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.

 

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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.

 

Finding Hope In Unexpected Places

bestHope is a strange thing. It can be the motivation to keep going when things are hard or the idea that things may one day be different or better. Hope is a hard thing to hang on to, it’s not exactly tangible and it can be easily shattered. But even the tiniest amount of hope can be a really powerful thing. I’ve frequently been told to hold on, with the hope that it will get easier. But I guess I want to be told exactly when that will be… easier said than done I guess.

Perhaps, certainly in recovery, it is much easier to identify and manage if someone has lost hope, rather than working out how much hope they have! Martin Seligman found that if animals were subjected to difficult situations that were out of their control, then became helpless and passive; not wanting to try and escape the situation they were in. Perhaps demonstrating what happens when you lose hope in a situation. For people lack of hope can manifest in many different ways such as; depression, anxiety, lack of motivation or self destructive behaviours. It can be a bit of a downward spiral where hopelessness leads to individuals not wanting to try and change, and therefore the negativity is perpetuated.

Hope is not pretending that troubles don’t exist. It is the hope that they
won’t last forever. That hurts will be healed and difficulties overcome. That we will be led out of darkness and into the sunshine.

Sometimes taking the first step, especially when you feel hopelessness, can be the hardest. If you don’t believe things can change, then it’s totally understandable that it feels impossible to get started and find some hope.

So how can you find hope and break unhelpful spirals?

  1. Break it down a little- sometimes hoping to be ‘recovered’ can be a very tall order. It can feel like you’re trying to get from A-Z without any real idea of how to get there. It’s important to try and allow yourself you work through the process, taking measurable baby steps to find your way. It’s also completely ok if your goal changes, it can be a fluid process which in itself may give you hope.
  2. Show yourself compassion- once you begin your steps, you make have to reevaluate and take a different approach if it doesn’t feel like it’s working or going smoothly. Of course, it’s not going to be a walk in the park, but if it’s too hard you won’t reach the other side anyway. You may just need to change your goal posts and aim for slightly simpler steps. A headteacher once told me that when you write a to-do list, you should start with 2-3 things you’ve already done or know you can complete straight away. Giving yourself the immediate satisfaction of completing something can then spur you on to manage the rest.
  3. Start a gratitude list- I am fairly certain you’ve already achieved a lot in your life. If might not feel it, but think about the little things you have achieved. Reminding yourself that you are in fact pretty amazing can help you to feel hopeful about the future.
  4. Find Inspiration- this could be from people you know, famous people or celebrities, quotes, stories or anything really. Surround yourself with your inspiration and re-visit it daily to help move your mindset on to one of hope.
  5. Find hope by letting go of negativity- starting to let go of negativity, anxiety or depression can set you up to find space for a little more hope in your life.
  6. Think your way to hope- think about the way your life is now and the type of person you would like to be and what kind of life you would have if you were that person.
  7. Gain support from others- if you’re feeling hopeless, sometimes you need someone to help you find hope again. This can be from friends, family or even professionals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  8. Look after yourself- once again, self care is really important here. Looking after yourself can build your resilience and help you manage when you’re feeling hopeless.
  9. Help others to help yourself- sometimes getting a little perspective can help you find hope again.
  10. Be brave- ultimately, don’t give up. You’ve got this, you can do it. Maybe not right now, but you will be able to.

At the end of the day, all you need is hope and strength. Hope that it will get better and strength to hold on until it does.

Day 30: Bring It All Together

Somehow, it’s the end of the month and my #SelfCareSeptember journey is coming to an end! ec3ba90e42153fd91bd7ca3b14399517I hope you’ve found some of my posts interesting and that you can take away at least a few ideas to help improve your own self care.

I’ve definitely found thinking about self care for a little time each day really helpful, it’s helped me to realise that it’s ok to make myself a priority for a little of my busy routine… the world won’t end and I will actually feel a little better for it.

I’ve used distress tolerance boxes in the past (something I will blog about at a later date), and I wonder if it could work to make a self care box or bag. Fill it with all of the things you need to complete a little self care, or flash cards reminding prompting you with different ideas… I image it being a little like a lucky dip on lovely ideas to help improve your wellbeing.

Here’s a summary of the month’s blog posts. Thanks so much for reading my blog and not getting too bored of me waffling on about self care! Now to think of a new project!

  1. Day 1: Be Still (Mindfulness and meditation)
  2. Day 2: Healthy Routines
  3. Day 3: Gratitude
  4. Day 4: Radical Self Love
  5. Day 5: Random Acts of Kindness
  6. Day 6: Happy and Safe Places
  7. Day 7: Take a Break
  8. Day 8: Let Go of Your Inner Critic
  9. Day 9: Get Active
  10. Day 10: Warning Signs
  11. Day 11: Love
  12. Day 12: Sleep and Rest
  13. Day 13: Put Yourself First
  14. Day 14: Soothe Your Soul
  15. Day 15: Know Your Limits
  16. Day 16: Colouring
  17. Day 17: Important People
  18. Day 18: Be Yourself
  19. Day 19: Face Your Fears
  20. Day 20: Ride The Storm
  21. Day 21: Live Without Regrets
  22. Day 22: Notice The Little Things
  23. Day 23: Technology Breaks
  24. Day 24: Let Out Emotions
  25. Day 25: Silver Linings
  26. Day 26: Accept and Seek Help
  27. Day 27: Work Towards Goals
  28. Day 28: Expand Your Mind
  29. Day 29: Self Compassion
  30. Day 30: Self Care Bags

Day 20: Dark Nights End

5bf87c985811c25b27f65410a7f729edI love nighttime. I love the darkness and the peace and quite that sunset brings. As a child I was scared of the dark, I slept with a nightlight for very many years past where I ought to have given it up. I remember being scared of what I couldn’t see, not expecting there to be monsters lurking but fearing that there may be something there I wouldn’t like. When I had a nightmare or a bad dream I would close my eyes and fill the space in my mind with black or a colour. If a scary picture from my dream snuck back in, I would concentrate hard on pushing it out of my headspace and focusing on making everything my one colour again, oddly stumbling across some kind of childlike mindfulness.

My mental health difficulties have come hand in hand with insomnia, seemingly endless nights battling with thoughts and demons, but also the night time gave me a bit of a break from my problems, there were no appointments or choices to make at night, just the enveloping darkness that gave me an escape from a busy, confusing and anxiety provoking world. It’s with a great sense of relief that my insomnia is a lot more ‘normal’ now… but I suppose I’ll probably never be without it with such a bustling mind!

I am no longer fearful or the night but find comfort in its silent embrace.

I wasn’t sure how I could tie today’s post in to#SelfCareSeptember but this post had been sitting in my drafts for a while and I’d edited and reformatted it so many times that I just wanted to get it posted! These seem the most challenging posts… those that feel like oversharing! I guess the strong feeling I got from writing this evening was that dark times pass, if you can ride the wave or weather the storm, you can get to the other side of it. I suppose it’s about being resilient enough to wait it out… and that in itself is a self care tip… I think!

Day 12: Get Some Rest

I’m over a third of the way through #SelfCareSeptember and I’m not sure if it’s making the month go more slowly or much quicker! Hopefully you’ve been finding some of my Self Care tips interesting and haven’t all got too bored to tears of my wellbeing mission!

a6be37519d0aa173c497a39a48f80261For today’s rather late entry I wanted to talk about sleep! According to the Sleep Council, nearly half of the adult population are getting six hours or less of sleep a night compared to the recommended average of 7-8 hours sleep. It might not seem like much of a different but sufficient sleep has been linked to improved memory, longer lives, an increase in grades and creativity, healthy weight and less chance of getting depression. All of those things sound pretty good to me!

My sleep is definitely heavily impacted on by my mental health, insomnia and mental health struggles seem to go really hand in hand for me. I know that lack of sleep is a real warning sign that my MH isn’t all that great, but it can be really hard for me to get into a better routine.

The Sleep Foundation have some great tips for having a better night’s sleep:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule- as a child, we probably all had a bedtime routine at some point, so we should try and adopt one again, having a routine can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night
  2. Practice bedtime rituals- there’s a fine line between helpful relaxation rituals and safety behaviours that can make the process of getting into bed really difficult, spend some time thinking about some soothing steps you could take in your routine before bed
  3. Avoid napping in the day
  4. Exercise daily
  5. If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired

Why don’t you have a look at your sleep routine and see if you’re optimising those z’s. Considering it’s now gone 11pm and I’m still staring at a screen… I might have a go at reevaluating my sleep routine and get to my bed!

Night everyone!