Month: May 2014

Coping with limitations

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I seem to subscribe to the Superwoman school of womanhood. As such I don’t cope very well with having limitations. I feel I should be able to grow and cook my own food from scratch, make my own clothes, do the washing up and cooking, nurture creative skills like knitting, crochet, weaving etc, expand my knowledge through reading, both fiction and non-fiction, volunteer, hold down a full time job, be there for my husband, my family and my friends, keep fit and healthy and maintain a cheerful disposition throughout. Even a non-limited person (if such a thing exists) would struggle to do all of those. As such most of the time I live with feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness for not being the superwoman I should be.

Despite that, on good days, I still managed to do an awful lot of what is on that list. On the really bad days, when getting out of bed, reading and comprehending something longer than a sentence or doing anything that requires an ounce of brain power without collapsing into tears is just asking far too much of me, I really struggle with my limitations.

My husband says part of dealing with any disability is to find out how it limits you, accept those limitations and work around them. As such I have been telling myself repeatedly over the last week or so ‘Do what you can, when you can.’

I’m still trying to write this dammned thesis. In the last week I have hit a major depressive block. Thinking about anything is difficult, everything in my head is a disjointed mess, not the best when working with data. Today has been slightly better and I’ve returned to my data finally with the hopes of getting moving. I’ve stumbled on some papers that may hold the answer to a data analysis problem I have been having. But no matter how I try I cannot comprehend them. I read it, and then nothing. So I read again, one line at a time, taking pauses. Still nothing, the eyes glaze over but keep moving down the page, the head starts to pound and things go fuzzy. I know that on a good day I could understand this all fine. I’m fairly sure that the answer to my problem lies in this paper. But I need someone to sit next to me, slowly read it out to me, pausing for me to comprehend and then, maybe after a try or two at that, I’ll have understood what it said.

I truly hate being so helpless. I cannot find a way to help myself here, and all I hear is the clock ticking down. I need to understand this and I need to have understood it two weeks ago. I am so behind it is laughable and on days like today I really think it is time to throw in the towel. If I need someone to hold my hand and read to me in order to complete a PhD, do I really deserve that PhD? Is it truly mine? I see myself getting more and more ill, first in body and now in mind too, all to try and get this done and it seems to be going nowhere.

I know it shouldn’t be easy, but every step of this writing process is mental agony. One of my supervisors told me if you really put your head down a thesis can be written in 3 months. I’ve been going since about Feb and it doesn’t look likely.

The ‘sensible’ part of my head says, do what you can when you can. Today is today and tomorrow is a new day, hell with my illness now is now and the next 5 minutes may see a totally different me. But this persistent treacle in my brain feels never ending. Today, that is my biggest limitation.

I’d post a funny comic but I tried reading some and honestly couldn’t follow them…

Past few weeks

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Horribly frustrated with the thesis writing so I thought I’d distract with an update on what’s been going on with me.

Garden:

The wonderful hubby has been working flat out on the garden. Making me some lovely borders as long as I did the digging. We have finally made use of the right hand side of the garden and today he finished the borders and the first bed was completely finished. Not sure about the wood chip, it’s been dyed red and I’m not sure if the slugs will just have a new home and if the cats will have a new toilet. We will see. If it works ok we’ll get more for the bigger fruit patch.

New strawb bed
New strawberry bed. Alpines on the left, normals on the right

On the veg front I tried co-planting for the first time. Have sown some carrot seeds in the onion and garlic beds. Some of the carrots are on their own with the correct spacing on a nice (thin) layer of stone free soil. The rest of the seeds are sown in between the garlic/onion rows on horrid, hard stoney soil. I’ve got seedlings in most places so we’ll see. The only other time I’ve tried carrots they were ravaged by carrotfly, but these were free seeds and they aren’t taking up extra space.

I was given a pumpkin from my supervisor, and saved seed from a squash a friend fed to us in soup at Yule. I decided to sow these in biodegradable pots, 5 of each, destined for the new beds. I didn’t give them high humidity so tried sowing some shop bought seeds in the same pots (so 1 saved and 1 shop bought seed per pot) and brought out the propagator. 4 of the pumpkin pots have seedlings (multiples) as did one of the squash. The other 5 pots haven’t germinated. I tried bringing them in, tried them in the propagator in the green house and just got lots of mould on the pots. Must disinfect things every year! Gonna try a couple more of the saved seed in a clean propagator with the lid so they have humidity. Fingers crossed. Also got some free leek seeds with a magazine so giving those ago in a propagator the hubby bought a few years back with these peat blocks to grow on. I try to avoid peat products but he wanted to try this and they are there now so giving them a go.

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Pumpkin and squash seedlings

We also had a visit from my Mum from London, they brought up my rhubarb plants. I’ve had these plants for about 8 years but left them in London 4 years ago, they’ve moved house 4 times now! One of them appears to be alive not sure about the others. They are potted. In the last 4 years I’ve tried starting a new rhubarb off a couple times but every time they die. Fingers crossed better luck with these old faithfuls.

Knitting:

I picked up the needles again! Had a go with aran weight yarn and knitted up a simple cowl in the round. Still took me a fair amount of time, and it helped me take little breaks from the writing. Hopefully there will be some more knitting happening in the future. I miss it so much.

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Simple cowl

Brewing:

I’m brewing again! Some parsnips called to me at the store so we now have 4 gallons of parsnip wine on. We did a 1 gallon batch last year and really liked it so seeing how this batch turns out. Hopefully I’ll also get to checking up on some of the wines that I have abandoned in demi-johns whilst writing has taken over.

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Good ole parsnip wine

Writing:

Ummmm yeah. Another chapter through in first draft form, 3 down, 3 to go. Currently doing some major edits on a chapter and it sucks as I’ve had to go back to the data it looks like something has gone wrong in my database. Lots of time consuming data entry to do. And I need to go through and check all my other data is ok. Hence why I am here typing. On the up side my supervisors want me to hand in in the next 2 months. At least that way it’ll be over soon one way or another!

Body image

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I’m not overweight, I’m obese. My thighs rub together, my armpits have flappy bits and I carry a lot of weight on my abdomen. For years I have struggled with my body image, not just the weight but even down to the skin colour and texture, the hair on my body. I have numerous scars from picking at things and plucking hairs in an effort to be ‘perfect’. I may well have body dismorphic disorder but I tend not to share this information with therapists and doctors.

In the last 5 or so years I’ve started to embrace my body. When looking for a new swimsuit for a holiday my now husband said I looked better in the bikini than the tankini. I doubted him but trusted him, I bought it and felt horribly self concious in it but I wore it. That was my first milestone.

Then I was at a pagan camp which had a spiritual sweatlodge. We were to go in naked and it was pitch black (it’s a clothing optional camp). I very quickly shucked my towel and dove into the darkness. When we came out some time later I was hot and sweaty, I was given the complimentary bucket of cold water over my head. I was handed my towel but was so hot I had no desire to wrap it around me. I’ve always felt more comfortable in loose clothing and sleep nude but was always too concious of my body to go without clothes at this camp. I went to the fire and dried off and didn’t put clothes on again until the night air was too cold. The next day I was approached by people at the camp telling my how beautiful I was and how they wished they had the confidence to do what I had done. I wished I could tell them the shame I felt over my body, how it had led me to harm my body, but I was too ashamed of that. I shrugged it off and decided that these people were crazy to think that. But the comments kept coming. I went without clothes at times at the camps that followed over the years. Partially because I feel better without clothes, partially because it felt spiritually right at that moment in time and partially for those other women at camp who felt about their bodies how I often feel about my own. To show them that they didn’t have to feel ashamed of their bodies.

I got married last year and went on honeymoon early this year. I dieted for the wedding and tried to lose weight but damn I love my food. Come the honeymoon I did not have the ‘beach body’ I had hoped I would have and again felt terribly self-concious. The first day on the beach in my bikini I headed straight for the water despite being a nervous swimmer, at least that would hide some of me. Building on those steps of wearing my bikini before and going naked at the camp I started to feel more confident in myself. My husband thought I was beautiful and sexy, other people hadn’t thrown up at the sight of me. These were encouraging points. Towards the end of the honeymoon we found ourselves on a beach eating lunch whilst taking a break from snorkling. I was in my bikini and snorkling boots and my lovely husband wanted a photo of me. I duly posed and started dancing around which he wanted to video so I did an encore. I did a ‘belly dance’ of my own making. I really felt happy in my body and it was a moment I had meant to post about but hadn’t got around to. I’ve shared the video on my facebook and made it public (I’ve still not worked out how to embed a video into these posts, if someone can tell me how I’d appreciate it). I still cringe slightly watching it. I see all the faults, but then I look at my smile and feel better about it. I wasn’t going to share any pictures of myself on here, but I feel that this is a just cause to break this rule. I hope by sharing it maybe it’ll help other’s feel less self concious. Even if it’s due to them thinking ‘I don’t look as bad as that belly slapping crazy lady’.

My belly dance

A couple weeks ago my house mate and I were looking through a Bravissimo catalogue and she commented on the slight muffin top one of the models had, saying it was reassuring to see that they got that too. We then flipped to the swimsuits and she mentioned something about tankinis not looking right on her because of the midriff gap. I’ll mention here this girl has a belly, waist line and hips that I long to have, and was one the first things I remember noticing about her and being insanely jealous of. I told her we can either hide away all our lives or we can dance on the beach slapping our bellies.

Today an article went around on facebook about a lady who had done a tremendous job losing weight but did not have a perfect beach body, as such photos of her ‘after’ in a bikini were refused by a magazine that had wanted to publish her story. It reminded me again how much society says to be beautiful we have to be skinny and flat bellied. Now I like looking at a ‘hot’ beach body in a bikini as much as most girls, well probably more than most girls, but it’s the photos we don’t share that are harming other women. We are only showing one side of the picture to young girls and letting more and more grow up with the idea that skinny = beautiful when the truth is that so many things make up beautiful.

Now I’m not saying I don’t need to lose weight. For health reasons I do, I want to live a long life, I want to have children and see them grow and then hopefully see their children grow. To do that I need to be healthy. But I don’t need to lose weight to be beautiful, to be sexy or to be accepted. No-one does.

I’ll leave you with a sentiment of another post that has been doing the rounds lately:

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