Little Update!

I’ve not blogged for about ten days, which for me is quite a while! I’ve felt like there’s not been much to say over the last couple of weeks.

So what’s been happening?

Last Sunday, my lovely friend Karen ran the London Marathon for MS-UK. As she had a charity spot, she had a £2000 target to hit, which I’m pleased to say she did. She didn’t have the race she’d been planning because of the heat. But she did it! What an absolute champion!

Lou dragged me to Body Pump on Monday, then I spent the subsequent five days not being able to walk. I found this particularly amusing as I’d shared my story on our work intranet in aid of MS Awareness Week. All I could think was that people will have read my story, then seen me walking really strangely. Then put two and two together and ended up with five 😂. It certainly gave me a little chuckle!

The last couple of days, Dave and I have been glamping! When I found out about going for Lemtrada this year, I knew we’d have to get a break in sooner rather than later. We had thought about trying to get over to Athens for a couple of nights, but it’s just not going to he possible. So instead we’ve found ourselves in a “Pod” on a campsite between Blackpool and Preston.

Although the weather was abysmal, it’s been so lovely to just recharge. I actually prefer the bad weather to it having been roasting. Plus, as the weather was bad, it was nice to not feel compelled to do something just because it was nice. I think I needed to just more or less stop!

I’ve had increasingly itchy feet again – you know what I get like when I’ve not heard from my specialists for a bit. Today I came home to some fab news though.

I’VE BEEN APPROVED FOR LEMTRADA!

This is such a relief. I know I got told that the evaluation panel thing is “just a tickbox exercise” but it was still worrying me a bit. So now it’s just a case of waiting (oh there’s a change!) for a date.

On the plus side I’m still avoiding a lumbar puncture, YAY!

Finally, I’ve started reading a book called “The Unmapped Mind.” It’s written by a guy who has relapsing remitting MS, and has also had Lemtrada. It’s a combination of his memoirs along with everything he learned along the way. I’ll be giving a full review once I’ve finished!

My Big “Why”

I have been obsessively on a diet for as long as I can remember. I wouldn’t say I have an eating disorder but I’ve certainly had an unhealthy approach to food at times.

Last September I decided to put an end to that after reading “The Goddess Revolution” by Mel Wells. I highly recommend it to anyone that’s struggled on diets or has a love hate relationship with food. It’s a fantastic read and helps you to see how you can change your attitude towards food . You ditch the diet mindset and focus on intuitive eating. Trouble is, as I’ve not been banning pizza and chocolate, I’ve intuitively just eaten a lot of that stuff.

Not great!

Luckily, I’ve only put on about half a stone as a result. But it’s time to heal that.

Mel works on you finding your “BIG WHY”. Why do you want to heal? It’s got to be big and something that you emotionally connect with. It’s got to be big enough to make you want to stop and truly look after you by eating good, nourishing soul foods. And no, I want a sexy summer bod, ain’t enough!!!

For some people, it’s so that they can get a body that will give their unborn child the best start. For others, it’s so that they can lead a happier life filled with vitality and adventure – where they truly love and respect their body and don’t let it hold them back.

For me it’s something else. For me, my “why” is so that I’m strong enough to fight this battle I’ve got. My strength that I’ve built in the gym in the last four years is something I will eternally be grateful for – I seriously question if I’d still be as mobile as I am if I hadn’t built my strength as much as I have done.

This realisation is the immediate kick up the arse I need to get back to training and eating well.

In the spirit of this, I’ve spent the last hour prepping Buddha bowls and I’m off to a new gym tomorrow!

My Buddha Bowl! Wild rice, sweetcorn, edamame beans, roasted broccoli, squash and peppers, carrot and crunchy chickpeas. Topped with a nice cajun chimichurri dressing 😍

Unfortunately, the 10K that I really wanted to run for Wigan MS Therapy Centre this year, isn’t going to happen – there’s no way with going in for treatment I’d be able to be fit enough in time.

For now however – I’m just going to do me, without a diet plan and without setting myself stupid goals that I obsess over and then feel crap for because I’ve failed at them. They make me unhappy and they do not nourish my soul, never mind my body!

Here’s to strength and vitality!

Find you tribe. Love them hard.

Over the years I’ve had some phenomenal friends. I’ve also had some pretty rubbish ones. I’ve told you about my soul sister, Lucy, before. Now I want to tell you about my girls, in the spirit of International Women’s Day. Because they all lift me up and make me a better me and they are remarkable women.

When I moved up North, whilst I knew I didn’t know anybody, I never really appreciated how hard it would be to make friends. I made friendships at work but they were friendships of convenience. I met people who were so welcoming and introduced me to their friends. But they’d all be friends for years and it’s tough to forge a friendship with people who have such a long existing bond. However hard they try to make you feel welcome, you’ll probably still feel an outsider. I made some great friends “for now”, but we drifted apart as our lives drifted on. Then I made some friends where the friendship became too intense. With the demands of my job and having to travel all over the UK for work, it’s difficult for me to have friendships where you’re constantly in contact. Once I’d met Dave, juggling friends, work and him became too much, and my friendships suffered as a consequence.

High maintenance friendships are not my thing. I don’t mind not seeing my friends for a few weeks and then having LOADS to talk about when we do see each other.

Jayne is my longest standing Northern friend and we met via Twitter. Back in 2012, she asked if anyone wanted to go to the “Guide Dog Convention” with her, or maybe I asked it (it’s not really a convention but it’s what I now fondly refer to it as! It’s actually an open day at the Guide Dog Centre in Atherton, where I used to live). Whichever way it happened, one of us responded to the other and off we went. And our friendship has blossomed ever since!

Jayne and I at Gin Festival 2017

Jayne is ace. She’s a single mum to 13 year old Olivia, and I cannot even begin to imagine how tough that must be. On top of that she’s a Nurse. And Wonderwoman. Ok, I made that last bit up but she may as well be. She’s run a marathon, something I can only ever wish to do, and she’s the most kind hearted soul I’ve ever met.

I met Clare through Jayne for the first time in 2014, at the Magic Weekend. For those unfamiliar, it’s a weekend where all the rugby teams in Super League play a match at the same venue, over two days. It’s a fab day out and you get to meet loads of ace people (and some not so ace. I once met this Leeds fan that latched herself onto me all day and she was just awful!)

I already followed Clare on Twitter but didn’t really have much to do with her. I was intimidated by her perfect eyeliner and opinions. I’m pretty sure she thought I was just like them idiots from TOWIE. We spoke a bit that day, but I was there with Dave and his family so spent most of my time with them. She wasn’t as scary as I first thought though, but beyond that, nothing really changed in our interactions with one another.

That was until November, Clare messaged Jayne asking if she and I wanted to go to the Gin Festival in March. My response was along the lines of “yeah, why not. I don’t like gin but I’m up for a day out!” By this point, much as I loved Dave, I wanted and probably needed a solid group of female friends. I envied people who had such a close circle of friends.

Gin Festival, which I’ll tell you about in another blog very soon, was the day I met Clare’s sister, Louise. Louise is my inspiration. She was recovering from a brain tumour at the time and seemed to me quite shy. But all I could see was this unbelievable survivor. Louise is one of my most favourite people ever. She just doesn’t care. She doesn’t care what people think. Nothing seems to phase her. She’s forever tagging me in memes on Facebook and Instagram that are along the lines of that message. It’s slowly sinking in!

Jayne, Lou, Clare and Me at our first Gin Festival in 2015

We had a fab day at the Gin Festival and I felt that I’d found some friends, as well as a new found love for gin. In 2016, we went again although this time, Clare’s friend Jaye came with us, as well as Louise’s best friend, Helen. They joined us on what was soon to become our annual outing.

On the 24th September 2016, we went to a beer and prosecco festival in our home town of Wigan. The reason this date sticks in my mind so much is that it was the day before my 30th birthday, which was coincidence rather than a planned celebration for my birthday. We were having a brilliant time, and by this point, a friendship had really started to form, but we didn’t really see much of each other outside of gin related activities. I don’t think that we had dome anything but get drunk together! I even referred to them all as my “gin girls!” On this day, Yamit was to become one further “gin girl”. A little bit tipsy from all the prosecco (I was turning 30! I could do what I wanted!) I proclaimed my love to all of them and told them that even though I’d considered them the girls I drank gin with, I felt that they were my real friends. They were so much more than just company for the gin festival.

I’d found “my girls”.

Helen, Lou, Jayne, Clare and Me – Wigan Beer Festival

I don’t know if the others felt it, but my drunken statement seemed to shift something in our friendship at that point. Clare and I in particular have grown really close, and I’d definitely say that she’s my closest friend these days. I sometimes liken my friendship with her, to like what blokes have. You know, where they hurl abuse at each other all the time?

I mean, the day I went blind, I text her telling her “I’m not being melodramatic or anything, but I’m going blind in my left eye.” She responded in the way that only she could, with “too much w*nking.” She did eventually follow it up with “are you ok?”

Friends like her are exactly what I need in my life, especially right now. She posted on her instagram today, saying that I always have a smile on my face, no matter how tough life gets. But it’s my girls, and in particular her, that help that. They don’t let me feel sorry for myself. And despite all the good natured abuse, I know that they care.. We all do.

As a bunch of girls group of women, we’re diverse, but we’re also so similar. We have so much going on in our lives that we don’t have lots of time for each other, but that works for us. We respect that. We all enjoy working and have careers that keep us busy. Jayne and Louise are both bringing up their own two amazing women as well. The one thing I do know though, is that if I called any of them needing their support they would be their instantly, without question.

Me, Yamit, Clare, Lou and Helen at Lou’s 30th

It may have taken me 30 years to find them (which was the best birthday present ever by the way!), but finding friends like these was well worth the wait, and I honestly can’t see them ever NOT being around.

Find your tribe. Love them hard.

Five Minutes in the Morning

A few months ago I was in Sainsbury’s and picked up a book. It’s called “Five Minutes in the Morning – A Focus Journal”.

It’s usually priced at £10 but I was chuffed that it was only £4 (oh the joy of the January sale!)

The idea is, you take five minutes in the morning (duh!) to take stock of the day. Check in with yourself and how you’re feeling. Set some intentions for the day.

I’ve not used it really – it’s such a beautiful book, that I didn’t really want to write in it. I do like “workbook” style things though. I like having something to do.

Now even though this is designed for in the morning, I think I can get so much from this at any time of day.

So this evening I completed the first activity.

An exercise to start writing.

I was tasked with spending five minutes just writing about how I would introduce myself to somebody, and here’s what I wrote:

Hi, I’m Joanna, but most people call me Jo. Except Dave. He calls me Joey. Dave is my other half and he very much completes me. We’ve been together for five years and have a little boxer doggy called Poppy who’s three.

In my spare time I enjoy reading and writing (I have a blog), and going to the gym. I’m a bit of a fadder, but that just means that I never get too bored!

In my spare time, I work for a big energy company in learning and development. I’ve done it for 13 years and genuinely love it!

I’m originally from Essex, but moved to Wigan 8 years ago, which is the best thing I’ve ever done.

I love letters and I currently have six pen pals, and the list is growing.”

I reflected on what I’d written. I feel it’s a fair insight into me but I’m also shocked by what I’d missed out. My love for gin, herbal tea and coffee is missing. Happily, I don’t let my recent diagnosis define me; I felt no need to mention that in my introduction.

After my first experience with this book, I’m definitely going to start using it more. If you’re interested, I managed to get another couple of them on Amazon for £4 – they’re easy to get your hands on. I gifted one to Kate as she shares a love for writing and I got the feeling she’d enjoy using a similar kind of book.

I think it’ll be really nice to dip in and out of occasionally, and give me a little pre-blog warm up or inspiration!

Have a go at this activity yourself – I’d love to read your five minute introductions.

Feet. (pt 2)

Well I am floundering on this challenge this month. Unsure on whether it’s alternative priorities or a real resistance to the feet! The second week is to list how you can treat your feet more.

You know the work colleague I was talking about the other day, the one that loves doing people’s feet? I told her that I was doing this challenge and she’s offered to do mine for me. Mine are that bad though, that it’ll be a big step for me to be brave enough to let her do it.

Dave and I like to visit home bargains, probably once a week. I generally have the plan of popping in, getting what I need and getting the hell back out. Dave has a preference for looking at EVERY SINGLE AISLE.

During the searching of every single aisle, I came across this:

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At 69p, I couldn’t say no, especially in the spirit of the “love my feet” challenge. Well about the best they did, was make them smell reasonably average.

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So in the meantime, I scoured Pinterest (because if in doubt, you always turn to Pinterest) looking for tips on how to do a home pedicure, because them boots really weren’t cutting it!

Following a good look through what Pinterest had to offer, and drawing on it to create my own answer, here’s what I’ve come up with as a plan of action for my feet pampering. Week 3’s challenge is to actually carry it out!

1: Soak feet in apple cider, vinegar and water with epsom salts. I’ll probably add a couple of drops of peppermint essential oil too, as I doubt this will smell good.

2: Exfoliate feet – it’ll be time to rock out another home remedy for this! I think a nice peppermint salt scrub will do the trick! I’ll knock one together in the next week or so and post what I do! I’ll probably use a foot file as well or something to make sure that I give them the much needed TLC they deserve!

3: Foot Lotion – again, this is probably one where I’ll knock something together that works really deeply

4: Paint Them – this is the bit that might not (probably won’t) happen. I’m so messy with stuff like that, but I guess now is the time to practice, whilst it’s not flip flop season!

I’ll be back in a week to tell you how this has gone!

 

 

Note to Self.

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On Saturday, I chose to tell everyone I know that I have MS via the medium of Facebook.

Some of you might find this odd, but I had my reasons for doing this.

I’d spoken to a lot of people about my freaky blindness (at this point not thinking it would result in the diagnosis that I have subsequently got).

A lot of those people had asked questions about whether I got my sight back. I’d told them yes I had it back but no, I’d had no answers and been honest about the tests I was going through and what I was going through them for.

Now I have a diagnosis, whilst I want to continue to be open about my condition, I CANNOT FACE TALKING ABOUT IT ANYMORE!!!! Easier to just get everyone told in one fell swoop.

Additionally, I honestly believe that by keeping it quiet I’m not really facing up to it myself. I’m an open book. I’m a sharer (and historically very much an over sharer although less so as I’ve grown older!)

What I never counted on was such an overwhelming showing of support from people. I was called inspiring. Me?! Inspiring?

I wasn’t open for the sake of sympathy or compliments about my ability to handle my situation. I didn’t do it for attention. I purely did it for me, to get it off my chest and to face reality. That doesn’t stop me feeling so humbled by the amazing support from friends and family, and those people that used to be called friends but I’ve completely lost contact with.

I’m not being strong for to be inspiring. I just don’t see how being any other way will help. I explained to someone the other day,

“It’s not as likely as you might assume that I’ll end up in a wheelchair. But if I spend the next ten years, miserable and worrying about being in a wheelchair, and then actually end up in a wheelchair in ten years time, that’s so perverse. What a waste of my good years.”

Knowing I’ve got such a huge network of support around me is so comforting at a time like this and it really really does help me keep a smile on my face, instead of wallowing and worrying about what the future might hold.

It has made me stop and think though, and there’s some things I need to promise to myself. I felt a little note to myself here would just do the trick. And you, Dear Reader, can hold me to account if you catch me not doing these things…

  • Just because everyone thinks I’m being dead strong, doesn’t mean that I can’t have days where I don’t appear so strong. I’m allowed to feel every emotion under the sun at the moment, and the only person not allowing me to do that is me.

 

  • I will stop planning so far ahead and running through life at 100 miles an hour.

 

  • I will start to live each day and really be present (as much as my brain fog allows me that is!), and just take each day as it comes. There is no point in worrying about yesterday, or tomorrow.

 

  • Stop worrying about the things that I can’t control.

 

  • Stop being so bloody hard on myself and beating myself up. No more feeling guilty for not getting things done that can wait until tomorrow. Or the day after. Or the day after that.

 

  • Know that my best is enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

 

 

Essex Girl, Lost Up North?

Even I’m confused about the title of this blog now, so I bet you are too. I’ve lost my way in terms of the original intention of my setting up this blog, but I don’t want to lose everything I’ve written and I’m pretty sure I can’t just change the name. What would I change it to anyway?

I moved up to Greater Manchester from Rayleigh, in Essex back in April 2010. The scariest, yet still the best decision I’ve ever made.

I wish that I’d started this blog then. A place to talk about my adventures and adjusting to a new life I was creating for myself. The reality though, is that now I’ve been here for coming up to eight years, I’ve spent far more of my adult life here than back where I started my life. Which is absolutely mad to think about!

It makes it really hard now to reflect back on how I felt and a lot of what I went through.

I’ll try and tell more of some of my experiences when I first moved up, but for now, I’m going to continue to write about whatever comes naturally for me.

Sure it might not make sense, and sure my title doesn’t really match my purpose anymore, but I enjoy writing and it fills my soul up.

What I can say though, is I’ve made a life up North now and I’m definitely no longer lost. This is home.

Me and my some of my amazing friends 🙂

My perfect man, Dave

Me and my man again after the Wigan 10k in September 2017

Me and my best four legged pal – Poppy. She’ll get a blog post all of her own one day!