Meet The Maker- All About Me

22853321_10155332911794531_4485875489526709737_nThis month I’ve been taking part in the #marchmeetthemaker challenge and I thought the prompts could make a really good series of blog posts. I’m a proud maker and creative who also has mental and physical chronic illness. I don’t let it define me and my personal journey has inspired a lot of craft and creativity. So my first blog post will be a little more about me and what I do!

I’m Kate and I’m a writer, art journaller and book loving creative from York. I grew up in the beautiful Suffolk countryside and am take lots of inspiration from nature and the world around me, especially the sea! I love anything crafty, creative or vintage, which you’ll see makes up a lot of the theme of my shops! I live with my two cats Nala (18mth old rescue tortoiseshell) and Stitch (7 year old hand reared Blue Burmese) who are my top crafting buddies.

 

 

I have chronic mental and physical illness which is something that means life can be a little unpredictable at times. I’ve learnt to adapt on the poorly days and craft has become a really big part of my life. It’s great because you can craft pretty much anywhere and even when I’m unwell, I can do something creative to lift my spirits.

I discovered the wonderful Conscious Crafties site a little while ago now and have two stores on there and two Etsy stores too! The best part about being a Craftie is that you are surrounded by talented people who are all facing challenges of their own, it’s really supportive and it’s helped me to build up my confidence and keep believing in myself!

I try to art journal or craft everyday. I learnt to crochet about a year ago now and I’ve been building up my crochet skills since then. I’m still at a pretty basic level but I’m definitely getting much quicker!

 

 

I make a selection of different crafts for my crafty stores: #datewithabook sets, wax melts, stationery, paintings and painted jewellery and crocheted items… just to name a few! I’ve recently started acrylic pouring which is so much fun… if a little messy!

 

 

Craft, for me, is all about expressing myself, relaxation and being able to make something that I love or someone else will treasure. I initially wanted to make things that would be comforting and supportive to people who might be struggling with their mental or physical health… and it grew from there. While my overall range of crafty items has increased, the fundamental wish to make something beautiful and meaningful has remained. Everything I make is made with love and care and wrapped to make a beautiful gift for the person who has brought the item or a recipient… everyone deserves to feel special and cared for.

You can check out my Conscious Crafties site here!

 

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Have Yourself A Craftie Christmas

It’s the final countdown to the most wonderful time of the year… and I don’t know about you, but I’m falling into the category of the last minute shopper/crafter this year. After being a poorly bear, my Christmas planning went a little out of the window. Thankfully there wonderful Conscious Crafties gang have you covered. Here’s our last minute gift guide for some weekend shopping!

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1. The first item comes from yours truly! Christmas Date With a Book is still on offer for Fiver Friday over the weekend. Date with a book is ideal for bibliophiles. A mystery vintage novel, hot drink, bookmark and optional upgrades of more handcrafted items such as crocheted coasters or Christmas decorations.

2. Next up is a beautiful print from the talented Faye! This beautiful personalised unicorn print is only £4.95 with free first class postage. So beautiful and a wonderful present for unicorn lovers!

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3. If you’re on the look out for cute stocking fillers, Mic’s got you covered. She has a selection of beautiful hand engraved keyrings and jewellery ranging from £5 upwards.

4. The next item is also from my Conscious Crafties shop. I have two beautiful handmade pendants for sale for £5 each with free shipping! One is orchid themed and the second is rose themed.

5. Continuing with the jewellery theme, Lisa has some totally beautiful wire work beaded bracelets and beaded bag and phone charms. There are so many different designs, colours and themes. Totally beautiful for between £3.50 and £4.50.

6. On sale in my store is my fundraising artwork for the wonderful Project Parent. The A4 wall art is £5 with P&P. Your £5 will be donated to the incredible Parent Parent. Lots of different styles in stock.

7. For ultimate cuteness factor, you can still decorate your christmas tree with Kelly’s adorable little pug baubles. They are just £4 and can be personalised in time for Christmas.

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8. Last but not least are Lynne’s beautiful products. She has some truly wonderful Christmas fayre including wish bracelets, angel decorations and remembrance snowflakes. Lynne is so talented!

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If you support Crafties, you are not only supporting a small business but you are also supporting someone with a chronic illness or a carer. What a wonderful way of spreading some incredible Christmas cheer.

Happy shopping and wishing you such a wonderful Christmas.

Changing The World: One Book Date At A Time

PieLiving with a chronic physical and mental illness had led me to spend a lot of time managing feeling poorly and struggling. Having spent time in hospital, including a year as an inpatient on an eating disorder ward, I learnt a lot about self care and soothing myself when things are hard. Gradually I realised that I could come up with an idea that combined my love (and the boost it gives to my wellbeing) of craft, vintage and reading to come up with something that might help others who are going through a challenging time. #DateWithABook was born and it has continued to grow from there onwards.

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me– C.S. Lewis.

Illness can lead you to feel really isolated. You can face days where you are really limited in the amount of energy you have, or motivation to do the things you would love to be doing. This was one of the starting ideas for my book dates. I wanted to reach out to people who might be finding things tough and offer them something to help them through that moment. I’m a lover of everything old and vintage and the idea of rehoming a beautiful old book felt like the best way to go. Giving these books a new lease of life whilst helping others just seemed perfect! The idea is that a book date is a way to reclaim date night and rest and rejuvenate with a hot drink and a cosy homely coaster with your set.

We read to know we’re not alone– William Nicholson, Shadowlands.

So, what do I hope to achieve with my little book dates? Well… quite a lot! I believe that sharing a #datewithabook can be a huge act of kindness, offering someone who is struggling a piece of calm, distraction and an excuse to have a night off. Or it can be a perfect piece of self care for yourself, to help with the stresses that we face day to day. A date with a book can be a way of reconnecting with someone who needs some extra love or showing you care when you can’t ‘fix’ a situation someone is going through.

Praise for #datewithabook

I absolutely loved recieving my date with a book parcel in the post. Kate made one up based on my likes for me to enjoy on maternity leave. Good value for money and such a wonderful idea for a treat to yourself or for gifts to others. Will be ordering from her again in the future.- Jenny

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I received my date with a book yesterday and it’s wonderful. I almost didn’t want to open it as it looked so pretty. I’m currently about to sit down and start reading. I will definitely be using you again. It is such a lovely idea.– Lindsey

Fantastic idea. Love this. Date with a Book. Something really different, original & unique. Brought for a friend, who Loved it to & has been showing friends. Whole thing arrives Beautifully packaged in soft tissue paper. Makes a Wonderful gift for Any occasion. Or No occasion at all.. Just to say, Thinking of you. Hello. Etc.– Annette

Such a unique idea! It was very exciting to receive the package as you don’t know which book you will get and I was not disappointed! I received a book from an author who I’ve never heard of, and I cannot wait to read it! Prompt delivery too!!– Bisma

There are lots of different #datewithabook sets available in my Conscious Crafties and Etsy stores. I’m just in the process of a big restock to make way for a beautiful array of Christmas gifts, ideal for the person who has everything. Use the discount code BLOG10 to get 10% off any orders over £10. I also have a #datewithabook advent calendar full of literary themed items.

 

A Message From Your Chronically Ill Friend

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I’m the friend who has to cancel at the last minute, the friend who’s always ill and often not very specific about the exact reason I’ve had to cancel… so I thought I ought to provide a bit of an explanation! 

22251271_10155262155554531_1328950934_oWe’re due to be meeting up, I’m excited, we’ve made plans… it’s going to be awesome. But at the last moment, probably become quite predictably, I’ve sent you a message to cancel… again! It’s not ok, I should have given you more notice or not even made plans if I wasn’t going to be able to keep them. The truth is, I was ready to go. I’d showered and dried and straightened my hair; spent ages picking out something to wear, got excited about seeing you but then my insides rebelled and I was suddenly too sick to come and see you. I’ve ended up spending the rest of the morning sat on the bathroom floor being sick/trying not to be sick. It’s nothing you’ve done wrong. My body just has the most awful timing.

It’s now 3:45am and I’m wide awake. It seemed like the perfect time to write about chronic illness, when it was once again impacting on my sleep. My physical health has been really kicking my butt recently. But it’s hard, when it’s been flaring up for a while, because I worry that people will get sick of hearing that I’m sick. I’m equally sick of FEELING sick too! But unfortunately it’s what’s happening right now and I have had to adapt my life to fit around my broken body until it’s feeling a little better. Being chronically ill isn’t what it looks like in films; people aren’t able to drop everything to come and look after you and the reality is that my Mumma is over 200 miles away… so when I threw up all over my own socks at the weekend, all I could do was cry a little and man up to clean everything up whilst all I wanted to do was curl up on the sofa with a sick bowl and Mum hugs.

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Despite being poorly, I have a job! Working from home is a godsend at the moment and I would have probably needed to take sick leave if I didn’t. Again, despite the common misconception that working from home means you lounge around in bed watching tv all day; I’ve still got to go to meetings, meet deadlines and manage my wonderful team of four. It’s been flexible so I can work my hours around when I’ve got the most energy or feel the least poorly, but it’s still really hard. I have to put on a brave face and nap in my break or collapse at the end of the day needing to go to bed at 6pm… only to wake at about 2am everyday when the pain and antiemetic meds wear off, until the next dose kicks in and I can get a couple more hours sleep before I need to get up for work again. It’s exhausting and sometimes work is pretty much all I have the energy for. Plus, my week is full of regular medical appointments which can increase when I’m not very well.

Thankfully, it’s not all bad. There are days when I don’t feel so poorly and times when I am not having a flare up, that I can be a relatively normal human… even if I do have the hobbies of a 90 year old. I’m used to being poorly now and am good at adapting and listening to my body (occasionally). I have a brilliant supportive army of friends, professionals and cats of course. And life is always good when you’re under a pile of blankets, with a cat and surrounded by wool or paint.

Things I’d love to be able to tell people when I’m struggling with my chronic illness:22217831_10155262157739531_533723081_o

  1. I’m not unreliable, my health is. Yes, this can mean that I AM unreliable, but I feel as awful about it as you feel frustrated with me. I am beating myself up about it already and have been worrying about having to cancel and hoping it doesn’t mean you hate me!
  2. I really wouldn’t cancel unless I had to and it’s probably better than me throwing up on you or having to spend the whole time leaving you to run to the bathroom or being unable to do anything because I feel so unwell.
  3. Please don’t stop inviting me, I feel so lonely with my chronic illness a lot of the time. Even though I often won’t be able to come or commit to seeing you. When I do see you, it means the world to me and I have the best time ever!
  4. I still really love you! Having to cancel plans is no reflection of how much I care about you. It’s really easy for friends to drift away from me because of how pants I am, but it’s really isolating and I miss you.
  5. Please be patient with me! 
  6. I want to be normal. I would give anything to not have to have the problems I am struggling with. It massively sucks for me as well as those around me. I would definitely prefer to be spending time with the people I love than having to be at appointments, being poorly or even in hospital (as happened recently).
  7. My health is unpredictable. So I may have to cancel on you one day, but feel a little better the next and be able to see someone. I have to take opportunities when they arise, it doesn’t mean I like someone better than you, often it’s just that there’s been a little respite from being ill so I have taken the opportunity to try and have a life!
  8. Social media doesn’t always reflect how I am! Sometimes my social media can show me having a relatively normal and fun life, I don’t often post about being poorly because I don’t want to bore people or seem like I’m fishing for sympathy. I’m not the type of person who’s likely to post ‘hospital selfies’ as I often feel ashamed of being ill or embarrassed. On days where I spend 50% of the time hanging out in the bathroom or curled up sleeping, I’m unlikely to post pictures or let everyone know (unless you’re my Mum, then you tend to get a play-by-play account of my misery and sadness 😉 ). I also don’t always post pictures on the day I take them, I might be reflecting on something nice that has happened recently but not necessarily post day-to-day pictures… or I just post pictures of cats, crochet and art journalling.
  9. I’m sorry if I don’t reply! I’m a bit useless at replying to messages on a good day, but on a bad day, it can be impossible. I appreciate people contacting me and it brightens my day so much, but sometimes I’m just focusing on not throwing up on myself… so I might be a little delayed in replying to you!
  10. My illness is pretty invisible! Sometimes I might look fine, but inside I’m really feeling unwell or my mental health is difficult. Please don’t judge me by my outside appearance. Plus… makeup is a mighty fine cover up!!
  11. Let’s alter our plans so we can still meet up! Sometimes, I might still be able to see you if we can change our plans. Coming over to mine is often much easier for me. It means I don’t have to worry about driving and if I suddenly feel unwell, I’m in my own home and it’s easier to manage compared to being out and about. If I’m not well, a crochet and coffee date can be a lot easier than meeting somewhere or walking for a long time. I get really fatigued when I’m poorly and sometimes I can manage going out for the day, but it wipes me out for a few days afterwards. So, talk to me and see if we can arrange something smaller and easier, so I can still have hugs and company!

It’s now 4.45am. I’m still fairly awake, but my insides are starting to settle a little. I’m fairly sure my bloodstream must be about 50% antiemetics by now. Hopefully I’ll get another hour or so asleep before I start it all again tomorrow. It’s hard being ill. I’m sorry for being unreliable. I’m sorry I’m not better by now too. I’m sorry I don’t look ill enough… but most of all, I’m sorry I have to be sorry all of the time. I’ve not asked for this and I would give it away in a heartbeat. I’m not asking for pity or sympathy. I just hope reading this helps with some understanding that I’m being crap for a reason, and I am trying my hardest not to be.

Shoutout to all my badass chronically sick friends, especially my Mumma, who’s the baddest badass of them all.

 

A Message of Hope In Difficult Times

Just over a week ago, the world felt like a different place. Things felt a little less sad and scary than they do today. We are in the aftermath of great tragedies both close to home, Nationally and Internationally; and surrounded by the uncertainty of an election where it feels as though many people are feeling alienated by the politicians who are meant to represent them. Looking at the world feels terrifying, there is so much hatred and suffering right now and we seem to be in the midst of so much change, that it feels really unstable and messy. People around me are hurting and struggling and it’s hard to always find the positivity and hope to get through the tricky bits to a new day. What is the use in powering through if it’s going to just feel the same? In the depths of my struggles and battles with mental illness, I have felt really hopeless at times; I’ve had times where I’ve not been able to imagine a life without my demons and it’s felt awful, to say the least. But, despite the hard times, there were always little glimpses of hope. I think Dumbledore said it best:

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In times of difficulty, it’s so important to take stock of everything around you that is good. Look out for the tiny positives, wherever you can find them because the little things can build up and grow to a much larger amount of hope and goodness. Once you start recognising the good around you, your mindset can be shifted and things can feel a little easier and more positive. When I was in inpatient treatment, we completed a task of noticing positives or negatives during the same day and reporting back to the group. We found that it was much easier for people to find negative things about their day as opposed to those who were looking for positives, however those who were trying to purposefully find something good in their day generally had a better day and noticed the little things that were good. People who were looking for negatives tended to slip into a spiral of catastrophizing everything that was happening around them and assumed their day was going to be bad anyway. Despite it just being a short and non-scientific experiment, it was impressive to see there was a difference between the two groups. Now, the effects of positivity and gratitude are

Now, the effects of positivity and gratitude are widely discussed, with examples of improvement health, happiness and wellbeing demonstrated.  Whilst looking for a little positivity or gratitude, or even trying to create a little for ourselves each day won’t fix the world around us or protect us from some of the horrible, unfair and upsetting things that life can throw our way; it can help to create the resilience and strength we need to find a way through the dark times and back into the light. These good bits of life are like the little glints of sunshine getting through, add them all up and you might find your days get a little brighter and you feel a little stronger.

We are in difficult times at the moment and it is so important to seek support from those around you or professionals if you are struggling. You deserve happiness and healthiness and you deserve whatever support you need to get to that place. Stay strong everyone.

Lists Against Fears

THE NEW YOU.jpgWhen you’ve been in some sort of treatment for a mental health condition for a number of years; it can be rare to be presented with a new idea that you’ve not seen before. This isn’t to sound arrogant as if I’ve had all of the treatment there ever was… not at all. But rather, there are some similar ideas and techniques that come up more often than not. Whilst a lot of these traditional, go-to ideas are great, it can feel a bit hopeless if you’re just being given the same old. I’ve always had a belief that if what you’re doing isn’t working or really helping, then you need to keep trying until you find something that works! Sometimes it feels this is a real weakness of community mental health support. There’s a limited scope for overstretched teams to provide care that’s tailored to the individual and it can feel like professionals try and shoe-horn you into their own method of working… and discharge people who don’t progress within the parameters of what’s available.

Recently, I worked with a locum practitioner who gave me some new ideas, things I’d never tried before. I was a bit dubious about some of them, as they were out of the normal CBT based ideas I’d been given in outpatient treatment. The number of times I’ve had to write a food diary, compare it to my meal plan, write down my thoughts and then counter them with alternative thoughts; is probably too many to recall now! For so long, that has been the treatment. There’s been very little creativity. I’m not criticising the professionals I’ve worked with… totally… but I am saying there could be a little more variety in the kind of work offered to outpatients regardless of the understandably challenging lack of resources. So, back to my locum practitioner. One day we were talking about the importance of having my weight monitored. It’s something I’ve always hated and battled against. Partly due to OCD rituals surrounding getting a perfectly accurate comparative weight (yes… something I know isn’t really a real thing but that’s not the focus here haha). So being a regular argument had with the team, we began for a moment to have the standard backward and forward about being weighed. I was told why I needed it done and promptly replied with all of the counter arguments I could. It wasn’t really going anywhere and it was reminiscent of conversations already had.

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So she stopped us and pulled out a piece of paper, telling me we were going to think of a different way of tackling this. I was anxious and stressed and not very receptive to a new idea. She told me that we were going to write a list of thirty reasons why it was good to be weighed by someone from the team. We titled it in a positive way, not limiting ourselves to it being ‘ok’ to be weighed but going fully for it and using ‘good’ and specifying it would be done by the team. Already my brain was feeling a little frustrated that loopholes were being firmly avoided! It was a challenge, I definitely protested that there was no way I could think of one reason let alone thirty. But gradually with a little persuasion, the list began to take shape… the options could be sensible, off the wall or completely ridiculous. Here are a few we came up with:

  • People will stop nagging me to get weighed
  • Meg and Bert (my labradors) get weighed at the vets and enjoy it, so I can too
  • I can smash my scales into a million pieces because I don’t need them now
  • It’s just measuring my relationship with gravity
  • Good to give my scales a break/holiday/weekend break
  • Maybe I’ll enjoy it

And so on…

The list turned out to be a powerful tool. By the end of thirty reasons, I had been through fits of laughter, completely relaxed and actually if I had been weighed straight away… I probably would have been fairly relaxed about the whole situation. By finding thirty reasons that it was good for it to happen, I had a whole list of evidence to counter the negative thought processes that were going on in my head. I had a list of reasons that were quite motivating and I had something that could make me laugh and remind me that perhaps the whole process wasn’t too scary after all. I’ve realised that writing a list to counter my fears can be used in any situation that I’m worrying about or anything I’m struggling to be able to do. And the best thing… if at thirty you still feel anxious, you can always write thirty more.

I Resolve To Be Myself

390572166d02379f0068722cd31abd76Every year, around this time. We look back at last year and think about the things that went well, but more often the things that weren’t right as well. As much like the rest of life, often these reflections focus on the negative. We’re raised by society to notice flaws, critique ourselves (often arguably so we can improve) and strive to be the best and most perfect version of ourselves. We can end up being in a cycle of never really noticing when we are enough and have actually done something well. When was the last time you actually congratulated yourself on an achievement and spent some time just pausing for a moment to reflect on it before you rushed on to the next thing on your to-do list? In a way, it stops us from living in the moment and means we’re constantly moving on to the next. I start to wonder if just spending more time in the current could help us to feel happier.

New Year’s resolutions seem to epitomize these feelings of setting yourself up to never to be able to realise your achievements, rather continue to strive for something more that perhaps you can’t even get to. New Years Resolutions and intentions often look at changing you, making you once again strive for perfection. They become lists of rules for the coming year… you might plan to lose weight, eat better, drink more, find a better relationship, be more social… do’s and don’t’s that perhaps you don’t need in your life. Even more reasons and ways to beat yourself up for not being better. It’s a part of the new year that I find pretty frustrating… and I’ve not even gone into all of the body shaming and annoyingly triggering weight loss/dieting obsessions!

This year, I’m taking a different approach. One that I really hope will be better for my wellbeing and enable me to spend a little time appreciating being myself rather than wanting to change everything all of the time. This year I’m focusing on resolutions that celebrate and enhance what I can already achieve and give me to drive to be successful as the person I am instead of wanting to make myself fit into a mould of what I imagine I am meant to be.

My resolutions look a little different to last year:

  1. To make the most of time with my friends and family; creating memories and enjoying their company
  2. To find a way to be creative each day; whether it’s crochet, art journaling, colouring or listening to music
  3. To cut myself some more slack and practice using the good enough principle in my day to day life- I think we are all too harsh on ourselves. Life isn’t perfect and I’m going to try and use my compassionate mind skills to remember that it’s ok to be good enough (carried forward from my 2016 list)
  4. To read and write each day and develop something I’m good at, moving away from just writing at work
  5. To make self-care a priority and practice it each day
  6. To create records of life through my journal, gratitude lists or photos
  7. To work towards the future; whether it’s through challenging my fears around dating, thinking about getting my own place or managing my money better
  8. To think about my mental health, not bury my head in the sand when things are hard and to seek and accept support when I can’t do it on my own
  9. To think about how decisions will impact on me and strive to think about my best interests and not always put everyone else first
  10. To be ok with the fact that sometimes, on hard days, all I can do is just be and that’s completely ok

 

2016 has been a challenging year, perhaps 2017 can be filled with more compassion, acceptance and feeling ok with being good enough.