Thursday, 4 October 2018

Airport Assistance - My Experiences

On 13th September, my parents and I went on holiday to Gran Canaria. We flew from Birmingham Airport. Having had varied levels of service from Airport Assistance, I decided to live tweet my experiences in the airports and on the plane both on the way, and coming back from holiday. I will expand on these below:

Outbound - Birmingham Airport to Las Palmas Airport

As we arrived at Airport Assistance, there was a bit of confusion as all three of us needed assistance. Staff, however, had been friendly and helpful so far. Dad and I were taken through security fairly quickly, with no issues. Mum was looking for her bags though, as apparently she went one way and they went the other. My Dad and I were taken from security to Number 1 Lounge. We weren't happy that we were separated from Mum. The staff were very impatient though. Eventually, we all met in the lounge with well deserved drinks! There wasn't much time until we were taken to the gate so we hoped the food we ordered would arrive asap. Thankfully, we didn't wait long for it, and had a bit of time before being collected by assistance staff.

The rest of the journey went pretty smoothly and at Las Palmas Airport (Gran Canaria) we were whizzed through quickly and made good time for our taxi. It was the journey home after the holiday that was more problematic.

Inbound - Las Palmas Airport to Birmingham Airport

My parents and I arrived at Las Palmas Airport (Gran Canaria) in good time, a few hours before our flight was due to depart. Finding the right check in desk was quite confusing though; with not a lot of information. We eventually found the fast-track queue for people needing special assistance though. We explained that all three of us would need assistance to get round the airport and onto the plane. An airport wheelchair each for dad and I, and mum had her own wheelchair. The staff member was fine about this and we didn't have to wait long to get assistance. All good so far.

Getting through security was quick and straightforward. My piercings didn't even set off the alarm! Security were helpful, respectful, and efficient. We were whizzed through to the special assistance area before you go to your gate. All the other special assistance staff were fine, apart from a very angry and stressed out manager. He snapped at staff members and got confused over who was together on which flight. This confusion did worry some of the people needing special assistance.

Eventually things were sorted and we were taken straight to the plane, using the ambulift. The staff ensured everyone was secure before the ambulift set off. Some pretty robust attachments kept mum's wheelchair secure too. There was a bit of a wait for the plane's door to be opened, but we were boarded before the non assistance passengers. That's where the straightforward-ness stopped.

The Thomas Cook flight attendants weren't very professional or organised. The flight departed around 9.30pm. We were due to have in flight meals, but were not served until midnight. I was feeling ill as I hadn't eaten since 1.30pm so dad had to let staff know. The staff were more interested in chatting to some old guy that wouldn't go back to his seat for ages. They also decided to sell competition cards and drinks/snacks before eventually getting round to the in flight meals.

Apart from the passenger in front of me putting her seat back so far that I could barely move, the rest of the flight was ok. Food made me less dizzy and nauseous. When the plane landed, special assistance passengers had to wait for other passengers to leave the plane. Instead of a tunnel that we could all use, steps were taken up to the plane's front door, so we had to wait for the ambulift again.

Unfortunately some of the airport staff had blocked the way to the front door with equipment, so the ambulift could only be attached to the back of the plane. Most of the passengers needing special assistance were seated near the front of the plane however. We had to walk right to the back of the (large!) plane. Mum's foot was very swollen and painful, so the staff thankfully used an aisle wheelchair to get her into the ambulift.

The special assistance staff at Birmingham Airport were varied in their competency and attitude. One staff member (young lad) was as helpful as he could be, but was inexperienced. The other staff member (older woman) was rude and impatient. The female special assistance staff member tried to hurry us out of the ambulift. She hadn't brought wheelchairs for Dad and I, and seemed suspicious when we said we needed them. Luckily there were vacant ones nearby.

A few things happened which annoyed me. When being suspicious about Dad and I needing wheelchairs, she said "Really? All 3 of you need wheelchairs? How on earth do you manage on holiday?" She also barked at mum "brakes. now." before wheeling her into the airport.

After about an hour after the plane initially landed, we eventually got through the airport, through passport control and to the baggage carousels. The female member of staff spoke over us rather than to us for most of the time.

When we arrived at the baggage carousel, instead of checking we were ok to walk from there, the female member of staff said to the young male member of staff "I'll leave them here, they'll be fine" They then walked off. Luckily the young member of staff saw we were struggling to get the suitcases onto the trolley. He came back & was brilliant. He helped us with the suitcases, pushed mum in her wheelchair right to the taxi stop; checking that I was ok to walk there and that dad was managing ok with the trolley. Even though he seemed nervous and inexperienced, he helped us MUCH more than the rude female member of staff.

We were very late for the taxi (and got a lecture from the taxi driver) but at least we were going home!

So that was my most recent experiences with Airport Assistance! I have complained to Birmingham Airport and Thomas Cook; using their complaint forms. I'm not sure what to expect from their responses, but I hope they respond quickly and speak to the staff concerned. Clearly more training is needed.

Have you used Airport Assistance? Which airports? Comment below with your experiences!


Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Mental Illness and Emotional Eating


(Trigger Warning: Detailed discussion of weight, diet, and disordered eating)

Disclaimer: This post is in no way designed to promote dieting, disordered eating etc. This is purely an account of my own experiences with emotional eating and my perceptions of my own body.

Emotional Eating: "The practice of consuming large quantities of food - usually "comfort" or "junk" foods in response to feelings instead of hunger." (source: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=46450)

I am most definitely an emotional eater.

The mental health problems I have do cause a lot of complicated and negative feelings. I spend most days looking for distractions and comfort. I'm lucky in that food is readily available, I can use online apps to order takeaway, and my local supermarket is within walking distance. Unfortunately, this also means I can quite impulsively buy food, especially when feeling low or stressed.

Despite this, I'm actually trying to lose weight. (I am very body positive of course, but personally I don't feel comfortable with my own body). I'm trying to find other distractions or non-edible "treats" in response to my emotions, but this is very difficult.

Although the weight loss program I'm on helps me to eat in a healthier way, it also means that I am constantly thinking about food. The mindset I seem to have at the moment (which, according to my consultant, will most likely change) is that food is something to use as a way to treat myself when I've achieved something, console myself with if I feel down or frustrated, and occasionally even punish myself with if I feel like a failure.

Most of the time, especially since trying to lose weight however, I feel guilty after comfort eating. I worry so much about the potential "consequences" (i.e. putting on weight) and sometimes that only results in more emotional eating. It becomes a vicious cycle of guilt, emotional eating, more guilt, more emotional eating, and so on. It's not easy to break out of this cycle, but usually the guilt gets so severe that I stop.

This weight loss program is starting to help me think about food in a different way (e.g. to enjoy in moderation, experiment with, learn more about etc) and I think I can manage my emotional eating myself, but I know it is going to take a while.

In the meantime, I'm going to focus on other distractions (I recently took up cross-stitch again!) and addressing the feelings I have. I will still treat myself, but I will try to be mindful of the signs that this is becoming emotional eating.

I also want to address the guilt I feel when eating foods considered unhealthy. Words such as "naughty" and "junk food" are really unhelpful. Food is not something to feel ashamed of eating. It's a difficult thing to balance; body positivity and attempting to lose weight, but I'm trying.





Tuesday, 14 August 2018

A Day in the Life of a Chronically Ill Person: Flowchart Edition

I've been wanting to do a "day in the life" type blog post for a while now, but I wondered how I would show this. A load of long winded paragraphs didn't seem appropriate, so I had a good think about what I do in my day, and broke it down into steps. Because my days are filled with decisions, based on how severe my symptoms are at that particular moment, I decided a flow chart would be the best way to present this. Apologies for the imperfections, this was done on OpenOffice Writer, screenshot and pasted to Paint, then uploaded as pictures here. 










I hope this explains a typical day in the life of a chronically ill person well. How do you manage your days? What types of decisions do you have to make? Please comment below.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Am I Ready?

(TW: Mentions of Self Harm and Overdosing)

Recently I've been thinking about where I'm going in life. There's a lot I want to do, but my health either won't allow it, or causes me to struggle to do it. If this is the first post you've read by me then here are my diagnoses:

Fibromyalgia
Joint Hypermobility Syndrome
Overactive Bladder Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Borderline Personality Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (although I'd say this is very mild these days)
Depression
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Agoraphobia

Some of these illnesses aren't as bad nowadays, but others can be unpredictable. After trying different medication, I've come to accept that this is probably the best my health will be for the foreseeable future. So, what do I do with my life?

I've always been an ambitious person, and I do put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve things. This means I tend to do too much at once, or throw myself into things without considering pacing myself. I want more out of life than I'm getting right now though.

I've considered studying again, but doing it with the Open University so I don't need to travel. I looked into a Masters in Psychology. I meet the entry requirements, and I could get the finance I need, but the only thing I can't do is afford the £2000ish required upfront before the loans are paid in. I want to save up for this somehow, but I don't see how I can save much at all while on benefits (they do not stretch far!)

I've considered working again. It should mean more income, and I could hopefully keep my PIP (if the assessment goes well, as I'd have to report a change in circumstances). Could I manage working though? Even the most basic-sounding office job requires sitting up for hours on end (I often have to lie down), remembering a lot of information, possibly walking to different departments, answering/making telephone calls (I'm not as bad now, but still have phone anxiety), bending and reaching shelves (which I can do, but it's very painful) etc. Even part time, I'd be doing this about 5 days a week. Is it worth compromising my health? How many times would I have bad days, and need to call in sick? What about the days when my anxiety disorders give me panic attacks, my depression causes me to need naps throughout the day, or my BPD causes me to feel such self hatred that all I want to do is harm myself? It's a constant battle, and with the (lack of) support I have available for both physical and mental illnesses, I don't see much changing. The more realistic option would be a home based job, but there's not a lot around that offer regular work that would pay enough for me to live on.

I want to move out before I turn 30 (I'm 28 right now), but I don't know how I will manage on my own. Last time I planned moving out, the stress put me into crisis, I overdosed twice, and even now I still have urges. There's also finances to consider, how I would physically cope with running a house by myself, and how my benefits would be affected because of me having to cope by myself. I can't live with my parents forever though.

I went to a family wedding very recently, and one of the usual questions came up from a certain family member; "so, what are you doing these days?". I mentioned that I blog and I vlog sometimes, but of course what they wanted to know was if I was working yet. The disappointment in their eyes when I said "no" was quite hurtful. I quickly followed this up by explaining I'd been thinking about studying or working. They didn't seem satisfied though. Apparently Psychology isn't the right path to go down for work or study. I should be doing Computer Science instead.

As well as working *and* studying, they expected me to take up driving lessons again (I did learn 10 years ago, but failed my test and couldn't afford it/lost my confidence afterwards). They also wanted me to travel to see them more.

It was very hard to explain why I couldn't do some, let alone all of these things. I also felt I wasn't being listened to, I was just being told what I *should* be doing. The thing is, this family member knows at least some of the illnesses I have, yet they don't seem to realise that chronic means lifelong, and that these illnesses affect my daily life significantly.

This has been playing on my mind a lot recently, and I feel like I'm achieving nothing in my life right now. I spoke to a few friends about how I'd been feeling and got some great advice for testing how I'd manage with the workload of a job, as well as some advice about driving. To my surprise, a lot of people my age and older don't/can't drive. The only reason I might take up driving again is if I have children in the future. Apparently, I may have to check with DVLA as to whether (with my conditions) I'm actually allowed to. Honestly, I don't want to drive. It makes me panic, I don't feel safe or in control, and I don't think it's worth feeling this way. I always felt like I had to learn though, for my family if not myself. To be told by a friend that I don't ever have to drive if I don't want to, was really helpful though.

Right now, I can't say I've decided on anything. I'm looking at job vacancies, but I'm also considering whether I'm ready or not. Studying will have to wait, unless I do some free short courses. Driving is something I don't want to think about right now, and I guess moving out will just have to wait until I'm financially more secure (whenever that will be).

In the meantime, I have to look at the little achievements, one of which will be finishing this blog post!

Do you have a Chronic illness (physical and/or mental) and struggle to work/can't work? What parts of your job do you struggle most with? What are your thoughts?


Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Discharge, again

So, I've been discharged from CMHT again. I'm not sure if I feel ready, but the way my CPN spoke, I get the feeling that they just don't have the resources to do anything else for me. There was the option of a Distress Tolerance group, but my Support Worker had already covered most of it, so my CPN didn't think I'd get any more benefit from it.

I'm not left completely empty handed however. I will get a care plan in the post (so at least I'll have an idea as to what to do if feeling unwell) and I've been signposted to the Cruse Bereavement Counselling service (for the abortion) and a domestic violence charity (for my abusive relationship, see I'm a Survivor)

I still feel weird, and lonely, and lost, but I don't think I'm quite as unwell as I was when referred to CMHT. I'm writing this on a day where I feel numb though, so who knows!

When having a personality disorder that mainly manifests as extreme mood swings, I find it really hard to tell whether I'm getting more ill or if I'm having a bad hour/day/week. My moods often change so quickly, I can be feeling extremely low at one point, agitated and paranoid the next, and hyper the next. This means that I can appear fine when I'm not. I can appear happy in an appointment, and then can feel very unwell when I get home.

Going back to the subject of signposting, I'm currently building up the courage to ring these places to see what sort of help I can get. I have some events coming up quite soon, and bringing myself back to these traumatic times may be risky, so maybe I should wait until at least some of these events have passed? It may be that there's a waiting list for help though, so do I get the ball rolling now?

How have you felt after discharge? Did you feel it was too soon, or did it turn out to be the right thing for you? Please comment below.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

I'm a Survivor

(TW: gaslighting, ableism, physical assault, sexual assault)

For a while, I've been thinking about writing a blog post about an abusive relationship I was in years ago. I did write on an anonymous blog a while back, but I'm finally feeling like I shouldn't need to hide what happened to me. It was not my fault.

When I first got ill, I was at university and I had already been dating someone for a month or so. Let's call him "A". He seemed lovely. "A real gentleman" I used to say. We both thought that my illness was a short term one, and it was him who encouraged me to go to the doctor. He was very supportive, and seemed to share the same frustrations as me, when the doctor fobbed me off. As the months went on, and I got worse instead of better, the support died down. I was still undiagnosed, and had started to miss lectures, cancel dates last minute, go out of the house less. I was in pain, exhausted, extremely nauseous, and very dizzy. I pushed myself as much as I could, but I couldn't deny that I wasn't able to do as much. One particular date was to a very nice & expensive restaurant, and I had to cancel 20 minutes beforehand. Instead of being understanding, A seemed very annoyed, as if I'd done this on purpose. He often made me feel like this, and I hated it.

When I had to miss more lectures, A started making nasty comments to me (even in front of my friends). He would tell me I should stop "skiving" and that if I carried on, I would fail my degree. The longer I was ill, the less he would believe I was ill. I think in his eyes, you take pills and get better quickly. And that if I didn't have a diagnosis, I wasn't *really* ill.

I found he was quite hypocritical too. He expected me to come to him; as opposed to him coming to me. He wouldn't make any allowances, and everything appeared to be on his terms. I could've really done with some help, but he offered none. I didn't see any point in asking. One time, he was ill with the flu. It was a day when we were supposed to go to a BBQ with some friends. He rang me up on the day, and asked me to go to the shop and pick up some supplies for him (pain meds, soup etc). I struggled to get there, but did it anyway. I would go to the BBQ afterwards. I heated up his soup for him, got him a drink, made sure he had everything he needed and could rest. He really didn't look well, and appeared to want some space after he'd eaten. I checked he had everything he needed, then said my goodbyes and went on my way. Everything seemed fine.

In later arguments (usually about my illness) he would bring up this day as a sort of "dig" at me. He would say that I barely did a thing for him "all you did was heat up some soup!" and that I was in a hurry to get away from him, and go to the BBQ to see my friends.

Similar arguments followed; involving him belittling anything I did, twisting my words, denying things that had happened, making everything seem my fault, telling me that the friends I'd made through him, were *his* friends, not mine.

When it came to sex, A had quite a few expectations. He was a virgin at the time and believed that, because I was more experienced than him, and because I loved him, I had to prove this by doing whatever sexual things he wanted. I was very reluctant to do some things, due to finding them physically uncomfortable or because of bad experiences. He didn't seem to care, and I was often coerced or tricked into doing things or allowing him to do things. I won't go into detail, but basically he sexually abused me. I didn't know it was sexual abuse at the time though, and his gaslighting made me doubt the validity of my experiences. Now I know better, and can finally say I am a survivor of a psychologically and sexually abusive relationship.

Eventually we broke up. For a little while, he wouldn't leave me alone though. I remember a time when he wanted to meet after a lecture to "talk". He was very persistent, so I reluctantly agreed. We went on a walk, and the usual arguments resumed. A friend of his came up to say hello, and they started chatting. I can't remember exactly what was said, but I said something (friendly, nothing argumentative etc!) and A snapped at me to "shut up". The friend left soon after that (understandably) and we carried on walking. It seemed he wanted to get back together (god knows why), and wouldn't accept that I didn't want to (he didn't like taking "no" for an answer). I told him I was going home, and that the conversation was over. He got very annoyed and started to follow me. I kept telling him to leave me alone, but he grabbed my arms and kept trying to get me to listen to him. The way he was acting honestly scared me. He didn't let go until a friend of mine happened to pass on her way to a lecture, and saw us. I was very panicky and tearful after that, so walked with my friend and somehow got through the lecture.

I made the mistake of speaking up on social media; which resulted in people calling me "crazy", "psycho", "bitch". I felt I couldn't speak up after that.

I am speaking up now though. He has no control over me anymore.

I'm a survivor.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Please Help My Friend Fund Her Care

Recently, a close friend of mine found out that, due to funding cuts, she will lose her care unless she can fund it herself. She is on a small and very limited income from social security and can only just about fund her daily living costs. She does not have the money to fund her care as well, but she simply cannot afford to lose it. Without this vital care, she would lose so much quality of life; her independence especially.

We decided to set up a gofundme fundraising page to see if we could get enough donations to raise the money for her care. There has been a few shares, but only one donation so far.

I'm asking for your help. Can you please share far and wide, and donate if possible? This is so important, and would help her so much. She deserves to have as much independence and quality of life as possible. It is not easy, asking for money, but unfortunately this is the only option she has. I have posted the link below, so please have a look, share, and donate. Any amount makes a big difference and we will be so grateful! Also, advice is very welcome if you have set up a fundraiser before. Any effective ways of signal boosting? Effective ways of wording the campaign? Details we need to add? Any advice helps.

Thank you in advance.