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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Family :: the ultimate F Word

I don't get on with most of my family. Let's just say that I'm kinda the black sheep. I don't live the kind of "mainstream" existence that they do, I'm not afraid to have my own opinions. I'm just not like them. As a little kid I dreamed of the day I'd find out I was adopted and be whisked away by my real family, who in my head were quirky vegan hippies living in some kind of commune near the sea. It never happened.

But last week, I met up with my older cousin D who is over here from Canada for a break. We haven't seen each other since I was a tiny kid and neither of us really remember meeting so it was sort of like we were meeting for the first time, as strange as it sounds.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after a normal conversation went off on a tangent, we discovered that we have a whole lot in common, both have some mental health issues that our families find it difficult to understand. I can't begin to tell you the warmth I felt in the pit of my stomach, the feeling that somebody finally understood me. I've found a fellow black sheep within my family, the first sign that maybe I do share some genetics with the rest of the strangers I call family.

It's fascinating, the things we can go our whole lives not knowing about our family. And now, I feel as though I've got this super tight bond with him and I wish we'd found it sooner so that neither of us had to feel so alone for so many years. It's definitely made me feel more positive about being open about my mental health issues. If D and I hadn't been open with each other, we never would have discovered our common ground.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Living With Chronic Migraine :: and getting Botox!


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Headaches. Everyone has them, right? Some unlucky people also get Migraines, the big bad bully of the headache family. And some seriously unlucky people have Chronic Migraine, a condition that involves suffering 15 or more days of Migraine symptoms a month. That's what I want to talk about today.

I had my first Migraine when I was ten years old. There were bright flashing lights spreading across my vision, a spear of pain in my temple and I felt as sick as when I'd eaten far too many sweets after Trick or Treating. My Mum gave me some painkillers and sent me to lie down in a dark room. This was the beginning of a horrible cycle.

I got many more migraines throughout my childhood and teenage years but it wasn't until I hit my twenties that things got really bad. The Migraines were becoming increasingly severe and more and more frequent. Eventually, my Neurologist (who I was already seeing for a seizure disorder) diagnosed me as having Chronic Migraine.
The International Headache Society defines Chronic Migraine as more than fifteen headache days per month over a three month period of which more than eight are migrainous, in the absence of medication overuse.
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And then I found out that my Migraines had become "Intractable", which I didn't even know was a thing.

And just this week, I received a copy of a letter from my Neuro to my GP that said...
that my "Headache Disability" (seriously? I never heard of that before!) is very High. It actually feels kinda good to have the pain I'm in recognised by medical professionals, you know?
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 Over the last five years, I've been working with my Neurologist to find some way of controlling and reducing my Migraines. I've tried four different preventative medications.
The first one, Amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant worked wonders except it turned me into a psycho zombie.

The second one, Topiramate, an antiepileptic medication made me paranoid and I felt and acted like I had cotton wool between my ears rather than a brain.
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The third one, Epilim, another antiepileptic, made me suicidal.

And the fourth one, a heart medication called Verapamil just didn't do anything for the migraines but made me super dizzy and made my blood pressure plummet.

Trying and failing with four preventative meds meant that I was eligible for a fairly new treatment called Greater Occipital Nerve Block, which involved injecting a mixture of steroids and local anaesthetic into the Occipital nerves at the back of my head. It worked. Kinda. And the fact that it was fairly short lasting meant that I was offered Botox. That's like the holy grail of the Migraine World.

Anyway, I got my first set of Botox injections last week and I can tell you that it hurt like a motherfucker. There were 31 injections into my forehead, scalp, neck and shoulders. Apparently I won't feel any benefit from it until after the second set of injections in November. But I'm trying to stay positive and remember that the Botox will eventually kick some Migraine arse.

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 In the meantime, I'm just going with the flow, living life with an average of 24-30 days of pain each month. Some days, it's almost impossible to get out of bed, to do the housework, to go shopping and do the things I want / need to do. I get super irritable, snap at my girlfriend and my parents, avoid my friends and generally become a social recluse. There are times when I struggle to think through the pain, cry because every movement sends pain shooting through the left side of my head. Yeah, it sucks but I'm so bloody thankful that I live in the catchment area of one of the best speciality Neurological hospitals, that here in the UK, my treatments are covered by the NHS (the Botox treatments alone would cost me £600 each if I were to pay through a Private Hospital). I'm lucky and I know it.

Anyway, I just wanted to get all this stuff out there. I mean, Migraines aren't something people talk about a lot. People tend to play down the severity of their pain, get sick of people thinking that Migraines are "just headaches". Migraines are a severe Neurological condition and I wish there was a way to raise more awareness, make people understand what it feels like to live with constant pain. I know from experience that employers can be very unsympathetic when it comes to employees taking time off due to Migraine. They don't understand that it's so much more than pain in your head, that your whole body is undergoing a barrage of symptoms. Vision loss, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, faintness, numbness and tingling, lack of co-ordination, slurred speech, even loss of consciousness in rare cases. I could never make my boss understand that one migraine can last more than a day. He used to say to me, "but you've been to sleep and woken up so it must be a new migraine not the one from yesterday." It really drags you down after a while, makes you feel like nobody understands you.

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But there are millions of people out there dealing with Migraine and I would love to connect with anybody who understands what I'm living with. So do any of you guys get Migraines or other types of Headache? What are your experiences when it comes to bosses? Feel free to share your experiences below xx


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Some more of the books I've been reading lately

1. 'Crap Taxidermy' by Kat Su
I've been following Crap Taxidermy on Instagram for a while, marvelling at the crazy images of dodgy taxidermy so when I saw this book on Net Galley, I couldn't resist requesting it. It was a quick read. I read it on the train journey back from a day at Alton Towers and it was pretty entertaining although I don't think it was as great as I'd hoped it would be. I guess having already seen a whole host of funny images on the internet kinda ruined it for me a little. The one really cool thing though was a step by step guide on how to create your own taxidermy mouse. If I didn't have two cats who'd try to eat it, I'd love to have a go at it.
3/5 for this quirky little book. Worth a read if you're into the weird and wonderful art of taxidermy.








2. 'Frenemy of the People' by Nora Olsen.
I have to admit that the cover was what drew me to request this novel on Net Galley. The girl on the cover looks like someone I would love to know, or somebody that the teenage me would have wanted to be. I kind of wish this book had been around when I was a teenager. A Young Adult novel with Clarissa,  a newly out of the closet bisexual girl falling for Lexie, the only gay girl in her school, a girl she thought she hated. It's your typical teen romance with a queer twist. The only problem I had was that at times it felt a little preachy. I don't mean in a religious way. More in a moral sense. I felt as though the writer was trying to force some moral values onto the reader, the idea that we should accept everyone for who they are and that our differences are what make us special. And while that's a good moral to promote, I think it came across a little heavy handed via Lexie's staunch beliefs and actions. All in all this was a pretty awesome book though and I'd recommend it to any teen girl dealing with issues around sexuality. Another 3/5 for this one.

3. 'A Dance with Dragons Part 1' by George R.R. Martin.
What can I say about this book without giving away any spoilers... Tyrion's back in this instalment, which was great because I really missed his presence in the last book. It was also great to see more of Daenarys but I kinda missed the goings on at King's Landing. I feel as though as this series goes on I'm enjoying it less. The first three books were packed full of action and these later ones seem to be dragging a bit. It may just be my impatience for Daenarys to stop pissing about freeing slaves and make the journey to Westeros but anyway, I'm still looking forward to reading the next one. I need to know what happens next! Yet again, 3/5 for this one. That seems to be my default rating at the moment.

Have you guys read anything interesting lately? Any GOT fans struggling with the later books?

Monday, 21 July 2014

My Tattoo Story

So, Nova is doing this really awesome series of blog posts about her many tattoos. And she's inspired me to tell you guys about my own tattoo. I only have the one at the moment and while I desperately want more, financially it won't happen for a while. Why do (good) tattoos have to be so expensive?


I got this tattoo about three years ago now at Design 4 Life, a studio in Liverpool. I'd been wanting to get a tattoo for a while, something that would be meaningful and personal to me, something that I could look at and draw strength from. After a good few months of thinking and planning I came up with this design.

The Phoenix represents the personal growth I've gone through, the tough times I've survived and the obstacles I've overcome. It reminds me that as long as I stay strong, I will always come out the other side.

The Latin phrase 'Luctor et emergo' translates as "I struggle and emerge". Kind of self explanatory really. It ties in with the Phoenix image and gives me a sort of mantra to focus on when times are hard.

I'm not really sure why I chose the placement of the tattoo. I know I wanted it somewhere I could see it easily and that seemed like a good place. I initially wanted to get it on my inner wrist in a horizontal position rather than a vertical one but after chatting with a really cool tattooist who said it might look kind of chavvy on my wrist, I decided on the placement you can see in the photo.

It didn't really hurt much at all. It took like twenty minutes or so and the only way I can ever describe the sensation is by comparing it to an epilator, you know, those electronic things you use to pull out hairs instead of shaving your legs. That's what it felt like.

I definitely want more. My ultimate goal is to have a full sleeve on my other arm but I also want a chest piece and maybe something on one calf. If anyone is ever stuck for something to get me as a gift, feel free to buy me a gift voucher for a tattoist.

Friday, 18 July 2014

What I've Been Reading Lately

I've been reading a lot lately and I thought that rather than flood my blog with a series of individual reviews, it might be better to collate them into one post. So here goes...

1. 'The Chronicles of Narmo' by Caitlyn Moran. 
This was a strange little book. Written by Caitlyn Moran when she was just a teenager, it's a sort of fictionalised autobiography chronicling the highs and lows the Narmo family kids go through when their Mum agrees to take them out of the school system. The kids don't exactly get a traditional homeschooling experience but they do learn a lot about life as they stumble through the minefield of adolescence in a world without the parameters of school. Taking into account the kind of drivel I produced at that age when trying to write a novel, I was seriously impressed by the writers stylistic voice and the quality of her prose.
It get's a 4/5 from me purely because it could have been a little longer.

2. 'Allegiant' by Veronica Roth.
What can I say? This was a pretty anticlimactic conclusion to what could have been a brilliant trilogy. Within maybe the first 50 pages, I knew this final instalment was going to fall flat. It was the addition of an extra POV that did it. In the first two books of the trilogy, we get accustomed to Tris' voice, her narrative and thoughts. So when Tobias began to narrate alternate chapters, it threw me off. Plus, this inner monologue version of Tobias just didn't sound like Tobias. It sounded like Tris and I began getting confused over who was telling the story. Maybe it's just me being thick but there were times when I had to pause to think about it. Which was really irritating. And don't get me started on the ending. I won't say what happens because it's a huuuuge spoiler but in my opinion it didn't feel right for the story or match up with the kind of actions and motivations we are used to seeing from Tris.
A disappointing 2/5 for this one.

3. 'Where There's Smoke' by Jodi Picoult.
This was one of those random freebies you find on Kindle. It's a short story, which I don't usually go for but the subject matter intrigued me. It turns out it's sort of a promotional thingy for Picoult's next novel. And that's a clever tactic because it's certainly made me want to read it. If you're interested in Psychics and frustrated ghosts, then give this a go.
I gave this a 5/5. 

4. 'The Art Kids' by Kate Spofford.
This was another freebie I picked up on Kindle. I guess it's more of a novella than a novel but despite its short length it packed a punch. With its well developed characters and a plot full of twists and turns it kept me gripped. If I hadn't had to get up early the next morning I probably would have stayed up reading through the night. 'The Art Kids' follows a group of friends, the outcast of their year group at school as they enter their final year of High School. But there's something different. Sophie's best friend Evan seems to be pulling away from the group, hanging out with the strange new girl whose arms are covered in scars. But maybe there's more to it than meets the eye?
I gave this interesting and heart /wrenching novel a 4/5.

5. 'Paper Aeroplanes' by Dawn O'Porter.
I've been itching to read this since I first heard about it. I've always liked Dawn O'Porter as a TV Presenter and I was interesting to see how her natural charm and humour translated to the page. I wasn't disappointed. 'Paper Aeroplanes' follows Flo and Renee through their GCSE year. The two girls are polar opposites, don't really know much about each other despite growing up together on the tiny island of Guernsey. But fate throws them together and they soon become best friends, a united front against all the drama adolescence can throw at them. I think what I liked most about this novel was the fact that it's set it the UK. I love Young Adult fiction but it's kind of rare to find a British one. So it made a change to be reading about teenage girls in itchy polyester uniforms, eating chips from the fish and chip shop after school and getting drunk on cider, rather than reading about cheerleaders and jocks and all those other American tropes that awesome but so far removed from my sphere of experience. It was also cool to read a YA novel set in the 90s. No mobile phones or social media. No Netflix or Skype. It's the world I remember from my early teenage years. And it was great to reminisce.
I had to give this a 5/5. It was too perfect for anything less.

6. 'A Really Awesome Mess' by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin.
Heartland Academy. A cross between a Psychiatric Hospital and an elite Boarding School. That's where Emmy and Justin find themselves at the start of the new school year. Both troubled in different ways but in need of a reform school education, their respective parents ship them off to Heartland Academy, a school for troubled teens in the middle of nowhere. This was a different take on the YA genre and was kind of a mash up of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' and 'Prep'. It was fairly light hearted considering the subject matter and a pretty quick read. I'm not sure I liked it enough to read it more than once but it was still an entertaining read with some distinctive characters.
3/5 mainly because it just wasn't as great as I hoped it would be.

It seems like I've been on a bit of a Young Adult kick lately. Do you have any recommendations for me based on what I've been reading?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Who knew baby seagulls were so damn cute.

On Sunday, my girlfriend and I were walking through the entrance of our apartment building when we heard a squawking noise coming from an internal drainpipe. A drainpipe that travelled five stories from the roof of the building down to the basement. We had no idea what it could be but it seemed pretty obvious there was some kind of animal trapped in that pipe.

With a bit of initiative, J managed to twist off the bottom of the drainpipe and a grubby little bird plopped out onto the ground. She scooped him up in her hands and placed him in a makeshift bed of toilet roll inside a little box and we took him up to our flat to check him over.

J barricaded herself in the spare room, wedging the door shut so that the cats couldn't force their way in. Jazz was screaming her head off outside the door, desperate to see what the new visitor was and whether he was in any way edible. And I set about phoning the RSPCA to see if they could come and collect it.

I've never had any experience with the RSPCA before and while I understand that a baby seagull is probably far down their list of priorities, I was astounded by the fact that they didn't seem to want to help and told me that they would probably not be out to collect it until the next day.

No, after a little research, we discovered that this seagull chick was only around a week old (its feathers hadn't even come in and it was incapable of flight) and in order to survive without its mother it would need to be kept warm and need to be fed every hour. There was no way we were going to be able to give the little fella the care he needed. And so, we tracked down an emergency vets and after a quick call to check they would take him in and see he was nursed back to help, I got in a cab (which cost me over £20 in total) and took him to a PDSA vet surgery.

Sitting in a vets waiting room with a seagull chick was interesting. I had a little girl sitting next to me asking a thousand and one questions about him, and every time somebody new came in to the waiting room they wanted to know what I had in the box. I felt like I was in a sketch show or something. 

After a little wait, the vet called me in and he gave the little chick a thorough check over. He couldn't believe how tiny he was and that he'd survived a fall like that. From what he could tell, there was no damage other than one of his legs didn't seem quite right but was probably not broken. He said the chick would be put under a heat lamp for the night and fed regularly while they looked for a place for him in a rehabilitation centre. He's a lucky little guy and I really hope that he grows up big and strong. 

I'm going to give the vets a call to check up on him tomorrow. It would be lovely if we could follow his progress into adulthood.

Have any of you rescued any unusual animals? What did you do with them?