Tripping Through Treacle: Jenny Clarkson on Living with MS | The Health Sessions

Tripping Through Treacle: Jenny Clarkson on Living with MS

What’s it really like to live with chronic illness every day? How do you deal with the physical symptoms, emotional turmoil and practical problems? In this interview series, real life ‘spoonies’ share their experiences and tips.

Jenny Clarkson is a 30-something speech and language therapist from Lincolnshire, England. On her blog Tripping Through Treacle, she shares her story about stumbling through life with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  

 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Jenny, a 39-year old mother of two who loves reading, music, films, food and crochet. I live with my husband and kids in Lincolnshire, UK and work 3 days a week as a paediatric speech and language therapist. I also have Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS). MS is a chronic disease of the nervous system, where nerves become damaged and unable to transmit messages successfully. Unfortunately, there is no cure and I have my down days, but on the whole I try and stay positive and am so grateful for all that I do have. I blog about living with MS at www.trippingthroughtreacle.com.

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Beyond Bubble Baths: What Self-Care Means When You're Chronically Ill | The Health Sessions

Beyond Bubble Baths: What Self-Care Means When You’re Chronically Ill

It’s the buzz word of the year: self-care.

You’ve probably seen the articles about why self-care isn’t selfish and the lists of activities you can do to look after yourself. The stories invoke images of massages and spa days, sipping vibrant veggie juices in trendy yoga outfits and snugging up with a blanket and a book in front of the fireplace.

But when you’re energy and mobility are limited, self-care becomes a lot less glamorous than the picture painted in magazines and lifestyle blogs. Chronic illness can turn even the most basic forms of self-care, like taking a shower and cooking a meal, into a challenge.

At the same time, our health care systems put a growing emphasis on individuals taking control over their own health and actively managing their illness. We’re expected to eat healthily, exercise, get enough sleep and think positively, or seek professional help whenever we can’t.

Of course that’s a good thing. It’s your body and your life, and ultimately you’re the one who has to take action to make the most of whatever situation you’re given. But how can you do that when you feel sick, exhausted and in pain?

Let’s look into what it really means to practice self-care with chronic illness. 

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How to Learn to Accept Your Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

How to Learn to Accept Your Chronic Illness

A year ago I wrote a blog post about why acceptance is not the same as giving up. Facing today’s reality doesn’t mean you give up hope for tomorrow. It just means you make the best of the given situation in this moment, instead of trying to change something that cannot be changed right now.

But the question remains: how do you start accepting that you’re chronically ill and may never get fully better again? How do you wrap your mind around the fact that your body, your life, your future are forever changed?

It’s a cliche, but acceptance takes time. It’s a gradual process that has its ups and downs. Emotions may stir up (again) when you enter a new phase in life or a new stage of your illness.

In his bestselling book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra writes:

‘Acceptance simply means that you make a commitment: “Today I will accept people, situations, circumstances, and events as they occur.” (…) You can wish for things in the future to be different, but in this moment you have to accept things as they are.(…) Having accepted this circumstance, this event, this problem, responsibility then means the ability to have a creative response to the situation as it is now.’

Accepting chronic illness goes hand in hand with coping; learning how to deal with negative thoughts and feelings. It’s also about partly letting go of the person you thought you were and the life you had envisioned, and make the best of the new reality you’re handed.

How do you do that? I don’t have all the answers, but here are some psychological strategies to help you.

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13 Helpful Things to Do When You Can't Sleep at Night | The Health Sessions

13 Helpful Things to Do When You Can’t Sleep at Night

It’s the middle of the night and there you are, staring at the ceiling while the clock’s ticking away. You start getting anxious, because there are only a few hours of potential sleep left until a new day starts again. But as much as you toss and turn, you just can’t fall asleep.

If you suffer from insomnia, always check if you have your bedtime basics covered: a dark, slightly cool bedroom with a comfortable mattress, not too much caffeine and alcohol before bedtime. You could even try some more unconventional tips for getting plenty of shut-eye.

But some nights, even when you’ve done everything right, you find yourself wide awake at 2am.

So what do you do? It’s tempting to grab your phone, check your social media feeds or watch TV until you start getting sleepy. But that’s not a great choice for two reasons. The blue light coming from electronic devices actually inhibits the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin, making it even harder for you to fall asleep. What’s more, by doing something mentally stimulating, not only are you not sleeping, you’re not getting high-quality rest either.

There must be a better way right?

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Tried & Tested: How Aniko Jori-Molnar Created Her Own Action Plan for Recovery | The Health Sessions

Tried & Tested: How Aniko Created Her Own Action Plan for Recovery

This guest post is written by The Health Sessions reader Aniko Jori-Molnar, who shares her experiences with testing the strategies from ‘How to Create Your Own Action Plan for Recovery‘.

 

Why do I need to recover?

An important part of my identity is a fearless warrior that can handle (or can look like one who handles) everything in life. Good and bad. So I’m letting you in on a huge secret right now: I’ve been struggling with a chronic illness for nine years, and I’ve been struggling to accept this struggle.

I have EGPA (Churg-Strauss Syndrome), a rare auto-immune disease that attacks first and foremost the lungs, causing intense asthma symptoms, but then gradually causes all kinds of other problems in the body.

Of the many medication options, I’ve tried a few, and they’ve worked just fine, until now. With a recent heart involvement, the medical team decided to proceed to a chemo kind of drug for a more effective treatment. I feared the treatment as well as the signs of degrading health state I am in.

 

Why I choose to read a book about recovery

I could only think it is another milestone down the unlucky road. I was back to the old, pessimistic mental state. I was still not over the fact I’m sick forever. And I still wanted my old life back, and I would go as far as to throw a tantrum over it like a child.

I also knew this was not OK and I needed somebody (or something) to have my back when reality strikes. I needed to change the perspective.

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