Spine Issues

I thought I was done crying over my spine, I guess not. Today has not been a great day in terms of my spine, what started as just sadness and anger turned into almost being quickly taken into hospital to be hooked up to pain relief. I honestly thought that with the physio, gym sessions and other things I was on the mend, although I was still in pain I thought the excruciating part of it was gone but it’s very much alive in muscle spasms. While I’m on a lot of painkillers, I’m on nothing for my muscle spasms and currently my back and all around my hip is rock hard because of it.

I’ve had to pull out of a show again tonight which I hate, I hate letting anyone down and I hate not being able to perform, possibly the worst part of recovery. I’m miserable with not being able to easily play shows. I thought this part was over, I hoped this was a thing of the past. I was getting ready, about to go load up the car when simply walking around the flat I felt a sharp pain and that was it I was out. The pain was awful, Ali and I tried to wait it out, resting and then trying to walk again but I couldn’t. I was in agony, limping heavily and sobbing. I wasn’t going anywhere tonight. That started about 4 and a half hours ago, I’m still in pain but it feels more manageable now.

On Monday, I finally made the decision to leave the Horse Riding society after talking to my mental health mentor. I really wasn’t coping mentally or physically very well and the society was what was stressing me out most, I had to let the members know today and I am not ashamed to say I cried after posting:

Hello Everyone,

I’m writing this with deep sadness. As most of you will know I was in an accident earlier in the year, breaking my spine. I’ve still got nearly 2 years of recovery time and will probably never ride again. While I’ve loved being a part of the society and your president lately my mental health has deteriorated along with more struggles and nerve damage due to my injury. It is because of this my medical team have said that it would be best for me to step down as soon as possible. Thank you to everyone who rode with me, made me smile and was a friend. I will always love this society and hope that I can still be a friend. I have handed in my notice meaning we are looking for a new president asap and I leave you in the capable hands of Daniela and Amy, while Amanda will be back from leave when she can (please contact them in relation to any questions, queries, rides).

Thank you so much for everything.

Chloe

A lot of people commented saying they were sad to see me go, to say thank you and a lot of people to say that I was brave. I still don’t think I fully understand why I’m brave? Because I was honest about the reasons? Because I stepped down to look after myself? I certainly don’t feel brave. I worry I’m letting everyone down, that if anything happens to the society it will be my fault. I worry I’ll lose friends. Now it’s done though and I really need to focus on my studies and try to remember my time with happiness, not tears.

 

10407210_10153613102758206_918236493107446324_nHappier times at the society

I still have a long way to go with my spine and tonight’s reminded me of that. I’m so lucky to have so many amazing people around me caring for me and helping me carry on going forward when times are hard. I don’t know what the future holds in terms of recovery, I’ve been told around 2 years for successful recovery but I’m not holding on to that as a solid date, after all when it first happened I was told I had a 6 week recovery, laughable now. Almost 7 months down and who knows how many to go but I will keep going, I’ll just need a little help along the way.

How we can use International Mens day to spread awareness

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What do you think the biggest killer of men under 45 is? Road Accidents? Cancer? Addiction? Any of these are possible but the result may shock you, it’s suicide. Thousands of men every day will attempt to take their own lives and unfortunately a lot will succeed.

A lot people would have seen the title and gone what in the name of hell is she talking about? International men’s day? What kind of feminist is she? The answer isthe one who contributes to equality and the rate of male suicide is something that needs to be tackled by both genders together, because that is how we will save people. Men are under a lot of pressure, there is a pressure to get a six pack and love the gym, a pressure to be masculine, worries if you are not straight and how other men will react (especially for teenage boys), pressure to be a breadwinner for your family. Society puts a lot of pressure on men and it’s no wonder that a lot of them feel overwhelmed!

When searching for an image those associated with depression were almost all women. I searched for a long time to find an image of a man. We refuse to acknowledge that men, half of the population, are not immune from mental health. This comes with the stupid notion that mental illness is associated with the weak (ha!). As a society we need to accept that firstly, mental illness is not a weakness, it is an illness and secondly men need just as much support.

I have a lot of male friends who have different conditions and the statistics both scare me and make me angry. I’m scared because I don’t want any of my friends to find it too much and kill themselves. I’m angry because for something that’s the biggest killer of young men there isn’t a lot that’s being done about it.

We can help them though, we can keep talking, keep reaching out. The way to beat this stigma and save the men in our lives is to be open and honest, I cannot stress enough have important talking is in all of this. You never know how much just talking to someone will could save a life.

If anyone reading this is suicidal and don’t feel they can call someone they are close to there are numbers you can call or please seek urgent medical advice. Remember you are worth it, you really are.

  • Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.
  • Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
  • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
  • Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn’t have a helpline, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information.
  • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
  • Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.

 

 

 

image from imagesofnation.com

Running my First Ride

Today I finally ran my first ride as President of the Horse Riding Society. I’ll be honest I’ve been dreading this day, I’ve really struggled with the idea of running the society since my accident. I just kept thinking, how was I going to enjoy something that I couldn’t do any more? Was I going to feel as down as I did at Fresher’s Fayre? I’ve been stressed, upset and just not feeling ok about it all. So I decided that I’d have one attempt at running the society, if I hated it then I’d consider resigning.

I was pleasantly surprised, the riders all enjoyed themselves and it actually felt good to be around the horses again. I got to see Jemima, the horse I learnt on and Dublin the last horse I rode on. Laura told me that it was worth seeing people enjoy their rides and it is, it also helped to talk to the riders and staff. I’ve felt a little like I’m stupid or something because I get so down but they all completely understood. Jules, the lady who works there was really kind to me, she said if I wanted to go back when I was fully healed and that I could go back then to take my time, that it’s a huge thing to happen not to mention to impact on my body.
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Me last year during my first ride

I’m definitely going to stay as President, it also helps that I have my amazing dream team with me, the three of us got through the session with success and I finally feel hopeful about this part of my life again, after all who doesn’t love cuddling up to some lovely horses…especially when they cuddle back 🙂

World Mental Health Day – 10th October 2015

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I didn’t intend to write a post on mental health today, until I realised that World Mental Health Day had snuck up on me and I didn’t have anything planned. I think a lot about how much about mental health I should put onto my blog, am I putting too little in, am I putting too much in, will people just see me as an illness? It’s a big concern I have being so open about my issues and my life.

I’ve lived with issues since I was 11, I’d be extremely unhappy at school due to bullying. I’d say that the really awful depression started at around 15, so 6 years ago now. I’m in a much better place but I’m not ‘cured’ and I’ll probably live with this for the rest of my life, it’s just one part of me. It’s like my asthma or the weak knees I inherited, it’s just something that’s there which can make my life more difficult.

I’m fully aware that not everyone gets the help I now get and isn’t as open, and that’s fine! This is one of the most person illnesses you can have, if you don’t want to talk about it so be it! For a long time after my diagnoses although I felt some relief I couldn’t say it out loud I couldn’t say ‘I have depression’ because I was scared about what people would say, even now I have that and it’s sad. We need more education because at least one quarter of the population lives with a mental illness, so why is it still taboo?

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today, photo from the BBC

Love them (like me) or hate them, the royal family getting involved in mental health work and the fight against stigma can only be a good thing. I understand William’s public self helping with the cause due to his late mother, Princess Diana, who openly admit to struggling with Depression, Self-harm and Bulimia before she died. Catherine also has been strongly involved, particularly when it comes to young people, whether this is for personal reasons or not I cannot fault her. The fact that these young royals are being open and engaging will hopefully send a message to people or hope.

There’s also celebrities opening up more and more, I personally find inspiration in JK Rowling and Stephen Fry. When you see people in the public eye talking or just admitting that they also have a mental illness it makes you feel more normal, like you can achieve like they have and that you have someone to admire. I think it also makes them more human.

I thought a lot before writing this and I didn’t want it to be specifically about me, I just didn’t feel like exposing my emotions right now, partly because I’m in a bit of a werid headspace where my brain can’t work out of I’m on a high or a low…it’s really hard to explain. I did want to mention how interested people were at the open day today about the topic of mental health in my dissertation and going on in my PhD later hopefully. I wanted to mention how I came home and drew something to mark the day and try and get out how I was feeling whilst watching Stephen Fry’s ‘The Life of a Manic Depressive’ because I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. Like most people in his documentary said, my illness can make my life utter hell but at the same time I don’t know if I’d get rid of it.

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My art piece ‘ out of my mind’ 

Fresher’s week 2015

After last weeks celebrations for birthday week, I am surprised I’m still awake after my second week of activities and shenanigans. This week was Fresher week and although I haven’t been out pounding the dance floor I have been pretty busy and, well, I definitely feel like a first year. I spent my first Freshers week being incredibly awkward and nervous and I spent a lot of time in my room, my second Freshers week I went out with my friends, signed up for societies and partied…for my third, I was actually having to be a responsible person.

I spent Monday in physio and working, Tuesday practicing with the boys and taking the Amp for emergency repair (not an ideal situation), Wednesday working with the newbies and taking them to enrollment, Thursday at Freshers fair and then straight to a show at the Fighting Cocks (quite possibly the best crowd I’ve ever played to, shouting, dancing, clapping and an encore!) and back to the fair again on Friday where we got over 100 sign ups for the Horse Riding Society! Get in!

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I’d be lying if I said that everything was completely easy this week. I’ve struggled a lot with both my spine and my anxiety. I’ve got a love hate relationship with Freshers, I love that it’s the beginning of the year and I’m excited to get stuck in, but at the same time I get so anxious with so many people around and everything going on all at once. I’ve met other people like that too, which makes me feel a little better. I’m also freaking out a little out third year, all the work I have to do, the thought of applying for my MA and funding and not knowing what’s going to happen once I graduate. It was also more than a little bittersweet not having Eleanor, Maisha and Alissa around this year to hang out with too.

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Overall, it’s been a good week, definitely challenging but I’m pleased with what I’ve achieved. Am I ready to go back? Yes. I can’t wait to get back into lectures and have something to get stuck into again. I know this years going to be a bit hard because of my spine and I’ll have to miss out on some things that I wanted to do, but maybe I’ll get to do something I hadn’t planned on. I have some great things this year, I love my job, I love my friends, my bands FINALLY getting somewhere, I have two lovely little hammies and the best guy around at my side. I think this year’s going to be a pretty good one.

Society Awards 2015!!!

Last night I mentioned that I was getting ready for the university Society Awards. It was all a bit of a rush at first with missing trains, busses not turning up and my sat in my wheelchair waiting for someone (Amy) to come and push me. We’ve gotten A LOT better at navigating around Kingston since the last time and Amy has strength that she never knew she did. So Amy, Laura and I headed out to represent Kingston Horse Riding Society at the awards.

It was a big dinner and award ceremony and I was wheeled around (and to my embarrassment carried because there weren’t ramps to the waiting area). We ate, laughed and took photos. First up was volunteering awards, which I’m embarrassed to say that I really didn’t know anything about. I’d love to volunteer but next year I’m going to be doing so much it will be unreal!

We nervously waited for our categories. This year we were nominated for Most Improved Society, Best President and Laura for Outstanding Contribution. We were shortlisted for the first….and then we won!!!!! We screamed so loud, our little society had won most improved! I was gutted that I couldn’t go up and accept with the others but a special mention was made and my picture taken! It was an incredible feeling and something I’m so proud to take through when I am president next year.

The society’s award!!! 

Next up was president of the year, which unfortunately Laura didn’t win but was shortlisted! We sat through the rest of the evening grinning like idiots because we did it! We had an award!! We only had one more to go and I, being the clumsy idiot I was, was trying not to knock everything over on the table.

Can you tell how excited we are? 😀 

For the final award of the night, Outstanding Contribution and we have a winner!!! Laura was one of 8 chosen! I cried when she won this award. I’m proud of all for my friends for different reasons, for Laura this is just a smidgen of how proud I am of her. Like me, she had a fall last year but is STILL recovering and had 9 months off of riding while she helped all of us and taught me everything I know about horses. She’d dealt with a load of other stuff as well and always has a smile on her face. Well deserved is an understatement and I am so happy to have her in my life and I can’t wait to watch our friendship grow over all our riding adventures!

Lovely Laura with her incredible award! 

I was so glad I went, after all the nerves and panic I felt about going in the chair. There were also times while I was there and feeling a little bit overwhelmed. So many people wanted to know about the wheelchair and what happened and what was going on in terms of recovery. I appreciated their kindness but it sent my anxiety into overdrive and nervousness.

Later on I’d calmed down and enjoyed myself. I was even wheeled on the dance floor and spun around, trying to wave my arms like a mad thing. Later, Laura did the same until my meds started to ware off and I got tired. I ended up getting wheeled home after midnight with lollipops and sweets. I was tucked up in bed (after being lifted in when my back decided it didn’t want to work) with a smile on my face and a tummy full of nerves for a fantastic society next year.

Dressing up

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I’m writing this in the 15 minutes or so that I have before Laura and Amy arrive to pick up me and my wheels for tonight’s society night out. It’s the Volunteering and Society awards, yaaaaay! The Riding society is up for best new society and best president (go Laura!).

No was with many of these types of occasions there is a theme to adhere to, this year was a mix between carnival and Gatsby. It meant I had to find something to where which didn’t make me feel hideously underdressed but still fancy enough while being comfortable in my wheelchair. I’ve had an outfit change already due to to outfit I wanted to wear not looking as good sitting down as standing up.

I don’t know what it is about dressing up to go out but it leaves me in a cold sweat. I’m not entirely comfortable in short dresses/ skirts for a night out and as fo heels? I love wearing them but I’m not great at walking in them. There was a time when I was younger that dressing up was my favourite thing ever, I loved discos and parties and would try ANYTHING in terms of fashion. Now I seem to have developed a uniform at uni of jeans and a nice jumper or t-shirt to uni, with my parka on top and either converses or Doc Martin’s on my feet. In the summer jeans get changed to shorts and tops to vest tops, with some floaty dresses thrown in one or twice a week.

I don’t know what it is there is just this horrible panicking fear when I dress up and wanting to measure up to other girls around me. Now I know 90% of girls do this, they look around the room and try and see if they look ‘good enough’. I try not to do this but I’m human like all of you. Once I’m there and relaxed I mostly calm down but the thought of dressing up and going to a big room full of people I don’t know, especially when I’m in a wheelchair, makes me go incredibly shy, which I NEVER AM!

It’s the huge internal monologue of Ok, who do I know here, do I know anyone here? No? Ok right talk to people, come on talk. Right ok now you’re talking to someone don’t say anything stupid. Did I hear someone laughing, shit is my dress up at the back? How do I subtly find out without making it look like I’ve got a major wedgie? Oh god what are they talking about now? Just smile and nod, smile and nod. 

Usually I get away with it and people are nice and I catch up with what’s going on. So there you have it, I’m off out, nervous and anxious as hell for no apparent reason, which is odd because if I was doing a mental health speech I’d be fine, but this and feeling out of my depth, not so much. That’s me off so hopefully I’ll have a good night and something interesting to tweet about later!