Friday, 9 November 2012

Hemiplegia : The Unseen Effects.

Hello, 

Today I want to do a post discussing the unseen effects of the condition I was born with, left hemiplegia. Visibly, the physical symptoms of this condition are very obvious. The limp, the fact my left leg is shorter than my right, my left calf muscles are clearly smaller than my right. The foot drop I have. The swan neck deformities in my fingers, my bent elbow. However, my hemiplegia has a lot of non-physical symptoms, which another person can't see. Yet to me, these can be quite disabling, frustrating and difficult to live with. It was only after my own research, and talking to others that the link between them and hemiplegia became clear: so here goes:

Visual Perception Difficulties.

This one manifests itself in various ways. At school, whilst sitting for my GCSE's it became apparent that certain bits of maths were impossible for me. No matter how many times it was explained to me I couldn't do algebra, sequences, rotational symmetry. The way to describe it is that my brain can't process how to get from a to b, in solving these maths problems. It's like I just see the equations on the page and that's it. I didn't realise at the time, my hemiplegia was at the root of this. It was so incredibly frustrating, maths used to give me a big dose of anxiety. I was brilliant at the other stuff, I know my times tables off by heart etc. However, all was not lost, I managed to get a C at GCSE because I was stronger at the other stuff, thankfully. Researching hemiplegia as an adult I found out many people with it struggle with certain elements of maths. It was a relief, because it closed the door on a lot of frustration I'd felt for not being able to do something. 

My visual perception issues also have direct consequences for daily life too. I can't follow directions, or read maps. At all. My brain can't figure out how to translate the information on page to the real life setting. It means I can't go new places on my own because I would get lost and not be able to ask for help, since I would not understand what the directions were. 

Concentration and Attention Span.

I have a poor ability to concentrate on tasks and often find that my attention wonders. I have since learnt this is related to hemiplegia. Unsurprisingly, I found that it was most challenging whilst studying at university. In lectures I would find it hard to focus and having to concentrate on trying to make myself focus was exhausting. Also, sitting still for longer than ten minutes is very uncomfortable so I would constantly fidget and shift position during lectures to try and get comfy. It was very distracting. Strangely, I found doodling on paper would help me concentrate longer, maybe because it makes my brain focus on something. My short attention span would make writing essays hard and time consuming. However, I have found that setting myself small word targets seems to help focus my attention. 


Memory

I have an awesome long term memory. I can remember everyone's birthdays and important life dates. However, my short term memory is poor. I have read this has been implicated in left hemiplegia. I have to take someone else to important appointments as an extra pair of ears because I will forget information pretty much as soon I leave the room. 

Anxiety and Depression. 

If you're a regular reader of my blog, or follow me on twitter, you'll know I have both anxiety and depression. Anxiety has been ever present in my life for as long as I can remember. I always think worst case scenario, blow everything out of proportion and dwell on seemingly small things. I am also overly emotional, prone to extreme emotions.  Having spoke to other hemiplegics it seems anxiety is a common occurrence. Sometimes my anxiety is so bad that it very debilitating, and other times it is manageable. I'm learning the triggers of my anxiety and I'm actively trying to manage my stress better. I've accepted that anxiety is part of me, and that definitely helps. 

I also have depression, for which I'm receiving treatment, which thankfully is working. As this is a fairly new diagnosis, it's impossible to say if this will be a long term thing, or how it will affect my future. I find that it is best to be cognitively aware and to not bottle up my frustrations. Depression has also taught me to be nicer to myself, and ultimately to be more positive. I have been told by a psychiatrist that my hemiplegia makes me a high risk for these disorders. I have also read research suggesting a strong link between hemiplegia and subsequent mood disorders. If you have hemiplegia and mood disorders, please be reassured that you are not alone, and that you can be helped. 

I should also note that as a child with hemiplegia my behaviour was definitely affected. I was good as gold at primary school, but at home I had frequent temper tantrums. This persisted through primary school until I went to secondary. In hindsight, I believe this was linked to the fact I was frequently frustrated at primary as my hemiplegia was overlooked by teachers. (I was only under SEN and in receipt of a statement at secondary). I didn't feel confident asking for help when I clearly needed it and I'd take these frustrations home with me. I also think as a young child it's difficult to understand and accept cerebral palsy and why you're different to everyone else.  I was also bullied at primary school so it kind of makes sense now as to why I had bad behaviour. 

These are the unseen issues that affect me, it should be noted that there are a wealth of other unseen symptoms that may affect other people with hemiplegia. Luckily, Hemihelp has a vast array of information and fact sheets available discussing these additional problems. 

I feel that this blog post is important in highlighting the invisible effects of hemiplegia. It seems commonplace that the physical effects of hemiplegia take priority in treatment plans; the unseen effects are all to often overlooked or treated as an afterthought. I would like to see this trend change because these unseen effects can be difficult to manage without proper diagnosis and strategies to manage them more effectively. Indeed, I frequently see parents with hemiplegic kids, or adults with hemi talking about their unseen symptoms asking if they are linked with hemiplegia. Surely this indicates that there needs to be a shift in the way hemiplegia is viewed and talked about. Attitudes need to change so that the non physical effects are treated with just as much importance as the physical effects. 

Any questions, feel free to comment! 

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Book Wishlist

Reading is arguably one of my favourite things to do. For me, there is no greater pleasure than getting lost in a book. It's so relaxing, yet exciting all at the same time. My book wish list is growing at quite a pace. I'm pretty sure I have enough to carry me through until well into 2013.

Here are my most wanted books:


The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky. 


I saw this film in the cinema and thought it was amazing. Difficult subject, but it was uplifting and heart warming all the same. I find coming of age an interesting topic for novels because it's thought provoking and makes you think about your own experiences. 

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver


I've heard many good things about the film, so as I usually find books better than the films, could be a promising read. I like the gritty and difficult topic of this book. It'll challenge you. 
Tipping The Velvet - Sarah Waters


A classic. I watched the drama version on the BBC a few years ago and fancy reading the book. 
Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling


 Just like everybody else my age JK Rowling was the mainstay of the literature I read as a child. Now as an adult, I'm keen to read some more of her work. Heard nothing but excellent reviews for this book. Can't wait! 

Divergent - Veronica Roth


I loved The Hunger Games Trilogy and this trilogy is similar in it's topic. 

The Fry Chronicles - Stephen Fry


I adore Stephen Fry. The man is a living legend and has an interesting life. Enough said. 

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey


A book everybody should read in their lifetime. 

The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd

Lone Wolf - Jodi Picoult. 


I really like Jodi Picoult. Normally when I read I like it to be thought provoking and to leave a lasting impression on me long after I've finished reading them. Her books fulfil this criteria. This is her newest book. 

So, have you read any of these and loved or hated them? What's on your book wishlist? 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Roasted tomato and basil soup recipe.

Today I'm going to share my roasted tomato and basil soup recipe, which I've made countless times. I think it's super tasty and is also really healthy. In fact, I'm currently on my Weight Watchers journey and this is free points which is lovely! 

Serves 4.

Ingredients.

12 ripe plum tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves (leave unpeeled or they'll burn and go bitter in the oven)
1 tbsp olive oil
large handful of fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper.

1. Preheat oven to 150 fan. 
2. Chop up all your ingredients as specified. 
3. Place tomatoes, onions, pepper and garlic in an oven tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
4. Roast on the middle shelf for around 20-25 minutes
5. Leave to cool. Peel garlic cloves. 
6. Add the vegetables (and all juices) to a blender, chuck in the basil.
7. Blend until smooth.
8. Check seasoning and the add to the pan to reheat when you're ready to serve. As with all soups don't boil when reheating. 

It really is as easy as that. I love it. It's a good soup for the change of seasons too. P.s. This soup is also vegan and vegetarian. 



Roasted veggies! The smell is divine.

My blended soup! 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

I'm Spazticus (WARNING - RANTING POST)

Right just a pre warning that this a bit of a rant.

Channel 4, I'm so very disappointed with you. After praising you on the fabulous job you've done so far on promoting the Paralympics you've left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I'm of course referring to their new comedy show, apparently hilariously titled 'I'm Spazticus'. It's basically a hidden camera tv show where disabled actors play pranks on the public.

However, I'm not at all impressed with the down right offensive crassly named title. I've ranted on my Facebook and my Twitter but it wasn't cathartic enough so I've ended up writing here too. Now I like comedy, I love a laugh. However, I feel there is a line, and in this instance the line has been well and truly crossed.

Now in case you're not aware, 'spaz' is a term that is often used in the pejorative sense to mock someone. Similarly, the word 'spack' is also used interchangeably. Now the word stems from 'spasticity' which refers to unusual tightness of muscles. I have spastic hemiplegia cerebral palsy. Meaning the muscles on my left hand side of my body are affected by stiffness and tightness. So in essence, if you call someone a 'spaz' or 'spack' you are deeply offending people like me. 

I often challenge people when I see them using this word, and they reply it's just a word. It's not. Words have meaning and they are hurtful. I do not see why these words are so socially acceptable yet racist terms are so forbidden. It's double standards. I'm aware that this isn't just limited to disability, the word 'gay' is often used to describe something negatively.

Now, people defending the use of the title of this programme say that it's just comedy and that it's edgy. No, it's a cheap shot at people with cerebral palsy. When I hear someone use these words in real life, I freeze. I know I shouldn't take it to heart, but you do. It makes you wonder what people really think about disabled people. It also makes me worry that by using the word 'spaz' in their programme title it serves to normalize the word and before you know it it's bandied around feely again. I remember the uproar when C4 called a programme about dating with disability 'Undateables' there was a lot of uproar. In my opinion this is a hell of a lot worse. Kids with CP may have been taunted at school with this word (I was a few times) and to see it used as TV programme title is rubbing salt in the wound.

Anyway, I think I've rambled on enough.

Love,

Amy.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Healthy Chicken Caesar salad - Recipe.


Hi! Today I'm going to blog my easy peasy take on a Chicken Caesar salad.  I am currently trying to shed some excess weight, as to put it bluntly, I've gotten fat. Luckily I have an amazing support network around me encouraging me on this journey. Anyway, I digress, for tea tonight I decided to do this recipe:

Serves 1. 

Ingredients.

1 Chicken breast
1 tbsp olive oil
1 piece stale white bread cut into cubes
1/2 bag rocket salad, washed
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 tbsp Morrison's low fat caesar salad dressing.
Few shavings Parmesan cheese/ low fat cheddar.

Method

1. Grill chicken breast until cooked through, shred and set aside.
2. Croutons: Heat olive oil in a frying pan and add the bread cubes.
3. Cook croutons until golden and toasted. Drain on kitchen paper.
4. On a plate, platasce the washed rocket salad, add the chicken and red onion, add the dressing and croutons. Top with the cheese!

EAT.


It really is that simple. I feel lazy blogging this aha. It's very tasty! 

Friday, 17 August 2012

A postcard from Bruges

Sorry for the cheesy title, but it had to be done, right? So I've decided to blog about myself and Adam's little holiday to Bruges. In short, it was amazing. 

We went down to London on the 20th July, and stayed over night in a hotel ready to catch the 07.58 Eurostar to Brussels. I thought it was rather cute that we got a continental breakfast included as part of our experience.Then, we caught our train from Brussels to Bruges. The journey here was about an hour or so. Luckily the cost of the journey was covered in the Eurostar ticket.

The hotel we chose to stay at was Hotel Navarra. I was enchanted by the fact it was a 16th century building. I also loved the fact it had a pool in the cellar and the central location. Our room was so spacious and the bed was huge so we were happy. We had breakfast included whilst we were there and there was such a variety. Needless to say, I ate possibly too many croissants. 



Adam outside hotel Navarra. 

We were lucky that Hotel Navarra was in such a central location, it was only a couple of streets away from the Main Square. This meant we could pop back and to as we pleased. Anyway, we were both in awe at how beautiful Bruges was. Every street, every corner, every building is truly medieval and is just spectacular. There are lots of places to explore. Also, as it's so small it's impossible to get lost. One of the best ways to explore is to take a boat on the canals that flow through Bruges. It saves tired legs and you really get to see a great deal of the city. The friendly Captain also gives a good running commentary of the history of Bruges and information on places of importance. It only costs 8 Euros too. There are also horse and carriage rides available if you'd prefer to travel that way. 





We mostly amused ourselves by being tourist geeks. There are plenty of museums to get an in depth look at the history of this gorgeous city. (charging 1 Euro entry for Under 25's). There are also lots of churches and a cathedral to visit. I love visiting old churches and religious buildings, as I find them really interesting. Also they were a welcome respite from the hot weather that we had. (We were both sun burnt) Arguably the most famous monument in Bruges is the Belfry tower, which dominates the skyline. If you're feeling brave you can climb up this huge tower. 


In a quaint tea shop: Victoria sponge.

Now, onto the most important subject... FOOD, Unsurprisingly we overindulged. Now, I'm going to be honest, if like me you only eat chicken/fish you're going to be limited on choice. I mostly had chicken and fries with a lovely creamy mushroom sauce, If you're a vegetarian there are basic options a lot of the time. And yes, it is true, Belgium does make gorgeously tasty chips and mayonnaise. The waffles are also amazing, I had mine with chocolate sauce and another lot glazed with sugar. You really must try some if you go. It's inspired me to buy a waffle iron ha. There are also hundreds of chocolate shops selling exquisite Belgian chocolates. Our favourite chocolate shop was Modeur Babolette. This was because they had great choice and seemed to offer great value for money. 


So to sum up, I would wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Bruges. I am absolutely in love with the place. I really must pay homage to the friendly locals, who are so polite, have an amazing grasp of English and can't do enough to help you out. It's great too, if like me you have mobility problems as it's largely flat to walk around and so small  that you can easily explore it all. I would quite happily visit this place again and again. I like to offer balanced reviews but I honestly don't have a negative word to say about Bruges. 

Much love,

Amy.



Monday, 30 July 2012

Hemiplegia and Mental Illness...

Hi, first off let me say a huge thank you to everyone who gave me amazingly supportive feedback on my blog post about hemiplegia. I was overwhelmed, and honestly never expected it. So, as you know I'm writing my thesis on the psychological impact of cerebral palsy, for which I'm doing a lot of background research. So I've been inspired to write about the link between my type of CP and mental illness. This is something which I have a wealth of experience on, so I figured I'd write a bit about it. 


Let me start off and say that if you're not already aware I have both depression and anxiety. The anxiety I've had ever since I can remember and my depression has come on more recently. I'm currently receiving treatment for the depression and it's helped me massively. The anxiety tends to wax and wane, depending on what is going on in my life. However, I'd say I do have an anxious disposition. 


So anyway, I did some research looking at how frequently mental illnesses, mainly mood disorders coexist with hemiplegia and the results blew me away. One study by Goodman (1996) found that in their sample of children with hemiplegia 61% had some form of psychological problem, which is huge. Let's not forget that this number may be under represented as not all people feel comfortable talking about their mental health. There's also been research showing that kids with hemiplegia tend to have higher rates of psychological problems compared to other kids with different types of CP, and also those who are similarly disabled but not by hemiplegia. This seems to suggest that there is also damage to the brain in the part controlling cognition and emotion as well as damage to the brain which results in hemiplegia. Of course, because mental illness is largely invisible and sometimes difficult to diagnose it is harder to establish the link and causality. Needless to say, I was shocked when I read this. A part of me was a little angry and relieved at the same time, because it would have helped if I'd known sooner that there was a convincing link between hemiplegia and mental illness.  If  the results are repeatedly replicated I'd say that mental health screening would be a good way to go. As well as publicising the link between hemiplegia and mental illness.


I do of course think that there are other reasons as to why mental illness seem to be more prevalent amongst the milder forms of cerebral palsy like hemiplegia. It's quite difficult to word this and get the tone right. In my experience, I've always been compared to able-bodied people. I went to mainstream school, I've done very well academically. Sometimes I've struggled to come to terms with having a disabled identity and the fact I do have limitations. Partly because, throughout my childhood I was like every other child. Ok, some things were difficult/impossible due to my hemiplegia but for the large part I was 'normal'. It's only as an adult, that I realised it was a struggle to keep up if you like. I hate to admit it, but my independence does have a limit. I'll always need help with certain things like tying shoe laces, with meal preparation, domestic chores,  I could go on. I've realised it's going to be tough out there in the workplace for a graduate, let alone one with a disability.  Due to fatigue, I've realised working part time is probably my most realistic option. I've realised that if I have children, I'll need a lot of help caring for them. If I learn to drive, I'll need an adapted car. So my disability does have a major impact on my life, however much I try to deny it. I'd be lying if I said this wasn't difficult to accept when I was in my teenage years. It can be quite anxiety provoking knowing that you rely on others for help, yet are expected to fit in and participate in the mainstream environment. 


I think my card has always been marked mental illness wise. My anxiety has always been with me. Even as a small child. I tend to be quite irrational and I do have a tendency to catastrophise and blow things out of proportion. My anxiety was probably at it's worst when I was around 16. My anxiety was centred around my health. I was constant convinced I had a serious illness. I get  frequent pain because of my hemiplegia and the muscle tightness it causes. I also get repetitive strain injury in my right hand frequently as it does so much more stuff than it probably should. At the time I didn't realise it was my hemiplegia causing such pain, I was googling my symptoms (never do this!) and getting horribly scary results. The doctor's didn't tell me it was my disability causing the pain but I figured it out for myself eventually. 


When I went to university I did have counselling to help me get to grips with my anxiety (CBT has stupidly long waits) I'd say it helped me understand why I have anxiety but long term it hasn't really helped. I have accepted now that I will always be vulnerable mentally. Like having hemiplegia, having a mental illness is a constant learning curve. I've been told that having hemiplegia does put me at increased risk of depression and anxiety because my brain is more sensitive to changes in brain chemistry. I suppose it makes sense. Having depression has took  me on a journey of self discovery and is teaching me life lessons. It's okay to ask for help if I'm struggling. There's really no shame in it. My self esteem took a bit of a battering thanks to depression. For a long time I thought my ambitions to be successful were unrealistic. Now I realise that's really not the case. 


I've also realised I don't always have to put on a brave face when it comes to my hemiplegia. Living with a long term condition can be tough and frustrating at times. You live with it day in ,day out, there's no respite. I've always felt there's something wrong about complaining about my hemiplegia and if it causes me pain. Purely because I used to get told 'there's always someone worse off than you" While yes I agree, saying things like that is wrong on the basis that it makes you feel guilty for how you feel and to dismiss real feel feelings as trivial and selfish is harmful long term. No-one is super human when it comes to dealing with their problems. 


Sorry if this seems an overly negative post. I just wanted to highlight that mental illness commonly co-exists with hemiplegia, and to explore the reasons why this may be the case. Of course, there's no shame in having a mental illness, they are extremely common and are treatable. I think exploring why mental illness appears to be so prevalent in hemiplegia cerebral palsy is important. I think in doing so, we can maybe tackle the causes and hopefully this may reduce. I am perfectly okay talking openly about my mental health. Mainly because I think it encourages me to be a more open person. Also because talking openly helps break down the stigma which wrongly surrounds mental illness, and it may help others. 


Thank you for reading,


Amy.


X  

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Public Transport and Hemiplegia.



Public transport seems a terribly dull subject to write a blog post on, however, as a person with a physical disability it is a bit of a big deal, so bear with me. Now, a couple of months back Channel 4 launched the 'No Go Britain' campaign with the aim of highlighting how difficult public transport can be for people with disabilities. Now a lot of this campaign focused on how wheelchair users were very often subjected to discriminatory behaviour. It's scary how seemingly ignorant our society can be at times. Today I want to highlight my own battles I've faced whilst using public transport. Just to give a perspective from someone who is on the milder end of the physical disability spectrum, if you will. The issue of public transport for me is more complex than at first it appears. 

I rely a lot on public transport as I'm yet to pluck up the courage to learn to drive. I find that buses present the biggest issue for me. Put simply, I don't think hemiplegia and buses are a great combination. My hemiplegia means that my balance is very poor and I'm unsteady on my feet. Therefore, I feel it is safer for me to sit right at the front at the seats allocated for elderly people and people with disabilities. However, I don't use any walking aids and unless I had my splint on you would not notice I had a disability when sitting down. This isn't as great as it first appears. I quite often feel awkward sitting there because if the bus is busy and there are elderly people getting on I can feel people glaring at me for not being polite and giving up my seat. Believe me, if I could, I would. So I just kind of sit there and stare at the floor. If I was asked to give up this seat, I would simply reply that I'm disabled and so it is not possible. 

I also have to sit at the front for the safety of the other passengers. My hemiplegia means that I can't control the movement of my left arm, and due to the spasticity my arm is constantly bent. I find that if I sit further back, my left arm will often knock people as due to my balance issues as well I find it difficult to walk down the aisle. This is really embarrassing when this happens as it's not as if you can stop ans explain to every passenger you knock that it's because of hemiplegia. Another issue with buses which makes me really cross is the impatient bus drivers. It is seemingly unacceptable to press the bell and remain seated until your stop. The bus drivers will  not wait for you. So I have to risk a fall and get up early or risk missing my stop. No matter how many times I do this, it always provokes anxiety. It can be really difficult to remain upright when trying to walk whilst the bus is moving. Plus the fact I'm one-handed means that I can't hold on for support and I'm also trying my best to not knock someone out with my left arm. This is why I sit at the front of the bus! 

I hear you say, why don't you just get a taxi? well, taxis are expensive! I typically only use taxis if I'm travelling at rush hours. I find it's not worth the hassle of the bus during rush hour. I'd never get a seat and I'm not confident in asking someone for their seat. I also use taxis if I have bags to carry because bus travelling here is physically impossible. I  use taxis if I find the place I'm going to is a long walk from the bus route. Taxis are my favourite way to travel as it eliminates the politics of bus travelling and the stresses of worrying if I'm going to fall. 

Now onto trains. I use trains quite a bit from travelling to and from Shropshire and Liverpool. Due to my visual perception issues I would never be able to go somewhere unfamiliar alone on the train, as I would get lost. This took me a long time to accept, however I'm lucky to have an amazingly supportive boyfriend and family who will accompany me on journeys to unfamiliar territory. In general the visual perception difficulties mean that going to new places means a trial run there and back a couple of times to get my bearings.  I find that due to only having one functioning hand, I do have to limit what I carry on train journeys. Although, you can't go wrong with a backpack. This meant that in my undergraduate days, my Dad used to have to make a 100 mile round trip to pick me up with my stuff during Christmas and Easter holidays as I couldn't carry things onto the train. Like buses, I also avoid trains during rush hours. Purely because I get panicky in crowds as I feel vulnerable like I'm going to get knocked over or something. If I'm carrying bags I find it impossible to use the escalators. The ones at Liverpool Lime St are massive so I really have to concentrate using these. Luckily, I find Merseyrail staff ever so helpful and they have asked me a number of times if I would like assistance. I'm always grateful, and never offended when people offer help if they notice my disability, as at the end of the day, kindness makes the world a better place.

I think that's all the issues I've encountered whilst using public transport. I think it's made me want to learn to drive! But yeah, I guess I wanted to highlight how something as simple and everyday as public transport can present a wealth of issues if you do have a disability. It can be anxiety-provoking at times. I guess it's more the fear of what may happen, such as a nasty fall, or if I hurt someone accidentally by toppling on  them. Also it's also my own insecurities such as not feeling I'm disabled enough to sit at the allocated disability seats, and the fear that people are judging me.  (the universal sign for a disability, is a wheelchair user, so go figure) 

Anyway, I think I've rambled on for long enough about this subject,

Feedback and comments about my experiences or your experiences as a disabled passenger are welcomed of course!

I promise I'll blog on something more interesting next time!

TTFN 
X

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Hemiplegia.

Adam and I at our graduation, July 2010.

Today I want to blog about the condition I was born with, left hemiplegia cerebral palsy. My inspiration behind this idea was that for my MSc degree, I'm currently writing a thesis on how cerebral palsy affects the self esteem and identity of adolescents, and it put me in a reflective mood. I don't often think about my condition, as I'm so used to having it, it's my normality. 

Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of childhood physical disability, affecting as many as 1 child in 400. My type means that my left side is affected. It's effects mean that I can't use my left hand, I can walk, but I walk with a visible limp and walking is slow and tiring. People with CP use 5x more energy to move about than 'normal' people! My posture is also affected, I sit very slouched putting all my weight on the right side and I do have a curvature of the spine called kyphoscoliosis, this means my back is hunched over and curving to the right. This is caused by muscle imbalance between my left and right sides. My muscles on my left side are affected by something called 'spasticity' which basically means they're very tight and if they're not stretched out my joints can get stuck in contracture. Which usually needs surgery botox injections or stretching plaster casts to rectify the situation. I also have a leg length discrepancy which is apparently helpful for me I also have some quirky fingers on my left hand, they're double jointed so I can bend them right back, secretly I love this as it freaks people out. I also have reduced sensation on my left side. I can sit in front of the fire and not get feel myself burning. When I was small, I broke my left arm and it went undiagnosed for eleven days, rather scarily, I still had my regular physio and stretching during these days. 

My hemiplegia also has unseen effects that if I'm honest with you, I find more difficult to cope with than the physical effects. I have anxiety (and now depression) that has been with me ever since I can remember. I also have visual perception issues. This one is tricky to explain. Basically I can't do things like read a map, following directions. I can't do certain things in maths like algebra or symmetry because my brain cannot translate the information. I'm still adapting to this one, as I only found out from talking to others with hemiplegia that this was related to the condition. I thought it was me just being stupid. I guess the unseen effects are harder to deal with because it's difficult to get people to understand, as it's invisible. 

My hemiplegia was diagnosed at 9 months, after a relative noticed I wasn't using my left hand. It's not known what caused my hemiplegia. I only weighed 4lb 4oz at birth. I was a tricky delivery too - an emergency C- section, I also had to be resuscitated at birth a few times. However, one Dr suspects my CP is the result of a bleed on the brain when I was still in the womb, because of a seatbelt injury or something. I don't dwell on the cause because frankly it does not change the result. I do have a curious mind though, and would like to get a brain scan one day as I'd like to see how my brain is different.

I've had various treatments to help me cope with the physical effects of hemiplegia. I used to go for weekly physio from my diagnosis until I was 14. I've wore splints on my leg and my arm for most of my life. I have a real hit and miss relationship with them. Sometimes they help, other times not so much. I've had countless amounts of botox injections. This stuff had medical uses before the beauty industry waded in. I had amazing results the first time I had it in my hand (luckily I have general anaesthetic for the jabs!) my hand was straight for the first time in my life. Not ashamed to say I cried tears of happiness. Previously, my hand was completely bent under. However, I think I've now got an immunity to botox as the effects have lessened considerably.

I've had numerous operations to get rid of contractures. I've had my achilles tendon lengthened, with amazing results. I used to tip toe walk now I do not. I've had my calf muscle stretched - this was a failure. As an adult, I've had a wrist fusion done - my hand is completely straight now and does not bend at all. This surgery was the best decision I've ever made. I've had my bicep muscle lengthened, mostly to ease pain that my elbow contracture caused me. In February this year I had the tendons lengthened in my fingers and muscle removed from my thumb to stop it pulling inwards so much. Unfortunately my finger tendons might need re-lengthening as they're pretty determined to stay curled under. I'm now waiting on further surgery on my leg, I'm having my calf muscle re-lengthened and a tendon transfer to correct drop foot. I'm feeling pretty excited for this surgery, as it promises big results. All being well, I'll be free from splints forever! I've been warned by other people that the rehab is pretty brutal and long winded but I'm up for the challenge! 

I think having hemiplegia has contributed considerably to who I am as a person. I've had no choice but to be a determined person. I might have a degree but my proudest moments in life are learning to swim and riding a bike without stabilisers. I was told by my physio these would be impossible. To be able to prove to people that they're wrong is a great feeling. 

It's only in my adult years that I came to see myself as a person with a disability. I guess as a child I thought nothing of my parents helping me do stuff like cutting up my food, tying my shoe laces, doing my physio. I thought it was 'normal' it was only after I wanted to go to university that it hit home that I do need help everyday I suppose I took my Mum's help for granted. However talking to other people with hemiplegia, this seems a common trend. I guess you go through a journey with this condition, you develop as a person and the way you see yourself changes. I often get greeted with the word 'sorry' when I tell people I have CP. I can hand on heart say I've never wished my life was different. To me, it is completely normal not to be able to use a hand. If some miraculous surgery to restore it's use was available, I would not take it. I can't even explain the reason why I wouldn't take it because I don't know why. 

my super straight arm after surgery last year. 

Having hemiplegia is a constant learning curve. For the first time in my life I'm talking to people who have hemiplegia on the internet. I'm a proud member of the Hemihelp charity, and through them I've met people who are like me. This has helped me so much, as it can  be quite socially isolating not knowing anyone who has the same medical condition. It's great to interact with parents of kids with hemiplegia and to help them understand how their kids feel. I'm also constantly learning new things about hemiplegia as it is a more complex condition than it appears on the surface.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't worry about how hemiplegia and my future fit together. I worry about how it impacts on my career choices, I don't think I'd be able to work full time due to the sheer exhaustion I'd experience. I want children, but I constantly think how I'd manage. I think it's only natural to worry though, and talking to others with Hemi definitely helps calm my fears. 

I know I'll manage. When I was younger I could never have imagined me being in a relationship for six years, moving to Liverpool on my own. going to university, never mind studying for a Masters degree, so I guess the other things in life that I want will happen just as these things did! and as I said before hemiplegia is a journey, and it's great to reflect on the progress I've made, makes me worry far less about the future.

Thanks for reading. 

Feel free to ask any questions. 

TTFN

X


Thursday, 5 July 2012

Depression : ultimately a positive thing for me.

Today I thought I'd do a post about depression. I have two reasons : 1. it's good for me to reflect on my journey with this illness. 2. By talking openly about what depression is it's breaking down the unacceptable stigma which surrounds this illness.

So I'll start at the beginning of this journey. I was formally diagnosed with depression at the beginning of April this year. Originally I went to my GP thinking I had anxiety (I've suffered lifelong on/off with anxiety) but after much reflection it turns out it was actually depression. With the beauty of hindsight a diagnosis of depression makes perfect sense. I reckon my depression crept up on me slowly for at least 18 months. The symptoms were staring me in my face. I remember right in the early days in April, one health professional said I was textbook depression/anxiety. 

The scary thing about depression is that the symptoms can be subtle, until one day it can get too much to deal with.  Upon reflection, the symptoms I had were constant worry. I would worry about everything, even small seemingly insignificant things. When I look back it was totally out of hand, for example, I wouldn't answer the buzzer to my flat door because I was scared it would be someone trying to attack me, now when I look back this is totally bizarre as I had no evidence. My worries would snowball until I'd be blowing everything out of proportion.  Loss of interest in my hobbies. I'm a massive F1 fan, I love it. However, I found myself not really getting excited for the new season. I also love cooking making new recipes, however in the months preceding April I found myself not wanting to do any cooking, and not trying anything new. My partner Adam would just be lumbered doing most of the cooking. I would also make excuses not to go out and see people. Putting myself down constantly with negative thoughts. I'm talking all the time. I used to have negative thought patterns that studying for my degree was a waste of time as I'd never amount to anything. This is out of character for me as I'm a very ambitious person. I never normally put boundaries on myself. However, from at least 2010 (since I finished my under grad degree) I was telling myself that I was just a burden to everybody. This kind of thinking is exhausting, and ultimately it's like a self fulfilling prophecy. If you think bad stuff, bad things will happen. Aches and pains. I definitely had physical symptoms, I got loads of back aches and just felt generally tense. I also had a knot in the pit of my stomach the whole time. These were my main symptoms. You have to remember they built up very slowly so I thought these were just my personality, not an illness.  

When I look back, it's not surprising I got depression. 2011 was a pretty horrendous year for me. I had two operations, a load of failed botox injections which meant I had to go back onto the waiting list for more surgery. My parents separated and my Grandad passed away and I moved house. Studying for a masters degree. All in the space of twelve months. I didn't allow myself to cry over these things I literally just said 'It'll be alright in the end' so I guess in April my mind just kinda said 'Look Amy, you need a break love' So basically in April I got the most severe bout of anxiety yet, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat. The GP put me on anti-depressant medication. The first lot of anti-depressants actually made me worse, but I've found my perfect medication now and it's helped me massively. Those few days were the hardest of my life as I felt like I was never going to feel normal again, but somehow I pulled through.  I also had to leave my university course temporarily to recover.

Depression has taught me a big life lesson, I'm actually grateful that I got it. I feel relieved in a way that I know symptoms I experienced were just because depression is an illness and it's not my personality. It's taught me to just let things happen and to live in the moment. I no longer look as far ahead as I used to, because depression has taught me in life unexpected things can happen. Worrying is a waste of time. I cannot emphasise this enough. Worrying is wasted energy. Why worry over things that might or might not happen? Might as well deal with it if it happens. Put yourself first. Yes, because in sometimes in life you have to put your own well being first. I spent so long listening to everyone else's stresses I forgot about my own needs. I've also got my passion for baking and cooking back and I'm more passionate than ever before. So ultimately I do think depression can be a positive experience, because if I hadn't have sought help then I would never have fixed these problems. At last I'm enjoying life and being 23.

I'm not running before I walk though. I do still have bad days, but they're outnumbered by good ones. I still get a bit doubtful over whether I can complete my degree, but I know deep down I can. With the recovery of depression you have to give it time and small steps at a time. I'm a little nervous about relapsing, but know I know the symptoms I'll get help much earlier. I've also got a big operation in August and my mobility will be compromised for a while after, so I worry I'll get low after, but I'm working on a plan to keep me occupied. I think as long as I remain aware that to be mentally healthy is as important as being physically healthy I'll be okay.

Thanks for reading. I do urge you to get help if my symptoms ring any bells with you. There is no shame in visiting a GP about mental health. 1 in 4 will suffer from mental illness (that's just the diagnosed cases!!)

TTFN

X


Saturday, 30 June 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey : My thoughts.


People who adore this book may not wish to read this post as I'm about to tear it to shreds.

So, I received this book for my birthday. It wins the accolade of the worst book I've ever read, and I've read a lot of books. I know it's fiction but it's far too far fetched for my liking. I do not know why it's described as 'liberating' and 'romantic' I find it anything but those things. I do not see what all the fuss is about and I want to cry with rage and sadness that it's the biggest selling paperback of all time. 


I'm not going to mention any positive points on this book because I fail to see any. If you have any, please enlighten me.


Now I'm going to share with you why I think this book deserves the accolade of the worst ever book. 


1. Ana Steele is a 21 year old lady just finishing her degree and EL James paints her as this naive innocent young lady who has never felt any sexual desire, and before she met Christian Grey had never been kissed. She's never even been drunk before. Please. This is ridiculous. How can you reach 21 years old and not know the pangs of sexual desire? It makes no sense and the reader is supposed to believe she can from never been virgin to BDSM in a matter of weeks. Sorry, no.


2. The issues of the sub-conscious and her inner goddess. I think this is the thing I despise most about this book. It's so tedious and repetitive. Also the sub-conscious thing really grinds my gears as technically you're not consciously aware of your subconscious so EL James has got it all wrong! and as for her inner goddess it just grates on me. There are better ways to develop the main characters this approach is boring, inaccurate and plain lazy.


3. I hate Christian Grey. He's a fucking weirdo and Ana should run away. He's a stalker. He turns up unannounced at her workplace. He tracks her down using her mobile at a nightclub to rescue her from Jose after she gets drunk (yawn). He gets mad when Ana decides to go visit her Mum and Ana forgets to tell Christian, and then follows her out to Georgia. He buys her a new laptop, a phone (he needs to get hold of her at all times!) and a car. He's trying to coerce her into a type of relationship she clearly does not want. This kind of behaviour is controlling and could be potentially abusive. It would make me run for the hills. Presumably cause Ana is naive she does not see it this way, or she just wants him for his money, I dunno. This makes me wonder how this book is described as a romantic novel as I don't see it that way. He clearly does not respect Ana and this is my idea of relationship hell


4. The sex is so far fetched. Ana can orgasm at the click of a finger apparently. This does not happen in real life ever. Seemingly Ana gets turned on by everything Christian does and anything he does to her gives her an orgasm. I'm sorry, but without wanting to get too personal this does not happen in real life, especially if you're as inexperienced as Ana. I'd have a lot more respect for EL James if she'd have portrayed a more three-dimensional and realistic journey to sexual fulfilment. Unless of course Ana is actually super-human and can orgasm at the drop of a hat, if so, lucky her! 


5. E L James is incapable of writing vagina. I hate the way she calls Ana's VAGINA the sex, or refers to it as there. Please. If Ana is incapable of calling her vagina a vagina then she's not mature enough to have sex. Simple.


6. I hate Christian's fucking grey trousers, that hang off the hips in that way. What way, E L James?! This crops up too many times in the book and is boring and yet more proof the author is a lazy writer. 


7. I have no respect for Ana Steele. Throughout this book she questions whether or not she wants to embark on a BDSM relationship with Christian. The fact she's questioning it so many times suggests not. The stupid fool probably naively thinks she can change him. Have more self respect for yourself!! Also Christian shouldn't be pressurising her into it by buying her stuff and making her feel obliged to do this BDSM. This is why I'm confused as to why this makes this novel liberating and romantic. It's the compete fucking opposite. Jeez.


8. Literally nothing happens in this book. It doesn't. Her & Christian have sex a few times. That's it. 


I could rant all day about how much I hate this book. It's an insult to books and should never have been published. Needless to say, I can't be arsed reading the rest of the trilogy, because frankly, I don't hate myself. 





Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Coffee and Walnut cake!





Today I made a coffee and walnut cake, at the request of my brother. I love coffee cake. I'm one of those weird people who hate to drink coffee but I love it in puddings and truffles! 


Here's the recipe. I've just had a slice with a cup of tea and it's delicious.


Ingredients
(For the cake)
225g self raising flour (sieved)
4 large free range eggs, beaten. Allow these to come to room temperature before you use 'em. 
225g golden caster sugar
60 ml espresso coffee ( made as strong as you dare)
225g unsalted butter. Let this soften before you use it. 
140g walnut halves. Bash these up by putting them in a food bag ans whacking them with a rolling pin. Very therapeutic!


For the coffee butter cream


125g unsalted butter, really soft!
150g icing sugar
60ml espresso coffee


To decorate: walnut halves


Method 

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 140 fan. Line two round baking tins. 
2.Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy
3. Slowly add the beaten eggs and combine well. Please be slow, you don't want to split the mixture.
4. Add the espresso and the walnuts and mix well.
5. Add the flour, folding in gently.
6. Put half of the mixture in each of your two baking tins.
7. Bake on the middle shelf for around 25-30 minutes, or until you can stick a knife in the centre and it comes out clean.
8. Place on a wire rack & allow to cool.

For the  butter cream.....

1. Beat vigorously together the icing sugar, butter and the espresso liquid. You want it to be thick and smooth so add some more icing sugar if you think you need it.
2. Spread a good generous dollop of butter cream on one of the sponges and spread it well. 
3. Sandwich the other sponge on top of the other.
4. Spread the rest of the butter cream on the top of the cake. I like to leave it looking a bit rough. , but that's just my personal preference.
5. Finally decorate with the walnut halves, arrange them in a circle! 

...and relax. Obviously I think this cake is best enjoyed with a nice cup of tea!

TTFN. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Chilli Con Quorn - My Mumma's recipe! 

All credit goes to my darling Mumma for this recipe. Basically, she started making this years ago when I was a vegetarian. (Now I just eat poultry) It's a real winner in our family, we all love it. The fact that it's made with quorn makes it super healthy which is good! 


(Please ignore my rubbish photo taking skills!)


Ingredients.(Serves 4) 

1 bag of Quorn. 
1tbsp sunflower oil
 2 cloves garlic, crushed.
1 large onion, diced.
1 red pepper, de-seeded and chopped 
1 small tin of kidney beans, drained
1 tbsp chilli (obviously adjust this to how hot you like it!)
1  400g tin chopped tomatoes 
squeeze tomato purée
vegetable gravy granules to thicken.

Method

1. Add tbsp sunflower oil to a medium saucepan and heat. Add the diced onions and fry gently for 5-6 minutes. Be careful not to brown.
2. Add the garlic cloves and fry for 1-2 minutes. Then add the peppers and cook for a few minutes. Add the chilli powder and tomato purée. Stir.
3. Add the quorn mince and tinned tomatoes and half a tin of water  Bring to the boil and let simmer gently for fifteen minutes.
4. Add the kidney beans to the chilli and cook through for a few minutes.
5. If it needs it, thicken with a tablespoon of vegetable gravy granules, make it as thick as you like!
6. Serve when ready! I like to serve it with wholegrain rice, but you can serve it with garlic bread, jacket potatoes or chips. You can also add a dollop of sour cream/grating of cheese! 

Enjoy! 

TTFN! 




Thursday, 21 June 2012

Anyone for afternoon tea?




So, I turned 23 on 15th June. My other half, Adam thought it would be lovely to treat me to afternoon tea at The London Carriage works in Liverpool, as I've been wanting to go there for years. To me, afternoon tea sounds heavenly as I love drinking tea and eating cake. (who doesn't?!)


We went for afternoon tea on a Sunday afternoon. The London Carriage works serves afternoon tea daily between 3pm-5pm. We were shown to some massive plush sofas and were offered tea or coffee.  I decided to break away from my usual English breakfast tea and opted for Early Grey. The Mr decided on Darjeeling. I'm so glad I chose Earl Grey as I love the zesty tastes and it's definitely a firm favourite of mine now! 


So, we ordered afternoon tea for two, we chose a selection because we like to try lots of different things, but you can opt for a particular sandwich if you prefer. I was amazed when this three tier cake stand arrived at our table! (sorry for the poor quality of the photo, my camera is rubbish, but you get the idea!)


The sandwiches were smoked salmon which pleased me greatly as smoked salmon is easily my favourite food! There was also cheese and coleslaw and egg and water cress. As you'd expect, the sandwiches were served with their crusts removed and cut into delightful finger sized sandwiches! Very elegant! I enjoyed all three of the sandwiches, the smoked salmon was my favourite though. Mr W enjoyed the cheese and coleslaw the best. You could definitely tell that the coleslaw was home made as it tasted really fresh! My only slight criticism with the sandwiches was that there was 9 sandwiches. As we'd ordered it for two people, I'd have liked it if we could have shared the sandwiches out equally.


Next up were the scones. These were absolutely gorgeous! I'm certain they were made with clotted cream as they were very rich. They were served with jam and butter (we thought it was clotted cream!) I could not fault these scones they were buttery and slightly crumbly as I think a good scone should be. If I was to be ULTRA picky, I'd say I'd have liked them to be served with clotted cream not butter, but that's just personal preference.


Finally it was onto the final plate, the adorable little selection of cakes! I thought these were too cute to eat but I still ate them! There were mini lemon tarts, fruit bread and chocolate brownie. There was two of each obviously. I thought it was particularly lovely that the lemon tarts were still warm from the oven! Honestly, the pastry was perfect. Slightly crispy yet rich. It was definitely my favourite of the trio, but then again, lemon desserts are always a winner with me! The fruit bread was probably the weakest of the three, there wasn't enough flavour for me. However, the chocolate brownie was probably one of the best I've eaten, it was really how a brownie should be. Chocolatey, gooey on the indside and crispy on the top. Fabulous. 


In sum, I really enjoyed my afternoon tea at the London Carriageworks, it was very relaxing and was lovely to do something different for a change. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who loves tea and cake, you won't be disappointed. In fact, I left there inspired, I'd love to have a go at creating my own little afternoon tea in my flat. So watch this space. 


Thanks to my lovely boyfriend for treating me to a wonderful afternoon. 


TTFN.