IBS: The Big Squeeze

If you are unlucky enough to have IBS, (irritable bowel syndrome), you have my sympathy. It’s shit. Literally

What’s IBS?

IBS is a condition that affects the digestive system causing stomach cramps, diaria diahorea diarr the shits, bloating and constipation.

It’s common.

It comes and goes.

It’s usually life-long.

There’s no cure for IBS but it can be managed with medication, relaxation therapies, changes to diet and carrying spare bog roll.

With IBS some people poo for Britain. Others can’t poo. Some unfortunate sods alternate between the two.

Me? I have constipation dominant IBS, but it hasn’t always been the case. Do you want to know more? Or have you hit the X tab yet?

My IBS started when I was under a considerable amount of stress. My, (then), husband was having a nervous breakdown and his timing was especially crap because I was about to give birth to our second child. My digestive system took a direct hit and subsequently threw in the towel. I was 21.

At the start of my IBS I wasn’t constipated. On the contrary. The slightest hint of adrenalin and I was releasing the ‘sewer snake’. Bizarrely I needed a poo every time I went up into the loft, I have no idea why, it’s not as if our loft was an exciting place, it was cramped and full of stuff we couldn’t be arsed to take to the tip. Even so, within minutes of climbing up there my colon would start doing the can-can and I’d be taking the loft-ladders two steps at a time trying to get down to the bathroom.

By then, the time-scale between ‘stirrings’ and potentially soiling myself had reduced alarmingly. You get my drift?

Twenty, (plus), years on things have changed. I’m invariably constipated. Bummer, right? Alongside this is right-sided pain and bloating. These days I only have to side-glance a pea and I look 6 months pregnant!

Oh, and I fart a lot.

Ladies do not fart!

One, I’m no lady.

Two, everybody farts.

Even kittens!

So first, let’s define constipation.

  • infrequent poos
  • difficulty or straining when you poo
  • feeling of being unable to completely empty during a bowel movement, or the sensation of wanting to go but not being able to.
  • you fart for Britain.

I don’t know about anybody else, but my pain goes away a bit when I finally do manage to ‘download some brownware’.

Living With Constipation and IBS

Diet

I find it helpful to keep a food diary to see which foods give me gyp. Dairy and wheat are the usual suspects, but a lot of other foods can aggravate IBS symptoms.

Eating your food as close as it is to its natural state will benefit you and your bottom. As a general rule, if something has an ingredient list a mile long – it’s best to avoid. Also, overdoing the fruit and veg could make things worse. Remember me and peas?

Big one this: Never skip meals!

Also, stop eating when you are full.

Look, if you can’t breathe, there’s no room for pudding. You’ve had to undo your stretch-fit jeans as it is!

Laxatives

Sometimes it’s necessary to take laxatives. Occasionally I have to give myself a rid-out with prescription laxatives. This is only when the other methods have failed. Or I’ve been on the codeine. Eight sachets of this stuff and my colon surrenders itself completely. It’s what the GP calls a ‘bowel reset.’ This is a last resort and it’s under the supervision of my GP.

*It’s NOT a good idea to rely on laxatives indefinitely!*

Water

Dehydration causes constipation, so fill up on the H20!

Exercise

Moving about helps to keep everything flowing within the digestive system. There is a reason that most bed-bound people become constipated. Walk. Swim. Breakdance. Whatever. Just move.

Relaxation

If you have IBS, chances are you are stressed-to-shit, (if only ha ha), so it makes sense to address your stress-levels and do as much relaxation as possible.

Straining

Just typing this sub-title brings tears to my eyes!

One must always try and resist the urge to strain out a bowel movement!

We’ve all been there. Stranded on the lav with Mr Turtle’s head and his front legs hanging out of our lower orifice. It’s like the colon REALLY wants to go for it, then half way through says, ‘ You know what? Sod it. I’m bored now. Laters, yeah?’

What to do? We can’t sit there indefinitely with poo hanging out of our arses, can we?

Do we reach round and help Mr Turtle out? *boaks* Or do we take a deep breath in – grab onto the sides of the toilet seat – and bloomin well go for it?

Then there’s the pain..

Once I had to peer into the pan to make sure I wasn’t passing glass shards because that’s what it f**king well felt like!

It felt like labour. I was having to do the hoo-hoo-hoo breathing and everything.

I was cold and sweaty.

This was hardcore defecating and it comes to no surprise to me to learn that a lot of people die on the toilet. Granted most of those are elderly or have heart conditions. It’s a spike in blood pressure that finishes them off, apparently.

In the end, I birthed what felt like an 30lb baby through my bum-hole. In reality, it was a turd the size of a raisin. I was both awed and horrified at how something SO small could cause me SO much pain. It was a lot like giving birth, actually – only minus the drugs.

A straining session for me ensures a visit from Emma Roids (piles) where it hurts to sit down. Standing up’s isn’t much better. Plus, they itch like buggery!

Let me tell you now. There is NO dignity, whatsoever, in having to ram a three-inch suppository into one’s quivering bum-hole. Or anybody elses. Or in buying tubes of Anusol in the local supermarket. It’s hardly discreet is it? The clue’s in the name. ANUSol.

At this point, you’re either horrified (bordering on projectile vomiting) or nodding with profuse empathy. If it’s the latter, I pity you.

My last remaining tips are as follows..

Toilet Roll

Don’t buy cheap 2 ply. Your botty deserves better, no? Plus, yer fingers go through the cheap crap – which can be icky. Pay extra and pamper the poop-shute!

NOTE: Definitely, no IZAL. Using Izal is akin to wiping one’s arse with a crisp packet!

Blood in Poo

If you have piles through straining you may or may not experience blood when you wipe. Or you might see it in the pan. If this happens to you and it’s your first time, postpone the heart-failure. It’s most likely due to piles. Get it checked out, just to make sure.

Purge, When You Get The Urge

For this, I penned a lil poem.

Every time you need a poo.

Go t’ bathroom and sit on t’loo.

Look at your phone or read a book.*

Don’t delay cus it’ll hurt like fuck hell.

Changes In What’s Normal For You

If your symptoms change see your GP. 99.9% of the time it’s nothing to worry about, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Finally, talking about what’s going on with your bowels is only as embarrassing as you want to make it. It’s a normal (and essential) bodily function. Embarrassment costs lives. Opening up (shameless pun) can mean the difference between life and death. Nuff said?

  • Don’t sit on the loo for hours reading books or messing with youir phone. You’ll make yer piles worse!

The Fibromyalgia Years

Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

It’s true. Most of don’t appreciate our health until it’s gone. It’s only when we become ill, that we understand what a humongous loss it really is.

Aside mental health problems, I’ve always been relatively fit and healthy. I would think nothing of decorating an entire room (from top to bottom) in one day. This would include a couple of hours kip in-between AND working part-time. However, six years ago my mum died (suddenly) and I’ve felt ill ever since.

I’ve had tests done on my body from brain to bum and the results have failed to show anything wrong aside low vitamin D levels. Blood tests? Put it this way. The NHS has more of my blood than I do! Only I never got tea and biscuits.

I’ve been told, time and time again, that it’s ALL down to anxiety. Or age. (I’M 47!!)

I’ve told doctors (time and time again) that something physical is driving the anxiety – not the other way around.

Turns out, I was right all along.

The Discovery

A few weeks ago I was at the doctors. Quelle surprise? Originally, this appointment was to whinge about my painful legs, but I’d had an horrendous night sleep (less) wise, so I decided to moan about that instead. I suggested that my insomnia could be connected to my congested sinuses – a condition I’ve been complaining of for the last two years. So I came away with a prescription for a steroid nasal spray and a referral to an allergist with the warning that the waiting list is massive and I probably won’t get an appointment until about 2046.* Half an hour later later, I snorted some steroid up my nostrils and waited for the ‘pipes’ to clear.

At the same time, I noticed a tight feeling in my chest. I’ve had it before, so I didn’t fall down the rabbit-hole of health anxiety. My therapist would be proud of me, no?

I’m no stranger to chest pain. I’ve had tingling, tightness, pain and muscle spasms galore, but my heart is allegedly healthy. The symptoms usually disappear after a few days to be replaced with pain elsewhere in my body. This time, I thought it could be the steroid, so I stopped taking it and made another appointment to see the GP. She didn’t think this was the case because the nature of steroids are to open the airways, not the reverse. However, she did agree that it seemed too much of a coincidence for it not to be related and so advised not use it again. A week later, I still had the tightness and was struggling to breathe, especially at night.

Meanwhile, I happened to notice that a lot of autistic people had fibromyalgia or ME in their bios. I’d heard of ME, but didn’t know anything about fibromyalgia. So I researched it and there was EVERY SYMPTOM that I have been going to the doctors with for the past six years – including tightness in the chest! (Technical jargon? Costochondritisnoncardiac chest pain or musculoskeletal chest pain)

It was a ‘light-bulb moment’, because I knew that I had finally found out what’s wrong with me.

Armed with a sheet of A4 paper with Fibromyalgia symptoms, I limped off to see my GP. It wasn’t the one who’d prescribed me the steroids (she was on leave) but I’d seen this one just as many times with other symptoms. He studied the paper and said, ‘Yes, fibromyalgia has crossed my mind, but we need to do some elimination tests to rule out other stuff’.

The ‘other stuff’ (such as rheumatoid arthritis) was ruled out and last week I was formally diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

*hallelujah*

Maybe, if I’d have seen the same doctor over the past six years, he/she would have reached this conclusion earlier? As it is, I’ve seen three doctors in all, so nobody had the whole story unless they took the time to trawl through my numerous notes and, trust me, nobody has that kind of time. If patients notes were still in paper form, they’d need a wheelbarrow to cart mine around. However, had they have read through them, they would have probably realised that the following symptoms (in the absence of other conditions/diseases) suggest fibromyagia.

  • Chest pain
  • IBS
  • Food sensitivities
  • Allergies
  • Medication sensitivities
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle spasms
  • Burning mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Palpitations
  • Migraines
  • Neck and back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Congested sinuses (for two years)
  • Inability to control body temperature
  • Low Vitamin D levels
  • Pins and needles in arms, hands and feet.
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Brain fog

So, I now know what’s wrong with me. I have fibromyalgia. So what does this mean?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition of widespread pain and profound fatigue. The pain tends to be felt as diffuse aching or burning, often described as head to toe. It may be worse at some times than at others. It may also change location, usually becoming more severe in parts of the body that are used most.

The fatigue ranges from feeling tired, to the exhaustion of a flu-like illness. It may come and go and people can suddenly feel drained of all energy – as if someone just “pulled the plug”. Fibromyalgia Syndrome (fibromyalgia for short) is a common illness. In fact, it is as common as rheumatoid arthritis and can even be more painful. People with mild to moderate cases of fibromyalgia are usually able to live a normal life, given the appropriate treatment.

If symptoms are severe, however, people may not be able to hold down a paying job or enjoy much of a social life. The name fibromyalgia is made up from “fibro” for fibrous tissues such as tendons and ligaments; “my” indicating muscles; and “algia” meaning pain. – FMA UK

In simplest terms, it’s a life of shite in varying degrees.

Fibromyalgia isn’t a disease and it’s not life-threatening (thank fuck) but it is limiting.

Imagine having toothache. Painful, right? You can’t enjoy life, but you know that the dentist will numb you up, yank the offending tooth out of your mouth and the pain will go away. With fibromyalgia, the pain just moves to another area of the body. Sucks, huh?

I’m frustrated with my lack of mobility. Some days, I struggle to walk. This is especially the case in cold and damp weather. I live in England, so that’s pretty much ALL of the time.

After lying or sitting, I’m stiff as a board and I kind of have to shuffle my way off chairs and roll out of bed sideways, which is about as alluring as athletes foot.

I can’t do tasks which involve looking up without them causing me severe pain in my neck.

Sitting in the car can be painful because of my lower back and my neck hurts with every jolt of the vehicle.

Or I get migraines which wipe me out for days.

I could go on, but I’m starting to bore myself. You get the picture, right?

After the initial euphoria of getting an answer to why I’ve felt so shit for the last six years, the reality is setting in: This feeling shit? It’s basically me for the rest of my life.

*sound of balloon noisily deflating*

I had this fantasy that my anxiety would decrease, my menopausal symptoms would level out and I would get some quality of life. I would get the old me back. Little did I know that the anxiety and being menopausal were masking what was really wrong as some of the symptoms overlap and once you’re labelled as a hypochondriac, it kind of sticks.

I feel guilty for feeling sad because my friend would have given anything for her diagnosis to be fibromyalgia instead of cancer, but this is how I feel. This is my reality. Fibromyalgia won’t kill me, but everything is relative and living with long-term (and constant) pain affects you mentally as well as physically.

Also, I’ve had two life-changing diagnoses in two years. Autism and now this, so it’s natural to feel a little overwhelmed, right?

I accept that, being highly anxious, I was probably always going to develop some kind of stress-related illness or condition. I know this could be a lot worse and no doubt it will be if I don’t learn to chill the fark out. I’ve demanded a lot from my body over the years by constantly flooding it with stress-hormones, but I do believe the sudden death of my mother was the trigger for this condition.

Stress caused this.

Stress makes my symptoms flare up – as does the shitty British weather.

My body has deployed the SOS flare. That red glow in the sky? It’s not the sun setting, folks – it’s my body begging for help.

I mentioned earlier that I used to be able to decorate a room in one day? Now I do half a wall and I’m in pain for a week. It’s frustrating not to be able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I will adapt, but I need time to accept this version of me. The knackered one. It is what it is. I can only try my best to limit the damage and view this as a warning. My body’s way of saying, ‘Do something about your stress levels or die early of a heart attack, cancer or stroke, dear’.

I’ll find the humour in the situation, as I do with most other challenges in my life. At least I can still laugh, only not too hard cus it hurts. Until then, I need to have a little sulk for the loss of the person I once was.

RIP, old me.

The moral of this story is to listen to your body. The NHS is wonderful and doctors are hard-working and magnificent, but they are not infallible. They don’t get things right every time. Doctors are great with disease and emergencies, but not so great when it comes to ‘invisible’ conditions which require a bit of detective work and, ultimately, nobody understands our own bodies better than us, right?

*Slight exaggeration.

Menopausal Middle-Aged Spread

My younger self listened to middle-aged women blaming their weight gain on the menopause..

‘I used to be six stone wet through, Sandra. Now I can’t breathe near a cake without gaining three stone!’

I deluded myself that ‘mid-life-spread’ wouldn’t happen to me because I’d always been relatively slim. I assumed I’d be one of those skinny old biddies like Dot Cotton off Eastenders, only shorter.

Before I go any further, this isn’t about ‘fat shaming’ because I admire plus size women who are body positive. I follow a few on social media and they look fabulous! They certainly know how to work those curves! However, I’ve also noticed that those women are not of menopausal age and here’s the thing:

Being menopausal and obese is a disease waiting to happen.

‘When you’re over 50 you have to pay attention to your health a bit’ ~ Dawn French

So, Mother Nature has taken the piss YET AGAIN because after tormenting me with 31 years worth of painful periods and psychotic mood swings, I’m now hauling an extra stone around with me every day – most of it around my middle.

I struggle with how being overweight makes me feel and being hyper-sensitive is probably the reason for this.

Why do we put on weight after the menopause?

  • Women are generally less active than before so muscle mass turns to fat.
  • Menopausal women are more prone to stress which produces high levels of cortisol. This causes us to put on weight around our middles resulting in the ‘muffin top’ effect.
  • Metabolism changes at menopause. It’s slower, so we have to put more effort in to burn fat.
  • Lifestyle habits such as comfort eating our way through family size bags of Revels and downing five gins a day.

‘So what do I have to do?’

It’s simple.

Exercise more, eat less and reduce your sugar intake.

Reduce sugar? Don’t swear at me!

Sugar (and fat) is what makes food addictive. Nobody comfort eats salad, right? However, overdoing it comes at a cost to our health. For this reason, I am concerned about the ‘eat what you want, as much as you want and fuck everybody who says otherwise yolo’ ethos of the body positive movement because it has serious consequences for menopausal women who have lost the protection their hormones once gave them. It in our long-term interests to be (and maintain) a healthy weight.

‘But-but-but I can’t live without five sugars in my tea!’

The current guidelines state that sugar shouldn’t take up more than 5% of our daily calorie intake. I know it’s hard and I haven’t ditched the sugar altogether, but I have reduced it drastically and that’s partly because blood sugar spikes trigger my palpitations.

‘Rightio. I’ll use sweeteners then.’

Sweeteners are an option, yes, but they can have side effects, especially for IBS sufferers, so do your research and see what works for you.

The Educational Stuff

Refined carbs such as white bread, potatoes, alcohol, biscuits, cakes and sugary drinks need to be limited because they make blood-sugar go bonkers and over a period of time this will lead to insulin resistance.

Blood sugar levels are regulated by eating unrefined whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Boring as fuck, but necessary, as complex or unrefined carbohydrates are processed slowly over a longer period of time and require a small amount of insulin for metabolism. Personally, I can’t get as excited over brown rice as I do a plate of chips, but there you go..

So it’s not just as simple as limiting calorie intake. It’s no use eating 1200 calories if there are all refined carbs. This is where the word ‘balanced’ comes in. If we can eat a balanced diet with reduced calories, we will reap these benefits.

  • Clearer skin
  • More energy
  • Better concentration
  • Fewer hot flushes
  • Reduction of PMS
  • Improved sleep
  • Fewer mood swings
  • Better mental health
  • Fewer urges to stab people
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle mass
  • Less bloating

Tempting huh?

So, I downloaded a calorie counting app on my phone and set my limit to 1200 calories a day for a loss of 2lb a week and the result is that a week later I’ve lost 4lbs!

It’s amazing (not to mention alarming) just how many calories I’ve been shovelling into myself without realising it. It’s no wonder I am a stone overweight!

‘A stone? Big deal!’

I know it may not sound a massive amount, but it’s relative, because I’m 5ft 1 inches small AND I have sensory processing issues. That one stone might as well be five in my world and I REALLY struggle with how it feels!

Would it surprise you to know that I struggled with pregnancy for this reason? I was COLOSSAL with all three of my boys. Needless to say, I whinged throughout each pregnancy.

Again, it was Mother Nature having her little joke because there was no way she was going to allow me (a 6lb baby) to produce 6 lb babies of my own. Oh No. I had to heave 8 and 10 pounders out of my vagina. I mean, ffs!!!

So, everyone has their ‘perfect weight’ where they feel wonderful and healthy and the world is full of unicorns and sunbeams. Mine appears to be eight and a half stone – so that’s what I’m aiming for.

Basically, once menopause hits, we have to rethink our lifestyle or risk the proverbial shit hitting the fan health-wise, and by ‘shit’, I mean heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

That’s the reality.

Yes, some women can eat what they like, drink what they like and smoke 100 fags a day and the bastards will live to be 100, but they are the exception, not the rule. Plus, what’s the point of longevity if you’re too ill to enjoy it?

Fuck it, Mildred. Lets get drunk and eat lots of cake!

It’s simple really.

  • Do more.
  • Eat less.
  • Eat healthily
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Reduce refined carbs
  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol
  • Lower stress levels

The quality (and longevity) of our lives is in our hands now. According to Super Genes: ”Only 5% of disease-related gene mutations are fully deterministic, while 95% can be influenced by diet, behavior, and other environmental conditions.

We can kid ourselves that life is too short while we are scoffing our fourth chocolate digestive in a row and necking treble brandies, but the reality is that we are potentially the ones shortening it by making poor lifestyle choices.

The key word to mid-life health is moderation. A cake once a week won’t hurt you. Nor will the odd glass of alcohol. It’s when they are consumed in excess that the harm is done. Even the smallest of tweaks to our lifestyle will make a difference and one tweak generally leads to another as we begin to feel fabulous, right?

Viva la menopause!

Confessions of a Hypochondriac

Charles Darwin, Andy Warhol, Florence Nightingale all have something in common..

Ooh. What’s that? Intelligence? Creativity? Empathy? Fabulousness?

Well, all of those, but what I’m talking about is hypochondria.

A hypochondriac is someone who lives in fear of having a serious illness. This could even be despite medical tests never finding anything wrong. They may also have somatic symptom disorder known as illness anxiety disorder, health anxiety, or hypochondriasis.

I’ve written about my struggle with health anxiety before and I’m not ashamed to do so. The way I see it is this: The more we get mental illness out in the open, the more people can be helped, yes?

So if you’ve ever listed your aches and pains down in a diary or journal – you could be a hypochondriac.

Darwin, for instance, kept records of his own flatulence.

I like to think it read something like this..

Monday: Long. Rasping. Smells like something crawled into my colon and died.

Wednesday: Guffed. Put myself into a coma.

Saturday:  Woke up from coma & farted a 9.8 on the rectum scale.

Sunday: Attempted ‘danger fart’. Followed through. Mrs Darwin – NOT happy!

Darwin’s fart diary? That’s nowt. I kept records of my bowel movements. Yup, I lined the toilet with bog roll in order to inspect the contents of my own poo!

Then I wrote about my findings in my journal. *blush*

Note: A courtesy glance into the pan as you wipe your botty is NOT hypochondria. It’s normal. Advisable even. If there’s blood in your poo it could be an early sign of bowel cancer and early detection could save your life. We’ve all seen the Be Clear On Cancer ads, right?

Avoidance is probably worse than obsession because people ignore symptoms altogether, which was Andy Warhol’s story..

Warhol was a genius in his field, but he pathologically feared growing old and getting ill. He refused to go anywhere near hospitals and so he ignored a recurring gallbladder problem until the pain was bad enough to hospitalise him. Problem was, he’d left it too late.

Avoidance is a killer.

There is a midway between avoidance and obsession.

AWARENESS.

It’s normal to be aware of new symptoms and to seek help if problems persist, but I was doing went waaaaay beyond the realms of normality.

I compared my poo to the Bristol Shit Scale and one thing I learned from playing Miss Marple with my own crap is that EVERYTHING you ingest affects what comes out of your bottom. Even supplements!

P.S Calcium supplements can make your poo pale.

P.P.S They can also constipate you.

Pale bowel movements and hypochondria? What could possibly go wrong?!

DID YOU KNOW? Sweetcorn comes out appearing to have been undigested. Apparently it’s something to do with humans not being able to break down the cellulose husk? However, it is a good way of finding out how long the journey takes from food going in your mouth to it coming out the other end. In my case, sometimes the sweetcorn was outta there in a matter of hours. Sometimes it was festering for days..

Stress affects your digestion system. Fact. I varied from feeling nauseous and not being able to manage anything more than a dry cracker – to feeling ravenously hungry, even after a full meal.

When it comes to your bowels, stress can play havoc with them. Believe me! Some days I was crapping it up for Britain at 3am, whereas other days my poo got stuck in transit and I was stranded on the loo for what seemed like decades. One such day being when I, er, strained a bit and convinced myself I’d prolapsed my bowel.

I was on my own in the house – stranded in the bathroom with what felt like a grapefruit hanging out of my orifice.

I tentatively prodded the ‘mass’ with my finger.

As you do..

The only plausible explanation was that I’d forced my bowels out, right?

I texted OH: MY FUCKING BOWELS HAVE FALLEN OUT!

I rang the doctors and demanded to speak to my GP. Now, normally I avoid phone calls like Justin Bieber songs, but my fear of dying with my innards hanging out of my arse-hole overrode my phone phobia.

The jobsworth receptionist gave me the ‘You’ll have to make an appointment madam’ spiel, so I screamed at her that my bowels were hanging out of my bottom.

‘Ooh! Right. In that case, the doctor will phone you back as soon as possible.’

So my GP phoned back and listened as I hyperventilated in-between the words. My. Bowels. Have. Fallen. Out. Of. My. Bottom. He asked a few questions then said, ‘You’re constipated. I’m writing out a prescription for some Lactulose. Pick up in an hour’.

Lactulose? Why the fuck wasn’t I being taken to hospital to get my bowels shoved back up into their rightful place?

‘Wait, don’t you want to have a look up my bum?’

‘Well I can if you want me too, but from what you’ve described I’m 100% certain it’s constipation. You just need some stool softener.’

My GP obviously didn’t have a clue.

So I consulted another one.

Dr Google.

I can hear the sound of palms being slapped on faeces faces from here.

IDIOT! You type in constipation and two clicks later, you’re dead!!

Yes, I know, but fear overrides common sense. Also, you don’t need to make an appointment cos Doc Google is available 24/7.

Aside the usual cancer scaremongering, I was treated to some wonderful anecdotes of bowel prolapse. Not to mention graphic photographs of something resembling afterbirth protruding from people’s bottoms. Apparently prolapsed bowels are not uncommon with weight lifters? ‘Bob from Barnsley’ volunteered the info that the last time it happened to him (after an intense barbell lifting session) he simply poked his innards back up with his finger. ‘No fuckin problem’.

Quite.

Turns out my ‘prolapse’ was hard poo.

I’ll spare you the details of how I found that out.

Er, why are you talking about shit, you manky bastard?

Because IBS affects a lot of anxious people and until they know it’s IBS, they think it’s something terminal.

I thought it was bowel cancer.

It’s easy to understand how IBS can scare the living daylights out of people and a how health anxiety can develop, but if you ever find yourself poking around in your poo – it’s probably time to get some therapy!

There’s NO shame in being a hypochondriac.

Some of the world’s best have been hypochondriacs!

It’s hard to imagine Florence Nightingale (the most famous nurse in the universe) was in fact a hypochondriac, but she spent the last 57 years of her life bedridden convinced she was dying. Flo eventually flitted off her mortal coil at the grand old age of 90. Who says that doing sod all is no good for you?!

My health anxiety co-exists with a panic disorder, as it often does. The thing with panic disorder is that you get panic attacks, which are terrifying enough when they happen in the daytime, but the majority of mine happen at night. These are known as Nocturnal Panic Attacks and leading up to my crisis point I was having at least one attack every night, cue Insomnia! A tired mind is an irrational mind and all those normal symptoms of stress became life threatening to me.

There was a period where I was either pestering my doctors, the out of hours doctors or A & E. My health was my existence – my obsession.

I was having a mental breakdown.

Writing this post (specifically the literally shit bits) I can see the funny side, but at the time it was anything but funny.

IT WAS TERRIFYING.

I guess I was destined to breakdown at some point in my life because I am one of the many autistic people who’ve had to stumble through life undiagnosed. Once diagnosed we are labelled as ‘highly functioning’ though I can assure you that it’s a misleading term as most of us struggle to exist, let alone live.

I am also hyper-aware of changes in my body. Most people are unaware of such changes, but I’m special, innit?

Being naturally anxious (and obsessive) this makes me a prime candidate for health anxiety. Also, I’ve been exposed to death earlier than most as my family started dying off before I could say “Mummy, I’m going to be sick”. By the time I was 26 I’d lost all my grandparents, a school friend, my father-in-law, an aunt, an uncle and my father – The Reaper was on overtime with my lot!

When it’s written in black and white, it’s easy to see how I came to lose the plot. However, I knew I needed help, so I got some therapy. Got cured (ish) and I no longer stare at my poo longer than is necessary, or healthy.

Will I ever be free of health anxiety? Probably not, because worrying is stamped into my DNA. If they ever autopsy my body, they will find WORRIER written through me like a stick of Blackpool Rock!

There is a massive difference between controlling health anxiety and and it controlling you..

In between Andy Warhol and shit-prodders like me is awareness. It’s acting on persistent or unusual symptoms instead of ignoring them.

My advice is to learn about the effects of stress on the body. Start with this blog if you want. I’ve written about it enough times. Just search for health anxiety. Or read some books. Whatever. Just educate yourself because knowledge will help to remove the fear.

I write about my experiences to help people. No filters. I share my crap (literally in this post) so that people will see that there is no shame, whatsoever, in being mentally ill.

The End.

 

 

 

 

 

Laughter As Therapy

Some of the most saddest people on earth are also the funniest. Funny, that.

Spike Milligan

Stephen Fry

Robin Williams

Jim Carrey

Paul Merton

Catherine Tate

David Walliams

Ruby Wax

Caroline Aherne

Kenneth Williams

All have had a depressive disorder.

I can understand how some people would struggle with the concept of funny people being depressed but the fact is that being funny doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. Humour is often a way of coping with life and the shit it throws at you – a defence mechanism, if you like..

I write funny posts. Correction, I try to write funny posts as well as serious ones but you may have noticed that even my funny ones are sometimes about difficult subjects? It’s a release for me. The sting of a bad memory isn’t quite as sharp when I’m putting a humourous spin on it. That said, some things just aren’t funny and never will be.

Humour was a lifeline to me when I was growing up. Watching comedy like The Kenny Everett Show or The Young Ones went some way to lifting my mood after yet another diabolically crap day at school. I laughed so hard I was in actual pain and sometimes my laughter bordered on the hysterical – which was a bit freaky – but I think it was in lieu of the tears that I hadn’t cried at school. That’s my theory, anyway.

Or I am indeed certifiable?

 

For me, the humour is there but it gets lost in translation if I try to verbalise it, so I write it down. I’m funnier on paper, or screen, in my case as I HATE writing with a passion. Maybe if I’d have been able to make people laugh at school, I wouldn’t have been bullied so much? As it was, I did make them laugh. The problem is that they were laughing at me, instead of with me.

Research shows that children laugh about 300 times a day whereas adults only laugh around 15 times a day.

I have laughed three times today. THREE!

This needs addressing, no?

Humour is medicine.

Write that down and stick it on your fridge door or laptop.

The sciencey bit..

Physical Benefits of Laughter

  • Improves brain and heart function
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts immune system
  • We create disease – fighting antibodies
  • Increases oxygen levels in the blood
  • We heal faster

The way I see it, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting this to the test. So instead of putting on a film that makes you sad or on edge – put on a comedy.

Buy yourself a funky notepad (with unicorns on it, if that’s your bag) and rate how you feel, before and after the film.

Think of laughter as therapy. No, I don’t mean the kind of therapy where you sit in a circle and laugh like sodding hyenas for no reason at all. I mean funny books, films and TV.

I’ll give you three examples of what tickles my funny bone..

The 86 Fix by Keith A Pearson

It’s hard to believe this is Keith’s debut but it is and it’s hilarious. If you’re a certain age – you’ll need a change of pants or Tena pad.

It’s basically about mid-life, time travel and the 1980s. That ticks three of my boxes. It was most probably written with male readers in mind but I generally find male humour funnier than female so it works for me.

When it comes to films, Blazing Saddles is up there with the VERY best. There is a little high-pitched fart part way through and I usually lose it at that point. If you can watch this scene and not laugh, you’re dead to me.

Last of all we come to TV..

Dinnerladies is one of my all time favourite comedy programmes. Victoria Wood was a comedy genius. She was an observer of northern life and could take the mundane and make it knicker-wettingly funny. Victoria took her ‘flaws’ and made them funny. Her death was such a huge loss to the world of comedy but it’s the likes of her that inspire me to put a humorous spin on my own life.

This scene NEVER fails to make me laugh.

My examples may not be your cup of tea. The point is that there is something out there to suit everybody’s taste. So get looking and get laughing ha ha ha?

“Do you do sugar free muesli?”
“No. This is a canteen, not a ground sheet at Glastonbury.” ~ Dinnerladies

 

 

 

The Show Must Go On

I’m struggling today. I need to write how I feel because it helps me and maybe in helping myself I can help you too?

The anxiety isn’t as severe as it has been. It’s a manageable 6/10 but my numerous annoying ailments have decided to come out and play at the same time. My neck is sore. My tinnitus is driving me INSANE and I have the beginnings of yet another migraine.

I try to look at the positives. As in, I’m still alive. I wasn’t one of the 151,600 people in the world that died yesterday. I’m still here. Yet it’s like trying to drive on a flat tyre. Only in my case, a new tyre isn’t an option. The tyre represents my brain and I can’t just go out and buy a new brain. Unless Ebay have started selling brains?

A lot of the things I am experiencing today are not actually anxiety symptoms. I’m 47, therefore it’s natural for there to be wear and tear, especially as most of my jobs were heavy manual work. I’m only five foot one with a small frame so I’ve put a lot of strain on my body over the years. What can I say? You do what you have to do to put food on the table.

Due to my autism, these little annoyances become amplified and it has to be said that anxiety, while it doesn’t cause them, DOES make them feel worse. Stress hormones affect the bones and joints and I’ve always noticed that when I go through a phase of increased anxiety – my aliments are worse. Obviously, the answer is to address my anxiety and all these other things should start to improve. This doesn’t mean that I don’t feel pissed off though. I’ve forgotten what it is to feel ‘well’ because it’s been that long since I felt that way. Another thing that pisses me off is that I never appreciated good health when I had it. I used to hear older people say, ‘You don’t appreciate good health until it’s gone’. Too farking true, me dears.

I get it. I’m middle-aged, post-menopausal and slightly mad. How can I expect to feel like I did in my twenties or thirties? I’m lacking the necessary hormones for a start. My body is crumbling like Cheshire cheese. I’m getting older and let me tell you that it comes around TOO DAMN FAST. It seems like yesterday that I was snogging Nick Rhodes on my bedroom wall. Now I can see 50 waving at me (hopefully) and with that comes the realisation that I am well over half way through my life, if the three score years and ten is to be believed? Sobering thought, eh? Enough to make one want to pissed, only I can’t drink because I have ANXIETY.

Another way of looking at it and probably THE best way is not to mourn my youth but to thank my stars that I have a decent amount of life to look back on. Health wise, that is.

I lost my friend to cancer last year. She was one year older than me with so much more to give, especially to her eight year old son. When I think of what she went through it makes me guilty about whinging on about stuff. She’d have given anything for my problems to be hers instead of the cancer which was invading her body at an alarming rate. However, if you are reading this and thinking that her death should have been enough to make me ‘get a grip’, then my friend, you have NEVER experienced anxiety disorder because it is an illness. I’m not talking about the normal anxiety that every human being experiences, like the nervousness before a job interview or those few seconds after you hear a loud bang. I’m talking about the kind of anxiety that’s debilitating and destructive. It’s a very real illness. Just not one that can be seen. It’s effects, however, are visible to all. If you look close enough, you will see the fear in their eyes. You will see the tremor in their hands. You will notice their inability to be still. If you are sensitive enough, you may even smell their fear. These are the outer signs of a body that’s fucked up due to stress.

Thankfully, I know that recovery from mental illness is achievable for most of us and if it can’t be cured, it can definitely be managed to give quality of life. That thought acts as a light when my skies are dark. Another light comes in the form of my children. A funny text or a phone call from my eldest boys. Or today when I woke up to a dark inner sky. A sleepy voice said, “Cuddle me mama?” and some of those dark clouds lifted. Not enough to make all of this sodding crap go away but enough for me to have the energy and will to keep fighting it.

If you are struggling with anxiety, know this. You will win some battles and you will lose some but you CAN win the war. It really isn’t about how many times you fall down but about how many times you get up again. I know you are tired. I know your soul is weary but KEEP GETTING UP. Even when your legs feel so heavy you don’t think they can support you. THEY WILL. They are STRONGER than you think. YOU are stronger than you think. Rest if you need to but then you must get back up.

Life is a show and we must get on with it as best we can because this isn’t the rehearsal. There never was one in this show called ‘Life’. So, do that pile of ironing, even if it you do it sitting down and it takes you ALL DAY. Walk the dog. Hoover up. ON WITH THE SHOW!

The show must go on
I’ll face it with a grin
I’m never giving in
On with the show.

The Show Must Go On ~ Queen ~ Brian May

 

The Decade That Spawned Me ~ Technology

I feel fortunate to have been born in the 70s because it was a decade of relative simplicity and family. Then along came the 80s with it’s affordable electronics and the cracks started to appear in family life and, well, it’s all gone a bit shit.

The chart topping ‘Video killed The Radio Star’ was released in 1979. The song promoted technology but also warned of it’s effects…

Video_Killed_the_Radio_Star_single_cover

Oh a oh!

At the start of the 70s it was very much about family as highlighted in the six part series, Back In Time For The Weekend where the Ashby-Hawkins family, having experienced life from the 1950s through to the 2000s, said that the 70s had the ‘perfect balance’ of convenience and family values before households were ‘splintered’ by technology.

I agree and I should know because I was there, flares and everything.

When it came to entertaining ourselves, we had to be imaginative. My brother and I were dressed, fed and turfed out during weekends and holidays with orders not to return until dinner time. Mum wasn’t being neglectful, it was simply the era’s ‘no shit approach’ to parenting and it was no bad thing because we were out in the fresh air, keeping fit and making memories. I can’t help but wonder if children today will remember the hours spent hunched over their mobile phones with the same level of nostalgia?

‘remMbR dat tym we wer @ McDonalds & we wer aL on our phones @ d sAm tym txtN Ech other?’

Can’t see it myself.

We did stuff. We made tents out of BED SHEETS and you know how parents spend trillions of pounds on electronic paraphernalia for kids today? Well we made skipping ropes out of old washing lines. HARD PLASTIC washing lines that hurt like buggery when they whacked you on the back of the legs. Can you imagine handing kids today an old washing line to play with? They’d probably stand there trying to work where to plug it in, no?

Today’s kids are about ALL about technology and The Boy is no different. He has the electronic devices and his DS is invaluable when it comes to distraction when we’re out and about. However, I’m an old fart who knows the importance of things that don’t require batteries (or a socket) so he has plenty of stuff that only requires imagination and no matter what you’ve heard, autistic children do have an imagination.

When it comes to ‘gaming’, in the 70s, we had ‘Pong’.

Pong

Obviously by today’s standards, it’s shit, but in my day it was cutting edge stuff. We had it on a console and we’d play it if the weather was bad enough (torrential rain, blizzards etc) to keep us in but the constant BLIP-BLIP-BLIP did Mum’s head in and it often went missing for weeks on end. Fancy?!

Thursdays was Top of the Pops night. We had Jimmy saVILE and the other deviants masquerading as DJs entertaining us in our front room. Urgh. Where are the Men in Black with their neuralyzers?

Also, GET THIS. Our TV had THREE channels and our telly had two remotes – me and my brother. We were fitter in those days, if nothing else..

Children’s TV accounted for all of about two hours a day and most programmes were crap. Like Pipkins. Pipkins was crap but it was addictive crap. Hartley Hare always looked like he had a bad case of Mixi, to me. I mean, LOOK AT HIM!

Somebody put it out of it’s misery ffs…

My own family has been seduced by technology. I SWORE I’d never have a Kindle. I SCOFFED at the idea of an electronic book but then OH beguiled me with the convenience of being able to buy a book whilst wearing my rollers and a flannelette nightie and I was like, ‘How soon can I have one?’

The experience of living in the 70s for the TV show changed Steph Ashby’s relationship with technology because she could see the impact that it had on family life and as a result took steps to use technology more selectively. Her daughter quit Facebook (yeah, right) and the entire family reduced their time on social media.

What I’ve taken away from that is that it’s the time spent with people that is really important and making sure that we don’t let things like technology get in the way.

I agree wholeheartedly with you, Mrs, and I will do my utmost to ensure my family do not become total slaves to technology. However, maybe it’s the case that…

We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far.

Up Yours! (My Colonoscopy)

Shopping List

  • 24 pack of EXTRA SOFT bog roll
  • LARGE tub of Sudocrem
  • Five packs of soothing bum wipes
  • Lemonade (to disguise taste of laxative)
  • Aromatherapy candle (to disguise smell of poo)
  • Plastic bed sheet (just in case)
  • Extra undies (just in case)

48 hours Before Colonoscopy

Ate like a pig.

24 hours Before Colonoscopy

7am. Woke up.

7.02 am – 9am. Had 19 cups of tea and an egg on toast.

9 am onwards. No milk in drinks. No food. Can only eat clear jellies, Bovril, clear soups and boiled sweets. *weeps*

12.30pm. FOOKING STARVING!!!

12.35 pm. Lemon jelly for dinner (which didn’t touch the sides)

12.45. Heard OH opening a packet of crisps and wanted to end his life.

12.55. Saw picture of somebody’s chips on Instagram and started to cry.

1pm. Banned myself from Instagram.

1.30. Had a Bovril.

3.30. Felt faint with hunger.

4.30. Had bowl of clear soup and another Bovril.

5pm LAXATIVE OF DOOM TIME!!

Smells like cleaning fluid but doesn’t actually taste that bad..

5.22. One glass down, seven to go..

5.55. Two glasses down, six to go..

6.14. Three glasses down, five to go..

6.45 Four glasses down, four to go,

6.46 Had some stirrings in the bowel region..

6.50 THE WORLD FELL OUT OF MY ARSE!!!

7pm – 8pm FIFTEEN trips to the loo.

ROUND TWO OF LAXATIVE OF DOOM

8.23 Five glasses down, three to go..

8.55  Six glasses down, two to go..

9.23 Seven glasses down, one to go

9.53 Done

29 trips to the loo in total!

My bum hole after 29 trips to the loo

The Colonoscopy

I made myself a promise that I would write an honest, but humourous, account of my colonoscopy so here goes..

I arrived at the hospital at 8.45 am armed with my Kindle ready for a long wait but it didn’t happen because I was called in fairly quickly, so I was winning already.

First job was to put one of THOSE flattering gowns..

I’m used to the flasher gowns having had enough Gynae procedures done in my time. This time, though, I also got a pair of ‘dignity pants’ which have a kinky slit at the back. Now I always struggle with this part so I had the nurse repeat the instructions THREE times so I didn’t make an arse of myself, literally..

Next was the ‘to sedate or not to sedate’ question due to my recent adverse reactions to local anesthesia. A cannula was put in anyway so I could change my mind if needs be, though the consultant did do his best to reassure me that there is no connection between sedative and anesthetic and he’d rarely seen a reaction to one.

As it was my anxiety kicked in BIG TIME, so they took one look at my shaking lunatic self and persuaded me that sedation was the way to go.

So away with the fairies I went.

I’d already made my mind up that I wasn’t going to watch my own insides on the screen, so while the consultant was up to his tricks with his rubber glove I shut my eyes and slurred away to anybody who was listening.

I felt some discomfort when the camera was going round the bends of my colon, but they just whacked more sedative in me and ten minutes later the consultant peered over at me and said, ‘That’s it,  we’re all finished and you’re fine!’.

YAY!

I spent 45 minutes in recovery farting myself DELIRIOUS, while I had some tea and toast, which I was so grateful of as my mouth felt dry as a camels arse after not being able to drink for almost 12 hours..

Then it was back on with the clothes and I was on my way home.

I’ve dreaded this thing for months and had stupidly terrified myself by reading horror stories on the internet, but the thing is that thousands of Colonoscopies are performed every year without a problem,  it’s just that people don’t tend to write about positive experiences.

The prep wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I downed the lot no problem. The sprinting back and forth to the bog was more inconvenient than anything else and the procedure itself was uncomfortable for a few seconds, but that was it. I’ve had trickier shits that have hurt me more than the colonoscopy did and I’m not scared to have another one done that’s for sure.

The best thing is that I got the ALL CLEAR and that’s a HUGE weight off my mind. There are no nasties lurking in my bowels, aside my Farmer Giles and they are more annoying than nasty.

I urge you NOT to be embarrassed to go to your GP if you have bum problems. If anything is out of the ordinary, just go. Bowel changes, blood, weight loss etc. go tell your GP, because people are literally dying of embarrassment.

Me? Over the past few months I have had more fingers up my bum, (including my own), than Sooty and I’ve even strolled into my GP’s carrying a tube of MY OWN POO! While I was waiting for the sedative to wear off in the recovery room, I let rip some of my best farts EVER and I’m just gutted OH wasn’t there to hear them, he’d have been SO proud!

Go get seen.

Bottoms up!