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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Make the most of every day!

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Living with a chronic health condition can be tough. Life is a constant battle against your own body and it’s so exhausting. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may not be able to do certain things that I’ve always wanted to do at ease (such as going to Glastonbury which I’ve been watching on the TV and have gotten extremely jealous) but there are things that I can do. I’m trying to take steps to improve my health as much as I can and focus on the things that I do have control of. It’s draining pretending to be okay when you really just want to lie in bed and cry but I refuse to let this condition beat me. It’s frustrating knowing that having a “good” day and making the most of it by doing something will more than likely lead to repercussions in the form of fatigue and more pain but I can’t let that stop me from enjoying those days. I can’t just sit in waiting for a bad day to happen and waiting for the next flare. That isn’t living, that is existing. I am determined to live the best life I can, even if it may be different than I planned!
Love, hugs & hope, 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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Not all disabilities are visible…

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So lets be honest, although most of us probably don’t want to admit it, being judgemental seems to be human nature. I have judged people and I have been judged but we don’t know everyone’s story and it’s a sad trait to have. I guess a lot of it is to do with stereotyping. There are so many stereotypes out there and these seem to get passed from generation to generation and it really needs to stop.
I went to a hospital appointment recently with my carer and was waiting to park in the disabled bay. I’m a 25 year old woman with invisible disabilities and I was judged by two different people whilst waiting. A gentleman who was coming out of the bay wound his window down and made a hand gesture to call me a “w*nker” and an elderly woman who must have wanted the space called me a “silly cow” and waved her blue badge at me so I waved mine back at her! A similar thing happened to my friend recently. She is 18 and she was waiting for a disabled bay and an elderly woman wound her window down and told her that those bays were reserved for disabled people so she showed her badge and the lady then said that they were for “elderly people” and that she should go and park elsewhere.
Think about it. Have you been judged? Have you judged someone? We don’t know everyone’s individual story.
The really thin girl you assumed was anorexic may be desperately trying to put on weight or could be fighting an invisible illness that makes gaining weight difficult for her.
The guy you saw on crutches struggling to walk last week who is walking today may be suffering with a condition that varies massively, it doesn’t mean he was faking it.
Please try not to stare at the young girl in the wheelchair trying to figure out what is wrong with her.
The guy who has used the disabled toilet but looks “normal” could be suffering with IBD.
Not all disabilities are visible. Not all disabilities are the same. Think before you judge.

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Love & hugs,
Charlie xoxo

Sacral Nerve Stimulation Surgery

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As you may know I am currently waiting to have sacral nerve stimulation surgery so I thought I would write a post explaining a bit more about the process and how it hopefully will help me!
Due to my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome I have numerous problems with my bladder and bowel. After previously having tests it was discovered that this could partly be due to a communication problem between my bladder/bowel and my brain. Sacral Neuromodulation Therapy can help to restore normal bladder or bowel function and where successful, it can be a life-changing treatment.
Our brain controls our bodies muscles and movements by sending electrical messages, which are carried by nerves. There are major routes, one of which runs from the brain, along the spinal cord and through the lower back called the sacral area, and they have smaller pathways running off them. Sacral Neuromodulation helps to correct  inappropriate, unwanted or incorrect messages.
The surgery itself is performed in two phases, the evaluation phase and the implant phase.
During the evaluation phase I will have surgery to insert a thin temporary wire near the sacral nerve in my lower back which control the bladder/bowel. The wire will then be connected to a little device which I will have to wear on a belt and this delivers the stimulation to the nerves. This test phase will last a couple of weeks and then I will have an assessment to see if I will benefit from the permanent implant.
If the test phase is successful I will then have another surgery to have the device implanted just beneath my skin in the upper buttock area. A lead is also implanted in the lower back and then connected from the device. The battery usually lasts about 5 years.
If the test phase is unsuccessful then the temporary wire will be removed.
On Wednesday I have another pre-op, this time to see an anaesthetist, to discuss the surgery further as I’m a complicated zebra thanks to EDS! I will try and keep you all updated with the next steps etc.
I hope you have had a lovely bank holiday weekend with as little pain as possible!
Love & hugs,
Charlie xxxx