‘Tis the season to be……

….well actually, to be low and moody.

It’s cold, the days have suddenly become ridiculously short already and it’s not even midwinter yet, it’s raining, windy, foggy and grey. Who can blame any of us for feeling a bit less cheerful than we did when the sun was shining! As for those of us with mental health problems especially those linked to vitamin deficiencies, well the cooler months can be downright infused with darkness and depression.

That said, I love autumn with the fruits to scavenge from hedgerows and trees, the conkers, beech nuts, hazelnuts and sycamore spinners to find and the gorgeous colours of the leaves as they leave the trees. Winter can be beautiful in it’s own way but as a friend of mine put forward….how can you find beauty or things to enjoy on those days when it’s just….meh outside.

Part of me craves giving a history lesson into563678_10151520319509484_152449988_n.jpg how we as a race tried to make things more bearable in what would have been the most dangerous and thoroughly unenjoyable months. Yes they’ve become commercialised and segregated into the very specific “Christmas” decorations…but they began as something to remind us all that it wouldn’t last forever! Bringing in greenery to decorate the home, making sure you had enough food stock piled, a big old log for the fire that would last for weeks, plenty of candles to light the home and warm cosy clothing.

If such simple things could help our ancestors, there must be things out there now that can give us all even the smallest boost. You may not like them, may not think they’re a good idea or have ones you know are better for you…but I thought I’d have a go at a few of the things I like about Winter.

Now you probably don’t have a massive fireplace to put a yule log in, but those fake electric/gas fireplaces will still give you a warm room and a pretty glow that can be beautiful as well as functional. I know I love sitting in front of a fire with the curtains drawn and the world outside far away from my mind and so does Toby.

One that came up as I was chatting with Jay just now is candles. Again they add that lovely warm glow that you just don’t get from an electric lightbulb. If you need a bit of extra stimulus to get those senses moving then a lovely warm spicy scent to the candle will spread the warmth. I know I love a cinnamon scent over winter.

Getting wrapped up in a big snuggly jumper or blanket, without overheating! I find wrapping myself relatively tightly with something like this is very soothing and even helps with my Restless Legs Syndrome and muscle spasms sometimes.
There’s been a lots of research into deep pressure wrapping to help with anxiety (especially for people with autism), anyone with a baby will know they respond well to being swaddled and even dogs benefit from pressure vests when anxiety is high. So this one isn’t just me and it’s even got decent research being done into it…I feel thoroughly validated in feeling this is a good way to cope with feeling rubbish, though I won’t go into the science of it here.

Not the best coping mechanism for someone with weight issues but….comfort food. We all know there are certain foods that just taste much better in winter than in summer and vice versa. Stew, tatties and veg, your favourite soup, hot chocolate, spiced baked apples….this list could become very long and truly unhealthy but it doesn’t necessarily need to be fatty to be comfort food.

Looking forward to the part of winter that we all look forward to…the end and the point where we can start looking for conformation it will get warmer again. It needs a bit of forward thinking sometimes so lets talk about snowdrops, daffodils, crocuses….those gorgeous little plants who hide in their bulbs all winter and come poking back through to say “spring’s coming!”.

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The reason they need a bit of planning? well because you may not have any bulbs in your garden.

How to solve it? plant some! Snowdrops are the most awkward and can only really be transplanted/planted in spring as they’re prone to drying out…think on it for next year. Daffodils are an autumn planting and easily found in shops, plant them deep so you get nice big flowers and the bulbs do well. Crocuses….well look on the packet as some are spring flowering others aren’t, explore the garden centre and find some bulbs that look promising.

So something to do at the moment, something to look forward to…great idea (I need to get some bulbs)

For me this time of year is the time to get crafting in the evenings….well any time is really but in winter it’s great. You don’t need to be outside, the things you make can be colourful and cheerful, sparkling and beautiful! With the added bonus if you plan things out, the things you make can be given as gifts at Christmas.
I almost wish I was knitting a big blanket again this year as it does keep me warm to have the blanket on my knee as I’m knitting :p

May sound ridiculously simple, but going out to walk my dog fully geared up for anything that comes our way! Layers of clothing to keep me warm but not so hot I overheat, waterproof coat, walking boots, thermal gloves, hiking poles if I need them instead of my walking stick, trousers that can have the bottom unzip to come off in the hall when they’re filthy without having to strip the whole trouser off.
Yes I’ll still come back grumbling if I come back drenched by freezing rain…but then when I get home, there’s that lovely feeling of a warm shower or just changing into dry clothes and curling up with a warm drink! That post-outdoor winter weather self care is the most important part of how to enjoy walking in winter 🙂

When inside I just love to listen to the sound of rain on the window or especially on the roof of the conservatory! That and the noise of the wind blowing through trees (which gets a bit quieter as the season goes on and the leaves have fallen). It’s like white noise and very soothing, it makes me pretty sleepy if I’m honest.

I did mention to a friend, who struggles with this season more than I do, that i think it’s a beautiful season and we chatted about a photo challenge. Now I don’t know how to word it in a short and snappy way but I’ll be challenging myself to find photos of the things that make me enjoy winter. Those little gleams of feeling good that make the season bearable and when I do, I’ll post them on here. Since I don’t really do daily posts any more it might not be regular but I’ll try my hardest to spot them and get them on here!Peters lane bridal path, Morley

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Things I’ve learned this year

I recently moved house, having to buy and sell a house at about the same time is truly one of the most stressful things I’ve ever experienced.
The new bungalow needs adjusting to my needs so have been having work done to it since last December and that has had my head in a mess.

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Bathroom converted to a shower room with a heck of a lot of awkward problems thanks to concrete flooring and old pipework.

 

It had no back door (both front and side doors pretty much came from the kitchen so in event of fire it was plain dangerous) so I wanted one knocked through from one of the bedrooms. While I was having it done I decided to have a conservatory built to add a bit of inside space.

There’s not many sockets in some of the rooms so I need to get some added,

The Kitchen needs a full refit which will probably include bricking off the door and bringing in gas for the hobs.

The garden needs landscaping and the huge trees behind my house really need a bit of trimming back though apparently no one takes responsibility for them.

 

So…what is it I’ve learned?

Well first of all when trying to move house with MS, packing and sorting has to be done in small increments whether you want to or not because trying to blitz the place is just not possible. Also a box is not just a box, different sizes, different strengths, different levels of usefulness and it’s all about the parcel tape!
Freecycle will always have someone who can use things you can’t and aren’t able to/ don’t want to sell and charity bags will always be welcomed by charity shops.
Having family and friends who can store things, move things, help clean, help decorate and be a sounding board for all the stress are the best thing you can have during the process!

Estate agents must be chased, constantly and without mercy if you want things to move.

Solicitors are either friendly and helpful or rude and uncaring, either way again you must be willing to chase them at every opportunity. Also make sure you have a fixed price for the sale in case things go a bit tits up.

Paper work is everything during the sale, if you don’t have it you’ll hold things up and/or have to pay for insurance. For example; I didn’t realise windows that have been replaced now need a FENSA certificate even if it’s a like for like replacement.

Once the sale goes through, the house is yours and the real work begins.

Try and get flooring and decorating sorted before moving in if at all possible, clearing a room is no easy task.

Concrete floors are awkward buggers when it comes to changing plumbing especially ifImage may contain: plant and outdooryou want a wet room.

Always think about how easy it is to get in and out of showers when your mobility is a problem, small gaps may be fine for your average person but if you need hand rails those off the shelf kits don’t always work.
When deciding how big and where you want windows, remember about the size of the plastic frame and the depth of the wall. If you don’t you’ll be reaching higher and further than you think to open and shut a window that has less of a glass aperture than you expect in your head.

 

 

 

Now the reason I started writing this post. The conservatory.

Should be simple yes? “I want a conservatory here, about this size, with double doors.”

But then come the choices and the sales people and the facts they leave out of their sales pitches. I had 4 quotes, each time gaining a little bit more information that the others left out.

Conservatories are no longer just glass, you can have orangeries, conservatories, sun rooms, to name just a few and each comes with slightly different regulations/problems.
So a conservatory we all know, glass walls and ceiling, yes it will get hot because it lets in a lot of sunlight. You can choose different roofs from plastic, to glass, to polycarbonate (with silver embedded) that let in different amounts of light/heat. But don’t be fooled by the salesmen obsessed with the new Supalite tiled roof, that is not a conservatory it’s classed as an extension.

You can have a conservatory without having to faff about with planning regulations etc if…..to quote www.planningportal.co.uk

  • They are built at ground level and are less than 30 square metres in floor area.
  • The conservatory is separated from the house by external quality walls, doors or windows.
  • There should be an independent heating system with separate temperature and on/off controls.
  • Glazing and any fixed electrical installations comply with the applicable building regulations requirements 

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So the door that has been knocked through from the spare room has to adhere to planning regulations as an external door complete with a lintel (which haven’t been put in on any others in this house) and I made very sure the company doing it knew that I knew the regulations.

  1. Two lintels (made of steel or concrete), one supporting each leaf of a cavity wall construction. Separate thermal insulation and a cavity tray are likely to be required.

Sad really that it made me quite giddy when the lintels were put in properly!

The electrics were relatively simple but it turns out that the Consumer unit (the new name for a fuse box) is relatively modern but the breakers/RCD’s (residual current devices) aren’t as up to date as they need to be for the electrician to sign off. Luckily he only needs to replace the one he’s messing with to give me a certificate that says it’s all good.

This week I’ve discovered how awkward a ceiling fan light can be. I found one that was just what I wanted at B&Q, simple you’d think yes? But how could I expect that. With the pitched roof of the conservatory I need something that lowers it a little so the fan can spin, it’s called a “Drop rod” or “Downrod” and comes in different sizes. The reason I’m calling it awkward? No one at B&Q have heard of it!! The website, the store, none of them knew what the heck it was so Amazon have come to the rescue and I’ve ordered one online. Fingers crossed it’s the right length after a discussion between myself and 4 workmen this week as to how long it needed to be to not take someones head off.

How to choose right length downrod for your room height

But through all this I will say “so far so good” the builder was brilliant and put up with all my awkward questions and pestering in return for cups of tea while working like a trooper.
The shell is now up (though the guys doing it were making so many phone calls it could have been finished hours earlier) and the door in place so I can let my dog out of the back door into the garden and I feel a bit safer knowing there’s another exit.

The first fix electrics have been put in, now just the plastering, electrical and final finishing bits from the conservatory itself then I’ll be able to paint and get flooring in.

I can’t wait to see what I learn for the rest of the year!

I’m not American

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I’m not saying it’s a bad thing if you are but I don’t want to be. This is more that I don’t like being made to feel bad about not wanting to do things the USA way, just because everyone else feels the need to emulate them.

 

I didn’t have a Prom when I finished Highschool and nor did I “Graduate”, I left and found out I had passed my exams later with no need for a big ceremony. Same goes for college, there was a “leavers ball” but no prom dresses were needed or limos (I didn’t go, we went to the pub instead).
So why do schools in the UK think it’s the norm now? and why is it getting to be for younger and younger transitions, cap and gown “graduations” for toddlers? Really?

The only place I “Graduated” from was University, complete with gown and pomp and circumstance.

I refuse to participate in “Black Friday” idiocy or queue outside any store for a sale to start on things that will still be on sale later that day and when there’s no chance of vicious, idiots attacking each other. Mostly because “black Friday” has no place in the UK where we do not celebrate Thanksgiving.

I will continue to call it Aluminium and feel it grate across my ear drums to hear it pronounced a-loo-min-um.

Biscuits are thin and sweet, come in many flavours and can if you wish be dipped in a cuppa. They do not go with gravy. As for bacon, well bacon should have some meat on it, come from the back of the pig and be able to be a meal in itself (mmmm bacon butty).
Chips are hot and preferably not so thin they’re like twigs, Crisps are just that…crispy snacks why confuse matters?

A cup of tea, made properly will solve many a problem that coffee just won’t cut it for no matter how nice the coffee is.
Beer; ale and bitter will always surpass fizzy stuff.
Whiskey whether Scotch or Irish of many types can not be substituted with Bourbon any more than tequila.

I embrace our, well sometimes eccentric spelling and will continue to encourage others to as well. So will continue to humoUr my neighboUr over the coloUr of their fence and apologiSe if I don’t recogniSe their Oestrogen fuelLed defenCe in our dialogUE without analySing it…..even if my computer hates me for it.

If someone proposes in the street/restaurant in front of me, I’ll watch and move on, you won’t get me to applaud.

I like my small car and these huge great blooming 4×4’s (SUV’s if you must) that everyone insists on now annoy me, they’re too big for our car park spaces and too tall to see around properly. Unless you live in a hilly region where it snows a lot, on a farm or somewhere that gets flooded regularly there’s just no need. Who doesn’t learn to drive a manual gear box? it’s not rocket science and the only reason I’ll change to automatic is if I have to for physical reasons.

The fact our police don’t carry guns as standard is a good thing, so is the fact not everyone can buy one at a shop that also sells groceries. Some people just should not be allowed to handle a deadly weapon and at least we try to control it (not well all the time but the effort is there).

A house has to be over a century old, at least from the Victorian era before I’ll agree it has historical significance in general. Since I grew up in a house nearly 300years old now  and with buildings from before the plague hit England within minutes of it, unless it’s got a few zero’s after it I don’t set much stock in it.

And my final annoyance of the American invasion through commercialism? The date makes much more sense to be in order from small to large category, day, month, year, muddling it around is just plain confusing!
While I’m on the topic what happened to the ordinal indicator?? I hold my breath at the point in any film advertisement to see if they use one and it often decides whether I’ll make an effort to watch it.
Don’t know what I mean by an “ordinal indicator”?
-th, -nd, -st, -rd…..ring any bells?
First, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth…..instead of one, two, three, four, five, six, I know Americans can use them because they refer to the “fourth of July” not the four of July but for some reason that’s beyond me they have often given up using them.
It’s infiltrated even adverts voiced by British accents, for our consumption too for some reason.

OK my ranting is at an end, I just had to get it off my chest as it was really bugging me today. We are British and I do hope our identity can withstand the pressure from television/ film/game influences to change that. No we’re not perfect and yes there’s plenty I would change, but the things we’re picking up seem to be about “one upmanship”, commercial obsession and frankly a little silly in some cases.

The battle of thermoregulation

It’s that time of year again so thought I’d reblog it

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A battle everyone in Britain will be facing today but one that us MSers have pretty much every day.

“My body’s thermostat is broken”

It’s the easiest way I’ve found to try and explain to people why I overheat in a perfectly reasonably heated room or when they are all saying it’s cold. If they need more detail I’ll try and get them to understand that our already damaged nerves can’t cope with the temperature change just like a computer overheating and either crashing or slowing to a crawl. There’s lots of information around on it like the National MS Society and the MS Trust if you want to read up.

So me? I’ve never coped well with heat. Heat stroke, headaches and sunburn were staples of my childhood summers but now it’s a whole new ball game. Don’t get me wrong I still get heat stroke etc if I’m…

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The Monster arrives….

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Today is World MS Awareness day and I thought today was as good a day as any to broach the subject on here.

I have mentioned before that I have Multiple Sclerosis, it’s a neurological condition that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). It can affect anything controlled by them (anything from vision to coordination to bladder and bowel control) and tends to worsen whenever it feels like making it very unpredictable and extremely frustrating. Many people that I have spoken to over the years have dubbed it ‘The Monster’ and I agree with the

As far as I know my MS started in 2008, possibly instigated through stress as I was having my life made a living hell by my mentor of the time. I went into work and fell over on the floor when I turned round to speak to someone, my balance had…

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I mentioned I’d ordered…

….an ice towel among other things in my post the other day.

So here’s a little something to review it. I was wrong that it would arrive after the thunderstorms because I’m horrified to say there’s not been a drop of rain just muggy heat with the occasional bit of promising cloud that never comes to fruition.

Now most people I spoke to had dampened it and wrapped it around their neck. That is lovely but I found it was warming up very quickly and I was faffing with it constantly as it wasn’t comfortable. So in a moment of inspiration I decided to wrap it around my head like a headscarf and Bingo! it stayed nice and cool for a while, I didn’t need to mess about with it and with my misting spray to occasionally renew the moisture I’ve now decided this is my way to use it. I love this towel and will probably invest in a second for when this one is in the wash as have most of the other ladies I’ve spoken to who have tried it out.

Are you ready for the embarrassing head shot? pardon the bags under my eyes, bad skin and treble chin but at least I wasn’t bright red thanks to the ice towels cooling properties!13738124_10154269858919484_5378851026048618046_o

In discussions on the women with MS group on Facebook there’s a few other cooling ideas that have cropped up so I may bore you with more about it at some point. Till then I hope you’re enjoying your weekends, I’ve got to go and prepare my house for a furry invasion tomorrow by the name of Angus 🙂

World MS Awareness day

Didn’t hear about it? I’m not surprised.

So how can I write this without sounding like I’m teaching a class or lecturing you. I’ll have to put some of the basics on but I think I’ll try and tell you what MS means to me.neuron

MS or Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, degenerative, neurological disorder. In other words it affects the nervous system, it steadily gets worse, it never goes away and there’s no cure. It’s one of the many “invisible illnesses” that anyone can be afflicted with, you could walk past someone in the street or even work with them and not have a clue they have it.
multiple-sclerosis-s2-definition

In simple terms for someone who has MS, their immune system is attacking the coating of their nerves for reasons that scientists are yet to clearly define. If you think of the nervous system as electrical wiring and the myelin coating like the plastic coating of electrical wires. When the myelin is destroyed on our nerves, the signals no longer get through properly if at all, just like when an electrical wire is stripped it shorts out the circuit.cns diagram

Since the nervous system controls pretty much all of the body this means that someone with MS can have symptoms ranging from loss of sensation and pain to losing control of the muscles anywhere in the body. Along with these we can be affected by memory or emotional problems and something we tend to refer to as “brain fog” where concentrating on even the simplest task is nigh impossible. I’ve got to mention the unmentionable and tell you that yes MS affects the bladder and bowels as well as sexual function but don’t worry I’ll leave it at that 😉

There are three main types Relapsing Remitting MS where you have relapses where the damage and symptoms are worse then remissions where things calm down again, if not go back completely to how they were. Secondary Progressive MS and Primary Progressive MS are both forms where there is a general deterioration of ability with less distinct points where the damage is happening.
Science lesson over for now, I promised to make this more personal.

My life was changed forever by this disease back in 2007 when I began struggling with my balance and nausea, a year later and I began losing my vision.

I’ve never been so scared as when I began to lose my vision.

The GP I had at the time was useless, even though the opthalmologist recommended I see a neurologist and I knew from the pattern of my vision loss that the problem was close to my occipital lobe, he tried to palm me off with “wait and see”. £150 trip to a neurologist privately proved me right and luckily the neurologist worked for the NHS too so put me straight onto his books and transferred me over to begin the journey to find out what was happening.

I could walk you through my whole journey but I think it would bore you, so suffice to say 3 relapses in 6 months, 2 neurologists, 1 MRI scan, 2 Lumbar punctures, 2 weeks of high dose IV steroids later and I got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was given a choice of disease modifying drugs, taught to self inject and began a regimen of thrice weekly injections.

Have you ever heard that ignorance is bliss? Well I can vouch for knowing too much being hell. I had studied the nervous system at university, an irony that I can look back on and admire now, but this meant I had studied the worst case scenarios of a multitude of Neurological disorders including MS. I knew enough to be terrified of what might happen, but not enough to know that those “worst cases” did not necessarily include me.

So lets get past the point where I panicked and quit teaching, where I was ready to give up on life completely, to when I accepted this was going to be a part of my life but that I still had a lot to offer and was determined to keep doing what I could for as long as I could.

MS is a horrible thing to live with, but we CAN live with it. I’m nearly a decade down the line from the first major symptoms I exhibited. Yes over the years I have been slowly introduced to taking enough tablets to make me rattle on a daily basis but they keep me moving and control some of the more unbearable symptoms.toby
I can still walk, if slowly, not too far and with a stick. I will keep walking as long as I can! My dog and I still enjoy a constitutional to meet some furry friends and get some fresh air.

I can still see even if I have to admit it’s nowhere near 20/20 and sometimes when I’m tired too foggy to drive so I have to be sensible.

squares and pouchesI can still use my arms, though they’re weaker than they were and my hands tend to be clumsy. But I can still type, cook, crochet and knit which I do for myself as well as making things for charity which makes me happy and feel like I’m doing something good for the world.

I can still talk and those people who know me will vouch that I do at every opportunity! Yes I struggle to find the words sometimes and I stumble, stutter and get confused but I still do it. I have never been an operatic singer but I still sing to myself in the car and my kitchen, apparently it’s good for helping keep the throat muscles working so a great excuse to belt out some tunes.

My mind is still my own, I can think, solve problems and a lot of random information is still at my disposal. I struggle to retain new information like names etc. but I keep trying, I still enjoy reading, watching programs, learning things I can bore people with. I may become confused when I’m tired or stressed but I’m determined to keep exercising my mind and not lose it.

In other words I’m still ME. Daft, annoying, needy and geeky me.

MS has changed my world in so many ways, I’m not where I imagined I would be in a million years and I do sometimes still wish that plan had worked out but really who can say that their life is exactly how they expected it to be 10 years ago.

The one thing I would ask of the world is understanding, for people to at least have a passing knowledge of what MS is just like depression, anxiety, autism, diabetes, parkinsons disease, motor neuron disease, epilepsy and all the other invisible illnesses that people cope with day in and day out.

One day all people with MS hope that there will be a cure and a way to repair the damage that has been done, until then we will keep plodding on and keep trying to live as best we can.