Laura is a former primary school teacher, blogger, poet and jeweller living in Sussex UK. She is a positive thinking, mum of 2 teenage boys and is happily married to Joel. Laura is an IIHer, chronic migraineur, patient advocate and mental health campaigner.
After developing a debilitating brain condition, IIH, in 2014; she sadly had to give up her 14½ year teaching career. Soon after being diagnosed, she turned her life long love of writing into this blog to document her journey with chronic illnesses. This evolved into raising awareness of disabilities, chronic illnesses and mental health.
Laura runs the Mission Migraine Twitter account, which raises awareness that migraine is much more than just a headache. Laura started her own business Paprika Jewellery & Accessories after starting to make jewellery as a distraction from the pain.
She writes poetry to explore her own mental health and well-being. Laura writes about positive thinking and living her best life, despite her conditions. She hopes to inspire others to find their own sense of purpose, whatever challenges they face.Continue reading About Laura→
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5 Last Chance Opportunities To Show Unconditional Love
I’ve been thinking about all the things I wish I’d said or done and didn’t get the chance. I imagine most of us have have experienced this. So I’m going to talk about last chance central, unconditional love and how you can still have a loving relationship with chronic illnesses. I’ll be sharing 5 opportunities I believe we should take to show limitless love.
**WARNING This blog contains possible triggers surrounding death and loss of loved ones. So although this blog is mostly about love if you feel uncomfortable whilst reading this, please stop and if necessary, speak to a professional.
This blog is based on my own experiences. I am not a doctor and all thoughts are my own, other than attributed quotes. If you need medical advice speak to a professional.
Before we start talking last chances and unconditional love, I need to get my thoughts on Bucket lists off of my chest and I need to ask you this:
If You Had Only 24 hours left to live, What Would You Do?
I’m asking, because there’s myriad possible answers so choosing one becomes, well, tricky! I guess Space would be a mission 😜. I guess this is how bucket lists became a thing, but I’m not one for that kind of idiot box cheese.
I mean, why write a list of things you want to do before you __⌛, when you could just get up off your arse and do them? In my opinion, the idea’s been hijacked by social media disease and become another thing you have to have!
Don’t sit around thinking and planning, get on and do the things you dream of because one day you may no longer have a choice. If you have the chance to do what you dream of every day, then go for it. But chuck that icky bucket!
** Of course when someone is diagnosed with a terminal or degenerative illness, they should grab that bucket and do everything they can.
Chronic Illnesses and Last Chance Decisions
Having a chronic illness can change your viewpoint and may need you to adapt your lifestyle, meaning you may miss opportunities. I think this has the potential to create a shift in your decision making.
Grieve for what could have been or
Choose to take a different path and make the best out of the situation
Feel held back from taking chances
Be left in a position you’d never imagined could be you.
Change what you thought of as or
Feel that unconditional love has reached its limits
Become dependent for support with money, travel or childcare
have your partner or child become your carer
Feel too sick and weak and remain where you are
Might take opportunities, even when you feel worse after doing
When you’ve been given medical clearance, be kind to yourself, showing unconditional love to yourself before you give it to your loved ones. Please don’t let those countless opportunities pass you by just because you have an illness.
My Own Last Chances
These are the stories of last chances I wish that I’d taken had I known it. **This may be distressing reading.
As a Mummy I’ve felt the loss of my baby born unresponsive and whisked away from me. On the ward, the cot by my bed lay empty. Joel and I were told he was having a 4 hour fit. Not knowing if he’d make it or have brain damage, I feared I wouldn’t get the chance to hold my boy alive. We’re very lucky as he pulled through at the last minute. He’s more than fine now, but this still haunts me. It’s the worst last chance I ever had to imagine.
As a granddaughter I’m sad that my husband never met my Nana. She got sick not long after Joel and I started seeing each other. Sadly she died 2 weeks later, so I never got the chance. If the odds had been stacked a little differently, she would have welcomed him with loving arms and adored our boys. She’d have been an awesome Great-Nana.
As a daughter in law I’ve wished many times that my boys had been able to meet their Grandad. Nearly 14 years on I still regret that distance mattered. That 5-6 hours in a car was so far for us then, so he only got to hold Eldest once. How I’ve wish he could see how immense both our boys are and that we’d see him fill with love and pride. He’d have got to play his pranks on them and taken them on many spontaneous adventures, I’m sure.
As a wife with an incurable brain disease, I’ve seen my husband’s face as I go down for brain surgery. Surgery with a likelihood that it’s fine, but no mistaking the less than 1 in 10,000 chance of a stroke or worse. I see that last forlorn glance as our eyes meet when I leave the ward. Then I see the relief when they wheel me back.
Last Chance Decisions
When I was first diagnosed I knew one thing was never going to change. I knew that Joel was always going to be there for me as I knew our love was unconditional. I knew how strong our relationship was from when we nearly lost Youngest.
As my condition got worse, I realised that I was grieving for the last chances to live the old Laura’s life. I gave up for a while and it got messy at times, but Joel put mine and the boys needs first, much more than I could have comprehended at the time.
I can’t even contemplate what he’s been through when I was so ill. I began to realise how many opportunities had been taken away. I pushed my body but I soon learned I needed to listen to my body.
Balancing Needs and Wants
When I finally realised I needed to create balance we could begin to understand our new normal, but still be The McKees. I still wanted to do more but I couldn’t ignore the needs of my family. As I can’t plan for how I’m going to feel,
On a better day we make the most of it but then spending days in bed to recover. We take it day by day and grab every opportunity we can. I’ve realised that we can only control what’s happening, right now!
Living for Now
There’s myriad opportunities to take a chance every day. I wonder how many we miss and how many might be seen as successes, or if it’s as Thomas Edison said..
I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Imagine all those missed opportunities because we think there’s more time. Time to grab chances for us or to show kindness to others. We never know a situation, so little thing we do, may make their day.
Affirmations encourage us to grasp opportunities as they arise. It helps us live for the moment and grasp last chances experiences. One such as ‘I let go of fear and guilt’ help me restrain the little guilt demons that haunt me!
When it comes to the future, if I use the ‘I am courageous’ affirmation, I know that everything is going to be okay. If I say ‘I surround myself with positive people’ I know Joel will be there for me if I need him.
I’d love you to experience the freedom and comfort these cards bring, so you can grab the set of positive affirmations that I’ve made for you. They’re only available until March 31st and I’ve put the link at the end of this blog post.
Taking a Chance on Me
Joel finished his degree a year before me and that left him having a huge decision to make. He had to base it on the 7-8 months we’d had. Thankfully Joel decided to stay in Canterbury working in a supermarket for the year.
I didn’t realise how much commitment he was making at the time and I wonder what would have happened if hadn’t taken that gamble on us. We moved to Sussex and our level of commitment stepped up a notch when we bought our first flat.
One day we were talking about the future and he just said ‘shall we get married then?’ I seriously thought he was joking but he wasn’t, so I agreed. It wasn’t planned so that there was just a thought in Joel’s mind and he ran with it was part of the magic.
We married in August 2003 and still balance each other perfectly. He has encouraged me to take more chances and I’ve helped him be more focused and plan more.
Unconditional love is a powerful term, meaning love and affection without limitations; when you’d do anything for that person no matter what. This is usually between parent and child and is the sentiment behind marriage vows; a promise to love no matter what.
Unconditional love is something you have to work at and develops over time, rather than the ideal of love at first sight – sorry romanticals. You shouldn’t ever feel like you’ve failed if a relationship doesn’t work and is never a reason to stay in an unhealthy relationship.
“It is a minute-by-minute decision by both parties to remain committed to each other… Love is expressed by a person’s actions… [and] best expressed when a person chooses to put another’s needs above her own.”
Everyday Health Article
These points are based on my experience of 21 years of very few arguments, raising 2 boys who usually handle disagreements with respect and empathy and 15 years as a Teacher. We take opportunities to show unconditional love. These are my own opinions and ideas. * However, If you feel you need relationship support, please seek professional advice.
Never go to bed on an argument. If an argument is over something small, take 5 and consider whether it’s worth wasting time. It could take just one of you to back down first, especially if you’re the parent. You may feel wronged but apologising for how you reacted is likely to dissolve the tension. If it’s more serious with your partner, you may not feel ready to make up but be honest and say ‘I’m not ready to talk about this tonight.’ Try to plan time to talk properly in the morning. Then say good night. If it’s with your child/ren, tell them you love them but you don’t like what they’ve done. This needs to be made age appropriate but try to make as little drama as possible and say goodnight as usual. You can reinforce it in the morning. When you talk about it, be specific and don’t attack. Try this structure: ‘I didn’t like it when (action) because it made me feel (_). It was because (obstacle) I’d prefer it if (ideal solution). Teach your kids this too so you can all make up quicker!
Build your relationship on trust, honesty and respect. In any relationship you learn how to deal with conflict. This TED article (although about the workplace, it has six great tips). Positive language and actions are important to acknowledge. Reward positive actions with a note or a little treat for adults as well as kids. If you show you’re noticing the small stuff, it makes the big stuff easier and you’ll build layers of trust. Be aware of how you bring up issues within the family. It’s vital that any problems are addressed quickly and honestly. Use the structure in #1 regularly so it becomes normal. Embrace vulnerability so hearing what others say becomes much easier. Creating an environment where listening is valued is so important for building respect. When you know that what you say matters, you will become more confident and positive. When you become positive, you will inspire positivity. The cycle of positivity, reward, positivity begins!
Put their needs above yours. When you decide to share your life with another human, you’re making a commitment to meet their needs. You’re there to grow together in any form of relationship. As adults our emotional and physical needs can be met too by cooking a nice meal or taking them on a surprise holiday! The point is, is that you think about your partner, so my fellow bed livers, we can meet our partner’s and children’s needs from our sick beds by asking about their day. If you’ve got a busy life, don’t let this get lost in life noise, don’t take your relationship for granted. We’re all different so some of us need extra support to do this, but if you meet their needs they’re more likely to reciprocate. It may be something to discuss in your relationship. If one person in the relationship becomes dependant due to illness or disability then this can create strain, but you can still meet your partners needs, you just need to think it through. If you have young carers, meeting their needs can be a worry, but be reassured that you can still do this. If you want some tips, read more here.
Be Affectionate with each other. With children it’s easy, they’re usually pretty affectionate unless their teenagers, although we still give ours a kiss goodnight. (boom, down with their street cred😜). It’s really important to make the effort in our adult relationships because “forms of physical affection…were strongly related to the…satisfaction the participant felt with the relationship and the partner.” Psychology Today We’ve found that establishing affection at any transition, such as waking up or getting home, we’ve become more affectionate and it deepens our connection (yes still, after 21 years). Those hugs and kisses build positivity and happiness. Although some find public affection difficult, I think it’s important in a relationship; especially around your teenage children! We’ve always loved to hold hands in public (although trickier in a wheelchair). “Affection produces feelings of intimacy, security, significance, and respect in a relationship.” Everyday Health
Show them how much you love them.
They say that actions speak louder than words! So show you how much you love them by getting creative. Whatever works for your kids: show your love by slipping a note in their lunchbox, sitting playing Lego for hours, leaving notes on the fridge and snuggling in front of a movie. With your partner, focus on them regularly to keep a healthy relationship: giving a foot rub, sending texts during the day, writing poems or creating art from photographs!or organising a date night. And don’t forget to always listen to them! Make what you do romantic and do it at least once a week. Just don’t be repetitive. Or creepy. Or boring. Or immature. Or creepy….
In my opinion, if you wait to do the things you love, you may just miss that chance. Bucket lists and waiting for another day may mean that you missed your chance. If you ever missed that opportunity to show your love and something happened, well….
If you’re reading this with a chronic illness, then this can be even tougher for you to think about. I’ve tried both waiting and pushing through, but in the end I’m up for taking a chance.
Someone took a chance on me and we’ve built conditional love for each other and our boys, of course. But we’ve had many tough times and we’ve been lucky enough to make it through. I hope someone has or will take a chance on you.
I make sure my children know how much I love them every day. I make sure to kiss my husband every time he leaves the house and when he gets home.
Don’t wait to do anything, show you love your someone at every opportunity and don’t sweat the small stuff. We never know what’s about to happen…
You can help yourself achieve the things you want to do today using Affirmations. I’ve mentioned these above. I’ve created a set of Printable Affirmations that would for setting the tone for a good day Grab a copy of this when you sign up to my occasionally regular newsletter today! You still have until the 31st March to get your free printable.
I make sure my children know how much I love them everyday. I make sure to kiss my husband every time he leaves to go to work and as soon as he gets home.
My point is – Don’t wait to do anything, show you love someone at every opportunity and don’t sweat the small stuff. We never know what’s about to happen! So, if you start living for now, today, then what would you choose as the first thing you’d do?
Hey there, are you someone who needs a bit of a boost in your day?
Maybe you’re feeling like you’re missing the mark at work, that your relationship’s doomed, that you’re useless because you’re chronically ill or that you’re just having disastrous days.
If you’re a negative thinker or a self-sabotager and the life you want seems a long way off, then this post’s for you! I’ve got tips for making positive changes by just spending a few minutes a day on affirmations. There’s even science to back that up! So now with your morning coffee you can start your day the positive way!
What are Affirmations?
Maybe you’ve heard of Affirmations but think they sound sappy or too out there. Maybe you don’t think they’d help as you’re ok, just not as successful as you’d hoped. Stick with me and I’ll show you how affirmations help you build a positive mindset.
Before I start you off on your journey to a successful day, you need to know what the deal is. I first heard of Affirmations about 15 months ago and now spend a few minutes each day on them. I think much more positively now and want everybody to realise they can find positive in every day. Here are a few simple tips to help you!
Affirmations help you set an intention for that day (or however long you need it for), starting with ‘I am’ for example. They’re a great tool for helping you think more positively and if used regularly, each day will be more positive! OK, so your thoughts won’t change overnight, but I can assure you that they’ll work if you stick with it.
You use something you want to feel, do or happen and write it as though it’s already happening. So instead of ‘I want to feel loved and happy’. Your affirmation says ‘I choose love and happiness’.
You may have to do a little bit of work to crack the code at first, but you’ll soon be starting your day the positive way. So if you’re feeling low or a bit meh; then this is such a simple way to structure your thoughts and create a positive loop:
positive thought = positive actions = self-worth = positive thought and so on.
How Affirmations Work
For an affirmation to work fully, you need to trick your brain. A bit like changing the TV remote’s batteries, you need to put negative and positive in the right place. Instead of matching them to a symbol, you need to rewire your thinking, especially if you’re a Negative Nelly!
To rewire your brain, you have to make Positive Polly drown out Negative Nelly. To do that, you need to say the affirmation out loud, more than once! Just like exercise to improve our physical health is repetitive, any exercise to improve our mental health needs to be repetitive. Practise makes Positive!
To Create this positive repetition, you could write them in your journal/diary, put them on a memo board/fridge or record them using a voice memo app and listen to them wherever you are. I use all 3 of these for maximum impact!
Each time you create these positive responses from affirmations, your brain kicks in the reward mechanism. I won’t get too sciencey, but if you use affirmations about your most important values, your brain will soon begin to have positive reactions.
These positive reactions create a reward, such as increasing your self-worth. Once your brain gets a reward it will want more. You’ll start thinking and acting more positively. You’ll value yourself and feel a sense of purpose. You’ll want to look after yourself more and start creating more positive than negative in your life.
I want to start you on this journey, so read on and see how much it helped me and get yourself set the 5 affirmations to start your successful day.
**Disclaimer – this won’t happen overnight! You’ll have to put the work in!
My Journey with affirmations
One of my favourite affirmations is ‘I replace anger with compassion and understanding’. When I first picked it from my set of cards, I wasn’t having the best day. I was angry with myself about something (I’ve no idea what) and almost put it back in the pack!
When I say I was angry with myself, I really mean that I felt guilty about something I probably should have done. It’s always been a habit of mine, but when I was still processing my chronic illness I felt like this a lot!
Anyway, I left it on display for a couple of days and as suggested, I read it often and would say it too myself in my head every so often, as I wasn’t cool with saying it out loud at first. I started to feel calmer soon after making that choice to keep that card.
I started to feel less frustration and guilt and began to feel more positive. As I stuck with it, I found those Negative Nelly feelings were getting drowned out by Positivity Polly.
The more positive I felt the more positive action I took with my self care, which led to more positive thinking. And so the cycle continued and I was hooked!
5 Morning Affirmations to Guarantee a Successful Day
So this is what you’re here for. If you’ve skimmed to get here then do make sure you know what you’re doing, you cheeky thing! I’ve made one for you and a blank one to put personalised affirmations in.
Stopping work due to ill health usually leads to a feeling of loss and purpose. For workaholics, giving up a career just adds to the grief of a previous life. If you’re also mostly bed bound; it’s almost impossible to give in.
On being a workaholic
I’d wanted to teach from age 5 and I loved it from the moment I stepped in the classroom. I was a workaholic, working nights and weekends, to try to make a difference.
Teaching is so much more than a job, you never stop thinking about some aspect and with you take on many roles.
When I had my boys I worked part time, but was still working a 40-50 hour week. A workaholic is compelled to keep working and creates a life that’s out of balance. Read more here. Being a mum always came first, but I always felt the need to be doing something. Just a workaholic in another role; feeling like I couldn’t do either role justice. In hindsight; I know I gave both roles everything I could.
If you’ve read my story, you’ll know I had to stop teaching when I became ill. When we came to the mutual decision that I should be medically dismissed, I knew it was best for everyone. However, I struggled with the reality of having to bow out, from my bed, with no farewell, after the 14+ years I’d dedicated to my profession. I still wish I’d done more, but I’m proud of all that I achieved and that I had some influence on so many little lives.
We realised that becoming bedbound had a silver lining. I could now just enjoy the most important job I had and put everything I could into motherhood, without throwing life out of balance! We love that I’m more present and less stressed. Now I love hearing the key in the lock, anticipating my boys coming to see me.
However, as a workaholic, even a bed-bound one with brain disease, I still needed to be DOING something. So I began making jewellery and soon discovered Conscious Crafties Marketplace The site was set up to give those with chronic illness, disabilites or their carers a sense of purpose again. You’ll find this statement on the site’s homepage.
‘A community of talented artists and crafters who are living a purposeful life by changing the way humanity perceives those living with Chronic Illness, Disabilities or Carers of those affected’
This amazing community has helped me connect with others who understand what we’re going through. I’ve made many true friends and am living a purposeful life. But, I’m a busy minded person and so volunteered to help Karen (the founder) run the site. Everyone tells me I do too much, but I thrive on helping others and love organising things. But I was juggling all of this and more, from bed, and it was beginning to impact on our family time, so something had to change!
I needed to break some of the bad habits I’ve developed over years of being a workaholic. But I have the best motivation; to bring balance in to my life. I’ve looked at my behaviour patterns and found I was spending far too much time on social media. I’m now slowly re-training my brain to know that it’s okay to rest!
Josie from Worry Free told me that ‘My JOB is to heal. By giving me a role/job of healing and rest, I have that all important role we crave and am now a resting workaholic! Such a simple idea, but so effective; I’m already breaking bad habits, doing less and achieving more. Ultimately I’ll have more quality time to spend with my family.
✋ Hey there! You could really help me out. Just one minute of your time to press that share button helps me so much! You'll literally make me do a bed-bound happy dance. Now there's an image for you!
I’m finally posting an update after my 2nd surgery, nearly a year on, so thanks for your patience while I’ve been in the slow lane! I’ve been on a rollercoaster journey with my IIH (Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension) over the last year.
WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING?
In June 2017 I had my second skull surgery and 4 weeks ago I had the same operation on the left. They have removed the C1 vertebrae mass on both sides to make space for the jugular vein that was squashed; preventing blood draining from my brain. I use a plumbing analogy to explain this. If you think of the veins as the pipes, you’d remove the blockage at the top first, because if you remove the top blockage beforehand, you’ll just create a bigger blockage below. This is how my surgeons work, slowly and methodically to ensure that all surgeries are exacting.
The surgeries have been difficult for us all. I’m not scared of surgery, but I worry about how my boys and Joel will handle the added pressure. This time, I’ve asked for help from the wonderful Josie Brocksom of Worry Free who gave me strategies to help me deal with my concerns and trust that Joel would be able to cope with the additional pressure, which of course he has. She has also taught me that it’s ok to rest, so this time I have let myself stay in the slow lane so that I can heal!
I’m lucky enough to be covered by private healthcare. One of the biggest perks is having a private room of course, but I love the food too! Yes, really! I’ve been waiting to show you this photo of the yummy lunch I had the day after my surgery last year. Just look how good that was! I just had to order the same this year too!
Before I continue, I wanted to address a question Joel and I get asked so often:
HOW DO WE KEEP SO POSITIVE?
As with everything in life, we have some choice. Of course, I have no control over how the IIH affects me, apart from my pain relief. However, I do have control over how I manage to stop my high pain levels, from affecting my mood. Myself, Joel and my boys also choose how much we let IIH affect our own lives and time together.
I’ve been able to share over 20 years with my best friend. Joel is affected by IIH just as much as I am. However, amongst experiencing all my of pain, constant worry and looking after us; he works incredibly hard in a tough job. He is also an advocate for carers through the Family Matters team across the whole of Lloyds Banking Group! He keeps me going and picks me up when I fall. He makes me laugh til it hurts and ensures that the children have emotional, physical and comical needs met. I couldn’t ask for anything more and I know I’m lucky to have him by my side at every step.
I can’t say all is peachy, as of course it’s not: I still cry, get frustrated and have meltdowns-I’m only human! Joel and the boys keep me fighting this disease and get on every day. We’re open with each other and share our experiences with others who just get it.. We also have the opportunity to raise awareness of how to stay positive when chronic illness affects a family, and we are both very proud to do this!
When the wizard has (my ENT specialist surgeon) removed part of the C1 vertebrae, he gets as close to the nerve as possible; without it being dangerous. This is only done for the few like me, by the team in Cambridge. They’ve developed procedures to reduce unwanted side effects and they explain everything so well. They are now developing other studies and sharing their findings with the medical world.
I was only in overnight both times and have a drain in which helps to limit the chance of having unwanted side effects. These are shoulder weakness, trouble swallowing and a hoarse voice. It’s too gross to show, but here are my post op selfies!
2016-feeling warm and puffy!
2017-Looking amazing on oxygen all night due to low SATs
The operations have both been successful. The scans show that the jugular vein is no longer under pressure and the blood can flow freely through the veins there now.
During my pre-op testing (ct venoplasty/venogram), my neuro radiologist found arachnoid granulations pushing on my stent and narrowing the flow of blood. These are normal lesions found in the venous channels that allow the CSF to flow into the venous channels. These are rarely found in the transverse sinus, however, and unfortunately they are growing around and through the stent in the left side. This explains why I started to go down hill again a few months after last year’s surgery, so I will need a procedure to stretch the stent and push the granulation back.
Unfortunately, I also need a stent in the right transverse sinus, so I have been referred back to the neuro radiologist following our check up in Cambridge yesterday. It’s good to know that we are moving forward surgically and it means that I can focus on my goal of reducing the morphine even more. The transverse sinus is part of the venous system in the brain and allows the blood to drain from the back of the head. If you’d like to know more, I have a reference to this medical article here.
Last year’s surgery was such a success that I was able to travel abroad, have a 40th birthday party and generally spend more time with my family. This is my priority and as I was able to reduce the dose of morphine I take in the morning a few months ago, I now need to get back on track with that as I come out of the other side.
I’ve big plans with my family this year and although I always suffer, it’s so important that I try and enjoy my life as much as I can. I don’t know how much I will recover from this disease. This means making the most of life NOW! This is why we decided to visit the Imperial war museum yesterday on our trip to Cambridge. This was only my second trip out of my bedroom since surgery. Although I only managed half the visit in the museum and the other half lying down in the car, I’m amazed that I was able to do tbis and even though I’m exhausted today, I’m still finishing this blog!
As it’s only a month post op, I can’t say much has changed; although I haven’t passed out since, which was happening weekly beforehand. But, I feel like I’m turning the corner now and have every faith that symptoms will continue inproving quickly, as soon. I had such a positive response from last year’s surgery, I feel positive that I will continue making baby steps towards achieve my goal to reduce my meds and increase time with my loved ones. So, I’m still in the slow lane, but I’m happy here for now whilst I carry out my job of healing, and continuing to rest!
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