Miscarriages aren’t just things that you can forget, and they’re certainly not easy

Most people think a miscarriage is quick and easy, you pass the baby and that’s that – you can move on with your life. Unfortunately that isn’t the case.

In 2014 I found out I was pregnant. I was shocked but happy, knowing I had a little human growing inside of me.

I found out around 12/13 weeks. I had been given my scan date and couldn’t be more excited, even though it was 2 weeks away.

Then one Saturday before my scan which was booked for four days later, everything changed.

I started to bleed.

I called NHS Direct to speak to the doctor, but they said as it was only a little bit of blood I was okay to wait until the scan I had booked. The doctor told me that some people bleed during pregnancy, and that it was normal.

Little did I know that in the early hours of Tuesday morning everything would change.

I woke up with intense stomach cramps, to the point where I couldn’t move.

It felt like labour pains, it was awful – possibly the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life.

My mum had called NHS Direct again, and they sent an ambulance because by this time the blood was pouring out of me and I was almost passing out from the pain.

When I arrived at A&E the hospital staff were lovely. Apart from one, who treated me like a piece of rubbish on the floor.

She came in and noticed I had lost yet more blood and she had said ‘Would you like me to tell you when you’ve passed it all?’ after being told there was still a chance I was carrying a live baby.

I was moved to the ward and booked in for a scan, and after an hour or two I was taken down for it.

During the scan is when the heartbreaking words I had been dreading all morning finally came.

‘I’m sorry but you’ve had an incomplete miscarriage’.

An incomplete miscarriage is where you only lose so much of the baby and you are still carrying the rest, which can make you become septic.

I was given a choice of an operation or tablets to help the rest pass. I wanted to avoid an operation so I chose the tablets.

Unfortunately, the tablets caused me to hemorrhage and I lost a lot of blood.

I was sent home that night after having taken the tablets and within half an hour my mum had to phone another ambulance because I was losing so much blood.

I was taken back to the hospital, where they scanned me again. Apparently, I hadn’t still hadn’t lost all of the baby – so they booked me in for an operation in which I had to wait a week for.

But things worsened and I was sent back to the hospital that night, where I was taken down for emergency surgery due to the dangerous amount of blood I had lost.

The surgery went well and I was released home the following day, still poorly and severely anemic.

Unfortunately my hopes of recovery were short-lived, as not long after being at home I started showing signs of infection.

After an out-of-hours visit to my doctor, it was confirmed that I had a womb infection. I was given antibiotics for the infection but they didn’t work.

And a few days later I was taken back to the hospital by ambulance. My blood suagrs had dropped and I was taken back to the hospital.

Luckily, the issue was fixable there and then without any more surgery.

On my return home, I hoped that this would be the end of it and that I could finally move on with my life.

But ‘moving on with my life’ came in a form I’d never have expected.

I had fallen pregnant again just two months after my miscarriage. Of course, I panicked. I was terrified that the same thing would happen again. The pregnancy start-to-finish was an endless battle of fear.

Miscarrying previously had made me so paranoid that during this pregnancy I didn’t buy anything for the baby until I was 30 weeks pregnant – as I was worried history would repeat itself.

But thankfully, I carried full-term and gave birth to the most beautiful, healthy baby boy.

I will never stop grieving for the baby I lost, and although it still feels raw, having my boy – who’s now one year old – has given me the strength to somewhat deal with the heartbreak. He’s given me a reason to smile again.

Miscarrying has affected me mentally more than it did physically.

Before falling pregnant again I had become extremely suicidal and I refused to leave the house.

I was constantly wondering what I had done wrong to deserve this. After finally admitting defeat, I went to the doctors and was diagnosed with and treated for depression.

I think of the baby I lost everyday. I think of what he or she would have looked like.

Would they have looked like my son? Or even their dad?

Now, I have accepted the fact that some things happen for a reason. I wouldn’t have had my little boy if it hadn’t have happened – and so I feel blessed to that have a healthy, amazing little boy to be proud of every single day.

Words by Shannon Deane

What it’s like to be a young woman living with a stammer

I think that right now in my adult life I want to document and blog about my stumbled speech, as I am a post-grad emerging into the fashion/ advertising London scene with a stammer.

I want others to know they are not alone and it is okay to be scared, so scared you think to die is easier as everyday is a constant challenge.

It all started in primary school.

I remember sitting on the wooden bench in the head teachers office crying with anger and pulling my hair out. This was a constant scenario as I would get so frustrated with myself, as at this age I had no idea what was wrong with me. Why weren’t my words coming out? Why was my brain feeling like mashed potato? Why was this happening to me?

I could not speak until I was four years old, I would just pat my chest for ‘I’ and give my mum hand gestures to communicate.

In school growing up I was bullied, which ruined my confidence at just the age of 8.

I was receiving death notes through my letterbox and I never wanted to participate in activities if it meant talking or working in a group.

Quickly moving on, high school was pretty much the same. I was so shy, so quiet, I knew I was a loud, sarcastic little shit inside but that side of me no one ever saw but myself.

I used to talk to myself in the mirror A LOT to have a conversation with someone, and for some reason I would never stammer. I liked this as I could allow everything on my mind to be heard out loud without any frustration or anger coming out.

I pretty much had my small group of friends and kept myself to myself but I was still getting bullied and of course this causes anxiety, anti-social behaviour, fear and I just did not want to socialise. I would rather sit in my bedroom doing my artwork rather than ask for a bus or cinema ticket.

I remember laying in bed just before my 16th birthday and my National Insurance card came through the post and my mother said: ‘Jess you can get a job now’.

She left the room and the only thoughts running through my head were ‘Jess you have to kill yourself’.

I wasn’t prepared to live a life of misery; not being myself, not having a voice. Living day to day normal activities were such a challenge.

That day I wanted to end my life. At the time, my it felt as though my life had only consisted of self-harm, frustration and anger. It was the darkest time of my life. Waking up and not wanting to speak to the world, locking myself in my bedroom to avoid even talking to my family. It was mentally exhausting.

I knew at this age I wanted to have a career in fashion. I would spend my dinner money on Vogue magazine, and instead of asking for food in the school canteen I would rather starve and read it.

Looking at those glossy pages with the determination that one day I was going to work for Vogue. We all know it is not that easy as we grow up but I have always had my career to push me forward.

I studied art, textiles and photography in school and this was a massive window to express my anger. I did a lot of dark work such as photographing in derelict buildings and for my A level Art year I did my year studying and drawing Asylums.

I feel being creative has helped express who I am and for people to see my self-worth. When someone comments or likes my work it makes me want to cry with happiness because someone can finally see I am good at something, I am useful in life.

I went to University which was the hardest and biggest decision of my life.

Walking into that hall full of new people, the people I was going to spend the next three years of my life with. I remember sitting down and feeling numb. I would not let my stammer take over my life. I would not pretend to be someone I was not. So I sat with a group of girls and started talking.

I feel like University was the ice breaker in my life. I was pushed, shoved, challenge and bruised. I HAD to stand up in a lecture hall and present my project presentation, I HAD to do a presentation on Skype, I HAD to present to industry professionals.

All of these challenges which scared the living hell out of me actually in the long run have given me the confidence I need to now in life be able to pick up the phone and ring back companies and agencies.

Since graduating I have moved to Aberystwyth where I had to make a whole new life and friendship. This was only just another test. I then moved back to Cardiff where I now work in H&M which has again made my confidence grow.

I have over time worked on my speech, controlled my speech and now my speech does not control my life.

I still get mentally exhausted with how I have to work my mind and how to talk but I think for someone at the age of 23 to have taught themselves how to control something so major is pretty alright.

 

I wish there was more of a support unit in schools for young children who need help understanding themselves. I never once had any kind of help I was just always put into the under-achieving classes just because I would never talk up or show off my work.

But I guess this is just the surface of my story, my stammer and my journey into the fashion industry.

Today I am Jess, the Jess I have always wanted to be. Tomorrow I will be an even better Jess with more confidence, ambition and strength.

To my best friend: Watching you fight your illness saved me from mine

To my best friend Emma,

It’s been a crazy 3 years. When I first met you, your attitude was undeniable. Sassy, sarcastic and a little judgemental. It was inevitable that we’d be friends. We weren’t always the closest but you were the only one there for me when I needed you the most.

I’ve been ill for a long time now. My days are long. Hard. And for the most part, dark. I cry when no one is watching. I’m happiest when I’m helping others. If I focus on the broken pieces of other peoples’ lives, the less I have to deal with my own missing jigsaw pieces.

My smile isn’t always genuine. My advice can sometimes be hypocritical. My ability to overthink every situation and create situations that will never happen make it difficult for people to stay. But you’re still here and for that, I’ll never be able to thank you enough.

Depression isn’t easy to deal with. I push people away because I’m scared of letting them see me.

All of me. I’m so scared of being alone but too scared to let anyone in.

When you became ill, it was a difficult time for me. I’ve never admitted this but at the time, my depression got really bad. I constantly worried about if you were okay and my head would go round in circles. I knew deep down that everything was going to be okay but what would I do without you?

What I didn’t realise was that, the whole time I watched you courageously and defiantly fight your illness, you were saving me from mine.

Worrying, stressing and overthinking everything made me see that for all the days that were long, hard and dark, I’m not alone. Even in your hospital bed, hours after life saving surgery, you were still texting me asking if I was okay.

Whenever I was visiting YOU, you wanted to ask about ME! For all that I am scared to let people in, you never gave up on me.

How can I worry about being alone when I have someone who cares about my day? Cares about what I’ve eaten? Cares about how I’ve slept?

Even when you were at your weakest, you still cared about making me stronger.

They say everyone has a soulmate. People spend their whole lives searching for their other half. The perfect man or woman. But who said a soulmate can’t be your friend. You’re my other half. My partner in crime. The reason I’m here at this moment writing you this letter.

So, Emma, thank you! Thank you for being there. Thank you for supporting me in everything that I do. Thank you for listening.

Thank you for putting up with my over-dramatic responses. Thank you for believing me when I tell you ‘I’m fine’ (even if you don’t think I am or know that I’m not).

Thank you for understanding when I say I don’t want to talk about it (and then forcing me to anyway).

Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for being my soulmate. Thank you for being my sister. Thank you for making me smile. Thank you for being you amazing sassy, sarcastic and judgemental self.

Thank you for being the best best friend I’ve ever had.

But most importantly, thank you for saving me. Every single day.

With all my love,
Your depressed best friend x

To the ASDA worker who made it possible to shop when my autistic son felt unsafe in your store

An open letter to ASDA:

I wanted to bring to your attention the most fantastic example of customer service that I experienced today in your recently opened Redditch branch.

My ten year old son, Oscar, is on the autistic spectrum. Whilst in store today, he became overwhelmed with fear by the Halloween displays around the store.

We had made our way into the store and past a scary skeleton without too much distress but once we were at the rear of the store he was in a total state of sensory overload and the anxiety of the skeleton became too much for him to cope with.

He quite literally went into a state of panic and was clawing at me, begging to be taken out of the store as he ‘wasn’t safe’. Being at the rear of the store, there was no easy escape and by it was clear that he felt EVERY exit route was ‘unsafe’.

To say this was distressing for both him, his seven-year-old sister and I is an understatement and other shoppers were also upset to see a young boy so afraid.

Among murmurs from other customers of ‘the displays should be kept to one area so people can avoid it’ (I agree with this entirely and shall address this with you as a separate issue) and ‘poor lad, can we help?’ a friendly face appeared and asked if she could help.

The ‘friend’ was Emma: a young lady who works in the George Clothing area of the store. I don’t know if she has children or has experience of autism but she showed a level of caring and understanding that we rarely see outside of family.

She understood that we couldn’t just leave the store – we were trapped as far as Oscar was concerned – and we needed to work to comfort and calm Oscar. Emma asked him ‘what DO you like?’ and when he replied ‘Star Wars’.

She raced to fetch the first thing with Star Wars on.

She returned in seconds with a pair of pyjamas and got him to talk through the pictures on them. WOW. She held a magic key and he started to calm down.

Emma understood that we couldn’t leave the store via the checkouts as the displays could be seen from there so, once I’d paid for the few items we’d got (before people criticise I also needed Oscar to see that we can’t just leave situations because they make him uncomfortable as I am working hard to desensitise him and then praise him on all the things he did right) she arranged with security that I could pay (with Oscar standing at the end of an aisle in my view), go back into the shopping area and then slowly encourage Oscar – via a more comfortable exit – out of the store.

At every step of our shopping experience, Emma made it that little bit easier for both Oscar and I.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to thank her properly as, after she’d arranged that we could make our clear exit with security, we went off on our own to slowly work our way out of the store (it took about 40 minutes to get him near to the exit as I had to check every aisle and turning for anything that may upset him again and each time he got worked up and needed calming down again) and he got upset again so we sat in the coffee shop for a bit before one last dash from there to the door.

Emma demonstrated what it is to make a difference. She showed kindness, compassion and worked at Oscar’s pace and she modelled EVERYTHING that a person in a customer interfacing role should do. ASDA, you have shown yourself to be a company that recognises the varying needs of people with autism and people with non-visible disabilities and this is why we shop with you.

Emma exemplifies this in the way she works. She is a credit to ASDA and I hope that she will be recognised for the exceptional way she handled our upset today.

I later returned to the store to see her and thank her but her shift had finished. A colleague believed her name is Emma Sanders. Emma… THANK YOU.

Today you made more of a difference than you can possibly imagine.

I’m writing this to raise awareness of what it is to have autism and be petrified beyond belief. So that people who see the ten year old howling and clawing don’t judge him and think ‘grow up’, but step back and realise that this child may be in crisis and need space/support/anything other than judging.

(As a final footnote – why the hell have those awful decorations in such open spaces where young and vulnerable cannot avoid them? My opinion is – fine, have them: celebrate it… but keep them to an area of the store where they can’t cause as much distress – just like porn would be).

Words by Jen M Goodhand-Wyatt

An honest letter to my chronic illness

Dear Ulcerative colitis,

When I first heard your name, I did not know what you were or how you would change my life. I had no idea of your magnitude. I thought you were something that would disappear with taking some pills. Little did I know, I was going to be stuck with you for the rest of my life.

What a crazy three years it has been since that day I first became aware of you. It hasn’t been the easiest or most glamorous of times. You have brought me so much pain, sickness, stress, anxiety and isolation from the world.

However, I do not blame you. I know that you appeared because I needed to learn how to take care of myself better. At the time, I was under so much emotional stress and I  didn’t take care of my body or mind. You came to me with a message:

You need to stop and slow down. You didn’t listen to the signals your body was sending you and so now I am here to push you into self-care and learning about your wounds.

I am grateful for this, because without you I wouldn’t have begun this journey of self-love and healing.

I have come to accept that you are part of me and you are a constant reminder to listen to my intuitions about my body. However, that does not mean that I do not fear you. I am always worried about pushing too far and upsetting you. Our relationship will never be one of love but it does hold qualities of gratitude and acceptance.

Finally, I would like to thank you for pushing me to explore who I really am and find my authentic truth. I don’t hate you, not really.

I hope that one day we can be good friends and I will fear you no longer.

Love,

Rebecca

11 things you’ll only know if you have both a mental and a chronic illness

In January 2015, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis – a form of Inflammatory bowel disease after having emergency surgery to remove the colon it had taken hold of. 

By the end of 2015, I was diagnosed with type 1 bipolar disorder – a mood disorder which, with type 1, means I have more periods of elation than I do depression.

Both, in their own way, are tough enough to deal with. But when dealing with them together, it’s a whole other story.

Here are 11 things you’ll only know if you have both a mental and a chronic illness.

1. It’s incredibly hard work

You often feel as though you’re going one step forward just to be pulled two steps back. This is because generally, as soon as you get one illness under control, the other pops up to say hello.

2. They can often counteract each other

If it’s not one or the other: it’s both. A flare up with my UC can influence a worsened mood and a symptoms from my bipolar disorder – such as constant nightmares and little sleep during a manic episode, can influence the way my UC acts.

3. You take a LOT of medication

While you take medication for your chronic illness, you also take it for your mental illness. And sometimes, each medication can create a worsening effect on the opposing illness. It’s not fun.

4. You can feel trapped

You sometimes feel as if you’re never going to win, as if you’re never going to get better. Your mental illness episodes are sprung upon you alongside the episodes that come from a chronic illness. You feel as though you can’t just do good for a couple of weeks without something going downhill.

5. You have extra awareness to raise

Both chronic illnesses and mental illnesses are invisible illnesses. And this sucks – especially when you’re fighting the corners of both.

6. You feel guilty a lot

If it’s not one thing, it’s the other. And you start to feel guilty as you realise you haven’t left the bathroom much, the bedroom much or even seen past your four walls in a long time.

7. You need a great set of friends who truly understand you

With my UC, I can end up stuck in the bathroom up to 10 times a day. It makes me feel rubbish and makes me question what the point is when I’m not seeing further than my bathroom walls at times.

When I am in a low episode with my bipolar disorder, I can struggle to leave my house let alone my bedroom, feeling unmotivated, uninspired and just generally crap. So you really need a good set of friends who understand this and don’t pressurise you into going out or make you feel guilty for not doing so either.

8. You’re on a first-name-basis with your GP

You’ve been to them for so many different things that you start to get to know them personally – where they studied, what their family’s like, what their favourite pizza topping is… you get me.

9. People find it hard to separate your illnesses

People, and even your doctors, forget that your chronic and mental illnesses are separate. So you often end up talking more about one than the other just so that things aren’t confused. Otherwise when you’re in a bad episode with your mental health, you’re faced with comments such as: ‘Maybe you’re just not very well in your chronic illness and you’re feeling bad about that’ – as if you can’t distinguish between the two yourself.

10. You deal with patronising comments more than you’ll ever know

Having both a mental and chronic illness inspires many patronising comments, such as: ‘It’s all in your head’, and ‘It’s your chronic illness that’s getting you down’. ‘You should get out more or go for a run’ is one of the best, though.

11. You’re an incredibly strong person

With every negative comes this one positive – you deserve an award for the crap you’re dealing with. Dealing with two invisible illnesses simultaneously makes you an incredibly strong person – one that can handle more than most.

And that’s something to be truly proud of.

Words by Hattie Gladwell

My parents didn’t know how to care for me – and it’s affected my mental health forever

It’s dark and cold outside and yet again I find myself unable to sleep.

My mind is racing, my skin is itchy and my heart is pounding. I call them mini-panic attacks. They are nowhere near as severe as the debilitating breathlessness I get when I go into full meltdown, but the emotions and physical effects are similar.

I’ve always had these, even as far back as age 5 I remember ‘being a worrier’, and I’ve never known why. I’ve had counselling, tablets, and even hypnotherapy but no one has ever been able to explain why I’m so highly strung.

However, like a light switching on, my brain has finally given me a clue, or a pathway to explore. A potential reason why I’ve always felt empty, lonely and miserable. I’ve never been loved.

Your parents are supposed to support you, develop you, and push you. They are to be there, to encourage, and to help you grow strong. And mine tried really hard. I’ve spent 25 years making up excuses, and explaining away their shortcomings and now I see what everyone else has always thought.

They never knew how to be parents. I don’t mean in the way any adult is unprepared to change nappies but is somehow pre-wired with love and affection, and hopes and dreams for their bundle of joy, rather I mean the opposite.

They knew how to feed me, clothe me, and potty train me but they had no real love or connection to me.

Over the years we developed a symbiotic relationship whereby they provided me with food and shelter, and I provided them with emotional support and a referee for their fighting. I learned how to sweep up broken glass, mend broken hearts, and tread carefully through emotional land mines, long before I even learned how to do long division.

As I took over the house finances and started functioning as the chef/confidant/parent to my younger siblings, mum’s drinking started to get out of hand. Dads drinking made him violent and as I started taking my GCSEs I was perfectly able to diffuse even the most heated of pre-war discussions between the two of them.

They were however never there for me.

When I was raped, age 13, I couldn’t tell my mum for fear of how much more she might drink, or how much angrier dad might get. When I was bullied and beaten, I hid the worst of it so not to make my parents life any worse.

As I got older, and got into abusive relationships, I presented a more family-friendly image to them to give them hope and joy at all I had achieved. I tried hard at school, at college, and at uni and I was determined to make them proud and to make them love me. I wanted to do music, or drama, or anything I loved doing; however they discouraged me as it wasn’t a good career move and there was no money in it.

By the time I was in my early twenties I was very unwell, depressed and bipolar.

I was quite literally falling apart at the seams when I returned to the family home to try and pull my life back together. I was an inconvenience to them, although they never said that.

They would tell their friends how sick I was, and give excuses as to what might be wrong. When a doctor suggested it might have been something to do with my childhood and development, mum burst into tears and wailed in the hospital declaring she couldn’t have done anything wrong.

Eventually, I got myself normal enough to leave again and left. Never realising that this wasn’t normal and that I shouldn’t be feeling as damaged as I did.

Even now, when my boyfriend tries to love me, I clam up.

I thought it was because I wasn’t very touchy feely. But I realise now, it’s because I’ve got absolutely no idea how to respond to it.