Day in the Life with Chronic Pain

I’ve briefly written before about my chronic pain, but it feels like time to give you all a little insight into how this impacts my daily life. While my pain levels and fatigue vary day to day, I try to maintain a steady routine – although obviously it does vary if I’m just too tired or in too much pain! So, if you’ve ever wondered what the day of a tired and achy Marketing Officer looks like, here’s your chance to find out.

Morning

I generally wake up between 7 and 8am. Some days I’m lucky and am well rested and ready to jump into my day, but more commonly I then spend an hour rolling around in bed, snuggling with Roxy and drifting in and out of sleep. I do a lot of stretching in the morning as well, trying to get all my joints warmed up after eight hours lying in one position (well, hopefully eight hours). Once actually awake, I drag myself to the shower and get dressed. I used to only ever shower in the evening, but the brief break from my back pain that the hot water gives me is essential for me to be able to leave my flat in the morning – especially now it’s getting colder outside! So now I make time for an honestly far too long shower to set my day up right.

Sometimes I then have time to have breakfast, but more often I have to grab something during my commute to keep me going. I try to leave for work by 8.30am, so if I haven’t gotten out of bed by 8, I don’t have time for a luxurious breakfast!

My commute varies day to day – there is a train station right by my flat, so on days when I’m feeling quite achy or fatigued, I get the train into town from there. It’s expensive though, so I try to stick to getting the Underground where possible. I often will get the bus to the station, but as I’m trying to increase my daily activity (prevents the arthritis from getting worse!) I will sometimes walk, especially when the weather isn’t too bad. It’s also good for my mental health to have a nice relaxing walk in the morning!

Once I’m on a train, I’ve been trying to read more – while I haven’t set a goal to read more this year, I am trying to continue my good work from last year! But sometimes I just play games on my phone while listening to podcasts. I normally take five minutes to check my work email ahead of time as well, to delete all the junk mail I get and have an idea of what’s awaiting me when I get to the office.

I generally get into work between half 9 and 10 (depending on if I stopped for breakfast on the way). The first thing I do most days is take some painkillers – I think in the back of my mind I’m still optimistic that the pain will go away on it’s own after a little while, even though that has literally never happened. I also take my other daily medication at 10am each day. Then I grab my first cup of tea for the day to get a little caffeine boost!

My morning is typically spent responding to emails, catching up on news that may be relevant to our organisation, and queuing social media posts for that day and beyond. I try to keep any short, easy tasks to the morning – I am not a morning person by any definition, and anything that requires a lot of creative thinking needs to wait until the afternoon! Depending on what’s happening at work, that can include listing events, gathering data and collecting media to go with social posts.

Afternoon

I typically have lunch at around 1pm (to be honest, normally eaten at my desk). After lunch and I’m a bit more awake, I move onto more ‘brain intensive’ work. This includes developing our social media strategy, writing and editing copy and any little graphic design jobs that need doing.

The only exception to this pattern is on a Wednesday I take a quick break at 3pm and head downstairs to our Disability and Inclusion programme. I drive the minibus to the local school to collect our young people and and bring them into the building for a fun arts session with our team. I really love these little escapes, because it gives me an opportunity to remember and see first hand the benefits of the work my organisation does. I also work with this group every other Saturday, working with a small group of young people with disabilities each week, helping them develop skills through activities such as music making, artwork, drama and, of course, playing games.

Evening

On a normal day, I leave the office at about 6 and head off my commute home. When I get home at 7, Roxy is always waiting by the door for me, eager to get her first evening snuggle in. Or to tell me that she’s run out of food, or there’s a weird bug on the floor, or that her litter tray has moved one inch to the left. But it’s usually for a snuggle.

Once the cat has been pampered, I get on with cooking my dinner and normally settle in front of the TV for a little bit. On a work night, I don’t generally get much housework done – I’m so tired by 8 o’clock that it seems an impossibility – but I do potter around a little bit and get some stuff done when I can. I also almost always phone my parents in the evening – essential for my mental health, even if they’re really fed up it at this point. But I need the evening check in to either reassure them that I’m fine, or them to reassure me that I’m fine.

Other evening activities include hours scrolling on the internet, practising the cello and occasionally, playing video games. But mostly, unless there’s something with a time limit on it meaning I have to finish it that night, I’m in bed by 10 o’clock. Long gone are my pre-fatigue days of staying up till 1am!

Bedtime is another time for Roxy snuggles, and she’s almost always right behind me, ready to jump on my pillow. I try to take a moment to record my daily pain (where it was and how bad it was) so that I can get better at looking for patterns. I then sometimes read some more of my book, but if I’m really tired I just put a podcast on and tend to drift off before the sleep timer runs out.

And then the whole cycle starts again the next morning!

I’d love to hear what your day to day life looks like! Let me know in the comments – or even better, make your own post about your daily routine and link to it!

Walking the Catwalk: A Guide to Walking Your Cat

I’ve had a bit of a reputation in my old neighbourhood. Not one that I particularly thought was bad, but I guess that really depends on your opinion.

I was the cat walker.

Roxy and I would regularly take to the streets for a walk. Or whatever it’s called when your cat is on a lead, taking three steps beyond the end of the drive before running back to the front door. And repeating that action over and over again until you eventually gave up and took her inside, when she would then sit by the front door waiting to go back out.

Our new neighbourhood is by quite a busy road, so I don’t take Roxy out as often – but I still have a whole load of knowledge about taking your cat out on a lead, and I’m now going to share it with you!

Anyone whose ever taken their cat for a walk will tell you it’s nothing like walking a dog. Dogs will follow you where you want to go. When you walk a cat, you’re very much subject to their whims. A leaf blows across the pavement? Be fully prepared to chase that leaf. Find a nice smelling bush? Be fully prepared to stand by that bush for five minutes while your cat gives it a good sniff. Or maybe your cat has a crazy five minutes and decides to race off up the road? You’ll be running after it as fast as you can.

On one of my recent walks with Roxy, we came across a group of squirrels in the park. While Roxy is fairly well behaved and didn’t chase after them, they had a hypnotising effect on her. She stood stationary for fifteen minutes just watching as they got up to their usual antics – and I had to stand there with her.

It’s an unusual experience, but not one I’m going to give up any time soon. For a start, the benefits for Roxy are obvious. As an indoor cat, going for a walk means she gets to experience the outdoors safely. I’m there to stop her from running in front of any cars while she chases birds to her heart’s content. Plus, it lets her work off some excess energy.  Even if it doesn’t feel far for me, she’s got such little legs it must be the equivalent of a marathon on days when we actually make it to the end of the road.

And it’s not just Roxy who feels the benefits. There’s some relaxing about taking her for a walk and being forced to stop and, sometimes literally, smell the roses. It gives me time to just relax. And it gives purpose to my walk; in the past, taking Roxy out was the only thing to motivate me enough to leave the house. Whilst this isn’t true anymore, it’s certainly a good incentive sometimes.

Our Top Five Tips

If you want to feel the benefits of cat walking, here’s a couple of tips from me and Roxy:

  1. Be patient. 

    I really lucked out with Roxy. When I put her first harness on her, I don’t think she really noticed. She kept running around like nothing had happened. This is extremely rare. It’s highly recommended that you build up to walks slowly. Start with your cat just wearing their harness around the house. Then attach the lead. Give them time to get used to this. Only when they’re completely comfortable should you take them outside.

  2. Don’t force it. 

    Even with all the patience in the world, some cats just don’t want to be walked. Maybe they don’t like the harness, maybe they get outside and just sit terrified. Maybe you’re dragging them along behind you while they refuse to walk (Please don’t do this.) You know your cat, you know when they’re unhappy. I have attempted to walk five cats in my life; Roxy is the only one who has taken to it. If they don’t like it, don’t force it. It’s not worth the extra stress you’ll be causing by forcing them to do something they clearly don’t want to do.

  3. Stay safe. 

    This applies to both you and your cat. Stay alert; keep an eye out for oncoming cars, approaching dogs, sharp objects on the pavement. You’re not just trying to protect yourself, you’re protecting your cat too. If the area where you live just isn’t suitable for walking your cat, consider going to a local park or a quieter street before letting them out their carrier.

  4. Encourage good behaviours. 

    Roxy has always been a door runner. The second I turn the handle she’s trying to get out. But after months (and I mean months) of trying this little trick, she’s starting to get the message; She is not allowed to walk out of the door, even when she’s on her lead. I pick her up, take her out of our flat, walk down the two flights of stairs to outside, and then put her on the ground. And on the way back inside, I do the same. Carry her from door to door. And then she gets a treat because I’m not a complete monster.

  5. Have fun! 

    A cheesy one I know, but still important. You’re getting to spend time with your fur baby. You’re spending time outside. You get to self-deprecatingly laugh along with passers-by. Embrace it.

18 in 2018: End of Year Review

Wow, really haven’t done one of these in a while. If you missed my post explaining why I haven’t kept up with blogging, you can read it here. There’s still a few days of 2018 left, but as I’m off on holiday, I’m coming to you a little early with a final update of my year’s goals.
So, let’s jump right into it, shall we?
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Full disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. When you make a purchase on Amazon after using the links in this post, Roxy and I get a little kickback, helping us keep the website running

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My Rheumatologist and I

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I have tried a couple of times to sit down and write my end of the month reviews, but each time I’ve hit a wall. Quite simply, I haven’t been thinking much about the goals I set myself at the beginning of the year – I haven’t had time. For the past year now, I’ve been going back and forth with my doctor about some long-term chronic fatigue and pain I’ve been experiencing, and in the past few months, I’ve finally been getting seen, while the symptoms have still been worsening.

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How I Managed to Spend No Money for Seven Days

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As I’m preparing to go into July’s no-spend week, I thought it might be interesting to some people to get a little insight into how I make it work! These weeks, as well as stretching my money a little further, have really opened my eyes about my relationship with money (namely the number of times a week I think about spending it on things I really don’t need).

So, if you’d like to get some similar insights or make similar savings, but don’t know where to start, keep on reading.

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18 in 2018 June Review

July is here, and we are in the middle of The Worst Heatwave here in the UK. I am beyond fed up with it at this point. But I’m trying to push that all aside and get some more progress towards my goals under my belt!
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Full disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. When you make a purchase on Amazon after using the links in this post, Roxy and I get a little kickback, helping us keep the website running

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18 in 2018 February – April Review

I blinked, and suddenly both February and March have been and gone, and it’s nearly the end of April! Things have been insanely busy over here, with lots going on at work and at home. I’m now in the middle of a week off work and just looking around like ‘when did all this happen?’. I know that I haven’t made as much progress on my goals as I would like, but there’s still time to turn this year around. Read more about what I have managed to do below!
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Roxy’s Romance Tips

If you haven’t noticed, it’s Valentine’s Day! Over on Twitter, Roxy has been sharing her best romance advice, to help you with your relationships – whether it’s Valentine’s Day, your Anniversary, or just because! To make it a little easier for you, she has insisted that I immortalised the advice here on this blog – so without further ado, here we go!

Tip One

If you like someone, just lick them. All over their face is a particularly good spot, especially if they haven’t woken up yet.

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Tip Two

If your other half is on the phone to someone else, show your displeasure by trying to get between them and the phone. Bonus points if you ‘accidentally’ press the end call button. All the attention, back to you.

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Tip Three

Lavish your loved one with gifts. Dirty socks, lost hair ties, even dead rodents really say ‘I love you’.

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Tip Four

Don’t subscribe to this ‘my side of the bed’ nonsense. Live a little. The best place on the bed is always where your co-inhabitor wants to sleep.tenor.gif

Tip Five

Stop worrying about morning breath. Expose your other half to it as much as possible, until they have no choice but to embrace it.giphy (7).gif

Tip Six

Want a manicure, but your subtle hints aren’t working? Dig your claws right into your loved one’s skin. The nail clippers will be out before you know it.

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And that’s it! Roxy hopes these tips help you out with your future better halves – whether they’re feline or human!

A Story and a Grovel

The past year hasn’t been the easiest for my family. In the winter of 2016, I was on the phone with my parents, when they first mentioned something might be wrong with my sister Jessie’s eyesight. My phone signal was bad, and I was on a break at work, so I didn’t really get the full message. I guessed she probably just needed glasses – most of us in my family do. 

It was only a few weeks later when I found out she had a referral to Moorfields Eye Hospital, that I really realised the severity of what was happening. By that time, her identical twin had also been to the optician’s and they had found similar symptoms with her – an unusual area on the back of her eye. It was the first of many appointments at Moorfields, one of the leading providers of eye health services in the UK. Each time, there was a little bit of hope that maybe it might not be that bad after all.  

I remember the day of their final appointment pretty well. This was the one where we would be getting a definitive diagnosis, as well as an idea of how severe it would be. I was meant to be in lectures for my Master’s, but I didn’t feel I could sit through it without panicking. As a distraction, I ended up heading to the cinema to watch ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – but when I left and headed to meet up with them post-appointment, the dread had set in again. 

When I got to their hotel, they gave me the news. They were both given a diagnosis of Stargardt’s Disease – something that we had suspected for some time. 

What is Stargardt’s Disease? 

Stargardt’s Disease is a recessive, genetic disorder, that causes fat to collect on the back of your eye – specifically, the central part of your retina, called the macula. It’s the most common form of inherited, juvenile macular degeneration, and symptoms commonly appear in childhood or during your teenage years but can go unnoticed until later in life. In the beginning, central vision becomes blurry and loses colour, before losing sight in that area completely. It is rare for those with Stargardt’s to become completely blind, but many are left with only peripheral vision. It typically starts slowly, before becoming more rapid and then tapering off in later years. 

 

Amy Eye

This is a picture of the back of Amy’s eye – the dark spot in the middle is a sign of macular degeneration.

 

The news broke our hearts, but obviously, the primary impact was felt by Amy and Jessica. They are both currently in their final year of university, and both previously took time out of their degrees because of poor mental health. The news came just as Amy was returning to her second year at Cambridge University to study Veterinary Science. Jessie was starting her year out from the University of Exeter, where she is studying Animal Behaviour. Both of their plans have had to drastically change following the news – Amy will not be able to practice as a vet (unlike doctors, vets must be able to conduct surgery, which you cannot do if you are visually impaired.) Jessie has always wanted to work with big cats but now has to decide what she can do with impaired vision. She recently had the opportunity to go to Africa with her university, which we made sure she could undertake – because we didn’t know if she’d be able to see them again. 

Doing things because we don’t know if Amy and Jessie will be able to see them again is a common thing at the moment. And not something we ever thought we would have to consider in our family. At the end of the day, we are glad that we are in a position as a family that we can make these things happen – we know some other people aren’t fortunate enough to have these opportunities. We’re a strong family unit, that can support them, and each other, through the uncertainty ahead. 

We will be taking part, as a family, in ‘Eye to Eye’, a sponsored walk raising money for the Moorfields Eye Charity. They support many individuals and families going through a similar experience, as well as funding new research that aims to make blindness a thing of the past. We are proud that as a family we can participate in an event like this to not only raise money for a worthy cause but raise awareness of sight problems like Stargardt’s.  

I understand that money is tight right now – no one has as much of it as they would like! But even a couple of pounds thrown in our direction can make a difference towards our goal of £600. So please, if you can, make a donation. We would really appreciate it – and it would make walking for nearly four hours (with my family) seem worth it! 

You can make a donation by clicking here.