. Without it, our atmosphere would be blown away out into space.
We all use this technology on a day to day basis. Our phones, microwaves and computer screens all emit electromagnetic fields.
So how does this technology work as a therapy?
PEMF therapy is applied by running an electrical current through a copper coil which creates an electromagnetic field.
This type of therapy is said to improve circulation. With improved circulation, your cells are in a much better condition allowing your body to heal more effectively.
Electromagnetic field therapy has been in use since the invention of electricity. It was widely adopted in East and Western Europe but its use was restricted to animals in North America until recently. Veterinarians became the first health professionals to use PEMF therapy, usually to heal broken legs in racehorses.
In 2004, a pulsed electromagnetic field system was approved by the FDA as an adjunct to cervical fusion surgery in patients at high risk for non-fusion.
Although electricity’s potential to aid bone healing was reported as early as 1841, it was not until the mid-1950s that scientists seriously studied the subject.
Ok sounds great, right? But if you’re like me, you’ll want some hard core proof this technology works. So I did a bit of reading about PEMF. I read some articles and reviews and it gave me hope but, I was still a bit skeptical about whether it would work for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. After all, it’s been noted as one of the most painful conditions.
So it arrived after a couple of weeks. I charged it for awhile and used it that evening. My science fanatic husband used an EMF detector on the device and sure enough, the Oska Puse was emitting electromagnetic pulses every few seconds.
A few weeks later my husband was refilling my Pill Drill and he called into me ” Babe?! You know you haven’t been taking your painkillers, right?”
I stopped and thought about it. Lo and behold I realised I was only taking two Tramadol in the morning. I had previously been taking the max dose (400mg per day).
I upped my use of the Oska to see if it would help my Dysautonomia symptoms as Steve had told me a young woman with POTS had noticed an improvement with her symptoms. Once I upped my usage, I did notice a difference with my POTS symptoms.
So how do you use the Oska Pulse?
Please note that if you have a pace maker or internal defibrillator you will not be able to use the Oska Pulse.
The device is about as small as a phone and can easily fit into a pocket or handbag. A strap also comes in the package so you can simply strap it on to you as you get on with your day. I use mine first thing in the morning for an hour. I use it again in the afternoon for about 2 hours and then finally another 2 hours in the evening. You can use it while on the computer working, reading a book or even making the dinner.
Skeptics might say this device is producing a placebo effect but we were both skeptical from the beginning. I went to my pain specialist just last week and told him about the Oska Pulse. He was in absolute agreement that this technology works and he was not surprised at all that the device was working for my chronic pain. This pain specialist has an amazing reputation and is highly regarded in his field here in Ireland so for him to believe in this product and technology, it says a lot. I know this isn’t a placebo effect.
I’m now thinking about possibly working outside of the home, something I haven’t done since 2012. I’m pushing my daughter on the swing and playing hide and seek with the kids. My day to day pain has all but vanished.
Now, of course no tablet or device is going to stop me from dislocating and stop the pain that goes with it. But knowing that the horrible day to day excruciating pain that I normally experience is not going to stop me from living my life, has given me hope. Once I start getting my injections into my hips and spine, I should hopefully be in a position to throw myself into physiotherapy. Getting myself strong should reduce dislocations so between the Oska Pulse, injections and physiotherapy, I will hopefully be able to go back to the old Evie who danced, played tennis, went horse riding and a social life.
The Oska Pulse has put in me in a position to start my recovery. I can start seeing the light between the trees. Not using pain killers has also made me feel more clear headed and the rebound pain I often get from using Tramadol has disappeared. Using Tramadol over a long period of time can have a number of pretty nasty side effects which I started noticing.
If you are like me living with chronic pain that has stopped you living your life, you should definitely try the Oska Pulse. You have nothing to loose. Oska Wellness offers a 90 day money back guarantee so if it doesn’t work for you, you can simply send it back.
Product rating: 5/5
If you would like to try the Oska Pulse and receive a $55 discount click the link here. Or you can use the coupon code 180387 at the checkout! For more information, see the Oska Wellness Facebook page.
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.
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)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
I hope this book brings you as much joy as it has brought me.
All my love,
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
This week I spoke to Caroline from Living with PoTS . Caroline suffers from Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS). PoTS is a debilitating type of Dysautonomia and is often found in people with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. You can find Caroline on Twitter.
I’m Caroline, I’m a final year Uni student in Yorkshire, studying Psychology and Education. I love reading, especially Harry Potter, baking and crafting, and my dream is to live abroad and work with disadvantaged children. I’m relatively new to both the chronic illness and blogging communities, having suffered with PoTS like symptoms all my life, but only just figuring out what it is. I’ve been amazed by how supportive everyone is.
So now that we know a little about Caroline, let’s look at her Friday Feelings entry.
Friday night again, well 4pm. I’m in bed, exhausted from the week. Tonight is worse than most, Friday is food shop day, and dragging a week’s worth of stuff back on the bus means the pain is worse than usual. Later my flatmates will be going out, I’ll be lying in bed trying to sleep, constantly being woken up by them. Eventually I’ll probably give up and turn my laptop on. If it’s been a bad week, I’ll stick a DVD on, if it’s been a better week I might try get through some of the mountain of work I’ve been avoiding.
Right now I’m still getting used to my chronic illness. I’ve been suffering for years, but always just assumed I was lazy, or hadn’t eaten enough, or a million and one other excuses. Although having a reason is a relief, it’s scary. It’s here to stay and I need to learn to live with it. I’m sure one day I’ll know where I stand with it, I’ll have a diagnosis and a symptom management plan, and I’ll feel more in control, but that day is not yet.
The future is overwhelming. In July I’ll graduate, and have to enter the real world. I’ve always known what I wanted to do, I never even considered that I might be too ill to do it. So right now it’s back to the drawing board, desperately searching for a job I can do, without having to move away from the doctors I’ve only just met, who will be supportive of my illness. My degree has 3 contact hours a week, so I have no idea how I’ll cope with work, I don’t even know how I’ll cope making tea tonight, or having a shower. Long term planning is nothing short of impossible.
I wish people would stop telling me to be positive. I am positive. I’m also realistic. When I say this illness isn’t going away, it’s not. That’s a chronic condition. When I say it limits what I can do, it does. That doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious. I will find a job and a life that I love, it just won’t be what I was planning, but that’s okay. My condition is part of me, it does not define me.”
A big thank you to Caroline for reaching out to take part in our Friday Feelings blog.
Do you relate to Caroline’s entry? Do you constantly hear that you should be more positive from those around you? How do you deal with it? Comment below to offer some advice to this new Spoonie.
Want to write your own Friday Feeling entry?
A high res photo
A short paragraph about yourself
What illnesses you have
Your diary entry with the following topics in it:
It’s Friday, many people will go out tonight for a few sociable drinks with their friends. What do you do on a typical Friday night?
How are you feeling at this moment about your chronic illness?
How do you feel about the future in regards to your illness?
How do you feel about the way people view your illness?
and links to your blog and social media to firstname.lastname@example.org
Be sure to put “Friday Feelings” in the subject bar.
So until Sunday (I know, I know I said I’d have it up during the week),
So last time we discussed how sometimes people forget that life for the chronically ill person is far more difficult than a carer’s. I briefly touched on how relationships can dwindle from lovers to a carer-patient relationship when your signifiant other is acting as your carer. So, with that in mind, let’s look at some ways you and your partner can keep things romantic even when chronic illness tries to intervene. A lot of the things I’m going to talk about can be applied to any couple that may have let the romance die out a little.
When you’ve been with someone a long time, sometimes you genuinely forget to kiss-even if you’re not chronically ill.
“Even just a quick touch of the lips.”
When you’re so busy concentrating on your illness and/or family life it can be easy to forget to just stop and have a moment together.
Do something together at least once a month.
Whether it’s getting in some alcohol free wine/beer, watching a romantic movie or having dinner together-make the time to spend a couple of hours together not talking about family/illness etc. Even a gentle stroll on the beach/ woods while holding hands can be just enough to keep that flame-a-flickering.
Go back to where you first met.
If it’s possible, go back to the place where you first clapped eyes on each other. Try and remember how you felt that day. Recreate your first date. Go to your friends house and help them get you ready.
“Have your partner pick you up or meet you at the place where you had your first dinner/drink together.”
Do something nice for each other.
It doesn’t have to be a birthday or a special occasion to do something nice for your significant other. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture or anything expensive. Write a love letter and leave it somewhere for them to find. Make a playlist of all their favourite songs or songs that remind you of them. Run a bubble bath, light some candles and let them have some time to themselves.
Get some nice oils, light some candles and help get those pesky knots out. PLEASE do be careful if you’re massaging someone with a hyper mobility syndrome-last thing you want on your romantic night is to end up in A&E!
Go on a weekend break/holiday.
If you’re like me and are seriously affected by low pressures and crap weather, you might appreciate getting away to somewhere warm (but not humid). A nice week away to the Mediterranean can give you and your partner a break from pain and all the other symptoms associated with your condition.
Renew your vows.
You don’t need to recreate your wedding day-unless you want to. You can simply organise to renew your vows with your priest/registrar/humanist. You can do it alone or just invite your close family and friends.
I love you.
Those three simple words should be said every day. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
“Let your significant other know that they are loved.”
Just like kissing, sometimes it can be easy to forget to say it. Especially when brain fog is a factor of your illness. Set a reminder if you have to!
If you can do it and want to, go for it. 90% of the time us spoonies don’t feel sexy or attractive. Sometimes you gotta make yourself look good on the outside to help you feel better on the inside. Make yourself feel sexy by having your hair/ make up done. Have a relaxing bath, shave your legs (if you want), get into a nice nighty or PJs. Do whatever makes you feel good about yourself. Sometimes after all that effort-the last thing you want to do is to do the horizontal mambo but if you still have some spoons left and you’re not in too much pain, use that last bit of energy to make lurve. Remember, you don’t have to necessarily have to “go all the way” sometimes some heavy petting can be just as nice.
Till next time,
Don’t forget to share and to follow me on social media!
The topic of consent is everywhere at the moment, it is an important social issue that affects each and every person, male or female, no matter their age. While I welcome mandatory consent classes on college campuses, I can’t help but wonder whether we are leaving it too late to begin introducing the topic of consent to the young people of Ireland? Let’s face it; the majority of first year college students are already sexually active. Should these mandatory classes be apart of the secondary curriculum? Absolutely. But as parents I feel it is our responsibility to plant the seed much earlier on in life.
I recently watched Louise O’Neill’s documentary Asking for It? If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it here. After it’s airing, I began scrolling through comment sections on social media to suss out what the Irish public thought of rape culture and the issue of consent.
Sadly, I was unsurprised to see so many people claim that Ireland does not have a rape culture. People were either too fixated on the word “culture” or almost literally sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming to avoid dealing with this very real issue. It’s such an Irish thing to do, to sweep it under the carpet, no need to make anyone uncomfortable. We have a rich history of turning our backs on painful subjects. Just look at the Magdalene Laundry scandal, for instance. Modern day Ireland is repulsed with how women up until very recently were treated by the Church. We are also disgusted that as a society we kept quiet. This attitude reflects what we are seeing today with women being perceived within a Madonna-whore complex. No, “rape culture” does not mean that as a nation we condone rape. Not. At. All. Of course the vast majority of people believe that rape is a heinous crime and those who carry out such acts should be punished to the fullest extent. Consent is consent and using excuses means we will never tackle the real issue head on.
We have a tendency to victim blame, not just about rape but also in many other situations. Just look at Kim Kardashian’s ordeal in Paris, for example. The narrative wasn’t about this traumatic event a human being went through but rather, blaming Kim for showing off her very expensive jewellery on social media. That she was “asking for it to happen.” The same thing happens to victims of sexual assault.
“Well if she’s going out dressed like that…”
“She shouldn’t have walked home alone”.
“How much did she have to drink?”
“Sure wasn’t she mauling the face off him earlier on in the night? What did she expect?”
Excusing a man’s (or woman’s) actions because they were drunk and saying “he/she would never do that normally.”
Every time these words are uttered we undermine the actual issue.
Growing up in Ireland, I could not go with friends for a night out without the following lecture chanted at me like some sort of protection spell:
“Stay with the crowd, don’t wonder off alone. Watch your drink. If someone is buying you a drink, go to the bar with them.”
As a young teenage girl, I had never been exposed to rape. It was something I only knew about from obsessively watching Law and Order: SVU. It was something that happened in far away lands, not here in little ole Ireland. Then again, I did live a fairly sheltered life.
But, as I began going out more, I started to understand why my mother gave me the same speech over and over again, each and every single night out. Even today at 29, a mother of two children, I am still reminded by my mother to do all of those things. Years ago I would have rolled my eyes at mum followed by a “yeah, yeah, yeah. OK, Mum.” Now? I make sure I don’t walk home alone on the rare night I do go out. Or if I can’t get someone to walk home with me, I call my husband for the 7-minute walk home. A lot can happen in 7 minutes.
I recently had a discussion with an older relative about rape culture and particularly, victim blaming. The conversation went something like this:
“Women have a level of responsibility to protect themselves,” the relative said.
In a perfect world, it would be great for women to feel comfortable enough to walk home alone at night. It has been drilled into our heads so much that we shouldn’t put ourselves in dangerous situations but how about we start telling young men before they go out to respect any girl they potentially hook up with. That no means no and not try a little harder to swoon her into submission.
Sexual abuse is rarely ever about sex, it’s about power. Assault can happen anytime, anywhere and the attacker more often than not is someone familiar to the victim. 93% of perpetrators are familiar to their victims.
I responded to this relative with a question.
“If a man is mugged in the street at night. Do you blame the man or the thugs that mugged him?”
This made my relative stop and think.
A few days later we went to the woods for a stroll and some foraging. We separated for a few minutes. I noticed a white van with no windows pull up near me. I looked around to see how many people were around me and checked the laces on my runners were tied properly. My male relative didn’t acknowledge the van, as in he didn’t think twice about it. Women all over the world are on edge. We always have our defenses up. Will that guy cat calling follow me home? Will I arrive home safely in this taxi?
When scrolling through the comments section under Jennifer Hough’s article about rape culture in Cork one comment stuck out for me.
It went something like this:
There have been no reports of rape over the weekend so I question the author’s claim that she saw this happening.
One in four Irish women have experienced sexual abuse at some point in their lives. One. In. Four. That’s almost as common as cancer and yet, why don’t we see it in the media more? Victims of assault fear the trauma of reliving their experience during an investigation or fear of being accused of leading the perpetrator on; that they did something to ask for the attack. According to the Rape Crisis Centre Network of Ireland’s (RCC) 2014 statistics 33% of survivors contacted the police about their assault. According to the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland Report (SAVI), only one in ten sexual crimes are reported in Ireland. Of that one in ten, only 7% secures a conviction. Less than 1% of victims of sexual crime in Ireland get justice.
So, just because we don’t see it in the media everyday, it doesn’t it’s not happening.
Consent is a hot topic and Louise O’Neill’s documentary resulted in the subject being discussed everywhere-amongst friends, on social media and in the news. The end message is we need to teach young men about consent just as we teach women to protect themselves. We are now seeing mandatory classes in collages being taught about consent but should we wait until most young people are already sexually active before we introduce the idea of consent to them?
Just the other day my 7-year-old son was trying to get his 19-month-old sister to give him hugs and kisses. She was shouting no but my son kept trying. At that age of course there was no malice in his actions but something clicked. This is where it begins. I told my son there and then that if his sister didn’t want hugs and kisses and she is shouting no that it meant no and to stop. I want him to understand that now, not when he’s a teenage boy. No means no. We see it all the time, relatives practically forcing children to show them affection. Why are we so pushy for physical affection? Children are not property. We have no right to hit them so why should we force them to hug and kiss us? It is their body. It is their choice. Their feelings about their personal space matter as much as any adult’s.
It all starts in childhood. We need to teach our children that our bodies are our own and nobody, not our parents or siblings have a right to invade our personal space or have forced affection brought on them. Parents often tell their children to let them know if anyone touches them inappropriately. Abuse often starts with uninvited touching, hugging or stroking. If we force affection on a child who clearly doesn’t want it, it can be confusing for them to know when something is inappropriate. Forced affection doesn’t show children we love them, it shows them that we can do as we please with their bodies.
If you don’t believe the idea of consent should be introduced to children just take a look at the figures from the 2014 RCC report:
52% of survivors aged 13 to 17 were subjected to rape
15% of perpetrators were under 18
9% of survivors attending crisis centres in Ireland were children.
Waiting until our children become young adults to discuss consent is too late and the figures reflect this.
Although parents or relatives have no intention of harming a child, nor do they think they are doing anything inappropriate; we are teaching our children that an adult or other person’s want for physical affection is more important than their own comfort and safety. It starts as early as toddlerhood; we are laying the groundwork for behaviours that continue into adult life. Teaching our children that no means no could potentially save them from assault later in life. It could also empower young people to have sex only when they’re ready to.
We don’t see physical interaction amongst children as a problem until it’s too late. They tickle, they force hugs and rarely they mean any harm. But every parent has experienced an occasion where their child has either been subjected to touching they didn’t want or have been the ones to force the affection or tickles. So how can we introduce consent to children without going into too much detail about sexual abuse?
We need to teach our children to ask for permission to touch another person. “Is it okay if I hug you? Or “Can I have a hug?”
This teaches our children to ask for permission and it also teaches them to think about their actions before they do them.
We need to teach our children that consent can be taken away too.
Adults know all too well, especially parents that we have days where we feel “touched out.” Kids have those days too. They may have been very affectionate and willing to accept affection the day before but they are well in their rights to tell someone that they don’t want to be touched today. This maybe confusing for other children so it is vital that we show them that it’s OK to change your mind.
A child should never be forced to show affection to another person.
It is a common occurrence that children are told, “go give Nana a hug” or “give Aunty a kiss”. Children are eager to please so they may oblige but that shouldn’t be the case. No matter how familiar your child is with someone, he/she should feel comfortable enough to say no. Given that 93% of cases involve a person the victim is familiar with, it is important that we validate our children’s feelings and respect their decision. Under no circumstances should you guilt a child into giving you affection. Don’t pretend to cry or be sad. So many of us are guilty of this. I know my husband and I have been guilty of this. Humans need touch, we are social creatures but it isn’t really affection if you force or guilt a child into it is it?
Not saying no doesn’t mean yes.
As discussed, children are eager to please so they may do something they don’t really want to do to please a friend, teacher or family member. You may think your own child has no problem saying no but they may not be so forthcoming with someone other than you. Our children must also learn just because they don’t hear a resounding no that it means they can go ahead with that hug or kiss.
Practice what you preach.
Lead by example. Children imitate what they see in their day-to-day lives. If they see Daddy (or Mommy) force affection on to one another, the idea that it’s OK to do that is solidified. Many couples will force a hug or a kiss a form of tomfoolery and no there is no ill intent but still, it is important for us to show our children that we should respect everyone’s boundaries.
Further reading and helplines:
Rape Crisis Centre helpline:
or see the website www.rapecrisishelp.ie.
Until next time,
One mother's experience of life with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome