The Search For Clarity

Stay Bliss turns 3 today and I couldn’t be happier! I have had the most amazing time writing this blog and it is shocking how far I have come since my first post.

My life has changed so much for the better and I believe part of the reason for that is this blog. Being able to write down everything I’m feeling, the good, the bad and the ugly – has been the most therapeutic thing I have ever done. I really do encourage you to find a creative outlet because it helps you work through most things.

For the last few weeks my mind has focused on one topic… when is enough enough?

Even the strongest person who knows to their core who they are, can get caught up in someone else’s life. When you love with all your heart, you take on the triumphs and stresses of another person. Then you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by problems that with hindsight are not really your problem. The selfish part of me, becomes obsessed with being the hero in this story, I so badly want to swoop in and save the day.

So, when is enough enough?

The first thing I need to do is take a big step back. Being overwhelmed with someone’s else stress is comparable to being blasted with blaring music 24/7. It exhausts you, you become so tired and sleep is not making the music stop or go away. You need to step away from the music, close your eyes and rest. Clarity is the best thing for these situations, and taking a step back enables you to make decisions a lot more logically as you are now able to see everything for what it is.

The next thing is to get honest with yourself. Remember who you are, what you stand for and what you need. Is what you currently have making you happy? Are you being supported and constructively challenged? Is this still your happy place? Hopefully with time and clarity these questions become easier to answer. However answering honestly may not produce the answers you desire.

Now you have gathered all this information. Now you have taken a step back and are well rested, weightless. What are your next steps?

This is where my mind draws blank. I need the time away to be able to know this. Nothing is set in stone, you will never know how you are going to feel. Anything can happen, but you will know exactly what you are doing when it does. The time you spend on your own, completely freeing your mind from any and all obligations you are not sure you signed up for will mean that you are ready for the next steps – whatever they may be.

This realisation can be daunting, especially the idea of facing the unknown. This is all I know, how will I cope without it?

Remember who you are and all the amazing things that make you. Look at your support system, you have network of people looking out for you. Look at those dreams your wrote down on a little piece of paper a long time ago. Have you achieved any and if so have you properly celebrated? Have you given it any thought, you are achieving and checking things off your internal checklist!

Most importantly be your own hero. You can go on someone else’s journey with them but you can’t change it. Their journey is theirs, and yours is yours. Focus on yours because if you don’t nobody else will. With time you’ll come to understand whether or not your paths align. In the meantime focus on swooping and saving your day! 

This has been the hardest and most personal post I’ve ever written. My goal never is to offend, but to write the hard truths I’ve been avoiding out in black and white. I know now more than ever who am I but I’m not sure if that is who I’ve become. I know that I’m proud of myself for finally succumbing to this realisation. I’m also immensely proud of Stay Bliss. This blog continues to help me through so much and hope is helping someone else out there also.

Happy 3rd birthday Stay Bliss! ❤
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2 0 1 9 baby!

In 2018 I learnt to believe in the power of trusting the journey. Life gets so hard and confusing sometimes. At many points of the year I felt stuck. Trapped in a job I didn’t like, confined to a living situation I wasn’t suited to, stuck accepting things in my personal relationships that I just didn’t want. Trusting the journey is understanding that everything happens for a reason, your next steps might take you to an unfamiliar place. I knew exactly what things needed to change and tried desperately hard to change it. To no avail it felt like at times. Just keep trusting.

I am doing everything I can, at some point things have to break my way.

Things did.

I am starting 2019 off on an incredible note. I am living in a beautiful house with a group of my closest friends. I have a job that I love, I have finally broken into the communications sector! My relationship is also on the right track. In 2018 I found peace of mind. I had to come to the uncomfortable realisation that I was not in control. My friend sat my down to tell me she had noticed that I wasn’t being myself. I was struggling alone, fighting my battles solo. When you don’t ask for help it becomes you normally convince yourself that you are okay. I’m handling it, I have it all under control. I had to be told that I was in fact doing the opposite – completely shutting down and putting a wall up. This revelation hit me like a ton of bricks. I was down and cut people out for a number of days. However, stepping out of denial was the best thing I could have done. When you are aware that there is a problem you can begin searching for a solution. My solution was to vocalise. Say exactly how I was feeling to the people who needed to hear it the most. Spare no detail, spare no feelings – this was about my sanity and my peace of mind. I had the best night’s sleep once I did this. I know what I want now more than ever. I know what energy I will allow into my life and I am will do anything to keep this peace.

In 2018 I made a plan. I was very sure of the path I wanted to take career wise and I made sure I did. There were many twists and turns along the way, I could have taken a wrong turn multiple times, but I stayed focus. I faced a lot of rejection, some hit me harder than others, but I carried on. It is now 2019 and I am beginning to see the fruits of my labour. The wait and the struggle has all been worth it. Planning has helped me because there is now one notch I can cross of my list.

In 2018 I was inspired. I have been lucky enough to always find myself surrounded by powerful women who know exactly what they want from life. Throughout my biggest wobbles, I forever had strong woman beside me telling me to snap out of it. They would tell me that everything is going to work out great because they see me. They see how hard I am working and how much I wanted things to change. They also weren’t afraid to tell me off when I needed it.
“If you turn up to work late and don’t put in effort how do you expect anyone to take you seriously?!” I have watched women with a lot of determination and ambition for themselves setup amazing careers, projects and relationships. Seeing what they have done made me even more sure of what was possible. Observing these inspirational women pursue their goals made me want to do the same.

In 2019 I want to find some more inner strength. Certain aspects of my life is still a struggle. I want to find the inner strength and courage to truly follow my heart and always do what’s best for me. I know longer want to sacrifice my happiness for others. This will be the year that I really put myself first.

In 2019 I will strive ahead with my plan. It has got me this far but there is so much more I want to accomplish this year. I have a detailed timeline I’ve what I want to happen and when (in my head, maybe I should write it down) and I’m determined to make it happen.

In 2019 I want to make time for people. I’m not the best at making time for my family, often putting my needs before there’s. This year I want to make a real effort to take some quality time out of life to spend with them. My friends, family and boyfriend are my home.

In 2019 I will blog a lot more often! Stay Bliss means a lot to me and I have abandoned it lately. This year I want to post at least once a month. I find myself waiting for ques and ideas before I write. I would like to be able to start writing and see where it takes me!

Overall 2018 has been fantastic! I had some lows and some great highs. I am excited to see what happens in 2019 and I cannot wait to share my experience with you 🙂

Happy new year!

Stay Bliss,
Laura

Perspectives on a Birthday II

Wow! Happy birthday everyone! I can’t believe I’ve been doing this blogging thing for a whole 2 years now, time flies. I’ve loved every moment, especially being able to look back on the thoughts and words from 2016/17!

The thing I love most about blogging is having the courage to say things I don’t let myself say. I love my new found ability to be self-critical as well as self-championing. What I haven’t loved as much, is being bullied out of expressing certain things. Being bullied by myself of course – we are the meanest to ourselves sometimes.

I am going to attempt to be honest on this post. Perhaps more honest than I’ve ever been. So here goes.

I try and look at life through rose tinted glasses, and attempt to make things seem better than they actually may be. I am not going through any massive upheavals in my life, and no dramatic troubles. Things are great, but they could be better. This is pretty much always going to be the case though right? There’s no such thing as a perfect life.

I had quite a steady and stable childhood. I am fortunate where others are not. I have two wonderful parents who gave me a life where I had everything I needed. It has made me almost naive to the tough childhood others faced. My family were able to make everything better. So that’s the mentality I grew up with – to every problem, there is a solution. It is up to you to go out of your way to find it.

I know some very special people, some since childhood and some I’ve spent the last few months getting to know. Life wasn’t like this for them. Solving their troubles were not as easy. They have never known of life this way.

What to do when two people from the opposite sides of this scope become united? I know lots of relationships and friendships like this; it’ll be interesting to find out their thoughts.

Without even meaning to this post has turned into a story of perspectives. I shall name this perspectives on a birthday 2 🙂

Patience is definitely a virtue and I need a lot more practice. I can’t help but get frustrated when I see that nothing is being done. Nothing to solve problems which show no promise of slowing down. ‘Just do something’ I say to myself. I then in turn frustrate myself. It’s so easy for me to say, I have never had to deal with a fraction of these kinds of problems.

So what do we do now? What is the solution? Are your lives so different that this is just a cycle you’re forced to go around? Are we at a stale mate? Is it a put up or shut up situation? Or is it just a shut up Laura kind of deal?

I’ve always believed in time being a healer. No matter what anyone has been through or going through, you don’t have to be a victim to your problems. Patience is the key. If someone has had a difficult life, they cannot be expected to change everything around in a day. It takes a lifetime to heal old wounds, especially if the hurt has come from someone close to you. Encouragement over pressure.

There is a selfish part of me all that wants to be the hero. I want to be able to walk up to any situation and fix it. If only I could click my fingers and make everything all better.

The first thing I realised is to put more emphasis on effort. Putting in any kind of work or effort into sorting out your life and problems is worth celebrating. When I constantly think about my problems they grow about 100 times bigger in my head. Then the idea of there being a time where this problem will no longer exist is unfathomable. Deciding to take those very first steps in solving them is very difficult to do and that in itself is an achievement. Everything has to start in order to end, therefore the start should never been downplayed.

The second thing I realised is that it is not always about the things that separate you from each other. Whether it’d be your childhood, backgrounds, class, financial standings… there are some many details that make us from different each other. Why not think of the things that connects us? Do we have the same values, ethics, morals, sense of humour, likes & dislikes?
When we get out of heads and stop thinking of reason why our lives and relationships are doomed, tremendous steps can be made.  When we start to live in the moment and enjoy each other’s company things tend to progress organically.

And thirdly it’s okay to think with your heart. For the first time in my life my decisions and actions have been motivated by emotion. Complete emotion, no logic or ration. I always thought being smart and thinking every step through was the way forward and in some ways it still is. However being in love means that all reason can easily get thrown out of the window. After all the heart wants what the heart wants! Is this is bad thing? That depends on who or what has your heart. Being bold and quitting a job that you don’t enjoy even though your head is telling you something different. Leaving your safe and secure nest even and moving into something risky and exciting. These are examples of doing what the heart tells you to do. There are of course many safe and risk free alternatives you could seek, but going based off of emotion can sometimes be the right thing for you to do.

Belief is essential. Do not be part of something you have decided is doomed to fail. It won’t fail because you believe it won’t. It is okay to be scared. Fear is not always a bad thing. However making decisions based on fear is never a good thing.  I have a habit of second guessing everything when things are good. So let’s revisit the questions that were plaguing my mind just a few weeks ago.

So what do we do now? You assess the situation. Are you deeply unhappy? If so some difficult decisions need to be made. Happiness is an inside job and my first focus is my happiness. I know in myself that I’m happiest when I’m with the people I love and I’m still chasing my dreams. What is the solution? Are your lives so different that this is just a cycle you’re forced to go around? There is no easy to fix to all your problems however you don’t need to condemn your life to a forever revolving cycle. Give yourself time to fix your problems. Set achievable goals. ‘I want to apply for at least 10 jobs in the next 2 months’ ‘I want to save up £1000 by September’ ‘I want to pay £500 towards my debt by the end of the year.’ This way you will be able to clearly see that you are not going in cycles. However slowly you’re moving forward – you are MOVING FORWARD. Are we at a stale mate? Is it a put up or shut up situation? Or is it just a shut up Laura kind of deal? Don’t ever tell yourself to shut up or talk yourself into remaining quiet. Your thoughts and feelings are valid because they are yours. Communicating and expressing myself is the best way for me to sort through my thoughts. It makes it easier for me to figure out what my next move is. I am going to put up – I won’t let any of my problems win or convince myself that this it, this is how it will be forever. My future is mine and I say what goes and I say how it goes. Nothing is so big that it has to take over my life, and nothing is big enough to deter me from my plans. Everything in my world can or will be fixed, one way or another!

This has been an interesting post which has taken me a few weeks to write. I started off on one wavelength and am ending on another. This relates to the importance of time. Taking the time to properly asses how you feel. I recognise that the first time I really face my issues, I see it all as doom and gloom. Then I be sure to take the time to sit and think about it. Talking to my friends and family can really help and I begin to see things more positively. Take the pressure off yourself and recognise that not everything will be fixed right away. Give yourself time to process, and let yourself forget about your problems for a while. Organise a girls (or friends) night and talk to them about everything else. The pieces will eventually come together and the path you need to take will become clear. Until that happens – keep being positive, keep creating, keep searching, it will happen for you.

I’m only 25 but sometimes I feel so old. I feel like my life now is the way my life will be forever. Wrong. I am young woman that is forever adapting and evolving. It does me well to remind myself of this from time to time. I am walking into my second year of blogging on a positive note. My family, friends and boyfriend are the best people I can have around me right now. Even though I don’t always think so – I am in a very good place. Things can only get bigger and better, and for when I find myself in those tough times – I always have staybliss.

Happy birthday peeps 🙂

Stay Bliss, Laura

laugh
Photo Credit – Alisha Dandy http://instagram.com/alishadandy

 

 

Sickle Cell & Me

My illness is something I have often talked about but have never written about. I guess it is because when you write about it you can’t cut the tension with a giggle or a little joke. However it I feel like it is an important issue to be aware of especially since it is the 2nd most common genetic disorder in the UK.

The last thing I wanted is to tell a story that was really sad or made you pity me. I didn’t want to write a long piece talking about how difficult life is for me or about how sad I am about never being able to have a ‘normal’ life. I can understand that reading this may be a little hard to swallow, you never want to hear that people you know have struggled in ways that you can not fathom. But the brighter the light is that is shone on these issues, the easier living together in cohesion will become.

So the truth is that it hasn’t been easiest life but it is all I have ever known. Both my parents have a sickle cell trait which meant it was possible but not definite that I would be born with the full-blown disease. I feel like it would have had a different effect on me had I had lived my most of my life not knowing about it.

Sickle Cell disease is a genetic blood disorder. The disorder affects the red blood cells which contain a special protein called haemoglobin (Hb for short). The function of haemoglobin is to carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. People with sickle cell disease produce unusually shaped red blood cells that can cause problems because they don’t live as long as healthy blood cells and they can become stuck in blood vessels.sickle If you want to read more about the science behind it you can here. When this happens it causes a very painful episode known as a sickle cell crisis. This can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

My childhood was relatively normal. All it meant was I had few more trips to the hospital than the average kid. I was physically able to do the same things as the other kids. I didn’t feel very different because a few of the children in my class had sickle cell to, as it is quite common amongst Afro-Caribbean people.  My primary years were full of a lot laughter, fun and the dramatic goings on of a primary school playground. I had quite frequent crisis’ as a kid and would always have to take a couple of days off school to recover.

Describing the feeling of having a crisis is so hard because it is something I only let myself think about in that moment. Once it’s past – it’s gone and not even worth me thinking about. Everyone with sickle cell has a completely different story about their painful experience. Mine always engulfed my lower back  first before moving on to my arm and leg joints. It is an intense, excruciating sharp pain which also feels like it’s pulsating. Sounds awful I know, not something I like talking about. However 9 times out of 10,  after a horrendous long night of my crying out in pain in my mother’s arms, I’d eventually drift off and wake up to find the crisis is over.

This is pretty much how my primary and secondary years went for me. I didn’t crisis to often, probably no more than 8 times year and made sure to completely make the most of the times that I was completely healthy!

Having parents who were always there for me and saw me at my very worst and very sickest has had a lasting impact on me. My positive attitude towards my disorder and the way I have chosen to deal with it came from my mum. She instilled two key things in me.

‘Don’t see yourself as disabled.’ My mum has worked in the NHS for most of her working life in a very different time. She knew that however wrong it is, once you check that box you open yourself up to a discrimination by people who will never admit to it. Her sister – my aunty was born with cerebral palsy, so she saw first hand the ugly face of discrimination and hatred towards the disabled.
Sickle cell by all intensive purposes is invisible. So it would do me well to keep it that way. This is something I have always kept with me. I have never written it on a job application. My philosophy is get in through the door, show them how great you are and when the times comes for you to explain why you need to leave early again for a doctor’s appointment – then I discuss it in-depth. By that time, they know me and like me and appreciate the work I have done and will continue to do for them.

‘Don’t marry someone with sickle cell.’ She doesn’t actually mind who I chose to settle down with but if I was to have a child with someone with sickle, that child will 100% be born with sickle cell. It isn’t something that I’d wish on anyone so if I could help it I’d rather not pass it on.

Using all the advice I got from parents, peers and doctors I was able to live a fun teenage life. I made great friends who were always understanding, I picked up some bad habits that were not great for my health and I pretty much was a normal ‘semi-rebellious’ teen. At one point I got pneumonia, which sucked and at one point my hands and feet swole up like balloons and I had to crawl everywhere for about a week. That also wasn’t great. In year 11 I got gallstones which REALLY sucked and I had to get my gallbladder removed which was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. Compared to a crisis it was a walk in the park. My body was  and is really weird and reacts to things in the weirdest ways BUT for the most part I was good. Collectively these things sound quite bad but they happened sporadically over a period of 10 to 15 years.

At 18 I experienced one of the worst thing that can happen to someone with sickle cell – a stroke. Intense fatigue, an awful migraine and lot of confusion is the best way to describe it. I wasn’t afraid because I didn’t know it was happening. It was on Christmas day which was such a pisstake but I didn’t go to the hospital until the next day because I still wasn’t aware of what was going on. At no point when the doctors were explaining what was happening did I feel fear. Mainly because I was tired and confused and because I could see how guilty my parents felt for not realising sooner. Obviously I knew it was not their fault but I guess part of being a parent is feeling completely responsible for everything that your child goes through.

It was only a mini-stroke so within a couple of days I was back on the mend and had regained the feeling in the left side of my body. Friends and family were being amazing. Something I learnt from my earlier experiences of being is hospital is you could ask for pretty much anything and people would bring it to you. I’d ask for rice and peas and curry goat, KFC, magazines and pretty much anything I could think of that I fancied at the time. Also people always just brought you Lucozade, I guess that’s thing you do when someone’s in hospital.

And that was that. I was in hospital for two-weeks, in physiotherapy for a month. I had to drop out of college but in hindsight I could have gone back sooner but chose not to. The year went by and despite the dramatic health issues it was a pretty good year. I had 4 or 5 friends at the time who also weren’t at college so I always had people around me whenever I felt pretty low.
Some days did get very low. They say one of the post-stroke side effects is depression. There were days that I really struggled. Even though I got the all clear from my physiotherapists I never felt the same. I would forget words and lose my train of thought and was convinced that my smile would always be crooked. The NHS were great to me though and got me some help. Although I never have felt like my complete old self again, my mind and body healed over the next year.

Now for the weird part. Because of the stroke the doctors have put me on a treatment called an exchange blood transfusion. Similar to a blood transfusion but instead of just giving me blood, they also remove a few units of my ‘bad blood.’ This effectively means that they make sure by sickle percentage never gets to dangerously high levels. Yes this is intrusive and a bit of headache having to go into a hospital for a day every 6 weeks. However it means that I haven’t had a crisis in years because my blood has never reached ‘crisis’ levels. This is great for me because it means not only am I constantly being protected from the threat of another stroke but I also am currently a lot healthier than I ever have been. The weird part is because the NHS is so limited that you are only eligible for this treatment if you have suffered a stroke or another major traumatic event. So the friends that I have who also have sickle but have not had a stroke can’t get this treatment. I would never claim having a stroke is a good thing because it definitely is not but it’s quite sad that some people have to still be constantly in and out of hospital because that are ineligible.

Overall having sickle cell has shaped the way I see life. I realised a long time ago that I sometimes made myself ill by just thinking that I’d have a crisis. I would take longer to recover because I had reassigned myself to the fact that I’d always be sick. I soon realised that it was going to have to be mind over matter and tried from then on to be more positive. I noticed a difference in  my attitude and pain threshold when my mind-set changed.

Medicine has advanced so much so that the first sickle cell patient has just been cured. I am told that there is still a long way to go before it is implemented in the UK but it is exciting news nonetheless. Creative outlets such as this help me to stay upbeat and give me a chance to express myself.

My body still acts up sometimes. At the moment I have an ulcer on my ankle that I have had for the last year. It can get annoying and stressful at times but I am so grateful that I can still be active and pretty much live a life that anyone else can.

For now I will remain strong in who I am, do what I can to raise awareness and carry on enjoying life.

 

Stay Bliss, Laura

warrior

Click on the links below if you want information about giving blood and/or the sickle cell society.

www.sicklecellsociety.org

www.blood.co.uk