Body positivity!

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This day and age it’s so easy to be sucked in and consumed by the media and all the “perfect” bodies we see on our TV screens, social media feeds and magazines. You only have to log in to be bombarded with pictures of girls with flawless skin, amazing figures and insane make up, but it’s not just girls, the guys are also athletic looking with great skin. I find it extremely sad that we live in a World where we are consistently judged on our appearance. We are made to feel that beautiful people are successful and nice when in reality it is what is on the inside that counts. It is even sadder that the “perfection” that we seek is totally unrealistic as most of the images have been photo-shopped and airbrushed. The images we see are all staged and shot at specific angles which are flattering to the models. They aren’t giving an accurate representation of what people look like and this makes so many people struggle with body image issues, myself included.
I’ve always struggled with my appearance. As a child I was fat, ginger, freckly, wore glasses and had braces, so needless to say I was constantly made fun of because of my looks. The deterioration of my health hasn’t helped me with confidence if I am honest. In the past few years I have had multiple surgeries leaving me with 8+ scars. We rarely see models with scars or any imperfections and therefore society doesn’t see this as the “norm”. For this reason since my first surgery I have been extremely self-conscious of letting people see my scars and covered them up. I stopped wearing crop-tops, would only wear high-waisted bottoms, began wearing swimsuits to ensure that my stomach was always covered and became extremely anxious. I was terrified of people seeing my scars and staring at me. I developed massive anxiety and didn’t even want to see my scars myself. I hated my body, I hated people seeing it and I hated seeing it myself. I was cheated on by my long-term partner and blamed myself, my appearance and my illness. I found myself in a downward spiral of depression.
Over time I have learned to deal with a lot of these issues. I began to accept my flaws and scars, not fully, but I am getting there. I have changed my mind set and now I know that my scars are not something to be ashamed of, but something to be proud of because they mean that I survived. If people want to stare at my scars then that’s okay, I understand that this isn’t the “norm” and that people aren’t used to seeing them.
This year I have managed to overcome one of my biggest fears. I bought myself a two-piece bikini (and it wasn’t a high-waisted one that hid my scars!) and I wore it! Now this might not seem like a big deal but to me it was huge! I was extremely anxious and people may have stared but my scars are a part of me and are tales of my journey so far. People are always going to be judgemental, unfortunately it’s human nature, but hopefully I can do my bit to raise awareness. I’m still super body conscious, I will never be skinny and I don’t have flawless skin. I have multiple scars, loads of stretch marks, a device implanted in my spine and so on but I am here, I am alive, I’m stronger for it and I am real. I have to make the most of every single day, be that on my feet, with a walking aid or in my wheelchair! So now the even scarier part, here are some photo’s of my scars. They are my battle wounds and a reminder to me that I am strong and I am a warrior! I hope that this post helps to raise awareness and if it helps just 1 person then that is enough.
Love & hugs, Charlie xoxo
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Believe in yourself!

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The past 12 months has been full of ups and downs. I have formed new relationships, had relationships break down, moved house, started a degree and many other memorable things. Sometimes I feel as though it is important to look back and reflect on what has changed and what I’ve actually achieved. I guess that day by day things don’t seem to change but when you look back everything is different.
 There is no doubt that having a chronic illness can put a lot of strain on romantic relationships. I had a romantic relationship break down last year. The relationship started before my condition began to deteriorate and before I was actually diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and this brought me a great deal of guilt. I guess that I felt as though I had somewhat tricked my partner at the time because he started building a life with a healthy-ish young woman who went to work, went out with friends and was able to do fun stuff and then years later, during my lowest periods, was stuck with a very sick person who could hardly leave the house. I think I started blaming myself for the breakdown of the relationship but looking back I was and I am still me, just a slightly different version! If people can’t see that then it is their problem,
For a while I lost myself. I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t want to do anything. I felt extremely low and I thought that life couldn’t possibly get any better. I felt trapped in my body and couldn’t see a way improving things but I did. I managed to turn my life around somewhat and yes, there are still lots of things that aren’t perfect but I have been able to change some things for the better. I believe in myself now. I have discovered that a bad day doesn’t have to be a bad week. I have come to terms with the fact that some days I am going to feel better than others and yes, it is very frustrating that I can’t do some of the things I enjoy doing but I have realised that there are still things that I can do!
I think that acceptance is one of the most difficult things to deal with when being chronically sick. It is hard to accept that you might not have a day when you are “pain free”. It is hard to accept that you may not be able to do some of the “normal” things like work 9-5. My dreams of travelling, having a family, running a marathon etc. may have to change slightly but I have accepted that and realised that it doesn’t mean it won’t happen, I may just have to go about things differently. I have lost some people through getting sick but I have also met some amazing people and realised who is really there for me. I am so thankful for the people that see me for who I am, Charlie the music loving gig-junkie, rather than Charlie who is sick!
I guess the point of this post is just to say don’t give in. Don’t let anyone take you for granted. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you owe them something because you are ill. Don’t let people treat you differently. If someone judges you then it speaks more about them that about you. Follow your dreams. Believe in yourself. I believe in you!

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Dear judgemental person…

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Dear person who left this note in my car,
Thanks for judging me when you don’t know me. What gives you the right to decide that I am not worthy of a disabled space?
I may look like a “normal” young woman but that’s because I try my best to fit into society and not let people know that I’m in pain. I’m not pretending to be sick, I’m pretending to be well.
I have numerous invisible health conditions. I have a rare genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. This is a multi systematic condition and affects everything from my brain, my joints, my heart, my bones, gastrointestinal system, in fact there is very little that it doesn’t affect! I also have other invisible illnesses such as gastroparesis, dysautonomia, raynauds and many more. I don’t shout about these as I’d like to live my life as best as I can. These conditions vary massively from day to day. I have carers, district nurses, lots of hospital consultants and appointments. I shouldn’t even be explaining myself to someone who is so judgemental but I feel it is necessary to educate you and your small mind. Next time you see someone and think they don’t deserve a disabled spot then why not ask what’s wrong? I’d prefer to explain how my conditions affect me to your face rather than be left an anonymous note. I’ve had two surgeries in the past 8 weeks and numerous infections including a spinal one I am currently fighting so I think I’m allowed to park a few steps closer to the door thanks.
Please think before you judge someone. You have no idea what’s going on in people’s lives!

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Making & maintaining friendships when chronically ill.

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Making & maintaining friendships when chronically ill.

Making friends can be a difficult and daunting experience for anyone, never mind when you are sick. From childhood I can remember finding it difficult to make friends, especially seeing as though I was fat, ginger, had glasses and braces so I was basically a bullies dream. There are the awkward situations when you are socially forced to make friends, like the first day of school when kids look around the room looking for potential “BFF’s” and moving to University and into a house with people you may have never met before. As you get older you don’t really have situations like that so making friends becomes harder and harder, especially if you are socially awkward like me. It’s not just about making friends, it’s about maintaining those friendships you already have and this can be difficult when you are chronically ill.

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Since being diagnosed with many invisible illnesses my social life has understandably gone downhill, much like my health. I used to be the life and soul of the party and was always up for a laugh. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and sometimes even Sunday nights were spent getting dressed up and having fun with my friends. We would go into town and dance and drink the night away, go to theme parks, out for meals, on crazy holidays and adventures; then I got ill. My health deteriorated and I was no longer able to do the things I used to do. A lot of the friends I used to do these things with slowly began to disappear. I would be, and still often am, invited on nights out and would have to decline due to my ill health. I worry that people think I am making excuses but I’m really not. I struggle to make plans because I hate letting people down and what I do each day depends entirely on my health, so if I have to cancel then I am truly sorry. I grieve for the life and friendships I used to have, but I think that is a part of being ill. You begin to realise who really are your friends and who never really were to begin with. The true friends make changes and realise that you can’t do what you used to do and instead spend time with you in a different way, like watching TV shows or just being there with you whilst you are unwell. I can imagine that it’s also difficult for my friends. I am no longer the crazy party animal that I used to be and I guess that can be hard for people to take in and accept but I am still me and I do still like to have fun, it’s just that I have had to adjust what I can do for fun now. I am extremely grateful for the friends who have stood by me through everything. I may not have as many “friends” as I used to but I sure know that I have the best ones and that’s all I need!

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As I have said a lot of my old “friends” disappeared out the picture when I got sick, however I have also made many new friendships through being sick. When you are ill you spend a lot of time at home and this often leads to browsing the internet and social networks. There are many support groups online and these have been a blessing to me. I have met numerous people, many in my local area, who are going through similar situations to me and I have developed amazing friendships with them. I have even made friends when I have been admitted to the hospital. I hate that these friends are unwell and I would do anything to take away their pain but unfortunately I do not have the power to do this, but I do have the power to be there for them. I guess it’s sometimes easier to maintain a friendship with someone who is chronically ill themselves because you can understand each other and what you are both going through. If you make plans with someone and they have to cancel then you fully understand as you often find yourself in that position. As much as healthy people try to understand, I think that it is always difficult to understand a situation unless you are going through it yourself. The friendships I have made through being sick are often very close ones because we share a lot with each other, including embarrassing things like our bowel movements! I may not get to see these friends as often as desired because we all have lots of medical appointments to attend and if we do make plans one of us could unfortunately be too sick on the day. They say that every cloud has a silver lining and these friendships are my silver living of being ill. Our paths may have never crossed if I hadn’t been diagnosed with EDS, PoTS and the other horrible conditions I live with and so for that I thank you my dodgy genetics!

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Love & hugs,
Charlie xx

Mental Health

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Mental

  • 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year.
  • Mixed anxiety and depression are the most common mental disorder in Britain.
  • Women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men.
  • 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time.
  • Depression affects 1 in 5 older people.
  • Only 1 in 10 prisoners has no mental disorder.
  • Suicide rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women.
  • Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population.

Over the years mental health has been a very taboo subject with some people stating that it simply “doesn’t exist”. Mental health issues DO exist, it isn’t like Santa Claus or the tooth fairy, these conditions are REAL and are affecting people every day. Just because someone may not understand something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, that’s like me saying I don’t understand physics, it doesn’t make physics any less real.
Mental health problems can range from a worry we may feel during the day to a serious long-term condition. Lots of people who have mental health problems suffer in silence as they are afraid of what other people may think and their reactions, this includes myself. Help me raise awareness of mental illness and show people that mental health issues are REAL. Help make the invisible, visible!

Mental Health

If you are suffering with a mental health condition there is help out there and it is very important to get help. Please never feel alone. There are lots of amazing charities and organisations out there who offer help and support such as:

Thank you to http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk for some of the statistics.

Charlie x