Getting Active Again

So I am now “one of those people”I have started Couch to 5K ( a 9 week running programme) This won’t sound that remarkable to most people. A lot of people have exercise integrated into their lives, but it has taken me a long time to get back into it.

Spoiler: this post does not contain any before and after pictures, neither does it contain any inspirational quotes.

Why have I bothered?

I used to run when I was at School – always long distance. People thought I was mad for liking cross country but it was something I could do relatively well; running for my district and my county sometimes. But I didn’t keep the exercise up while I was at uni which was an error. I forgot the positive feeling of running and when I discovered my body wasn’t as healthy as I thought it was  in my early twenties I had kind of resigned myself, rather sadly, to never putting my trainers on again. I did yoga and the like but I didn’t really see myself as the regular gym going type.

I envied my friends who seemed to always be out on their bikes, or doing marathons and other amazing things, tracking their exercise and living by their fitbits but was never compelled to try and follow suit – seeing this level of activity as unattainable now my body decided it wanted to act as though I was an old lady. To this day, whenever I find my body struggling to do basic things I refer to it as being my old lady body or OLB for short.

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Healthy body, healthy mind?

In addition to my physical health, the prospect of going to the gym, running in public and the associated little/no make up look that often goes with it was also daunting for my mental health as well! I did try the gym for a while pre-instagram boom and anxiety had me in a state where I was convinced as soon as I left the gym people were laughing at me for even trying. I told myself that if I couldn’t do a ‘reasonable’ stint at the gym (what does that even mean?) It wasn’t worth going at all.

But here I am, almost on week 3 of ‘couch to 5K’. Going to the gym every other day, I have even having managed going running in public more than once. Week 1 I felt constantly shattered,  asking myself when I would feel like #thisgirlcan  and “I don’t sweat, I glow”. I wondered where the boundless energy associated with being healthy, could be located. But I have pushed through and I now think that doing something is better than doing nothing.

We live amidst an instagram frenzy with almost everyone on there and tons of lifestyle and fitness posts. I already notice a difference in gym goers. The guys are more muscly and the girls are leaner-more power to them but that is kind of intimidating as I kill myself on a treadmill.

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I get the impression that there is increasing pressure on young people to look good or to be living life in a certain way. I used to think the pressure was mainly on women but now I can see guys are expected to look a certain way as well. I can’t imagine what it must be like for someone who aspires to look like the instagram posts we see and is battling inner demons like the ones I have described above. I’m surprised at myself and am apprehensive that I will hit a wall sometime soon, but I’m no longer making excuses.

This post isn’t meant as a brag, I’m just happy my body is currently letting me get out of bed and more. I’m feeling a tad more positive and as though I now earn any time I choose to sit on the couch and do very little.

My next step is to make sure I couple this exercise with some decent, healthy food before/after the gym. Any tips on that would be gratefully received; @eemaalou 

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Do you have Endometriosis? Has it impacted on your education?

This is going to be a very hastily put together post as I want to be able to get the word out there about this as quickly as possible.

If you are in the UK and suffer with Endometriosis and have had your education (school, college, uni) affected by the condition and would like to find out ways of dealing with those issues please join Endometriosis UK  for an online meeting during awareness week on 7th March at 8pm on Skype. All details about this meeting and how to sign up can be found here .

I help run the Southampton Support Group of Endo UK with my friend Becca and the online support groups were a great way for me to get involved and chat with other women with the same condition for a sense of solidarity and support.

Just to share my experience with this, in the hope others feel able to do the same (and maybe join in with the meeting mentioned above) I have had my education interrupted by this condition in lots of ways. I was not diagnosed until after university even and I can look back and think of times when I know it had an adverse affect on my ability to go to School or lectures.

endo uk

School 

My mum used to have to keep me home as periods were a nightmare for me. I used to faint, throw up and be in so much pain I couldn’t move. At times this meant having to stay home for weeks. I am lucky my mum sympathised and that my School didn’t put up too much of a fight but there are young women who are going through this now who do not have that sam understanding School or College and who struggle to be taken seriously. Invisible chronic illness is often met with defensiveness from Teachers and other School staff when in fact they should be helping pupils in this position.

University 

Still by University I didn’t have a diagnosis but I continued to have problems. At one point I went to the doctors and in their frustration that none of their suggestions had worked they said “Well, you must have had a miscarriage then!” At 19 to be told that, in the middle of your studies…it hits you hard! Needless to say I called my mum, in tears, immediately and she was not impressed that he had scared me like that.

I was lucky that it didn’t interfere with my lectures so much but I know there are young women out there who have Endometriosis and they struggle daily and find it hard to put things into words when explaining things to staff who are there to help them.

Anyway, I may end up sharing some more of my experiences during the online meeting on 7th March. My main message is that you are not alone, there is support there for you and Endo UK can be on hand to advise and help you through the hard times, even when it feels like things won’t get any better.

If you feel like showing support to women with endo, there is also an event on 19th March where we are all getting together to march in London to raise awareness. Worldwide Endo March is a great way of meeting other people with the condition and to make sure people  take it seriously as a condition.

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Endo march 2015

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Weekend just passed I took part in the Million Woman Endo March 2015 in London. The aim of this was to raise awareness of Endometriosis which you may have seen me blog about before. March is/was (we’re on the last day of it now) Endometriosis awareness month so it was the perfect time to hold a march.

Why is this important?

1 in 10 women in the UK have endometriosis and there is a small charity called Endometriosis UK which supports the million and something women in the UK who have endo. There are as many women with endo as there are people with diabetes (just to put some perspective on it) diabetes charities have A LOT more staff and A LOT more awareness. Everyone has heard of diabetes, right? And while this is great they have that support, with so many women having endo isn’t it about time there was something done for them as well? It’s something that, if diagnosed earlier can have far more treatment options – although there is no cure. The fact GPs don’t always know much about it or don’t have access to sufficient information about support means many women are left undiagnosed, in the dark about what a diagnosis means or left feeling completely alone with a condition which impacts areas of the body that don’t come up in ‘normal’ conversation.

What did we do?

We marched along Embankment, past Big Ben and into Parliament Square, all around there and to Downing street, we then made are way along to Trafalgar square. We carried banners, held placards and passed out information leaflets. There wasn’t any shouting or balling, just a walk with people whose lives are impacted by endo, showing solidarity and trying to raise awareness as lots of people and cars passed us.

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How did people react?

It was interesting seeing people’s reactions. The last time I was in London for something like this it was the 2010 ‘no to higher tuition fees’ march with thousands of other students. It was much larger and louder and much more of a protest than an awareness march. You’d be surprised at the range of reactions our endometriosis march got, we had people beep their car horns in solidarity, we had people taking leaflets and trying to pronounce endometriosis, we had people rolling their eyes and I over heard one woman questioning why marches needed so many people (“because one person with a flag isn’t enough – duh!” I wanted to say). Generally people either showed interest or screwed their faces up in confusion.

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But I didn’t once feel put off. I knew with each person reading our banner and each person reading the leaflets we were putting a condition on their radar which they wouldn’t otherwise know about. Sometimes a whole ‘Britishness’ takes over people where they get all shy or unsure of themselves when speaking up about things.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely, the journey to London and day spent with Becca (fellow Southampton support group leader) helped me get to know her a little better and made me feel as though we were united in speaking out about endo. It allowed me to feel comfortable in representing a condition that concerns an area of the body people don’t usually want to talk about. It made me feel strong to see so many other women walking by me and it was so encouraging to see all the partners, friends and relatives walking with us.

Oh and we visited this great place for vegan/vegetarian food afterwards in Brixton called Vegbar give it a visit if you’re ever around

Exhibit A
Exhibit A

 

What can you do to help?

As I have probably said in previous blog posts, educate yourself by going to the endo UK website and if you’re feeling generous please donate. Although there is no cure the money goes into keeping the charity going. I don’t know what I’d do if endo UK didn’t exist. Volunteering with them has given me a sense of power over a condition which otherwise leaves you feeling helpless and isolated. Any amount donated can help support groups and information days going which provide vital support to women who suffer terrible symptoms and sometimes life changing surgeries.

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So it’s been a while, I have some news

Last time I wrote a post here I had been to an interview and had been feeling very frantic. Since then I had another interview I may blog about later (I was approached via social media which some people don’t believe can happen) but first; I HAVE SOME NEWS

I have been made permanent in my position at work

After having worked here for nearly 3 years my contract has gone from fixed term to permanent. I am seriously happy. This doesn’t mean I will stay here forever and I will continue to pursue opportunities for roles I am interested in BUT it does give me some stability. For the first time since graduating 4 years ago I feel I have something sorted. I have earned this.

The latest job search actually had me feeling more stressed and anxious than usual and I think that was clear from my last post. I’d like to thank all my friends who have listened and picked me up during this tricky period.

I have yet to decide whether to keep this page up. I had started it as a means of fine tuning my skills, then to try and help students learn more about certain job titles . I also try and share the great posts I enjoy reading a lot of which are written by friends of mine. Now I find myself increasingly tempted to blog about the things I am passionate about. Which may or may not be good for my online professional profile, I have definitely shared a lot with you. But there have been work related posts too!  However I will admit I got a little bit hippy-dippy around new years. I guess what I am saying is, it’s hard to see where to go from here…

SO HELP ME OUT PLEASE, INTERNET 🙂 

If any of you feel inclined to write a comment below telling me the kind of posts you’ve read on here and found interesting/useful or which kind you think I should keep writing that would be great.  hint… click the links above if you’re not so familiar.

How can you say no to that face?

 

 

Health and work: Endometriosis UK Information day 2014

endo uk

This post, I hope will be overwhelmingly positive after what was a great day on Saturday. I attended Endometriosis UK‘s information day and it was excellent! I found it fulfilling on many different levels. I wanted to try and gather everything I had found useful from the day in one place, after tweeting lots and taking nearly 20 pages of notes! You can see I was a massive keen bean from the start:

What has this got to do with work?

Well Endo impacts my day to day life and a large part of that is obviously getting up and going to work for the day battling with pain and fatigue. If you want to read more about that etc take a look at one of my last posts  (although bear in mind I was angry after having surgery rescheduled so it sounds a bit ranty)

This also links with work because I have never done volunteering for a charity on this level before (helping with my local support group ) and this will inevitably help me build valuable skills for working with people generally. I have just submitted information to become a member of Endo UK and look forward to working with them more closely.

The info day itself

So not only did this give me an opportunity to speak with people with the same condition as me and get to know them and their stories but this was actually the first time I had traveled to London and used the underground alone. So massive tick in a box that would usually have caused me a lot of anxiety!

The day started with an opening talk from EndoUK and went on to talks from doctors, nurses and other professionals ‘in the know’ about endo (hey could that be a new slogan?) in the afternoon we were in sessions where we were split into groups to discuss different topics, one went over coping strategies and the other went over how endo impacts on people’s relationships. Both were really useful but the second session made me feel a little bit emotional.

Coping Strategies

It was great being in a room full of wisdom with everyone sharing their coping strategies for dealing with endo day to day. Some of these I had heard of, others I hadn’t. You can see the tweet below for some of the items we listed (the page was already jam packed and it just got fuller and fuller after this!) I have embedded tweets instead of the pics because some how that made them better quality/easier to read.

How Endo impacts people’s relationships

This session was particularly emotional. People were really open and honest about the things they experience with regards to relationships being impacted by endo, be that friends, families, partners or work.

Work was an area that was mentioned a lot. I am lucky to have supportive colleagues and my boss is very understanding but I heard about some people who have had nasty or dismissive managers. I also heard about the number of women with endo who had to change work arrangements or go self employed in order to be able to work around their needs.

It was so nice to see that people found my tweets useful and were sharing them. I think some people will get sick of my twitter feed from now on and possibly my facebook feed as well because I will be posting more about this because it needs to be in main stream consciousness! As we were discussing in our groups, government and/or health care professionals don’t always acknowledge endo as a big problem because it will seriously open up a can of worms if they want to properly address this problem and help people. One of the things we can do to help at least is educate people about it.

But is is a balancing act

While writing this post I have been having a particularly rubbish time in terms of pain and fatigue and feeling isolated despite all the awesome and inspiring people I met at the weekend (“if they can be strong, why can’t I?”) I have now joined Health Unlocked which is a forum for people to post in for support, I would advise other people make use of online forums such as those and the ones provided by EndoUK  – that’s how I first got in touch with other people after I was diagnosed. I was lucky that I knew a bit about endo from one of my close friends but I have met people recently who have been diagnosed and have been left in the dark by their doctors.

It’s sad for me to think that despite the fact there are lots of people out there who can relate and are going through the same, if not worse than me I can still feel really isolated.One positive I can take is that the advice a nurse I spoke to on the day gave was put into action yesterday and I have managed to get a follow up appointment which is another step in the right direction to getting some treatment/help.

If anyone has found  this post useful please share it on social media so it can benefit other women who have endo or similar conditions. Also do visit EndoUK’s website there is wealth of information of there and I keep discovering more every time I go on there. If you want to donate to them as well that would be amazing the money helps provide vital support for women with this disease.

 

 

Health and work: paid leave for women on their periods?

Yes, you did just read that right!

And yes I am sort of looking over my shoulder while writing about this… which shows you something about what women are told is “acceptable” to talk about in public…

I came across this poll set up by The Guardian newspaper. It asks whether women should be given 3 days paid sick leave when they get their periods. When I looked at the poll most people had clicked no and the comments…just avoid the comments OK?

Initial reactions

  •  Dafuq did I just read?
  • Why is this a thing?
  • Errr, gross! Why would you want to talk about periods?
gross, right?

“But, what does this have to do with employability or jobs?!” I hear you say!

A lot of people underestimate the challenges that lie ahead when they start on a job pathway. As I and many other people have written before the employability trail is a challenging one. But the last thing you would expect to get in the way of your success is your health, especially in your 20s! I have definitely shared in this blog about my health troubles and how they make functioning in a 9-5 role challenging.  As a young, vibrant person you expect your body to just keep going on. Certainly after university drinking you can be fooled into thinking that your body can deal with most anything.

I think a big lesson I have learned both through personal experience and the experiences of friends and family; you cannot take your body for granted and you have to look after yourself. Whether that is getting enough sleep, eating right or finding the time to relax. I think something like this could encourage women at least to take better care of themselves at a time when they could be feeling quite fragile.

In case you DO want to read more about my views on this poll

Below are some bullet pointed arguments for and against the idea of giving women paid sick leave while menstruating

Arguments for yes!

  • Increasing awareness of women’s needs in the work place is a great idea!
  • Increased dialogue about periods making it no longer be seen as a “taboo” subject – no more shame!
  • Perhaps this is a step in the right direction for campaigners who wish for endometriosis to be viewed as a disability?
  • “Women are damned near impossible to work with at that time, get them out of the office!”

Arguments for no!

  • Women will come to use menstruation as an excuse to slack off
  • So we really want to “stand out” for this? Spot light is on the wrong issue!
  • “I am not a delicate flower, let me get on with it!”
  • Do we really want to give employers another reason not to employ us? The mere possibility that we can get pregnant puts some employers off?
  • “This is ridiculous, stupid women making a fuss- get on with it!”
  • There’s no need for it, if you’re ill then you stay at home surely? Where’s the problem?
  • There’s no need to get extra time signed off from the Dr when you can easily self certify for a week?!

What do you think?

As you can see, I have more bullet points AGAINST this BUT generally I think any move to make women more comfortable talking about the most natural of bodily functions is a good thing. Women are often hushed up and told to get on with it when it comes to periods. I even had a boyfriend once ask me why I thought it was a good idea to stay at his place (i.e. in his bed) when I knew I was on my period (for serious?!)

We often confide in female relatives and friends when it comes to this who can also feel awkward. But shouldn’t we be able to talk freely about it? There is a certain level of shame bestowed on women regarding menstruation and I think it is this that leads to many conditions related to a woman’s “downstairs” being overlooked, ignored or not taken seriously. How likely is it this will be introduced to our employment policies?…remains to be seen

 

Dealing with work and health problems: Endometriosis

I won’t be the first or last person to blog about this. I have wanted to write about it for a long time. Talking about illness at work can be hard and often people feel judged  when it comes to any kind of time taken off due to illness. I started this post expecting to be in recovery from my second operation inside 18months for Endometriosis, I have since been messed around by the Hospital and am writing this for my own sanity sort of, as today has been a low day.

I hope this posts helps people in a similar position to me see they are not alone and that they shouldn’t beat themselves up for feeling as though life is a struggle some days.

What is Endometriosis? 

I still find it funny how it comes up as a spelling mistake on a lot of the sites I use each day. IT IS A THING!

So you can click on the link in the title there to look for yourself. I won’t go into all the gross details but you should know that it causes me pain and fatigue daily. Some days I just have pain other days I find it difficult to walk it’s so bad. It also have a psychological impact that comes with any chronic pain condition. It took me two years to be referred to a doctor I have so far had one surgery with another on the way and possibility of more in the future. Some women are covered in it and feel no symptoms, others only have a little bit of it but have a terrible quality of life and pain that doesn’t seem to add up.

To address some common reactions or questions I get about it:

  1. No paracetamol and ibuprofen aren’t always enough
  2. Yes I know exercise will help bit it’s too painful to even walk or do gentle yoga some days
  3. No I don’t want to talk about fertility, I’m not there in my life yet
  4. No that doesn’t mean I have a heart of stone, neither does it mean I won’t get upset if people drop “awww, are you broody?” into conversation.
  5. Yes it is common, as many as 1 in 10 women have it which puts it up there with breast cancer and diabetes
  6. No it is not considered a disability I don’t get benefits or special considerations at work (but my colleagues and boss are understanding of it)
  7. No it won’t just “get better” and no there isn’t a cure
  8. Yes some days I will seem fine and others I won’t be able to get out of bed – that doesn’t make me weak, lazy or a faker.
  9. By all means, if you’re friends with me tell me if you’re concerned you may have it but if you do think you have it – go to the doctor
  10. OK, so you have a friend and they had it and it “wasn’t that bad” … everyone’s body is different.

Those are but a few…

Can you tell I’ve got used to this?

As you can probably tell, I am am open about this but defensive about it as well. I don’t mind talking about it but it is a topic that frustrates, angers and depresses me.

 Why so defensive?

So aside from it having radically changed my life there is a huge sense of frustration about a number of aspects of endometriosis

  • Average time taken to diagnose is 7 years
  • Average age of diagnosis is a lot older than I am which means that some women end up discovering it at the worst time such as when trying to conceive or by the time it is found their organs are stuck together by it
  • In my experience doctors don’t always listen and aren’t always sympathetic about it*. It’s routes are in hysteria and often a “stop making a fuss” attitudes is taken towards this.
  • Sometimes I am able to cover it up, bury it and get on with life and other times I can’t. I have days when I feel like crying at my desk but I won’t let it beat me so I don’t. This means everything that gets bottled up can sometimes come out as a rant or in a way I don’t want it to. I even get snappy with my boyfriend who is in fact a massive source of support to me…
  • We’re in 2014 and medicine hasn’t evolved enough to deal with this. There isn’t enough funding or research being done into it in the UK and we’re meant to have one of the best healthcare systems
  • Doctors and surgeons, although learned, intelligent, capable people can often treat you like you’re a number not a human.

*Please note I have friends who are doctors and I am not an “NHS basher” I am grateful for the care I have received it just felt like such an uphill struggle to even get a diagnosis but I am one of the luckier ones.

Steps I have taken to feel better:

  • Yoga
  • Counselling
  • Support groups both online and in person
  • I went to a pain management session that was really useful

A call to action

2 requests to anyone who reads this:

Educate yourself and other people about this. Whether that’s by clicking on the link in the title above, googling it or being more open and honest about periods and female anatomy.

And/or Donate to Endometriosis UK – OK so it might not lead to a cure but the men and women who have been part of support groups I have attended are volunteers and they are an amazing source of support and knowledge. It’s great to know you’re not alone.