The endless challenge of finding a balance. I’m not being antisocial, just trying to recharge.

So before I start this entry I realise it has been a good while since I touched base with you all, sorry about that but I have just been living my life, going on amazing adventures and meeting the most beautiful niece ever (like, seriously she is awesome!)

Anyway, I recently made a promise to myself that I would try and be more positive, open to ideas and sociable. I hope that if you are reading this you will be pleased to hear that generally that plan has gone pretty well so far! J I have managed to spend time with colleagues and friends outside of work and because it is close to the beginning of the new academic year I have worked hard to try and get to know new members staff.

Now for those of you that know me well, you will hopefully understand that I sometimes find it hard to meet and introduce myself to new people in a social environment. Honestly it makes me quite anxious because not only do I find it difficult to engage with people sometimes, but you never really know what kind of personalities, opinions and people you are going to come into contact with and for me the not knowing is terrifying. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that I don’t have people that I get along with because I do, and I love them all, it just takes me a long time to open up and trust them.

I told you earlier that I have been spending more time with colleagues and friends, a great example of this is a House Party/get together I went to so that everyone could get know each other a bit better before all the work starts. It was brilliant and I really enjoyed myself BUT I also found it quite a test, I have never been a big fan of large groups of people, not only because there is an expectation that you interact conversationally and confidently (trust me, I can do it, I just find that unless I know you well I can be quite shy!) but also the physical aspects and difficulties. I don’t know who this will make sense to but if I am in a group situation I often find myself navigating my way around a room in my head, looking out for trip hazards and generally trying my best not to bump into/trip over things and other people. I spent a lot of the evening doing just that and I can’t lie it made me quite mentally and physically tired as well as a little panicked. But don’t worry I understand and want you to know that it’s okay if that happens, because at least you are trying.

I have been at my current workplace for a good few years now, I have worked hard; fought for my position and I like to think become very good at what I do. I love looking after and supporting students from a pastoral perspective; I will be starting a new aspect of my role soon and whilst in training I had to get up in front of all the boarding staff and tell them about it (aaaah!) I was very nervous because I suddenly became very aware of all the eyes looking at me, I got a little shaky but I am proud because everyone was very supportive and at least I did it!

As you can probably imagine the events of those couple of days made me pretty exhausted both mentally and physically so I took the decision to hide away in my flat for the day and do nothing; believe me when I tell you that this is not a bad or selfish thing to do, stepping outside of your comfort zone and facing a fear takes a lot of energy and focus so you absolutely have the right to recharge. Do something you enjoy, to calm and centre yourself. (I will often listen to musical soundtracks on full blast or use the Headspace app to relax myself J).

I understand on quite a deep level how much planning and preparation it can take to even will yourself to go to an event or gathering, so all I am saying is if you need a minute to step away from the madness then go ahead and take it. If there is ever a time that you find anything too much, don’t be hard on yourself, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

If you’re still with me and reading I bet it feels like quite a ramble! So I will conclude by saying the following, start small, accept support and be proud. If you spend time doing little things that you are afraid of then I am hopeful they will get easier. Celebrate each little step you take because it is a big achievement. Finally, please don’t forget to look after yourself, self-care is not a luxury but a means of survival.

You are never alone.

All the love,

Lucy J

I’m not always okay – and that is okay.

So here am again sitting in the space where I both work and try to live, as I write this we are coming to the end of Mental Health Awareness Week. Now I’m going to be frank, it has taken several days of conversations and out loud thoughts for me to even consider putting what I am feeling on paper (or on a blog but you get the point), I have decided however, that it is important that people hear my story so I am going to try and break it down.

I can’t say I knew a whole lot about mental health until recently but that is because I didn’t want to acknowledge that it was and still is a big part of the life that I am living. It’s Friday evening and I guess that if I looked at it hard enough you could argue that the challenges I faced as a kid led to mental health issues that I never noticed; I pride myself on being a person that works hard to achieve all I can despite my disability and I try to be positive but I won’t lie growing up with people making fun of and laughing at you because of something you can’t change was in no way a picnic.

I am 25 years old now and struggling with mental health is a very real and scary reality for me, I hate big groups of people, I always feel like they are looking at and judging me for the way that I move or carry out an activity, this sometimes makes me panic and stress – it can even turn something fun into something I just want to run away from. If you feel like this sometimes too it is okay, you don’t have to be completely together all the time.

I spend a lot of time in my own head, I tend to catastrophize and believe me I know how terrifying that can be because you start to think the worst of yourself and mentally tear yourself down. I have experienced this because I sometimes find that I beat myself up and I do not see myself as worthy because I have an additional need –trust me, even if you don’t feel it right now, you are worth it and all you have achieved is remarkable. There are days where all I can do is get out of bed, not see people or do anything productive but just use all my energy to get myself up and moving and that is okay. I have good days too so please do not think this is all doom and gloom, but I am just trying to be honest.

I like to think of myself as a hard worker, but there are days where I try to do everything because even after over 20 years of finding a way to function successfully I sometimes feel like I have to work twice as hard to prove that I am a valid member of the team and that I am worth the chance that was taken on me. The sensible and rational side of my personality knows that I am good at what I do and that am i am worthy but it is my self confidence that needs help. This is not something that can be fixed overnight but I am trying.

So I realise this piece has been me kind of rambling on (I struggled to put all this into words okay?!). But the point is that it is okay to talk about mental health because it is a reality that won’t just go away, sometimes you have to get out into the world somehow and face it.

I know what you might be thinking, “Lucy, it’s not always that simple” and you know what, you are probably right; but sometimes all you can do is take it a day at a time and do your best.

I have learned that self-care is a really important part of trying to keep myself in a positive frame of mind so I spend a lot of time with my headphones in listening to music and drinking endless cups of tea, I also spend time going for walks if I feel up to it as it gives me a chance to clear my head and try to find my own form of inner peace and simple joy, it’s not always easy but I have learned that you have got to make the best of the situation at the time.

 I am also incredibly thankful for the people I have in my life right now because they take some of the days I find the most difficult in their stride and are supportive, friendly and full of love/kindness. I do not know if they will ever understand just how much that means to me.

My last few bits of advice I can give you are these: if you feel that you need support please TALK about it, to a friend, family member or someone you trust. Don’t be ashamed to seek help, whether that’s therapy, medication an exercise routine (I had one of these and it actually worked out pretty well, I recommend it and want to get back on it) or a good moan/rant to someone, there will always be a way to make things better.

It took me a long time to believe this and I am still working on it but as a human being I am a pretty awesome individual and it is okay if things don’t go to plan all the time. YOU ARE NOT LESS OF A PERSON because of your struggle; it is just the way life goes sometimes.

Just keep being you and don’t let anyone knock your sparkle out because you matter too!

All the love,

Lucy J

Cerebral Palsy, I have learned so much from you.

Dear Cerebral Palsy,

I am sitting in my bed right now trying hard to write my first ever letter to you. Sorry if you think it’s taken too long, but you know how life can get. For the last 20 years or so we have co-existed and you have been a shadow standing by my side. I’m going to be totally honest, even now I don’t fully understand how you came to be in my life, as far can understand it life was pretty standard until you dropped in just after I turned 3 and forced the start of our relationship.

Routines had to be established pretty quickly once you had made yourself known, because although to be fair you wouldn’t have known it at the time but my parents had to change their already challenging circumstances to accommodate me and my new needs. Therapy seemed to improve and bring understanding into our relationship and swimming lessons seemed to let you sleep and I feel free from you, albeit only for a brief time.

You and I spent a lot of our time creating armour for my legs to prepare for when we entered the daily battle of walking – I need you to know that I am grateful for the protection because even as a young child you helped me find joy in the most unlikely places, the colours and patterns wrapped around my legs with Velcro made me feel safe and powerful, whilst the eye patch that your presence introduced me to helped understand that I could be anything I liked if I kept fighting.

I’m not going to lie to you kid, growing up with you consistently hovering was not easy, I spent a lot of my young life knowing that you were around me but not really knowing what you were, this made the constant stares, gasps and giggles when I hobbled along or fell over all more difficult to stomach because I just wanted to function and play like everyone else. Now Cerebral Palsy, don’t get me wrong, I know am lucky because you let me walk and I will always be thankful for that small victory that let me do so much.

I remember vividly the overwhelming amount of care and support that I encountered because you were part of my existence and I understood as I grew older that all the extra SEN lessons for sewing and drawing where you often pushed me to my limits actually taught me how we could form a team and function alongside one another. I will be forever grateful for all the positive people who invested so much time and passion into my progression, they are invaluable to me.

I now know exactly what you are and I have learned that although you sometimes make life a little challenging I will never let the bad days you raise your head stop me from reaching my full potential.

I suppose through all this I just wanted to thank you, because even though you are less prominent in my adult life your companionship has driven the way I live my life and care for the children with whom I spend so much time. I like think that when I graduated with my first class honours degree you were there at the ceremony as elated and proud as I was. The point is, until now I wasn’t sure how I felt about you. But I can now say that you have taught me to take care when I choose my friends, you taught to celebrate difference and see each individual as special and unique in their own way. Thank you for showing me that I can do things even when I didn’t believe they were possible. You have made me stronger and you are a large part of the reason why I have become who I am.

All the pain and tears have been totally worth it, I will never question why you are in my life. Cerebral Palsy, I do not regret anything we have been through and I am pretty excited for our future.

All the love,

Lucy J