#makingmymark

When I look back at this year I wonder where the time has gone.  It’s almost like someone has eaten a couple of months because I am not quite sure how it is already December.  But I also can look back with pride at what I have achieved.

2016 started with a focus on ‘the’ walk it was like nothing else I had ever done and something I knew we (Jen and I) weren’t going to take lightly.  So unsurprisingly this year I have walked a lot, more than I have ever walked and more than most people would ever, I am sure, want to walk.  I have seen parts of where I live that I have no desire to ever walk through again whilst also finding hidden gems.

Fitbit tells me I have walked over 3,765,586 steps since the start of January which equates to ~3000 kilometres – that is equivalent to walking the full length Japan if anyone is interested.    Jen, Laura and I completed an emotional walk of 100km from London to Brighton in 29 hours and 16 minutes with Jen’s dodgy knees, Laura’s horrendous blisters and my (probably) irritatingly good spirits.

Words cannot explain the experience, they really can’t, it will stay with me forever.  To do that with Jen, raising awareness as we had wanted for something that meant so much and recruiting our friend Laura as well was incredible.  We raised nearly £5,000 between the 3 of us which I still cannot quite comprehend.  Probably the proudest moment of my life, let alone the year.

The blog has also grown from strength to strength.  My Dad emails me after every post to tell me how good the post is (its probably an auto response to the blog email 😉 )and marvels at the fact I always seem to find something to write about. I admit some weeks are harder than others and there are so many half started blogs which I might resurrect at some point.  It is amazing what inspires you sometimes and I have felt truly inspired to be part of campaigns such as #hiddenfaces.

The highlight of the blog for me this year was the feedback.  The discussions I have had with so many about MRKH whether they have the condition or had just seen the blog.  The positive vibes so many have sent has been amazing and so often from the people I would least expect it from like those I work with who just stumbled across it and learnt something new about a condition they didn’t know anything about and about me.

There are actually a lot of MRKH blogs out there, probably more than you may think so thank you for choosing to read mine! I have chosen to share some personal and sometimes painful parts of my life with you all because I have always said if I can’t be honest in the blog then realistically that isn’t going to help me.  The main reason I am doing this is for me it always has been.  It’s a cathartic process to document my feelings whilst knowing that my experiences and thoughts are also shared by others and for them to know that its ok to feel like we all do at times.

I’ve also gone out of my comfort zone this year to spend time with those I love and care about in those further flung places I never imagined I would go to and definitely wouldn’t have gone to had they not been there.  Standing on the edge of the East African Rift seriously is up there with one of the most amazing experiences and to do that with such special friends was fantastic.  This contributed to me getting on more return long haul flights in one year (5) than I have ever done before…not bad when I hate flying and yes still hate it…doesn’t matter how many times I do it.

Work for me this year has been challenging for many reasons not helped by an unsettled market which has led to a number of less than positive changes in many respects and has sadly led to a number of my friends being made redundant.  It’s never a nice feeling to deal with that and after so long at the same place I was beginning to wonder if it was right to stay myself.  After some soul searching, and a little help, I decided to stay, taking on a new, more exciting, but challenging role which should be exciting for 2017 and I hope beyond.

My year has culminated in my second proudest achievement. Taking over, following overwhelmingly unanimous support, as the Chairman of a Scientific committee that I sit on, the first female to do so in the 27 year history of the group.   I can’t really put into words my excitement about this without going into nerd mode but this is really a very big deal for me.

Despite all the positives (of which there are really too many to mention) I still constantly battle with the little voices in my head, those situations or times where it all just seems too much and I question myself.  There really is no escape from reality sometimes.  But I just have to keep reminding myself of what I have done and how whatever happens I know that I am strong enough to deal with it even if things rarely go the way I ever thought they would but hey that’s life right?

Thank you to everyone who has helped make 2016 so special for me and bring on 2017

It’s amazing what you can do when your put your mind to it and remember there is no such word as can’t.

Merry Christmas 🙂

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Mindfulness

2014 was easily one of the hardest years I have ever been through. Relationship troubles (understatement) left me feeling lost or needing help or maybe I had just been coasting for some time. I started getting headaches, like really bad headaches, occasionally with dizziness.

Every day

I sit in front of a computer all day, I often get headaches but these were different. Behind the eyes forehead hugging headaches. I hate to bother doctors with stuff like this, it’s just a headache right? But I was persuaded to at least go and check it out and I did.

My doctor diagnosed me with tension headaches likely caused by everything that happened in 2014 (end of a long term relationship, having to move out of the house I loved, find somewhere else to live etc) all of which has hit me far harder than I thought it ever would. The doctor tried me on some daily medication to try and help stabilise the situation. These tablets were essentially antidepressants but they also helped with managing tension headaches.

Over the first few meetings at two weekly check ups the dosage changed and nothing improved. I’ve never been very good at sleeping and this medication was supposed to help me sleep but it didn’t.

They wanted to try me on some different tablets, ironically ones that if I was trying for a baby or prone to epileptic seizures I shouldn’t take. Neither of which of course related to me but it was a bit of a wake up call. I needed help not just from medication.

I come from a family where medication is seen as something you only take if your life absolutely depends on it and only if it’s something that can’t be replaced by general vitamins available in fruit and vegetables in Sainsbury’s. Even taking paracetamol is something we did rarely. This isn’t a dig as I think this is no bad thing, but it has given me a different perspective to taking frequent medication, something that has been truly tested over the last 18mths with my dad’s illness.

I have seen friends also fighting the black dog with medication and it has had varied effects and I wanted to try something different. I knew I liked my psychologist so I requested to go and see her again

For the first time ever in a psychologist appointment I cried, I literally went into melt down. After all these years I have never done that so openly with a counsellor but clearly it was needed. Not only that but it felt freeing. By doing this, by being open, she could help find the best way to help me manage this.

We started with 6 sessions and I cried in the first 3. Even she was surprised.

We started working on mindfulness techniques. I had never heard of mindfulness but it now appears to be everywhere. Those adult colouring in books for example are a mindfulness technique.

Mindfulness for me at this time allowed me to focus on the present and stop thinking too much about the future that at that point I felt I had lost the chance of completely. It gave me some direction. Some guidance which is what I needed more than I will ever be able to explain.

The process of mindfulness isn’t hard but it is about becoming more mindful (I know rocket science right). Even of the most mundane things e.g. Brushing your teeth or your hair and focusing on everything about that process. It isn’t designed to make you forget your problems because that isn’t helpful and we all know that but it is designed to help give you perspective that despite any adversity (and it will get challenged) you can manage it if you take a step back.

2015 saw me finish that cycle of psychology meetings and start my blog with Jen to start this process of awareness raising. I feel the best I’ve ever felt about my condition and where I am. I still feel sad, I still feel lost I still feel challenged but I have better tools to help me manage it than ever before

Stay strong, you are more powerful than you think.