International Women’s Day

8 Mar

Today is a celebration for women all around the world,
Ladies who’ve dared to dream big, ever since they were little girls.
For the diversity and talent that lie within a feminine heart,
For the courage and determination that prevents us falling apart.

 

We can raise families and build businesses and be proud of all we’ve achieved
Where once over, visions of that scale, could never have been believed.
Ladies, stand up and be counted, smile at how far we have come
And Cherish every single day, as daughter, wife, companions or mum.

 

Don’t let anybody tell you that there are set paths for you to follow
As a little girl with a passion, is an inspiring woman of tomorrow.
So celebrate all women, and acknowledge the great things they do
And tell a lady close to your heart, just how much she means to you.

 

Unbroken

7 Mar

I absolutely love this motivational video my Mateusz M. When I am feeling tired and weary I listen to this and it gives me hope. If you need inspiration and motivation watch this video. I have also written the words because sometimes it’s really great to just read things as well to help spur us on. Enjoy.
You cannot connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life whatever, because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads off the well-worn path and that will make all the difference. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life, don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. You’ve got to find what you love and that is as true for work as it is for your love life. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow truly know what you want to become.

You’re gonna have some ups and you’re gonna have some downs. Most people give up on themselves easily. You know the human spirit is powerful. There is nothing this powerful. It is hard to kill the human spirit. Anyone can feel good when they have their health, their bills paid, they have happy relationships, anyone can be positive then, anyone can have a larger vision then, anyone can have faith under those types of circumstances. The real challenge of growth mentally, emotionally and spiritually comes when you get knocked down. It takes courage to act, part of being hungry when you’ve been defeated. It takes courage to start over again.

Fear kills dreams, fear kills hope, fear put people in the hospital, fear can age you. It can hold you back from doing something that you know within yourself that you are capable of doing, but it will paralyze you, at the end of your feelings is nothing but at the end of every principle is a promise. Some of you in your life the reason you are not at your goal right now is all a bunch of feelings. You are all on your feelings, you don’t feel like waking up, who does?! Every day you say no to your dreams you might be pushing your dreams back a whole six months, a whole year, that one single day, that one day you didn’t get up, could have pushed yourself back I don’t know how long.

 Don’t allow your emotions to control you, we are emotional but you want to be able to discipline your emotions. If you don’t discipline and contain your emotions, they will use you. You want it and you’re gonna go all out to have it. I tell ya it’s not going to be easy. When you want to change it’s not easy. If it were in fact easy everybody would do it, but if your serious you’ll go all out. I’m in control here. I’m not gonna let this get me now, I’m not gonna let this destroy me, I’m coming back and I’ll be stronger and better because of it. You have got to make a declaration that this is what you stand for. You’re standing up for your dreams, you’re standing up for peace of mind, you’re standing up for health. You’re taking responsibility for your life. Accept where you are and the responsibility that you’re gonna take yourself where you want to go. You can decide to live each day as if it were my last. Live your life with passion, with some drive, desire that you’re going to push yourself. The last chapter to your life has not been written yet and it doesn’t matter about what happened yesterday. It doesn’t matter what happens to you, it matters, what are you going to do about it. This year I will make this goal become a reality. I won’t’ talk about it anymore.

I CAN I CAN I CAN!!!

 

Why we must stand together

31 Jan

“Remember it didn’t start with gas chambers. It started with politicians dividing the people with ‘us vs them’. It started with intolerance and hate speech and when people stopped caring, became desensitized and turned a blind eye”.

I think majority of people across the world must be shocked by the actions of the new President Donald Trump. He has wasted no time in what he said he was going to do, building a wall, banning certain Islamic countries from entering the US. I  feel we have gone back to the dark ages, and it brings a deep sadness. Just as we have marked Holocaust Memorial Day, where millions across the globe mark this day. We stand and say ‘never again’. But here before our very eyes we have a man who is supposed to be a leader spreading racial hatred.

Trump seems to think that Muslims make up the majority of terrorists in the United States, however research shows otherwise. “According to the FBI 94% of terrorist attacks are carried out in the United States from 1980 to 2005 have been by non-Muslims. This means that an American terrorist suspect is over nine times more likely to be a non-Muslim than a Muslim.

I’d say there are many more attacks and massacres through gun violence than worrying about Muslims and terrorism.

“In Obama’s eight years in office, he formally addressed the nation on the subject of gun violence 25 times: on average ever 112 days but in 2015 he made statements regarding gun violence roughly every 36 days. However for every one American killed by an act of terror in the United States or abroad in 2014, more than 1,049 died because of guns. Also the number of US citizens killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2001 to 2014 was 369”.

With the statistics above maybe Trump should focus on the real terror of the modern culture in the US – GUNS, rather than discriminating against innocent people. People who have worked hard for a number of year’s and brought a lot of skills now deported.

Surprisingly out of the number of countries he has ordered this ban on, he has failed to make this apply to the nationalities of those who carried out the 9/11 attacks, such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt which seems very odd.

Elie Wiesel a Holocaust survivor put’s it perfectly with this quote:

“There may be times, when we are powerless to prevent injustice. But there must NEVER be a time when we fail to protest”.

Whether we are black, white, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Straight, Gay, Bisexual. We should be able to accept one another rather than stereotyping one another. As Jackie Robinson once said:

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking of me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being”.

Only time will tell where Trump will go next or what effect this ban will have but whatever happens those against these actions, in whatever country you may be, we must stand together, to those suffering as consequence of this executive order please know you are wanted, you are valuable and your rights and your lives matter and finally as Martin Luther King, JR once said:

One has moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holocaust Memorial Day 2017

27 Jan

Holocaust Memorial Day always has a special place in my heart.

My mum was brought up in the Jewish faith, therefore my grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins are Jewish. Although my mum married a non-Jewish man and in fact became a Christian many years ago and now attends church regularly. I have always had the privilege of learning and experiencing the Jewish faith. My Grandad was Polish. He thankfully managed to escape the holocaust, eventually starting a new life in London. Unfortunately his family were not so lucky. He would never speak about what happened, I guess the emotions were too raw as well as the heavy burden of feeling guilty that he survived and his family didn’t.

This year’s theme for Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘How Does Life Go On’ and it is something that makes me think. How does a person carry on?! People who witnessed people being murdered, starved and tortured, as well as the suffering they also suffered themselves. How do people overcome their family members, mother’s, father’s, siblings, children being murdered in such a ruthless evil abhorrent way.

I have always had such huge respect for survival victims of Genocides, despite the evil and unimaginable horror how people manage to go on and bring awareness and change despite knowing evil at its worst. How do you begin to forgive the perpetrators? Does justice ever bring closure? We are lucky to still have survivors of the Holocaust and other victims of genocide to bring their stories, to keep people’s memories alive. But even when we no longer have survivors alive to tell their stories, we still need to remember.

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness. For not only are we responsible for the memories of the dead, we are also responsible for what we are doing with those memories”. – Elie Wiesel
But it is not just about the past. What do we do about the future. How do we stand up when we see something happening that is so wrong. We look at places like Syria right now, evil of humanity at it’s worse just like the holocaust, except it is happening, even as I write this. We are fortunate enough with technology in the modern age not to have the excuse of being unaware of the suffering taking place. It is in the news, on social media. I am not sure of all the answers, but we can support those out there fighting by supporting charities that help, or support those rescuing people who have lost everything, not everyone can give money but many organisations are desperate for clothing and supplies. We can  and need to show kindness and compassion to those grieving. We should treat people how we want to be treated.

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must NEVER be a time when we fail to protest”. – Elie Wiesel.

I finish with this poem.

Though we did not witness their suffering
And though we did not bring about their deaths
It does not lesson the guilt that we feel
For those more than six million dead

Such numbers we can not imagine
And the atrocities, we did not see
But that does not lessen the tragedy
Of possibly the lowest point of humanity

We cannot forget what they went through
All that suffering without cause
All they did was hold on to what they believed in
Nothing against moral or criminal laws

But hope,
That was not forgotten
Even as they were lead to their final rest
And it is this hope that we should look back on
Not just the way they were so cruelly oppressed

And it may be hard to understand
Such horror caused purely by mankind
Yet, in order to prevent repeat
We must ensure that we keep the memory alive

So think back to the days of the Holocaust
And those who lost their precious lives
And know that we cannot let them ever be forgotten
So that in our minds, their unfailing hope survives

Serena Arthur ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to let go

24 Jan

“Letting go is the toughest thing to do in life, but sometimes it can turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done”.

We have many people come in to our lives throughout our lifetime. They say some come for a season and some come for a lifetime. The ones that come for a season, may be someone we meet at work or somewhere else along the way and there are times you think no matter what that person will always be in your life. Then you leave that place of work or something else happens and the friendship slowly dwindles and this can be tough. A person who you shared so much with and really helped is no longer there but slowly in time you cherish the memories and you remember that maybe that person was there at that moment and either you helped them or they helped you but that season has now come to an end.

“If someone comes into your life and has a positive impact on you, be thankful that your paths crossed. And even if they cannot stay for some reason, be thankful that they somehow made you happy, even it was just for a short while”.

Then there are those you have known a very long time, decades even and there have been many highs and lows, but over time you change, and as you grow, you either grow closer or you grow apart and again this can be tough. I have a friend who I have known over 20 years now. We met in Primary School, we went to different colleges, different sixth forms but we always stayed friends. We have been through a lot individually, many highs and many lows. We have both suffered in different ways but we have always stuck together and I have no doubt that when we are old we will still be friends.

“Everyone has a friend during each stage of life. But only lucky one have the same friend in all stages of life”.

But what happens if a person in life turns destructive??? At first you worry, you are there and you run after them every time there is another blip, then there is another blip and another blip. And then a person really starts to cause a lot of hurt. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years I have learnt the hard way, yes it can be tough. And then there are two types of people, the people who apologise but repetitively continue in their ways or there is the other type who continually cause hurt but do not see fault at all and persistently put the blame on everyone else but themselves. And the question is how long do you go on continually making excuses for that person. Oh, they are going through a hard time, or maybe this time they really are sorry. Unfortunately, the apologies you don’t get build up and resentment builds.

“I never knew how strong I was, until I had to forgive someone who wasn’t sorry and accept an apology I never received”.

What relationship are you clinging to today that is having a negative effect on your life? Is there someone today you must stand up and simply say no, I am not putting up with this anymore. It’s a tough thing to do but trust me you will feel so much better.

Someone once said to me if you were in a relationship with someone would you put up the pain and hurt that is being caused. I answered “no”. They said well why is a “friendship” any different.

“It is not easy to detach from people you have had close ties with, but sometimes it is necessary in order, to restore your sanity. Your mind. Peace”.

It is natural to feel a lot of emotions when you have to detach someone from your life. Guilt, anger, frustration. But in time you learn to heal, you learn to forgive because you there is no longer that negativity in your life and sadly one day when the person opens their eyes and realises what they have lost, it is too late because life moves on and there is no need to feel guilty for not wanting to go back to the past.

There is a great quote that goes:

“In life you will realise there is a role for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you. Some will love you , some will teach you. But the ones who are truly important will bring out the best in you. They are the rare and amazing people who remind you why it is worth it”

People inspire you or they drain you, choose wisely.

A Battle with the Black Dog

26 Jul

A lot of people would have heard of the term or seen the video called ‘I had a black dog, his name was depression’ where writer and illustrator tells the story of overcoming ‘The Black Dog of Depression’.

The Black Dog Campaign reduces the stigma surrounding mental illness and encourages people to seek help early, rather than suffering in silence.

The campaign aims are:

  • Reduce stigma, prejudice and exclusion
  • Encourage more people to seek help
  • Educate members of the public – #StopStigma
  • Take mental health into schools, colleges and the workplace
  • Change perceptions of mental illness
  • Demonstrate the importance of research
  • Involve young people in mental health
  • Change attitudes of future generations

The subject of Mental Health is a big passion of mine. It is something sadly I have had to go through myself with my own battle with depression and anxiety. 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health issue in their life.

My first experience of depression was in my mid-teens, I remember feeling so awfully low and a regular feeling of thinking ‘I don’t want to be here’. I was unhappy at school and lived in a different village to my college so only knew one or two people where I lived which was very isolating and I struggled academically in most of my subjects. I never told anyone how I felt at that age I did not understand and just hoped things would pick up. Through sixth form it was a little better but I just wanted to get away from college and into the world of work.

I became much happier once I started a full time job and for a few years sailed along quite nicely, things seemed to be good. At the age of 18 I found my faith and was baptised in 2004, I felt I had a purpose in my life, and although times were not always here I felt I had more of an inner strength. In 2006 and at the age of 20 I went on a missionary trip to Namibia for the summer. This involved staying in an orphanage, visiting AIDS patients in the villages and taking food, as well as other activities. I was never prepared emotionally for this trip, I felt very chilled. It wasn’t until I had I had a bad experience at the airport which was very hostile and involved taking me to an enclosed room for a search of my suitcase that I my first real experience anxiety hit. I was okay the first day, and then thereafter I suddenly felt in danger, I was a long way from home and was absolutely petrified. I couldn’t eat, and was regularly sick from panic. The fear was indescribable. I spent the entire rest of the trip feeling like this and it was torture. A few weeks later I landed back in the UK and felt a huge sigh of relief like I was safe again.

However as time went on I realized it had followed me home, the anxiety was chronic, I felt in danger every moment of every day, fear that I had done something wrong or had made a mistake somehow and it ate me up. This soon led to a very dark time in my life. I find it hard to describe just how dark that place was. The thought of ending it all went through my head on a daily basis, it wasn’t necessarily that I did not want to be here but I had no quality of life the way I was feeling. This went on a good few years. I tried to go abroad a couple of times again to battle my phobia of airports and holidays just felt like torture the same fear and panic attacks would come back, something is going to happen, there is no way I can get home.

I could be surrounded by a great group of people but never felt so alone and isolated. People who saw me day to day in my job would never know the turmoil I was going through, not even some of my friends knew the torture I was feeling. It was like a constant black cloud that followed me. There were times I felt in utter distress. It was only when I started getting really dark thoughts about suicide I decided to see a GP who was absolutely brilliant, he did an assessment which showed I was severely depressed and had generalized anxiety disorder and symptoms of OCD. It was many situations that led to this point. Not just the anxiety, but a mixture of life events in this time. After trying counselling which did not work for me I went for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for six weeks. This was the best thing I ever did. Finally someone I felt could get inside my head and untangle all the knots where it had gone wrong. I could talk freely and no matter how insane it sounded I knew my Therapist understood. He set me exercise and goals to achieve.

One of these was changing jobs and another to go abroad again. I went to Florida with some family again to see a friend and it was the first time I loved a holiday in a long time. So much so I achieved my main goal to travel on my own and meet my friend out there for a couple of weeks before flying back.

I felt at a time I would never lead a normal life. My anxiety/depression has never completely gone, it is always there, that black dog lingering in the distance waiting, but I feel I have techniques now and I have never stopped taking my medication. There are times when that black cloud comes over me again and it will last a good few days, and no matter how awful it feels, I know that glimpse of light will shine through again.

Depression/Anxiety is a cruel illness. It is such a dark place, and people who do not understand will tell you cheer up, it isn’t that bad etc. Unfortunately the brain does not work that way. In this day in age, the pressure is so high and constant.

In the past couple of years I have known or known of people who have had friends/family who has taken their own life, and it literally breaks my heart. The thought that someone feels there is absolutely no way out. There is a saying “They say suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. We will never know the torture a person goes through before deciding that there is no way out, why a person walks in front of a train, or out to sea and the unanswered questions and guilt left on loved ones left behind.

Depression can still be such a taboo subject, and there needs to be more help out there and openness to talk about our feelings no matter how dark they may be. I long ago went on a STOP suicide workshop, a campaign, a pledge where you say “I’d ask”, meaning if someone came to me and said ‘I feel hopeless’ or ‘I do not want to be here anymore’ instead of saying oh don’t be silly, I would respond and dare to ask someone if they were getting thoughts of ending their life?! We need to be more open to ask the question and maybe more lives could be saved if only we could tell somebody and not feel guilty and ashamed.

Note: The cure for asthma is not “just breathe!” and the cure for cancer is not “stop growing those cells!” Similarly, the cure for depression is not, “just be happier!”, and the cure for anxiety is not, “stop worrying so much!” These are not phases of life for teenagers and the weak-minded; they are serious chronic medical illnesses.

People who die by suicide do not want to end their lives; they want to end their pain.

Stephen Fry once said “If you know someone who is depressed please resolve never to ask them why. Depression is not a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, hopelessness and loneliness they are going through. Be there for the when they come through the other side. It is hard to be a friend to someone who is depressed, but it is one of the kindest noblest and best things you will ever do.

It is tough if you have never suffered this way to understand how a depressed or anxious person is feeling but today let us stand together, look out for the signs, and speak up if we need it. There is support and as isolating as it feels, there are many people going through a similar situation.

Today if someone talks about ending their life, no matter how attention seeking, you think it is, let’s take the pledge and say “I’d ask”, let us open our eyes and break the taboo of mental health and like Stephen Fry said be kind and noble for people who need us.

 

A Journey With Pemphigus

22 Mar

It was September 2014 when I woke up one day and noticed a deep type cut on my lower back, it was so odd I remembered showing close friends who thought it was very odd. I thought I must have cut myself somehow or scraped it and not realised. However as time went on I kept noticing more of these lesions, mainly over my back appearing, I would feel my skin disappeared as I rubbed an irritation on my back, this soon spread to my front. I had no idea what it could be, I had never seen anything like it. I was googling and nothing was coming up with my symptoms.

Eventually I decided to see my GP to try and find out what was going on. My GP first thought it was a staph infection and prescribed lots of different creams yet nothing worked. I went back time and time again and got different treatments but again nothing was working. By this point I was covered in burn type wounds all over my torso front and back. I was beginning to worry that something serious was going on. After spending a lot of money on various prescriptions, the GP decided to do some swabs. Unfortunately with a new system in place at my local hospital, two lots of swabs went missing. Unable to cope much longer I decided to get a private appointment just to find out what was happening. I was seen by a lovely Dermatologist who first introduced me to a word I had never heard ‘Pemphigus’. She was certain this is what I had and said I needed to be seen urgently for a diagnosis.

I want to take a break just there in my story and introduce you all to Pemphigus. Here is what this strange word to many means:

Pemphigus is a rare autoimmune disease that causes blistering of the skin. The blisters have thin roofs and break easily to leave raw areas (erosions) that can be extensive and painful. Pemphigus does not go away by itself, and always needs treatment by a specialist.

The skin:

  • The skin lesions start as thin-walled blisters (collections of clear fluid within the skin), arising on a background of normal-looking skin. Because they are so fragile, pemphigus blisters break very easily, leaving raw areas known as erosions. 

  • Erosions are areas of skin (or mucous membrane), which lack its top (outer) layer. They look raw and feel sore – like a burn. Erosions can join together to create larger areas of raw skin that look as if the top layer has been scraped off. 

  • Erosions can become crusty and scabbed. When they heal, those on the skin may leave discoloured marks. 

I was told only 1 in 300,000 suffer from this rare disease. I thought how on earth had i ended up with this. It is still unknown as to why people suffer with this disease.

It was January 2015 8 weeks after seeing a private consultant i finally saw an NHS Dermatologist. Although i had waited a long time I could not fault this team. Less than a week later i had the well needed biopsy to determine the diagnosis and this is unfortunately what the results showed. When doing biopsies for this condition, Dermatologists quite like a whole blister, but because blisters that form are so fragile, they very quickly turn into a wound. It was only after my diagnosis i actually fully researched a lot about what pemphigus meant. I have always been a very well so it was a bit of a shock. I was under attack from my own body.

In order to gain control i needed my immune system to be suppressed to stop it from attacking itself. I was started on a very high dose of 75mg of steroids. This was tough, not only was i dealing with the diagnosis, my wounds which by this point had spread to my face, arms, legs and scalp, i was dealing with the psychological affect of how much weight the steroids made me gain. My face bloated hugely into what is called a ‘moon face’. I ended up feeling horrid. I was then started on other meds alongside the steroids. Unforunately the first set made me violently ill. I was starting to find the treatment aspect a lot worse than being covered in blisters. I felt tired, emotional, sick, and many other side effects from these drugs. I then one day found a blister on my ankle which i wanted to cover because it was scared of it rubbing so i put a plaster over it to protect it. It was one evening at home i decided to take the plaster off, as i ripped the plaster off it peel a huge chunk of skin off my ankle, the pain was indescribable, i had never felt anything so horrendous. I look down just to see a whole strip of skin hanging off the plaster. I could barely walk and had to have it bandaged for more than 3 weeks, including a trip to A&E for IV antibiotics.

IMG_20150101_130545DSC_4238DSC_3502

I was then started on a new drug called Mycophenolate, this is normally used on transplant patients to lower their immunity before having a new organ. It was increased every couple of weeks and i soon started to get headaches, numbness, tingling and very little sleep. I have never suffered insomnia and i never want to again. I went days without sleep, it didn’t matter what i tried i was wide awake and mentally i was starting to suffer. I became a shell of who i was, the steroids altered my mood, i felt at war with my own body. Someone suggested lowering them again and trying again but extremely slowly to increase so my body had more time. Thankfully this worked and I have now been on this drug over a year.

After much of my life being spent at hospital in 2015 for various appointments, scans and other tests i am pleased to say that March 2016 feels positive. I have no more wounds, apart from the occasional blister and my scars are healing well. I am now off steroids after around 16 months, losing weight and the other drug is taking over. Pemphigus is not a curable disease, i can go into remission and it could last my whole life or i could relapse at anytime but hopefully i will never be as bad as i was. I have joined some social network groups supported by the pemphigus foundation. Sadly most sufferers live in America and a few in the UK but the support group has been invaluable. Picking eachother up and encouraging one another when we feel the battle is too hard to face. I have met some amazing people in the care working team, from Dermatologists and Nurses etc who all made my journey a little lighter as well as my amazing family and close friends who stood by me every step of the way.

This has been an interesting journey, not one i would have necessarily wanted to have faced but it is funny how life directs you and changes you through the tough times. My journey isn’t over it is a continuing one but I know one thing and that is that Pemphigus cannot beat me!!!

Steroid reductions