Monday, 13 July 2015

Chronic Teenage Tears is 2 - Friends, Growth & Life....

Image: lovethispic

I can't quite believe I am sitting here writing my blogs 2 year 'birthday' post. Two and a half years ago, blogging about chronic illness had not even crossed my mind. I have read many beauty and lifestyle blogs in my time, but I never even thought about blogging about chronic illness. The origin of starting my blog stemmed from feeling severe isolation in my life after living with a chronic illness for all of my teenage years. I felt like I went from 13 years old to 50 in a short amount of time, rather than transforming from a young teen into a young adult. Every teenage typical 'normality' and 'lifestyle' could not have been further from my situation. July 2013, was a seriously testing time in my life. I could not understand how or why my life was turning out like it was and quite honestly, I felt at my wits end. There have been so many times in chronic illness that I have personally wanted to just give up, but this occasion in July 2013 really stands out.

Helpless, lost, frightened and so deeply depressed were basic foundations that made up my daily life at this point. I didn't want those attributes to make up every single day of my existence, let alone ever think they would be so reoccurring during my teenage years to present. I had lived chronically ill and housebound for 5 and a half years by age 19 and I was devastated. I never want to get to that place consistently, again. As long as I continue to push myself to help others and know that I may possibly get a response in return, or even be helping them in their own aspects of life with illness, I can't give up. Knowing the safety that blogging also gives me, in regards to realising just how many others live a life of similar circumstances is also a key to my survival within my life with chronic illness.

Nothing comprehends or prepares you for the isolation you feel when living with a chronic illness. Especially at a young age where a group of friends should be a consistent and positive thing. I wish I would've started this process long ago for what blogging has done for my mental state, however I am a firm believer in being in the right place at the right time. I can only hope that more of those occasions have the possibility to arise in my life during my future in blogging and personally too.

Something came over me in that really low moment in July 2013. Something forced me out of my comfort zone towards randomly starting a blog. Something instigated the necessity to reach out to others. It may have been desperation, it may have been rational thinking, it may have been a higher power. Who knows! All I know is that it has been one of the best forms of progression in acceptance for my mental health and growth in acceptance of a chronic illness. No matter how many times I may contemplate deleting this blog, usually from fear I am sharing too much, fear that I am being too honest or fear that strangers will potentially judge me on what I have written, I truly hope my words based upon fist hand experience can help someone who is in a similar situations. The fact that something so simple has been the key to connecting me with so many others with chronic illness, is something I will truly be forever grateful for.

Subconsciously, when I write my blog posts I write them in the context of almost coaching myself with what has been on my mind regarding illness. Sometimes it works in my favour and I feel good to get it off my chest, sometimes it makes me completely analyse the topic for days on end therefore making me feel worse about my current situation. But ultimately, it can also really help to push me towards taking small steps to try to better my life and current reality. So here is my two year look back. I often forget the things my blog has helped me to achieve until I see it on paper. 

I really can't believe in two years I have managed to gain over 30,000 page views on this blog. I am very aware of the fact that some bloggers can gain thousands in a day, but to me it's a sign that someone may be connecting with my own story and ultimately feel less alone in their own life. I remember the joy I felt at 100 views, my mum and I were so overwhelmed and ecstatic. I know that that chronic illness in young people isn't a subject that is deemed highly important (it should be) or something that may cross a mass of the populations mind on a daily basis. It's not an area many take expertise or take a solid interest in. Just knowing that a handful of people can connect to my own life with multiple diagnosis's and chronic illness is something I am always so quick to point out, because it truly means so much and has been one of my main factors in acceptance, help and growth as a person. Being chronically ill is a lifestyle in need of so much more awareness because it is sadly, a living reality to so many young people out there.

It almost frightens me that only two years ago, I didn't have the support and the gratitude of knowing the people I do today. My blog has connected me to I hope, many friends for life. These people not only understand my reality because so unfairly, it is also theirs, they just don't realise how special they are. It takes a special person to help you through your own day, hurdles and misfortune when they themselves are suffering too. They don't realise how many beautiful qualities illness brings out in them, their attentive care and wisdom. The support they provide from a distance is everything and more I could've hoped for in friendship. On a daily basis, they show me reasons of why I see past their illness and only see their strength and admiration. They have become people who I speak to daily and others who I catch up with during the week or month. No matter the time of day or night, someone is always there to speak to on any corner of the world, who can make me think more rationally and even just to let each other rant away about illness, isolation, pain. 

Not only has my blog allowed me to make such amazing friends, it has also allowed me the opportunity to meet them on this side of the ocean and the other. My family and I had the pleasure to meet the lovely Denise from 'Chronic Connection' in Orlando, Florida earlier this year for lunch. I have also had the pleasure of regularly meeting up with my lovely friend Lauren, who has become such a huge support of my process in accepting life with Ehlers Danlos. I hope to be able to eventually meet up with so many more blog friends who have been nothing but supportive in the near future.

I have a new found love for social media, it was something originally and still at times used to arise low and sad thoughts. I would constantly compare the parallel of my life to those who are healthy that I once went to school with. It made me anxious and depressed to the point where I stopped myself logging into private accounts. That was until I started my ChronicTeenageTears Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages. I have been able to talk daily to people just like myself health wise and learn from their ways of living, acceptance, pain tips and just from their gratitude of life. They are often so positive, so supportive and as accepting as they can be with the cards they have been dealt in life. Like myself, they are just grateful to be talking to others in similar shoes and knowing they are not alone. At the current time of writing this have 1,265 Twitter followers, considering I have 55 on my private account, this is insane to think that many others are willing to follow my tweets.

A personal goal is that earlier this year, I started my second distance learning course in the field of media after feeling like I needed a new focus. I wanted to work towards a qualification but didn't want to jump straight into or commit to a degree just yet because of my health and pain levels. That is obviously, the ultimate goal but I am hoping to gradually get to that point within the next couple of years. I am now more determined and more certain in the subject field that I want to study and hope I can achieve all I have in mind. Although with most things in my life, I am far too hard on myself. I start at step one and want to be on step 10 by the end of the week. I like to see progress quickly, which is something I still find difficult in life with chronic illness.

In October of 2014, I was featured in an Australian magazine speaking about Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, blogging and adapting to life with a disability. The team at Defy Pain have also shared my story on life with disability on their website. I was also recently asked to join 'The Mighty' team, a website based upon all disabilities and a platform for sharing stories. The stories on their page are so diverse and unique yet equally as inspiring. I always feel so grateful to have the opportunity to share pieces of my work with very kind and understanding websites who take an genuine interest in bettering the lives of those with illness.

One thing I no longer stress myself out as often over is using my wheelchair. Before I started blogging, I didn't know of another soul like myself who was my age, had similar disabilities and who also used a wheelchair. I had put off using my own out of fear, judgement and how I would be perceived rather than being logical and thinking about how desperately I needed to use one. I didn't want to accept the reality of my situation and disability, I wanted to push through and foolishly, make myself worse. I was embarrassed and too stubborn for my own good. Recently, I wrote a post on using a wheelchair and had many people get in touch with their own experiences and tips. My pain has got to a point where at times, it is too painful to stand, walk and move. I was actually desperate for my chair on a recent trip out just from standing out the car, something I wouldn't usually express. I happily sat in it and didn't even feel phased by something that would have frightened me only at the beginning of this year. I didn't look for people staring, I just focused on getting myself through my pain whilst outside. I felt thankful to be sitting in a chair and to have safety that no one could barge into me. So many positive comments and feedback from others over that topic is something that I now always relate to when it comes to using my chair, this feeling can help to overrule the feelings of fear I was once overwhelmed with. I know that I am not alone, I know that it is for my benefit and I know that my chair doesn't define my personality or make me any less of a person because of my disabilities.

All in all, the longer I have my blog and the more I connect with and hear from others, the more determined I am to want to change the perception and face of chronic illness in young people. I hope that in the next year, I can find the courage to follow some of the plans I have in mind for this aspect of my life and I hope all of you can help me too. If you too have a flare for or enjoy writing think of the benefits you could also gain from blogging and connecting with others in similar situations. 

Lastly, I just want to say a huge thank you again to anyone who may take the time to visit my page, read a post, leave a comment or even get in touch. Your words, friendship and kindness always brighten my day and I really appreciate your honesty and effort in doing so. I hope that you all are doing as well as possible and continue to implement positive steps forward, despite your illnesses.... 

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