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Overdoing It

Chronic illness is a funny old thing (not as in haha funny, as I’m sure you’ll understand if you’re reading this!). Sometimes you can do nothing and feel absolutely awful as if you’ve run a marathon then had the remainder of life sucked out of you by a Dementor, Harry Potter style. Other times you have the luxury of doing a little bit more than usual and feeling ok, no post extertional malaise days later, you just keep on plodding along. And then there is actually overdoing it and your mind and body punishing you for it as if to make sure you never leave the house again.

Last week I worked a couple of extra hours, had to get to the vet with my kitty cat (old lady check and essential vaccines) and like an idiot decided to book a ticket to the (very) local book discussion at a book store to see my favourite writer, horticulturist, and all round awesome woman.

Extra hours worked, no more than two I might add, lifts to and from work all week by my wonderful team of colleagues and friends I was doing ok-ish. Getting to the vets with my wife which is five minutes away wasn’t too troublesome. But as we were sitting in there waiting for the nurse to find the kitty blood pressure cuff (by the way the cutest thing in history – see here), that feeling came over me, as if someone had pulled the plug out and I needed to lie down immediately. I couldn’t string a sentence together, support my own body weight – thank goodness for the kind nurse who brought in chairs – or feel like I was going to be able to keep my eyes open. When that feeling hits I feel like I could collapse at any given minute, something which thankfully has only happened once and luckily I made it to my sofa in time. As soon as we made it home my wife helped me put my pjs on and I made it to bed, tramadol, a bottle of water and a very upset kitty cat for company. I slept solidly for three hours.

As the week went on I became more and more anxious. My generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) has no known trigger but tiredness makes it so much worse. I couldn’t face the book talk, could I. At the last minute I awoke from a nap just in time to slowly get ready and get the bus which thank god is only five stops and door to door. Disability pass in hand I bagged a front seat and the driver waited until my backside had hit the itchy nylon cushion. Alys Fowler is a true hero of mine, she inspired me to garden when I was housebound for almost three months with the onset of GAD, got me obsessed with growing my own fruit, vegetables and cut flowers, study floristry and she writes an awesome book. I got the lift to the third floor, folded up Little Johnny and made it just in time. For that short period of time I forgot about being ill in the intimate setting of the small discussion and enjoyed myself more than I have in a while. Everyone I told bar my parents said I need to get out more and am too young to watch a horticulturist impart her life wisdom in my spare time, but I’m so glad I braved it and made it. My hair may have been a disaster, make up smeared around my eyes post nap, but I didn’t care, and neither did Alys when I had the opportunity to chat with her.

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Next comes the weekend. A time to have luxurious lie ins, wander about the local area (I live in Brighton’s iconic area of coloured terraced houses and steep streets), eat great food and meet friends. Er no! My so called lie in woke me at 3am Saturday morning so dizzy I had to hold onto the wall when popping to the loo, lie down in stages as my head was swirling as if I’d drank one too many bottles of wine, and of course, couldn’t get back to sleep. Dizziness to this extent is reserved for times when I have seriously overdone it. I assume this means going to the vets and sitting down to watch a 45 minute book discussion. Really living it large! The dizziness intensified and waned throughout the day depending on how close I was to my next nap and all hopes of cooking delicious healthy food went out the window for a takeaway. I felt as if I was floating all day, was nauseous and a strange pale shade of grey that matched the dark circles under my eyes. I fell asleep on the sofa, awoke as dawn broke and spent the next few hours waking up every half hour. Exhausted and still dizzy I gave in at 9am and made myself a cup of tea. Unable to get to sleep for a nap I decided to get out my notebook/laptop and write this blog.

Tomorrow the cycle begins again, my alarm will go off and my incredibly boring, sedate, yet exhausting routine starts all over again…

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How fibro has changed my diet

My diet has been through never ending changes since I became ill, the more unwell I’ve become the more it’s changed.

A lot of changes have been positive. My diet now includes lots more fruit and vegetables, I usually manage my five a day if not more and I often start the day with a delicious home made smoothie made with a selection of bananas, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pears and a handful of spinach thrown in for good measure. If I’m not well enough to make one I’ll try and grab an Innocent smoothie for lunch or Aldi do an even better tasting, and far cheaper, alternative. I have a Sainsburys basics blender that cost me £3.99 ten years ago that is still serving me well making smoothies to this day. I also try and add in extra vegetables where possible, into my homemade chilli, making stuffed peppers, into a pasta bake or a roast dinner.

But some changes have been for the worst, mainly because I’m not well enough to stand in the kitchen creating something from scratch for days, and often weeks on end. I slip and cut myself when just picking up a knife,and have a tendency to drop just about everything I pick up. My days have therefore sometimes become a blur of ready meals, noodles and frozen pizzas. And maybe a cheeky KFC or three. Whilst I do love a KFC (but hate the welfare of the animals they use), the selection of about three edible ready meals I can find has become boring.

I then had a light bulb moment. My grandma used to order in delicious and relatively healthy food that we’d share for dinner when she still lived on her own. So I got on the internet and hunted down Wiltshire Farm Foods and Oakhouse Foods and contacted both for a brochure. I checked out the nutritional values and it was a million time better than the ready meals from the supermarket, and the selection was amazing. Lots of vegetables and meals I haven’t been able to cook for months on end. The customer service is quite fabulous too, they are so helpful and friendly on both email and the phone, and I can easily place my order online.

The only downside I found was when one of them called me today, as lovely as the lady was she seemed quite shocked a young sounding person answered the phone and then asked if I was ordering for someone else, and then seemed even more shocked when I told her I as at work. Whilst I understand the elderly market is a huge market for these companies, lots of younger people and middle aged people are too unwell to make their own meals, and I think they are missing out on a lot of potential customers.

So my first order has been placed, two weeks of main meals (each one different) and a couple of sneaky puddings for just under £50. I’m looking forward to the variety and the ease of it all, meaning I can rest after I finish work and still eat a wholesome meal.

I also managed to get to Brighton Open Market on my way home from work today and my wife brought me a bag full of delicious fruit, including some huge lemons which I put in my water to help with detoxing.

I’ve also starting drinking herbal tea, well ginger tea to be precise. I bought some others but can’t stomach them, including a lemon and mandarin one. I’ll just wait for my lemon verbena plant to bloom so I can make my own sweet delicious lemon drinks later in the spring.

How have your diets changed since becoming ill? I’d love to hear how you’ve adapted your diet.

Karen xx