Friday, 25 October 2013

I've been wanting to write about my experiences of having both mental illness and a physical disability for some time but I've found it quite difficult to articulate what I wanted to say. I have cerebral palsy, which is predominantly a physical disability, and I also have anxiety and depression. Over the past year or so I've gained valuable insight into how both my physical disability and mental illnesses overlap and interact. I confess that I used to think that they were totally separate from each other and were two distinct problems. I've really come to understand that they're interlinked and do share a relationship. I'd like to share with you what I've learned. 

 The biggest thing I've realised is how the pain and fatigue I experience because of my CP impacts on my depression. I suffer from chronic pain because of my disability and experience a lot of fatigue and this really feeds a low mood, and also anxiety. I've found that since my GP has given me adequate painkillers my pain is a little bit under control so it's not hammering my mood as much. I think pain triggered my anxiety because I felt like it was spiraling out of control and so I was catastrophising. Now it's a little bit more controlled it's lessened my anxiety considerably. The fatigue is harder to manage because you can't just pop a pill and feel better. Instead, I've had to make myself realise and accept that fatigue is part of CP and that I'll just have to adjust my life around it. Rest days are just another form of treatment, like wearing splints etc. 

I do think being ill with depression really affected my ability to cope and manage my disability. I've only realised this since I've started recovering from depression. When I was really ill with depression, I thought goals since learning to drive, getting a job would be unachievable because of my disability.  Depression really hammers your self esteem and often makes you believe you can't achieve things. This is the case of people with depression who aren't physically disabled too. I can't deny that my disability makes goals more difficult to achieve, I need a lot of support and often have to find alternate ways of achieving them. Depression honestly destroyed my self esteem so much that I didn't have the ability to figure out how I could achieve things and I thought I was totally incapable. Looking back, it was quite distressing, as I've always been a determined, ambitious person, and depression masked that. I just felt like my life was going to be a failure. Take learning to drive for example, I know it will be more difficult to do, I will need adaptions etc. When I was really ill with depression my way of thinking was 'CP will make learning to drive more difficult, you will probably fail, so to avoid feeling like a failure, it's best not to even attempt to learn to drive'. I had completely written it off before I'd attempted it because depression eats at your self esteem. Since my depression has improved so has my approach to my goals and my way of thinking. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel like depression really impacted on my mental ability to adapt to the challenges of my disability.

I've spoken a few times about how people with cerebral palsy are at an increased risk of mood disorders, although the reasoning behind this isn't clear. I have come to accept that my mental health problems are likely just another part of my CP, and so I've stopped thinking of my physical disability and mental illnesses as separate entities. It's really helped me to accept my MH problems by viewing them as just another facet of my disability. My anxiety can definitely be attributed to my hemiplegia because I had behavioural and emotional difficulties as a child, which is a known complication of hemiplegia. I think my anxiety is just an extension of the same problems I had in childhood. Accepting my MH problems are part of my CP has really helped me manage them better because I've stopped fighting them and trying to 'cure' myself. Instead, I've concentrated my efforts on strategies to manage them better. I also view my MH treatment no differently to the treatment I receive for my CP.

 I do think these realisations are important in the sphere of my recovery and acceptance of both my physical disability and MH problems, and being able to move forward with my life. I think it takes time to understand how physical disability and MH problems interact, and by understanding them both better it makes them easier to manage. 

Thank you for reading,

Amy X 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

What Hemiplegia Awareness Week means to me.

October 14th-18th is hemiplegia awareness week. Hemihelp, a charity which works tirelessly to support families, children and young adults with hemiplegia, have a great series of initiatives this week designed to raise awareness of hemiplegia. As a person with hemiplegia, I feel it's only right that I add my two pence worth. I wanted to discuss what hemiplegia awareness week means for me personally. 

In case you're new to this blog, I have left hemiplegia. It is a type of cerebral palsy, which I was born with. Physically, it means I have zero function of my left hand, it's paralysed. I also have partial paralysis of my left leg which means I walk with a limp and walking is slow and painful. I also have reduced sensation in my left side (I can't feel my left arm burning when sitting in front of the fire). I also have kyphoscoliosis - abnormal curves in my spine due to weak muscle in my torso. My hemiplegia also has cognitive and invisible symptoms, I have lifelong anxiety (more recently depression) and visual perception difficuties, fatigue and spatial awareness problems. My hemiplegia is caused by brain damage to the right side of my brain. 

Raising awareness for hemiplegia is incredibly important to me. Hemiplegia is not an uncommon disability, it affects 1 child in a 1000. Chances are that you will meet someone affected by hemiplegia in your life. I also believe that if we want society to be more inclusive of disabled people and for disabled people to be treated equally, then awareness is key to making this happen. I'm aware that cerebral palsy has a lot of common misconceptions, and this has had a negative impact on my experiences. I've had people assume I have a learning disability once they hear of my cerebral palsy diagnosis. I've had people assuming I must use a wheelchair. Breaking down these misconceptions is important, because misconceptions and ignorance often lead to discrimination, intentional or otherwise. 

Another reason why I support a hemiplegia awareness week is that hemiplegia is a more complex condition than people first realise. So many people assume that hemiplegia is just a physical condition affecting the arm and leg. I must confess, that until I started talking to others with hemiplegia I didn't realise how complex it was. i just assumed my unseen problems weren't part of my hemiplegia and were just me. I think by having an awareness week that talks about the invisible symptoms we may help others with hemiplegia understand their condition better (and parents too). 

I would also like to use hemiplegia awareness week to talk about the psychological impact of living with this condition. I feel like sometimes it's not okay to say 'living with hemiplegia is tough'. I feel like you have to put on a front and pretend that it's easy. I want to bring a healthy dose of realism to the proceedings and put it out there that having good and bad days with this condition is perfectly normal and it's okay to talk about it. I feel this is really important from a mental health standpoint. I know that my hemiplegia and mental illnesses are inextricably linked. I'd be keen to open up discussions about this link, I believe that it needs to be talked about more. 

I think it's particularly important that adults share their experiences of hemiplegia. Currently, it's very hard to access healthcare for the ongoing needs that hemiplegia presents to adults. It's viewed as a childhood condition, most people are discharged from their specialists once they have stopped growing. Healthcare professionals largely believe that the condition remains static. In my experience, I've needed more treatment as an adult than ever as a child. I know my experiences aren't unique. So I do think adults with hemiplegia should share their experiences to change the perception that hemiplegia is a childhood condition. 

Lastly, participating in hemiplegia awareness week is an amazing reminder of just how far I've come with my disability. A couple of years ago I didn't know anyone with my disability. I never talked about my experiences with this disability to anyone. Now I am a proud member of Hemihelp and regularly talk about my experiences, helping parents and teens out with their questions and problems. I'm a trained mentor for Hemihelp and in the future I hope to be helping out young people adapt to the challenges living with hemiplegia presents. I've met people with hemiplegia, and I've made really good friends with a couple who I know will be friends for life. Talking to others with hemiplegia has helped me cope with this condition more than I can say. It makes living with it less socially isolating and more 'normal'. I'm particularly lucky to have become friends with Steph (twitter @steph1990m) we're the same age and our hemiplegia's are scarily similar, so she has become a great source of support. I wouldn't have these great opportunities and friendships if I hadn't of realised that it's a positive thing to talk openly about my disability. 

I think I've rambled on enough, but i just wanted to write down some words ahead of hemiplegia awareness week. If you have ANY questions about hemiplegia please feel free to tweet me (@thisisamy_)

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Things I have learnt about having cerebral palsy

October 2nd is world cerebral palsy day. I think this is a great initiative, cerebral palsy is the biggest cause of childhood physical disability. It affects more 17 million people worldwide. Yet, despite it being such a common condition, I feel that there's a lot of common misconceptions about cerebral palsy, and I think it's quite misunderstood among the public. As a young woman with cerebral palsy I feel that it's an endless learning curve. I am always learning new things about this condition and how to cope with it. 
(some general pointers about cerebral palsy (source - world cerebral palsy day)

Today I want to share with you some of the things I've learned about having cerebral palsy, just to show you the complexities of this condition, and to help others understand it better. 

  • Cerebral palsy is non progressive, but the physical symptoms of this condition aren't static. I have spastic cerebral palsy which means my muscles are affected by spasticity, this makes them tight and can cause contractures and joint deformities. Sometimes my muscles are less tight than normal, depending on my treatment regimen. A good example of this is when I have botox injections, these temporarily make my muscles less spastic and tight which means that my pain is lessened and physio is easier to do. The key thing here is that although treatments help me manage my symptoms better and improve my quality of life, they don't give me an increased level of functioning, my impairments remain.
  • Cerebral palsy isn't just a childhood condition. Now you're probably thinking 'well obviously, there's no cure for CP.', but in my experience with healthcare, it's clear that it is viewed by many healthcare professionals as a childhood condition. I think this is because growth spurts present big problems for managing CP - in CP muscles grow slower than bones which creates complex problems. I think many medics (and parents and patients) believe that once a child finishes puberty the effects of CP will remain more or less the same and so no more treatment is required. In my experience, this wasn't case. I was discharged from my consultant aged 17, I was told I could stop wearing splints, physio was no longer necessary. Lo and behold, aged 20, I was back under the care of a consultant, my muscles had shortened to the extent that I needed four surgeries to eliminate contractures and I have accepted that I will need splints and stretches for life to try and manage my CP. Of course, what makes this difficult is that healthcare for adult CP patients is sparse. I currently see a paedatric consultant due to the lack of adult CP specialists.  
  • Everyone is affected differently. I really cannot emphasise this enough. In the past couple of years, I've spoke to a lot of people with cerebral palsy through the Hemihelp (twitter @hemihelp) charity, having previously never known or spoken to anyone with cerebral palsy before. In August, a few of us met up in London and the biggest thing I took from it is how varying our hemiplegia (my type of CP) was. I'd always just assumed that everyone with hemiplegia had the same functional abilities and limitations. So I'd say that be cautious about making assumptions about how someone with cerebral palsy is affected and remember that our lived experiences of this condition will be different. Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage, and the brain is one of the most complex things in the universe, so it kinda makes sense that CP will vary widely. 
  • The non-physical symptoms are just as important. Cerebral palsy is primarily a physical condition - it's physical effects on movement, function and posture are apparent and often very visible. However, CP very often comes with non-physical, invisible symptoms which often get overlooked. For me, I have visual perception issues which mean I cannot go unfamiliar places on my own as I cannot visualise the route I need to take. In school, I struggled with certain bits of maths which was incredibly distressing. For me, it was only as an adult that I realised that these were caused by my CP (thanks to the wonderful Hemihelp). However, these things have just as much impact on my daily living as my physical problems. I also have considerable fatigue and pain because of my CP, that makes it very difficult to function. 
  • Never understimate the importance of a support network. It's only as an adult that I've realised the importance of the support my family and partner provide. It enables me to do just about everything I do. I've also found talking to others with my condition invaluable, because it reassures me that I'm not alone, others understand what I'm going through, and can give me advice. 
  • Cerebral palsy doesn't define me. I am not just my cerebral palsy diagnosis, I am a person in my own right. I can still have similar ambitions as others my own age. For me, the past three years have been spent going through surgery and other treatments, I've had to put my life on hold that I sort of felt cerebral palsy was dominating my life. I've come to accept that there will be times where CP makes my life tricky, and it can be a headache trying to figure out how to manage it and get on with life, but it's important to remember it's not all that I am. 
These are just some of the lessons I've learnt about cerebral palsy in the past year or so. Feel free to tweet me (@thisisamy_) if you have any questions. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Atos are now miracle healers, apparently.


Today I want to share with you my ridiculous experience with Atos. In May, I was called for a work capability assessment (WCA) to assess my eligibility for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Obviously I was worried, there's been a lot of horror stories about people who are far more disabled than me being judged fit to work. Anyway, the DWP decided after the assessment that I was eligible for ESA and put me in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). This basically means that they don't expect me to apply for jobs right away, but they expect to move into paid employment in the future. I was happy with this decision. I do think I will be able to do some work in the future - but I do need support and time to get ready for work. I was also relieved because I knew I wouldn't be eligible for Job Seeker's Allowance - unless I flat out lie about the way my disability affects me. 

Anyway, all was fine and dandy, I attended my first work focussed interview with a lady from the job centre, and it was very positive. We both agreed that applying for voluntary work would be a good place to start with - it'd build up my self esteem, and allow me to test out my work capabilities. I've never worked (I couldn't manage studying for my degree and working so I have no idea what my kind of work is suitable or how many hours I can work. I do know that I will need support to work, I've needed support throughout my life - both in personal care and education- so it's totally unrealistic to expect myself to enter employment without needing support. 

About a week ago I received another esa50 form in the post, to reassess my eligibility for ESA. I initially thought it was a mistake, so I rang the DWP to ask if it was a mistake - and the lady said 'no it's not a mistake, your condition has a six month prognosis'. Flabbergast, I requested a copy of my WCA assessment to see what had been written. 

Anyway, a copy of the report arrived this morning, and in black and white it says 'I advise that work could be considered in six months' the reason given for this was 'The client's level of disability would be expected to improve'. (For some reason I can't upload the picture of the letter, but it's on my twitter @thisisamy_)

The person who assessed me was a qualified doctor. I'm unbelievably shocked that they have written that they expect my level of disability to improve. The first rule of cerebral palsy is that it doesn't improve. If you're lucky it stays the same. For me, it is a constant battle of surgery, splints, botox injections and physio to remain as mobile as I am now. My function won't improve because my brain has permanent damage that means my affected limbs are paralysed. Even non medically qualified people are able to understand that my condition won't improve. Indeed, my cerebral palsy is worsening, my body is struggling to cope with this disability. At the moment, if I have one 'busy' day my body takes a full two days to recover. This isn't meant to be a sob story, this is just my reality. This doctor seems to think my disability will improve within six months. There's no chance. I'll be lucky if my pain and fatigue that I get from my CP hasn't increased. I know full time work will never be an option, I'm not sure how many hours I could cope with at work before pain and fatigue becomes unbearable. That's why I need to do my voluntary work so I can see what my limitations are. In the meantime, I'm going to be reassessed every 6 months to see if my CP has improved - the stress this causes me is ridiculous. It's heightened even further because I know if my ESA is removed I won't be able to apply for JSA, so it's an all or nothing scenario. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Things I Have Learnt About Anxiety and Depression

This is a post I've wanted to write for a long time, but I haven't really felt strong or settled enough to sit down and think about my mental illnesses in depth. I really feel like since having CBT (and perhaps due to my medication) I've turned a corner and made real progress in how I manage my anxiety and depression. I'd really like to share with you things I've realised about these conditions and how I've developed ways to deal with the symptoms. I'm by no means cured of these illnesses, they still affect me, but I feel like I've got a bigger grip on them than previously. 

  • Avoidance - One of the biggest lessons I've learnt about anxiety/depression is that avoidance is the lifeblood of these illnesses. It allows them to thrive and creates a vicious circle. In CBT I was taught, that although you may engage in avoidance behaviours because they give you short term relief from your anxiety symptoms, long term avoidance is negative and a problem. I'll give you an example: when my anxiety was at its worse my avoidance behaviours got so out of control that I couldn't answer the buzzer to my flat. At first, my avoidance was relatively mild - I wouldn't go out the flat on my own because it made me too anxious, but then it just escalated to not being able to answer the buzzer. I have no idea why my anxiety got so bad, but I've realised that avoidance behaviours fuel anxiety and just worsen it. So by being aware of this I'm able to challenge my avoidance behaviours (easier said than done) and give myself small challenges to tackle the avoidance gradually. 
  • It's important to be kind to yourself. I find with depression and anxiety, I'm just in the habit of being absolutely horrible to myself. I used to tell myself I was a failure and that I would never amount to anything, and that I was a disappointment to everyone I knew. I remember being really ill with depression, I used to spend hours a day thinking incredibly negative nasty thoughts about myself. I've since learnt that this is not a healthy way to think, and that for every bad thing I think about myself, there will be a piece of evidence to counteract these negative thoughts, something objective. I find that when I'm thinking overly negative things I stop and think 'would I say these things to someone I loved?' if the answer is no, then I try to challenge these thoughts.
  • Control. Oh this is a big one, one of my biggest anxiety triggers is not being in control. I hate it, it always makes me dwell on the worst case scenario, because naturally I expect everything to go wrong, and if you're not in control of a situation, then to me that just means something will go wrong. However, I've come to realise (how I don't know) that sometimes in life somethings are out of your control, it's just part of life. I think part of my acceptance of this fact is realising it's not your fault if things do go wrong when you're out of control, indeed, it's not always your fault if you are in control when things go wrong. I find that anxiety can give you a sense of not being in control anyway - so on days when these feelings are really strong, I do something that is in my control. This might be something as simple as doing the washing up or a load of laundry - I just find it helps, it's probably because it acts as a distraction, I don't know.
  • Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. This is something we all tend to do and is generally quite hard to stop. I have to make a real effort to stop myself doing it, I have found that I have a tendency to compare myself to my peers so much and this was damaging my self esteem and making me incredibly low. I mean I'm 24 now, and seeing people I went to school with having good jobs, getting married and having babies, driving cars etc, just made me feel like an utter failure. However, I now realise, my life is not the same as their's, since I graduated with my first degree in 2010, everything just gradually fell to pieces and it ended up in a full on nervous breakdown. I've had to rebuild my life from scratch near enough - and as such that takes time. I'm learning to give myself credit for things I have done - I didn't quit my Masters degree even though I feared that going back would make my depression worse, I've managed to balance university whilst having four big surgeries in the space of two years. I haven't given up, I've not given up my recovery from these mental illnesses. All I'm trying to say is that, no two people's lives are the same, and my life is by no means a failure if I don't have things certain things other people have. I think part of the reason I compare myself to others so much is rooted in depression, people with depression often have incredibly high standards of themselves, and if they don't meet these standards they give themselves a hard time.
  • You can't rush recovery. I cannot emphasise this enough. When I was first diagnosed with depression, I was asking my GP and crisis team everyday 'well when will I be better'. I literally thought depression recovery was : take these antidepressants and bam, you'll feel better tomorrow. I honestly thought it was as simple as that. I now realise the best thing for recovery is time and patience. I reckon I was ill with depression for about two years prior to my diagnosis. It was only since I've started feeling better from depression that I've realised how long I was ill for, in fact, I'd just assumed my depression was my personality, I now know it was all the illness. So in theory, if I've been ill from depression for such a long time, then it will take a long time to recover from. I was repeatedly told by the mental health professionals that a slow and steady recovery is best. I now realise that is true. I view my recovery as unlearning all those negative ways of thinking, relearning how to think more positively, trying to quell avoidance behaviours and to lead a more balanced life. That's a lot of aims, and so logically, they'll take time. I'm in no rush to come off my medication because it's working and I'm keen to continue the progress. 
  • Be realistic about recovery. I've found talking to other people on twitter invaluable for this. I don't believe my recovery has an end point - I think my depression and anxiety will always need management to avoid relapse. I've accepted the anxiety is for life- I've always had it, so I think it's unrealistic to expect it to ever be cured. I get accused of being defeatist over this, but I've spent so many hours of my life wishing my anxiety away that it becomes exhausting and just fuels the anxiety. I think it's incredibly positive to say 'Yeah I'll always have anxiety, so I'm going to do all I can to self manage it'. It's not defeatist, it's realistic. With respect to my depression, I view it slightly differently, - I believe my depression is the result of incredibly stressful life circumstances that pushed me until breaking point. I don't want to discuss the personal circumstances here, but I believe they were a major contributory factor to developing depression. So as such, I think it will be possible for me to not be ill with depression. It will take time and effort, but I don't think it's impossible to think one day my depression might not be present. At the same time, I'm realistic, if it doesn't ever go away, fine, I'll accept that, and do what I can to manage. I do think my nervous breakdown has changed me in some ways. I look at it as scar tissue, I don't believe that I can be so ill with depression that you can ever be completely the same person you were before it. I think the nervous breakdown has left scarring on me, it's changed me. I think it's ultimately positive, because the nervous breakdown made me take depression seriously, so it's a lesson for the future. 
I could go on writing forever about the things  I've learnt about managing anxiety and depression, but maybe I'll save it for a second post. Writing this was actually quite therapeutic, it's good to reflect on how far my recovery has come. This will be good to read when I'm having a bad day. 

Thanks for reading, and feel free to ask any questions.


Monday, 5 August 2013

It's not just a word.

This is a part ranting, part polite post to ask people to consider not using ableist language such as 'spazz' 'spack' etc. I've noticed on twitter (and elsewhere) a lot of people using this word, and then when challenged, they claim they didn't realise it was a nasty, horribly offensive word. 

In case you're unaware, 'spazz' and 'spack' are abbreviations of the word 'spastic'. Spastic is a descriptive word used to describe a type of cerebral palsy. I myself have spastic cerebral palsy. It means my muscles are affected by spasticity. Spasticity refers to an unusual tightness and stiffness to muscles, it usually occurs because of brain damage. Spasticity means that muscles become difficult or even impossible to use. It can cause pain because muscles that are tight and stiff can ache and become uncomfortable. It also inhibits function because if muscles are tight and stiff they permanently shorten, this can mean that joints are held in a flexed (bent position) therefore limiting their usage. That is what spasticity and spastic means. 

I can't remember the first time I heard the words 'spack' or 'spazz' or when I even realised they were derogatory terms used to describe people like me. I know I was a child though, because I remember hearing them in school and feeling like I'd been kicked in the stomach. I think I may have realised when kids in school used to do impressions of 'spacks' and I realised they were holding their hands in the same way my hand was. Luckily, I was very rarely called a spack or a spazz to my face. That wasn't to say I wasn't teased because of my cerebral palsy, I was. I was called peg leg Jim throughout my primary school years because I wore a splint on my leg and had a limp. 

I've had people say to me when I've challenged the usage of these slurs that it's just a word and that I don't have the right not to be offended. All I can say to that is that, it's easy for people who are not emotionally affected by such words to say that. As a disabled person, I'm acutely aware of the ableism in society and the barriers I face. To me, the fact that these words are thrown around freely is another barrier. These words have negative connotations and are used in a negative context. People apparently use these words to describe acting like a fool, or being socially awkward, or for being clumsy and dropping things. I don't think my spastic cerebral palsy means I act in this way, or if I did, I don't think my CP is to blame. It's not too bold to suggest that people using such slurs to describe these things could lead to people having negative assumptions about my condition which could impact upon life experiences for people with spastic cerebral palsy. 

Please don't think I'm policing language or whatever, I'm not, I just wanted to say my piece. I've spent a lot of my time talking to others with cerebral palsy and a lot say that they hate this word and that it upsets them. I've spent a long time keeping my fury about these words locked up. I used to feel ashamed and embarrassed when people use these words around me, it made me feel like my cerebral palsy was something to be ashamed of because I knew these were negative words and therefore that must mean that having cerebral palsy was shameful, something to be embarrassed about. Language is powerful, it's emotive, it impacts on people. It has consequences, such words aren't 'just words'. I get that people might use these words and not realise what they mean, I do. That's partly why I've written this to help people understand the origins of the word and to help them understand why some people will be hurt by their usage. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

An urgent call for action on Atos.


I just thought I'd share the letter I've sent to my MP pleading for answers and action on Atos. Unless you've been living under a rock you'll probably be aware that Atos have been failing disabled people very badly. I've been rather angry since more news emerged this week showing that 40% of Atos assessments are unacceptably poor and I knew I needed to voice my concerns. I know it's probably a futile exercises writing to my MP, but I can't just vent on Twitter. So here's the letter I've just sent off:

I am writing to you to express my concern about Atos. As you are aware, Atos currently have contracts to assess disabled and sick people for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). It has become increasingly clear that Atos (and the work capability assessment) are failing vulnerable people woefully. 

In the midst of the royal baby excitement, important news broke that the DWP has instructed Atos to raise their standards. It emerged that 40% of Atos assessments were 'unacceptably poor. That is no small number, it clearly indicates that the system is broken and in need of urgent remedy. One of the consequences of the failure of Atos is that appeals to overturn atos decisions are costing the taxpayer more and more money - the number of appeals have more than trebled in four years.

 Of course, it's not just the financial cost of poor Atos decisions and subsequent appeals that needs noting. The human cost of Atos incompetency is much greater. If you are one of the unlucky 4 in 10 that experiences a poor atos assessment, you will likely have your entitlement to ESA stopped and told to go get a job and put in a JSA claim. What happens if you're too disabled or ill to seek and hold down a job? It regularly takes months and months of waiting until you get a tribunal date to get your atos decision overturned. In the meantime, the stress and strain of the uncertainty can cause a deterioration in both physical and mental health in people that are already having to cope with illness and disability. It's not just the disabled person this impacts upon, but also carers and families who will have to offer more emotional and practical and financial support to help them through the Atos crisis. The situation is getting increasingly desperate and  more and more horror stories are emerging. We've had whistleblowers speaking out against the callous way they've been told to treat disabled people. We've heard of many people committing suicide in the wake of wrong atos decisions and poor treatment. There's frequent reports of Atos 'doctors' subjecting disabled people to humiliating treatment, such as one doctor telling an incontinent lady to wear a nappy to work. It is a system which is completely devoid of compassion and humanity. It's reported that Atos receive £3billion for their contracts. I believe it's in the interests of the taxpayer for the government to take urgent action against Atos before any more lives are lost or ruined.  

In the wake of the news of unacceptably poor Atos assessments, Mark Hoban announced that new firms would be brought in to conduct assessments from Summer 2014. I would like to know why the government think its fair and acceptable to subject disabled people to poor assessments in the meantime? I would also like to know who in government is being held accountable for the failings of Atos? It is simply not acceptable to place all the blame on Atos. Someone in government has allowed this Atos incompetency to continue, despite repeated warnings and evidence that the Atos situation is not working. I do believe the Conservatives and Lib Dems have missed an open goal here to right the wrong of Labour. It was Labour who created this Atos and WCA, however, your reluctance to take action urgently means a sizable portion of blame lies at your door. 

Thank you for reading I look forward to hearing from you. 

Saturday, 20 July 2013

My experiences with CBT.

Today I want to talk about my experiences with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which I was prescribed in order to help with my anxiety and depression. In case you're unaware, I had a nervous breakdown in April 2012, this was a result of ignoring my symptoms of depression and anxiety until I basically snapped. I currently take medication for these illnesses (a mixture of antidepressants and anti-psychotics). My very supportive GP suggested that CBT might be useful for me, particularly with the anxiety. It took me nearly a year to feel mentally strong enough to be able to cope with the demands of CBT. In case you don't know, CBT is a talking therapy that aims to challenge maladaptive thoughts and behaviours which contribute to mental illness. 

My CBT took the form of weekly two hour group therapy sessions, over a course of six weeks. The course was lead by 3 psychologists and there were about twelve participants in the group. It was structured really well, each week focussed on a completely new area such as an overview of mental illnesses,maladaptive thinking, unhelpful behaviours, coping mechanisms, healthy lifestyle and preventing relapse. The structure of the course was good, as it focussed on a completely new area each week it meant that you didn't become overwhelmed by having information overload. Initially, the group format really scared me, I'm a bit socially anxious, so I was incredibly nervous about going there about my mental health. It took a lot of courage, in the end I was grateful for the group format because everyone was so supportive and it made me realise that absolutely anyone can be affected by mental illness. There was a real mix of people: a retired lady, a fellow young disabled lady, an ex-soldier, it really was quite diverse. We were set homework each week which forced us to reflect on the course and to look at mental illness in a problem-focused rather than an emotion-focused way. 

CBT was eye-opening for me. I've had anxiety ever since I can remember and so I thought I knew all there was to know about it. However, CBT really made me understand why my anxiety was so debilitating and hard to deal with. I got an insight into why thoughts and behaviours are the lifeblood of anxiety. We were shown 'thinking traps' ( and I realised this was the only way I thought! I also realised that avoidance behaviours (which I engage in A LOT) were a sure fire way to exacerbate anxiety. 

A problem I picked up on with CBT, is that it almost seems to good to be true. It breaks down anxious and depressive thoughts and behaviours into such a simple and obvious way that you read it and think that's all anxiety/depression is so it should easily be a cure for these horrendous illnesses. In reality, anxiety/depression is so much more than just a set of thoughts and behaviours and that's why I don't see CBT as some miracle thing. 

Having said that, CBT has definitely helped me in numerous ways. Initially, I thought it was a waste of time as I still felt low and like a worry doll. However, I've noticed real differences in the way I'm thinking and behaving, albeit these are quite subtle, but hey, I'll take any improvement!
 Some examples of improvements include setting myself realistic goals. People with anxiety/depression often set themselves huge unattainable goals,  because they expect incredibly high standards of themselves. One thing I used to do was tell myself I needed to find a full time job right now and if I didn't I was a failure otherwise. Now, I've realised that full time work is never going to be an option for me, my cerebral palsy just makes that impossible. CBT has really helped me manage my expectations, I've come to terms with the fact that F/T is not possible and there's no shame in that. It's helped me realise that maybe volunteer work is a good option to start with, so that I can see what I'm capable of, and to build up my self esteem which is at rock bottom. 

CBT has also helped my positivity, and to lose a bit of the negative focus. Here's an example: in the past two years I've had four surgeries and six lots of botox to help with my cerebral palsy. My last surgery on 29th May has been a brilliant success. I had my tendons released in my hand and muscle removed from my thumb - the result is a beautifully open hand and I'm so so happy. Meanwhile, my leg is just getting worse and worse, and the consultant has told me further muscle lengthening surgery would be a big, big risk. Now, pre CBT I would just have focussed on the negative and get really angry at myself. I used to blame myself for the fact my disability was getting worse, instead I've realised that I have no control over my CP, so there's no point worrying about it. I'm complying to my treatment recommendations so I'm doing all I can, and that's a positive thing. 

I think CBT has helped me accept having anxiety and depression and the fact that recovery is a continual process and that there isn't an end point. I've always had anxiety, I'm convinced it's a part of my personality and therefore I'll always have it. Initially, this may strike you as defeatist and pessimistic, however for me, it's a positive thing. I've wasted endless hours wishing I could be 'normal' wishing that I would just snap out of anxiety and depression. I've resented the fact that I have them. That isn't healthy and probably feeds them. However, I've realised, that by not fighting them, by not trying to 'get better' it means they've lessened their grip on me. I have more control. I ignored the symptoms of depression for a good two years and as a result it made me incredibly ill. I've realised by accepting the fact depression & anxiety are always in the background it's probably a good thing. It means I can be aware of possible triggers and just to take good care of myself basically. I suppose this is all part of the steep learning curve that is mental illness. 

So for me, I'd say that CBT has certainly helped, it hasn't got rid of my mental illnesses but it's definitely given me a different perspective. I've gained a good insight into anxiety and depression, such that I'm able to recognise unhealthy thoughts and behaviours and it's equipped me with strategies to deal with them. I only completed my course six weeks ago, so it's still early days, I won't know if it's had a long term impact yet. I think the real test will be how my mental health will be in the winter, as I'm certain I get a touch of SAD. 

Thanks for reading and feel free to tweet me (@thisisamy_) if you have any questions!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

Today I'm going to share my chicken noodle miso soup recipe. It's a super easy one, that healthy and tasty as well. 

Ingredients (Serves 4, or two hungry people!)

900ml miso soup mix. (I bought mine from Tesco, I use two sachets)
2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts
100g rice noodles (or egg if you prefer)
1 thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated. 
1 plump garlic clove, peeled and crushed. 
4 spring onions, peeled and thinly sliced. 
2 tbsp dark soy sauce. 
1/2 can sweetcorn (drained)
4 mushrooms, peeled and thinly sliced. 

1. Make up the miso soup mix and add to a large sauce pan. Add the chicken breasts (whole), garlic and ginger. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through. You'll know it's cooked through when the plumpest part of the breast has no pink remaining & juices run clear.This should take around 20-25 minutes.
2. Take the chicken out and put on a chopping board. Add the sweetcorn, mushrooms, spring onions and noodles to the soup. Simmer for around 5 minutes
3. Meanwhile, using a fork, shred the chicken breasts. Return to the soup.
4. Add the dark soy sauce and serve. 

And there you have it, lovely chicken noodle soup, told you it was easy! This is a really good recipe to adapt to your personal taste, you can use prawns, pork, spinach, you can add chillies if you want spice. 

Let me know if you make this!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: My Experiences with Education (Part 2.)

Hi All! 

Firstly thanks to everyone who read my first instalment in this duo I have decided to write as part of my contribution for cerebral palsy awareness month, I had a great response, it's really appreciated. 

So today I'm going to share my experiences with you about my time in further education and higher education. After completing my GCSES, I enrolled at college to do A levels in Psychology, Sociology and English language and literature. I knew from a young age that I wanted to go to university, initially I wanted to  obtain a degree in law, but I decided to pursue a degree within the realms of the social sciences as I find human behaviour endlessly fascinating, and I want a career where I can help people. 

For me, I was really lucky with my further education college. It was literally at the end of my road, so I only had a short walk each day. This enabled me to pop back home frequently during the day to swap over books and folders so I wasn't carrying stuff around unnecessarily. I was also incredibly lucky in that I had a very good friendship group and one of my friends, Calum would carry my folders around for me, I didn't even have to ask, he just took them off me. I'll never forget such a lovely, simple gesture. In terms of disability support, my college provided me with a ground floor locker to store things. They also allowed me to have 25% extra time for exams, with regular rest breaks. This really helped me do very well in exams as I it allowed me to take my time, so that my writing could be legible. I was also offered the opportunity to do my exams on a laptop, but I declined as I thought my typing would go haywire with exam nerves, however it might help others. The rest breaks were great too. I have kyphosis and scoliosis because of my cerebral palsy and I find it really affects my posture, sitting down for long periods triggers really bad pain, so getting up to walk about was a great thing. That's all I've got to say about further education, to be honest, the level of support was much the same as secondary school. It was tough doing subjects which were very wordy and quite labour intensive; however, I was focussed on going to university as well as being incredibly interested in the subjects so I didn't mind the challenge. 

Now, onto university. I have so much to say about this. Deciding to go to university was a huge decision, equally terrifying and exciting. I decided I wanted to move away for university. For me, it was a great opportunity to grow up, get some independence, as well as obtaining a great qualification. Now, my parents and I realised that to achieve this ambition would require a lot of planning, researching and thinking to meet the challenges my cerebral palsy presented. There was limits in my ability to do everyday domestic tasks, and in terms of self care. I was really keen on going to Liverpool, as it wasn't too far from home, and seemed a lovely city. I loved the look of Liverpool Hope University, so I went to meet the disability officer there and she was honestly so positive and supportive, that it put mine and my my parent's minds at rest that I'd be happy if I went there. The campus itself was lovely and small, so it'd be easy to get around. The residential halls were on campus, so I wouldn't have a lot of walking, or have to travel on public transport to get to lectures. So it was very disabled friendly. 

I was initially very overwhelmed after my first meeting with the disability officer. I hadn't realised quite how many obstacles and challenges my cerebral presented on a daily basis. I mean, I was 17 years old at the time, and in the difficult transitional period of going from a child with a disability to an adult with a disability. I was used to my Mum doing everything that was difficult, without a second thought. If I went to university, I'd be standing on my own two feet for the first time ever. We were informed that we could apply for help from social services to provide financial support, so I could buy my own care. This took a lot of fighting, and writing to my MP to agree for them to fund my move to university. Very stressful! In hindsight, I couldn't have done without it though. Going to university really made me realise how much cerebral palsy impacted on my life, and in some senses it was a bitter pill to swallow. Luckily the fact that sharp shock was needed to achieve an ambition helped. 

In terms of assistance to cope with the challenges the actual studying of the degree presented. I was advised to apply for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). This was a grant to allow me to meet the extra financial costs my cerebral palsy imposed on me whilst studying. I used it to buy note taking support, (could not have coped without it!), I used it to fund ink/paper so that I could use my time better and not waste precious energy copying things from the computer. It also paid for me to have a height adjustable desk and a bespoke chair to cope with the poor posture associated with my CP. If I'm honest, this did not help alleviate any back pain. It also funded Dragon Naturally Speaking software and a computer. As I'm one-handed, I am very prone to repetitive strain injury in my good hand, so anything to minimise the amount of typing I had to do was welcomed. The DSA was very flexible in allowing me to purchase things if an unforeseen issue crept up related to my CP. 

The university itself were very supportive of my disability. They gave me a ground floor flat, to save me having to go up and down stairs. Every Tuesday one of the lovely domestic staff would come in and hoover my bedroom, whilst I was at uni. All this extra help really helped me do well at university, by minimising the effects of my disability. I also continued to have extra exam time and rest breaks. However, it was tough. I wasn't your typical student, I'd go to bed early every night, and spent every spare minute doing uni work. I did my degree full time, so the workload was heavy. My CP makes me so tired that I simply had no spare energy after lectures and studying to go out and party. Luckily, I'm am introvert anyway, so to me I didn't feel I was missing out. 

So anyway, In July 2010 I graduated with a degree in Psychology and Criminology, and was sure that I wanted to do a Masters degree. I decided to do it in Health Psychology, as I was keen to work with disabled people afterwards. It became apparent to me that it would be a good idea to do my MSc part time, because the course itself looked demanding, and I wanted to do it to the best of my ability, and I couldn't do that if I was tired all the time. This meant it would be a two year course instead of one, but getting a good grade was my priority.  I would say that the support I received for my post graduate degree was much the same, as obviously my needs were the same. In the end, my decision to go part-time was vindicated, as I had just been re-referred back to an orthopaedic consultant for increasing pain and deformity with my CP. As a result, I needed lots of botox, serial casting, and eventually three operations in the space of 18 months. This was tough to fit in around studying, but the uni were supportive, and gave me extensions as and when I needed them. On top of this, I ended up getting diagnosed with depression in April 2012, just as I was finishing my degree. I had to pause my studying, and focus on recovering from depression. That was the unbelievably tough, I was scared to go back to university, for fearing that I couldn't cope with the pressure. Luckily, I did, uni were very patient with me, telling me to focus on myself. My dissertation took months longer than I anticipated to finish, but I did it. I'm now awaiting my grade, and hope to graduate this summer. 

This turned into a bit of a rambling post didn't it? Anyway, I guess I just wanted to share my experiences with how cerebral palsy and university fit together. I think it was probably scarier for my parents, the thought of me moving 50 miles away from home, and not knowing how I'd cope on my own. I think it's one of those cases where you have to feel the fear and do it anyway! 

My best advice for anyone with cerebral palsy planning to go to university is to RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! You have to think of you care needs as well as the any additional education needs. Really quiz the university on their disability support. And trust your instincts, if you don't feel they'll take your disability seriously, then don't go there. Forward planning is key, it's not something you can rush into. Applying for disabled students allowance, support from social services, can take a long time, plus any appeals! So try and apply way ahead of time. Try and speak to others with the same condition as you, see how they coped with the challenges of university. Chances are they have words of wisdom to share. (The HemiHelp Facebook page will always have young people on hand). I found it helpful to research possible careers related to my degree beforehand. I didn't want to fork out thousands of pounds for a degree to find out that the possible careers would be off limits to me! Finally, be honest with your university about your disability. If you feel you need extra help, like an extension, ask  for it. You don't want to suffer in silence, at the expense of your degree mark. It's best to ask for extensions early on, in case they think you've just left the work at last minute! 

Happy Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month! As ever, any questions, just ask. You can also catch me on twitter (@thisisamy_)


Me and Adam, Graduation day!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: My Experiences with Education (Part 1)

March marks Cerebral Palsy awareness month. I think this is a great initiative. Cerebral palsy is one of the most common disabilties affecting children and it's effects on affected individuals varies greatly. As it's such a prevalent condition, yet is not so well understood amongst the public, I think it's great to try and raise awareness about this condition.

 As a person with cerebral palsy I feel that it is my duty to make a contribution to this campaign. I decided that one area I would like to talk about was education. I know from participating in the Hemihelp and Scope forums that education is one area that causes angst and worry for parents with kids with CP. Education is so important for any child and it's not straightforward for parents of kids with CP to decide what is best for their child. Should they go mainstream? Should they attend special school? Should they be statemented? What extra needs will they have during their school career? The list of questions really is endless. My experience with education as a child with a disability was really mixed. It was a tale of two halves. In this first post I want to talk about primary and secondary school and then I will do another post detailing my experiences with further education and higher education. 

Primary School.

My parents felt that mainstream school was the most appropriate for me to attend. So I ended up going to my local primary school, where there was roughly 25-30 kids to a class. At this point, I was not in reciept of a statement. For those that don't know, A statement of special education needs is a statement documenting that a child has extra needs due to a disability, or health condition, that affect their ability to learn. This means that the school recieve extra money for that child to provide the appropriate support. This money could be used to provide extra staff to help the child, or to provide exrta materials. Not surprisingly, these are difficult to obtain, and often require attendance at a tribunal to recieve the statement. If won, the statement is usually reviewed annually, to ensure the child's needs are met. I'm not entirely sure why I did not receive a statement. I think maybe as I was so young, the full extent of my disability was not yet known. In hindsight, I think it was wrong that I wasn't statemented, as the lack of support during primary school made life more difficult that it probably should have been. 

I'll be honest, I hated primary school. I was treated as a 'normal' child, in that I didn't have any additional needs. I'll give you one such example. My cerebral palsy means that I have difficulty holding the paper still when writing, and I find it difficult to keep my writing tidy. I remember being told off by my teacher for having messy writing. I also had difficulty drawing lines as using a ruler and drawing a line is not easy to do one handed. I always felt under pressure to do this as well as my classmates. You're probably thinking why didn't I just ask for help. Well, when you're a child aged between 6-10. It's not always that easy. I felt that as the class was so big, I'd be a nuisance asking for help. When I was in primary school, I didn't even realise I had a disability. Yeah I wore splints, and couldn't do skipping, handstands etc, but I didn't realise I was different. Or if I did, I didn't realise that not being able to write neatly was related to my cerebral palsy. For me, at that age, the extent of my disability was 'I can't use my left hand, and I wear purple splints'. I never told my parents about how unsupported I felt, not until I was an adult. I think it could have left with me low self esteem. But, I excelled at other areas such as reading and spelling, so I guess that helped keep my confidence at a good level. 

The other thing that made me hate primary school was Maths. I am really really bad at maths. Now, this is related to hemiplegia. I only realised this as an adult, but boy, was maths hard. Only certain aspects though. Algebra and shapework I cannot do. You could explain it to me a million times and I won't be able to do it. My parents were so concerned about my maths ability that they paid for me to have extra maths tuition through Kumon maths. It was a limited sucess because no amount of tuition could make up ammends for my very specific maths difficulties. Luckily, I was excellent at mental arithmetic and other areas of maths, so I was able to compensate. None of the teachers ever picked up that I struggled so badly in a few areas, but I think because my SATS were results were average, I guess it never caught their attention. 

 I can't really remember much else of primary school, other than that it was a miserable time. Luckily, secondary school was a complete contrast. 

Secondary School

My local comprehensive was a large school, circa 2000 students. It's the largest school in Shropshire so my parents had strong reservations about sending me there. My Mum's concerns were justified when we went for a visit and she noted that it was all stairs (not good with my weak leg, poor balance) and limited disabled access. What really convinced her that I would not be attending was the fact that as soon as they heard my CP diagnosis, they automatically assumed I would be going in the SEN unit away from my classmates. Basically, they assumed that because I had CP, I was intellectully disabled when I was not. 

Anyway, we went to look around a much smaller school (total 500 pupils) and it was perfect. They were so supportive of my disability, encouraging my Mum to apply for a SEN statement so they could offer me tailor made support. Unfortunately, as we lived 8 miles away, we weren't in the catchment area, so my parents had a hard fight to get me enrolled. Luckily we won, and in hindsight, getting statemented and getting accepted at that school was one of the best things to ever happen to me. 

Secondary school was a happy time for me. I was becoming more aware of my disability, and my limitations, but my school were amazing at meeting my needs. Some of the specific things my statement allowed me to have access to was : one to one support in practical subjects such as science, technology and maths. This was brilliant because while having that extra person there might have marked me out as different, it enabled me to participate more fully and be equal to my peers. I was also given one handed friendly maths equipment (magnetic ruler and protractor) so I could do these bits of maths without extra assistance. I had a ground floor locker and a box in my form room so I didn't have to carry all my books around. I was allowed to leave lessons 5 minutes early to avoid busy corridors and rushing about. When I was in year 9, I had to have 8 weeks off school for surgery, but work was sent home, and I didn't fall behind. 

Naturally my parents worried about how I would cope as I approached my GCSEs but I was well supported. It was decided I would be allowed 25% extra time for exams, which was fabulous. To help me cope with the fatigue I get from CP, I was allowed to do one less GCSE and I used the free lesson time to do coursework and home work. This was great because as people with CP use so much more energy, I often got home from school and slept most of the evenings and weekend so it was difficult to do all my extra school work.

During PE, I was allowed complete control over whether I wanted to participate in activities. Some team games such as netball and hockey I sat out as I felt unsafe with my poor balance and worried about getting knocked over. However I happily participated in badminton and fitness. 

The only problem that remained throughout my school days was maths. My parents and I didn't realise that my specific maths learning difficulties were connected to hemiplegia, so no support was sought. When I was a child, all medical interventions were based on the physical aspects of cerebral palsy. So the invisible aspects were neglected due to ignorance. Luckily I achieved a C in maths and since learning that maths issues are related to hemiplegia, I've put my frustrations to bed. 

Trying to decide what support is appropriate for a child with cerebral palsy is difficult. Not eveyone is affected the same, so a 'one size fits all approach' won't work. Some parents worried that statementing a kid might lead to them feeling different, or being labelled. However, my experience with statementing was incredibly positive. It didn't mark me out as different, but it allowed me to reach my potential. I truly believe that without it, I wouldn't have got my great GCSEs or ended up as university. It allowed me to be equal to my peers and minimised the challenges cerebral palsy presented. I think parents just have to make sure that they are aware of all aspects of cerebral palsy and to be flexible in what they are prepared to do. It's often just a case of dealing with challenges as  they happen.

Thanks for reading, and happy Cerebral Palsy Awareness month!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Response to the Daily Mail Cartoon debacle.


Just a quick post today. So, on 25th February, the Daily Mail published this cartoon, accompanying the article discussing how many disabled people are rushing to claim Disability Living Allowance before it is phased out to make way for it's replacement, PIP. 

Understandably this cartoon caused fury and outrage amongst social networking sites. In fact, I was so infuriated by what I saw as disabilist propaganda, that I felt moved to complain to the cartoonist, as well as report this to the Press Complaints Comission. I know we have come to expect such atrocities as this from the Daily Mail, but I have had just about enough. Disabled people are suffering disproportionately with austerity, and we are constantly being demonised and stigmatised by the likes of this vile paper that I lost my patience and bit back. 

Anyway, I sent an email explaining that not only was this cartoon offensive, it was also wholly inaccurate. Now, my condition is permanent, it's incurable and impacts greatly on my life. I have been through the process of applying numerous times, (in fact since I was a child) and every few years the DWP make me jump through hoops, to prove that my cerebral palsy hasn't spontaeously got better, and that my care needs, and mobility needs are still the same. Whilst I think it's a bit ridicuclous I am continually reassessed given my condition, I can in someways understand it. It still doesn't excuse the fact it creates much stress and uncertainity. Also, DLA. doesn't make it better. It doesn't get rid of the pain, the tiredness or the inability to do certain things that comes with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. I should note that, although I have long since accepted my disability, and I am proud and happy to be who I am, I HATE relying on state support. I hate admitting that I need help every single day. I don't think I'll ever get used to that. Anyway I am majorly digressing, I decided to blog the response from the email, since tweeters were asking what the response was, and it's a little difficult on twitter to reduce it to 140 characters.

So here was the response:

Dear Ms Jones

Many thanks for contacting our cartoonist, Jonathan Pugh.  Both he and the Mail sincerely regret if you found his cartoon, regarding the Disability Living Allowance, offensive.

His sole intention was to mock those who claim that the DLA system is such an easy touch and the minority who aim to abuse the system to the detriment of genuine claimants.  It is the role of the cartoonists to satirize and provoke. By suggesting something so preposterous the cartoonist hoped to make it abundantly clear that the idea of someone claiming for a blister was a joke. Neither he nor we were implying that genuine claimants should not be fully supported.

Nevertheless, we appreciate you taking the time and trouble to respond to us and we have taken your concerns on board.

Now, whilst I appreciate the response, I am not impressed. I totally missed this interpretation of the cartoon. Given the Daily Mail's reputation for being grossly inaccuarate and misleading on disability welfare issues, I do not for a minute agree with this response. I also don't think that the majority readers will see the purpose of this cartoon. If their commments are anything to go by, they already ignorantly think claiming DLA is an easy process, with the disability benefit handed out for the most trivial of ailments. 

I still think I was right to complain and to be upset by it. I guess it's all a matter of interpretation. 


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Carrot & Coriander Soup Recipe

Hello all. I appear to have been MIA with respect to this blog, but I'm back to share a yummy soup recipe with you! This soup is a good old classic, carrot and coriander, but I actually made it for the first time ever today. We currently have snow in Shropshire, so it's the perfect day to make this winter warmer.


1 white onion, chopped.
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped (this is to thicken the soup, so add less if you prefer it thinner)
1 tsp ground coriander
450g carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1L of vegetable stock (I religiously use Kallo)
A good handful of fresh coriander, stalks and all! 


1. In a large saucepan, fry the onion for 5 minutes. Add the ground coriander and stir.
2. Add the potato and fry  for 5 minutes until it begins to soften.
3. Mix up the stock and add to the pan, along with the chopped carrots. Simmer gently for 20 or so minutes until the carrots are soft.
4. Take off the heat, when cooled, add to the blender along with the fresh coriander. Season with salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. 
5. Serve hot with crusty bread. You can add a swirl of natural yoghurt, cracked black pepper and a few leaves of coriander as a garnish if you like!