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So, Lockdown is over.

Back in May I wrote a blog about what I wanted to do when lockdown was over. Lockdown is now over, albeit with restrictions. Some of the things I mentioned in the blog about when lockdown was over, I’m now trying to achieve, so this blog is kind of my feelings about lockdown and the things I’m planning on doing.

So, 1. GO BACK TO IRELAND
I’m actually going back home on Friday (14th Aug) and I can’t wait. I’ve not been home since February and a lot has happened since then. I honestly can’t wait to go home. Although it’s been tough with coronavirus causing so many problems with travel restrictions, finally they’ve been relaxed enough that I can travel. I’ve got to fly into Belfast instead of Dublin because I’d have to quarantine for 2 weeks if I flew into Dublin, which just isn’t doable. But that’s just a small thing. But I get to go home with Chris which is fantastic. I get to meet his parents and my mum is meeting his parents. We’ve been going out now for about 10months so it’s about time our folks met! I’m nervous as anything about meeting his parents and spending time with them in Belfast. I’m going to be staying with him at his parents for a few days at the end of my trip. I always think relationships are solidified when you meet the parents. But anyway, I’m rambling a bit.

GET BACK TO THE GYM

I’ve joined a gym near to were I live, but I’m going to leave going until after I get back from Ireland and the gym has been used to running in the new covid time. At the minute people are just getting used to dealing with the restrictions and way of thinking and acting, so when I get back they’ll have gotten used to dealing with covid life. That and I need to make sure my chest behaves between now and Ireland. If anything happens to me and I end up in hospital before I go to Ireland and have to cancel my trip, I won’t be happy. But both myself and Chris have joined so hopefully we can motivate each other. I’m looking forward to going though, I’ve put quite a bit of weight on so I need to get back to exercising. Bring it on and watch this space!

There’s still stuff I want to do. I want to start driving lessons, but I really need to send off my driving license application form. I’m terrible and haven’t done that yet. But I will get round to it. It’s on my to-do list, but to be fair, it’s been on my to-do list for about 6 months now. Oh well, it’ll happen when it happens.

We’ve had to put Edinburgh on the back burner for now, at least until the whole COVID thing buggers off. Public transport just isn’t the best idea at the minute. It’s still something we’re planning to do because obviously it’s going to be Chris’s birthday thing. But until COVID dies down, it just isn’t a good plan.

I’ve rambled on now for a bit, and i’ve run out of things to say, so until the next time!

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Things I’d like to do when lockdown is over.

So we are now in day 49 of lockdown. During that time I’ve had 2 hospital admissions and left my house twice. Yea, I broke lockdown and went round to the shop. But I was going totally stir crazy and my brain was in a complete jumble. As much as I love Chris to pieces, I needed to get out of my house and see other people. So I gloved and masked up and went for a walk round the corner. Slightly further than the back garden which until then had been the limit of  my adventures. But I know many people haven’t even managed that, so I consider myself lucky to be able to get outside at all.

I’ve noticed a few people doing things like “5 things i’d like to do when lockdown is over” and what not, so I’m going to give them a go. If nothing else, it gives me something to do. I’ve a few plans for posts for the next few weeks that shows a little bit into my life and how I manage with chronic medical conditions and a few updates as to how my health is for all those people who actually find that stuff interesting. If anything it makes it easier to keep my family updated without having to tell the same story 3/4 times to different people.

So, without further ado, these are the 5 things I want to do when lockdown is over. Whenever that may be!

GO BACK TO IRELAND

I’m getting very homesick. I was last home in February for a few days, which I know in the grand scale of things isn’t a long time, but with everything going on, I just want a hug from my mum.  Specially with the fact I’m not allowed to leave the house for anything really. Even my GP appointments are over the phone with me sending pictures via the internet. I’m just leaving the house as little as possible in order to reduce the chances of me being exposed to coronavirus. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back and getting to see my friends and family. I don’t have a lot of people back home that I try and keep in contact with, but when I am home I make every effort to go and see my friends and the family I have at home. Looking forward to seeing my mum, TJ and Nanny though. I’m very homesick!

START DRIVING LESSONS

I’ve been meaning to start driving lessons for a long time, I’ve just not gotten around to sorting it. I do agree it’s just complete laziness, because I do want to learn. To be honest, I’m absolutely terrified of other drivers on the road having spent so long as a passenger. But in order for me to be as independant as possible, I need to be able to drive. Being able to drive to uni in September would be a massive game changer for me. I’m also hemoragging money into my mini which is sitting out the front. When cookie was living her, she drove it. But now it’s costing me £50 a week odds out of my PIP so the sooner I can be making the most of having that there, the better it will be because I won’t be having to spend money on taxis all the time if I want to go somewhere.

GET BACK TO UNI

I’m really looking forward to getting back to uni in September, if it happens that is. At the moment with lockdown, everything is up in the air and I’m not entirely sure whether or not we will actually be returning to university in physical form. I’ve not been into university in about 2 years because of my health conditions, but I’m finally ready to go back, and throw myself into something completely new. I’m doing a different course entirely because Biomedical Science, as much as I love the subject, was just killing me and I wasn’t keeping up with both my labs and assignments. Luckily the course I’m going into isn’t as physically demanding and I’m hoping it will be a bit easier for me to keep up because I should be able to do a lot more work from home, we will see!

GO TO EDINBURGH WITH CHRIS.

It’s Chris’ 30th birthday in August and he was saying he wanted to go up to Edinburgh for the weekend because he’s never been and it’s a really nice city, but I doubt that we’re going to allowed to use public transport again by August, or the people “most vulnerable” will be allowed to anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why they’re saying not to use it, doesn’t stop it being bloody irritating! I want to do something special for his 30th, but doubt it’s going to be possible. Who knows though when things are going to be stable enough to do anything normal again?!

GET BACK TO THE GYM

Due to the covid-lurgy they’ve shut all the gyms and swimming pools and at the minute they’re looking at not reopening them until at least July, but that’ll probably be longer for people who are classed as “vulnerable”. I’ve put on a lot of weight in the past year and really want to be able to get back to the gym to at least try and get some of the weight off. At the minute though I’m really struggling with my back so it’s making it harder to even get outside to do some exercise, but I’ve been stretching it regularly and am going to try and set up some circuit training in my spare room. Every little helps, right? Watch this space!

 

 

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Hospital during a pandemic.

So at the minute, I’m in hospital with my asthma. This isn’t uncommon and I do spend quite a lot of time in hospital. What was unusual this time however, was that I ended up being treated for covid-19. I spiked a temp on my first night admitted and with me presenting with shortness of breath (SOB), as a result, I was now a covid patient. .

As I wasn’t spiking a temperature in A&E, and was only presenting with the SOB, I was still being admitted to a side room, but at time of admission, we highly doubted I had corona. However they did put me onto a ward that was being used to treat covid patients which put the shit up me a bit. Luckily the staff on there were staff from my normal respiratory ward so they all knew me, which made things a lot better. Once I got to the ward and they did my obs, they found I’d spiked quite a high temperature. That only made me panic even more and I ended up needing lorazepam to calm down or I was going to end up having a full blown panic attack. I was absolutely terrified I’d caught covid and nothing anyone said to me was telling me otherwise. It was a bad night and I didn’t sleep much,

My chest consultant came to see me the next day and said if it hadn’t been for the fact that I’d spiked a temperature, he was going to have been getting me home over this weekend. Right now the very worst place for someone like me to be is in a hospital where there’s many confirmed patients with corona. It’s also not good for my mental health as I can’t have any visitors or leave the ward. Not good. Although this time knowing the staff on A1 helped a lot because they would come in and out often to make sure I was ok and checking if I needed anything. Just the small things make the difference. But my temperature remained highish during that day and then spiked high again that evening. It was a scary time because I really didn’t believe I’d not caught the coronalurgy. My consultant said he wasn’t overly worried as I wasn’t showing any of the signs in my blood and I was a bit *too* well to not have covid, despite the fact I couldn’t breathe. At least i wasn’t displaying any of the other symptoms that’s associated with it, and at that time, although he was worried, he wasn’t overly worried. That helped a bit and I manage to sort of pull myself together a bit.

I stayed on A1 for 2 nights until the swabs I’d had done were negative. The first one they did in A&E was negative but there’s a lot of false negatives going around at the minute, but thankfully both my swabs were negative which pretty much certainly ruled out covid. Thank feck. So I got moved to a different ward to get me off that ward asap in case i did manage to catch covid. So at the moment, I’m on a totally different ward to which I’m used to. But I’m out in a bay, so I see people and talk to people. It’s so much better for my mental health and the staff are absolutely excellent. They recognise that I need quite a bit of reassurance at the minute and aren’t too busy all the time to sit down and talk to me.

I’m hopefully going home in the next few days if I don’t spike another temperature and my CRP doesn’t spike once they take me off IV antibiotics. I need to get home, I’ve got a Nintendo switch to play with!

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About me Life

Technology I can’t live without

As someone who loves her gadgets, I know I wouldn’t be able to survive without certain pieces of technology. But the kind of tech that I carry varies between whether I’m in hospital or not, because my priorities change when I’m in hospital or out and about to what I’d think of as important at home. So I’m going to divide this post into two topics; Technology I use at home and Technology I use in hospital or out and about.

Technology I use regularly at home:

  • A Laptop – In todays society, I’m a firm believer that everyone needs some kind of laptop or desk top computer. No matter what job you’re doing in life, or if you’re in uni, computers play quite a big part in most peoples lives.
  • Computers also play a huge part in communication for me. My mum lives in Ireland and my dad’s in Edinburgh, with the rest of my family sort of spread around Ireland, and my friends scattered all over the country.
  • I have all my music stored on my laptop, and I love nothing more than lying in bed, listening to some good tunes and reading a book.
  • I use my desktop computer for a lot of gaming. It’s not what you would call a massive beast of a computer, but it runs Half Life, which is one of my favourite games of all time (big up there for Half Life, everyone who enjoys first person shooters should definitely play this!).

 

  • Mobile Phone – Mobile phones play a massive part in peoples lives now a days, and lots of people would say they cant manage without theirs, myself included. There’s a lot of reasons I would be lost without my phone
    – But it comes down to the communication thing as well. I speak to my mum and nanny at least once a day and can’t imagine not being able to pick up the phone and just ramble to my mum when I’m struggling. I’ve got an open door policy with my friends as well that if they need me, no matter what time of the day or night, that I will always answer my phone to them. So my phone isn’t just a lifeline for me, but for my friends as well.
    – I use my phone for my music collection as well. I tend to use Spotify (mainly because Vodafone pay for Spotify premium every month for me!), because I can have so much music at the touch of a finger, and I can share my playlists with my friends. I have a massive taste in music. I have everything from Bach to AC/DC and I have different playlists for different situations. If I’m studying I like listening to film scores, if I’m upset and struggling with my mental health and need to try and quieten the voices in my head, I’ll listen to loud music by bands like AC/DC or Black Sabbath! Like I said, eclectic!
    – Tracking my health –  I did a blog a few days ago about what medication/health tracker apps that I use, so this is another reason as to why I use my phone. I can track my health in so many ways. Because I have also got a Samsung smart watch, I can monitor my heart rate and there’s an option for me to check my oxygen levels which is handy. I also use an app called “Headspace” which is full of meditations and relaxing speeches. Unfortunately, the sleep one didn’t get me to sleep at 5am this morning (*disclaimer – These apps should not be relied upon and if you’re struggling to breathe in any way, or are feeling poorly, please seek medical help. This is not a substitute for seeing a health professional)!
    –  All in all, I’d be massively screwed without my phone, no matter whether I’m at home, out for the day or in hospital

 

  • TV – In my opinion, a house isn’t a home without a TV. I’ve got one in my bedroom and one in my living room that I very rarely use. Both my TVs are 42”, but the one in my bedroom is a FINLUX Smart TV.
  • I have my PlayStation plugged into it as well as my external hard drive. Both TVs have a USB slot on the side so I can plug my external hard drive into it and watch films or TV programmes. I do not tend to watch a lot of live TV because I can get everything I want to watch on iPlayer or the channel equivalent.  It really irks me that I still have to pay a TV license when I don’t watch live TV! Grrrrr. But back on track! If I’ve had a rough day at uni or I’m just plain bored, I’ll often find myself sitting playing on my playstation for hours on end. It’s a game changer for those bad days (See what I did there? Hahahaha). But I enjoy having friends round to watch DVDs and have food. It’s been far too long since I did that and I really need to start doing  socialising stuff again once this bloody lockdown has ended (37 days and counting that we’ve been stuck indoors!)
  • Alexa – Alexa has been one of my most useful gadgets/techy things I’ve bought in the past year. Originally I just couldn’t be bothered with the idea of it, and didn’t like the sound of Google being to eavesdrop on conversations, but eventually I gave in and I’m glad I did.
  • Primarily I like the ability to turn my lights on and off from wherever I am in my flat without having to get up to use the switch. I’m very much aware that it’s the height of laziness, but as Catherine Tate would say, “Face bovvered?”. It’s good if I’m struggling with my chest because it means I don’t have to keep getting up and down for the lights. And if I’m going to be away for a few days, I can remotely access alexa and turn the lights on and off so it seems like I’m at home when I’m not. I like being able to change the colours and brightness of the bulbs and it’s such an easy app to use.
  • Another feature of Alexa is she can play music/audiobooks through the device. I have several of the “echo” devices around my flat so love nothing more when I’m doing housework than to have all the speakers playing music, plug my own sound system for my PC at the same time. I do have a bit of sympathy for my neighbours on that part though, sorry Paul!
  • There’s SO much more that alexa can do, but I don’t really need to go into it here. Click here and you’ll go to the main alexa page that tells you what she’s capable of doing. But definitely worth it if you’re considering whether to buy one or not.
  • A decent alarm clock – A decent alarm clock is a massive thing for me. I’m a nightmare to try and wake up in the morning, and like a lot of people, the phrase “five more minutes!” is one that frequently gets mumbled in the morning. I’m not always sure who to, but since I use the Amazon echo show as my alarm clock, if I say “5 more minutes” loud enough, it will snooze the alarm for 5 minutes. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing! But if you’re needing to get up early and you’re not a good waker, you can set it to have the radio/your music/generic alarm tones to wake you up. I like having the radio wake me up in the morning. I don’t know what it is about hearing people talk rubbish and then some music come on that appeals to me in the morning, but hey, it works!
  • Kindle – I absolutely LOVE my kindle. I got my first kindle in 2012 when I was in hospital because my flatmate was getting bored of having to carry a new book up for me every day or two (I was in for 5 weeks). But at home I try to spend an hour or so reading everyday.  Even if that’s at bedtime, it’s better than sitting on my phone with the blue light blinding your eyes. It’s much better sleep hygiene which we went into a few blogs ago.

So that’s the gadgets that I want to always have at home or away with me

  – iPad/tablet of some description – I honestly wouldn’t survive in hospital without my iPad. Without thinking about the obvious things you have on it, like Netflix, Disney+ etc, there’s important things like a copy of my meds list and my hospital protocol for my asthma, so if I forget the paper copy, I have it to hand on my iPad. I’m typing this blog on my iPad so once I’m back at uni, I don’t need to lug my laptop into uni, I can take notes on here.But if you can’t afford an iPad, there is much cheaper options that do exactly the same job, just less fancy and not brand named apple!

 – Noise cancelling headphones (or a decent pair of headphones) – I’ve got a pair of Sony noise cancelling headphones, and I can honestly say they are a total god send. Even when I’m not in hospital, having them on public transport or trying to work in uni, they are fantastic. In hospital I find it quite useful having the noise cancelling aspect of them because I get very stressed out if something happens in hospital like if someone takes very poorly, if I can hear what’s going on, I get really stressed, so having music playing and the noise cancelling on is a massive EE benefit to me. I’ve got a pair of Sony WH – CH700N that my dad got me for Christmas a few years back, but before I had the sony ones, I had a pair of Taotronic ones (Amazon’s sort of own technology brand) and they were absolutely awesome. One benefit I find is if I don’t feel up to talking to people, they can see the big headphones on my head so are less likely to try and strike up a conversation with me if they see the big headphones instead of using my little in-ear ones.

 – Normal in ear earphones – Everyone should have a little pair of earphones to hand. Listening to music/audiobooks/podcasts get me through some really different scenarios. Being able to lie in bed and listen to an audio book, or listening to music in the library to help me study are big aspects of my life. Being in hospital and not having any headphones is something I’ve only had to deal with once, and by the end of the first day I’d sent one of the healthcare workers down to the shop to get me some! You don’t have to have the most expensive, flashy or branded pair, just something you find comfortable in your ears and that you can listen to what you want.

 

  • Powerbanks – A lot of phones these days do absolutely everything apart from making a cup of tea (although I know of smart kettles that you can turn on from your phone…) but it comes at the cost of battery life. I’ve got a Samsung S9 at the minute and luckily the battery life is fairly decent, but my friend has an iPhone and finds the battery life a bit rubbish, so having a battery pack is imperative. If I’m in resus with my asthma and haven’t had a chance to charge my phone, having a battery pack means that I can listen to music to try and block out what’s going on around me. But battery packs can be useful for more than just charging phones in resus!

 

  • My kindle – I’m not going to go over why kindles are awesome again, because I talked about it earlier in the blog, but my kindle pretty much goes wherever I go!

 

  • My iPod – I try and carry my iPod if I know I’m going somewhere I’m going to be listening to music. It helps save the battery on my phone, as listening to music drains phone batteries quicker than you’d realise, so having my iPod handy is a lot better than trying to charge my battery if I’m out.
  • Camera – I honestly believe that everyone should have a decentish camera. Depending on your budget and how much you like photography will dictate what camera you get, but as a total camera nerd (along with everything else), I have an SLR and a good Sony digital camera. My Sony (I’ll put a link to my camera in when I can find it because I can’t remember the model number off the top of my head!). My Sony is a fantastic wee camera and it tends to live in my rucksack or handbag, depending what is going on in my life at that time. I find that my phone camera just doesn’t cut it for me and I like to be able to take good quality photos and have them saved somewhere other than my phone. It’s quite cool because one of the features of my camera is as soon as I have WiFi signal I can send my pictures from my camera to my iPad or phone, so if I’m out and about and lose my camera (NOOOOOOOO!) then I’ve at least got full quality back ups of all my pictures.

So this is basically a list of things that I couldn’t manage without, I know a lot of people would have different priorities though!

Until next time!

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Up all night – Dealing with insomnia.

*This blog post has been written during lockdown due to corona virus. All the stuff I’m saying in it applies to normal life, I understand it’s very difficult when you’re not able to keep a “normal” schedule or go out and exercise etc. I’ll try and put a side note on the parts that I think are affected by corona!*

This is part of my “dealing with chronic illness” series! Or it will be when I sort the other ones out that I want to be part of this series!

Insomnia is described as an inability to sleep. Now, lots of people have problems sleeping every now and then, heck, I was up until 4am last night because I couldn’t sleep (hence this blog happening!). Insomnia is a bit more than just not being able to sleep though. Insomnia can be broken down into 5 categories:

– Difficulty falling asleep
– waking up lots during the night
– not being able to get back to sleep
– waking too early
– very un-refreshing sleep.

16 million adults in the UK are said to suffer with some kind of insomnia, that works out at roughly 1 in 3.

Causes of insomnia:

– Anxiety, stress and depression are the biggest culprits for insomnia. People with MH problems tend to lose more sleep than healthy people. At the moment with the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a massive spike in insomnia cases with people being worried about either catching it themselves or someone they love being affected by it.
– Noise. If your bedroom is noisy at night, be it from within or outside the house, this can cause insomnia, cause let’s face it, how many people would be able to sleep if there was a party going on in the next house?

– Unsuitable sleeping environments – If you are lying on a floor in someones house after a house party, you’re guaranteed to not get a good nights sleep. It’s just common sense. Make sure you have a proper environment to sleep. Even if you’re camping in a tent in the middle of the peak district, you need to have some kind of mat or airbed and a sleeping bag. A dedicated area for you to sleep in is important. How many people do you know that go to sleep lying on a kitchen floor with tin foil as a duvet? Not very many I’d imagine. if, like me, you spend a large amount of time in hospital, you’ll also find it’s almost impossible to sleep properly. There’s always lots going on, even at night. You’ve got fellow patients (unless you’re lucky enough to get a side room), nurses coming in and out regularly to check on you and check your blood pressure etc. This isn’t a suitable sleeping environment, but you have to try and muddle through. I’ll talk a little bit more about how to deal with insomnia in hospital a little later on in another blog.

– Recreational drugs, alcohol and caffeine all can cause severe insomnia. Many drugs, such as ecstasy and methamphetamine are going to keep you awake all night as you ride the high, then come crashing down to earth again when you hit the comedown phase. This is a massive problem for people who use recreational drugs, and you’ll find a lot of them, even those in recovery and sober, will tell you that they will still struggle to sleep. But a lot of it is down to mental health problems as well. But we don’t need to go into that bit. Caffeine is a massive stimulant, and lets face it, we’ve all drank something highly caffeinated when we’ve needed to stay awake for something important. While I’m at uni, I can go through red bull/tea/monster at a fair rate. Not the best thing to do, and I’m aware that I’m a total hypocrite!

– Medications – A lot of prescription medications can cause insomnia. Sometimes it’s not the actual effects of the medication, but the side effects. Salbutamol (ventolin for easy sakes, or a blue asthma inhaler) can cause shakiness and a fast heart rate. I find if my heart rate is a bit fast, I can hear it in my ears and it’s been known to stop me sleeping for hours until the side effects have worn off.

– Pain – Pain is a massive contributor to insomnia. I have a few friends who could testify to that, and having spent a long time in a lot of pain with Avascular Nerosis in my hips (again, another blog!), I barely got a decent nights sleep for about 3 years. If pain is something that you’re finding is keeping you awake, that’s a marker that you need to be seeing your GP to find out what’s going on.

Dealing with your insomnia.

There is a lot of ways to deal with insomnia, it just depends on how yours affects you, but most cases of long term insomnia are actually treatable without medication.

Insomnia Dos and don’ts.

Dos

– Keep a sleep schedule. Go to bed around the same time every night and try and get up around the same time each morning

– Relax an hour before bed. Try to spend an hour chilling out reading/chatting or just chilling out an hour before bed. Your body will thank you for it!

– Try and keep active during the day. During lockdown it’s very difficult if you’re not allowed to leave the house to keep active during the day, specially if you’re not well enough to get out of the house, but there’s LOADS of things you can try doing if you feel up to do it on YouTube. Yoga, tai chi and things like Wii Fit are really useful at the minute.

– Try and make your room as dark as possible. Close your curtains and turn off the lights when you’re about to go to sleep. This helps your body clock know that darkness means sleep.

Insomnia don’ts.

– Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine 6 hours before bed. For most people this would be no more booze or coffee after about 5 or 6pm depending on when you go to bed. I know a lot of coffee addicts who would have a problem with that, and being a university student, I can hands up admit I don’t stick to that rule, ecspecially if an assignment is due in. But you can only try your best!

– Eat loads before bed. Having a heavy meal around bedtime is a bad idea. You go to bed feeling bloated and full and it’s just not a comfortable way to be trying to get to sleep.

– Exercise before bed. Exercises releases a lot of hormones that get you hyped up. It’s what gives you the energy to exercise! You don’t want to be exercising before bed, as I said above, relaxing an hour or so before bed is really important because it makes your body realise that it doesn’t need to release the energy to keep you awake.

– Nap. Napping during the day if you’re struggling with insomnia is a bad idea, as much as it might feel otherwise. You’re much less likely to be able to get a full nights sleep if you’ve had to nap during the day. Obviously I do understand there’s a lot of people with chronic illnesses that really do need to nap during the day, and I’m as bad for it as well. When I’m not well I tend to nap during the day, purely because my body tells me I need to. But because of my whacky body, I do manage to sleep pretty well most nights. As with everything I say on here, there is exceptions to the rule, and I don’t want people coming after me with pitchforks because they’re angry from not getting their nap!

– Live in your bedroom. A lot of the advice about insomnia will tell you that spending a lot of time in your bedroom during the day is a bad thing, and that bedrooms are for sleeping in. So try and sit in your living room/lounge/wherever you can chill out during the day. Even if it means dragging your duvet and pillow into the living room and building a nest in your living room, it’s better than spending all day in your bedroom. As above, there are exceptions to the rule. I’m also bad for this one and spend a lot of time in my room. I am getting better at trying to drag myself into my living room and watching telly or farting around on my computer. But yea, try and not spend a lot of time in your room during the day.

Treating insomnia

A lot of this is stuff we covered in the “dos and don’ts” but it doesn’t hurt to just go back over it.

– Practicing good sleep hygiene:
– bedtime and getting up time about the same everyday
– bedroom for sleeping
– no alcohol or big feeds before bedtime. Night caps aren’t a good plan!

– Warm drinks at bedtime (not coffee or caffeine drinks!). Drinks like warm milk and hot chocolate release a chemical in your body called trypotophan which makes a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin acts in your brain to make another hormone called melatonin which makes you feel sleepy. So warm drinks before bedtime is definitely something to try if you’re struggling.

– Mindfulness or Meditation. A lot of people swear by mindfulness and meditation around bedtime to help them relax. I use an app called “headspace” which has dedication meditations to help with sleep. Definitely worth a try if you’re struggling to get off to sleep.

– Medication is something that I think anyone with insomnia thinks about at some point. But it is generally prescribed as a very last resort kind of thing. It’s really easy to get addicted to sleeping tablets and I find they leave me a big groggy the next day. Doctors will always try and use every other trick in the book before prescribing sleeping tablets. So don’t get your hopes up if you got and see your GP looking for sleeping tablets if you haven’t tried the things listed above first and given them all a good chance to work.

When to see your GP.

– If you’ve done absolutely everything I’ve listed above and you’re still not sleeping right, then it’s time to go and see your GP.

– If your insomnia has been going on for more than about 4-6 weeks.

– If your insomnia is accompanied by other changes in your body.

– Making it so you’re unable to manage daily tasks due to exhaustion, like school/work/uni.

These are all good reasons to see your GP about your insomnia, but sometimes there’s just no simple answers as to why you’re not sleeping. And that gets frustrating, but it’s then that practicing things like good sleep hygiene is crucial because you’ll be making it harder and harder to get to sleep.

My hypocritical bits

– So as much as I bang on about sleep hygiene and things to do to help, I can be the biggest hypocrite going. But there’s lots of reasons why people can’t follow, or seriously struggle to follow the advice. People with severe, chronic illness or mental health problems are most likely to spend a lot of time in their bedrooms. And that’s OK. It’s a lot to take in. But following maybe one of the pieces of advice at a time is the best way to help you. Like maybe introducing a warm drink at bedtime? Doing that for a bit and then going on to trying to not have any alcohol for a few hours before bed. The important bit it that you’re trying!

– These are strange times we live in, and as a result people’s routines and ways of living have been thrown up in the air and scattered all over the place. There’s very little to do during the day and people get bored. Those of us who can’t work are getting more and more fed up and some people have TVs in their rooms and find themselves lying in bed watching TV, or like me, sitting on their bed colouring in/playing the PS4 or blogging. But that’s something I’m aware I need to get better at.

So, to do a bit of a recap

– You need to get about 6-8 hours sleep a night.

– If you’re struggling to get to sleep, practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed at a reasonable time and not playing on your phone for ages first.

– Have a warm drink before going to bed.

– Don’t have any caffeine about 6 hours before bed.

– See your GP if it’s been a problem for more than about 4 weeks and you’ve tried all the advice I’ve given above!

*Everything I’ve written in this blog comes from personal experience and some googling. I’m not a health professional in any way. Everyone is totally different and have different situations that may make it difficult for you to follow any of the advice given. Don’t feel obligated to do what I say, you’re your own person!

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Asthma – The basics

Managing your asthma

So, I mentioned in my last blog that I have brittle/severe asthma. This post is about asthma in general and how I manage it with life/uni etc. I’ll also try and throw in some hints/tips or things that I use to make things a little bit easier. Cause managing severe asthma can be a right pain in the arse.

So, we will start with some basic facts. 5.4million people in the UK have asthma, that equates to about 1 in 12 people. Every 10 seconds, someone in the UK is having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. That’s a lot of people.

Asthma is a respiratory condition that mainly affects your bronchioles, the small airways in your lungs. When you inhale something that may irritate your lungs, the airways go into a spasm and close making it hard for the air to go through the lungs. This can cause the feeling of tight chestedness, shortness of breath and wheezing. Although everyone is different and experience their own symptoms, so there are other symptoms that you can experience.

So how do you deal with this condition? An important thing to remember is you’re not alone and there is a lot of other people with this condition, so there’s lots of resources out there for newly diagnosed people. Asthma UK are the main charity in the UK for people with asthma and have lots of stuff on their website to help.

One thing all asthmatics should have is a personal action plan. Asthma UK have one on their website which is one that you can fill out with your GP/Asthma nurse. If you have severe asthma, this action plan is not very well suited to you, and many severe asthmatics don’t have a proper action plan as a result of their not being able to find one that suits. I’ve made my own one, and this is an example of it below. I’ve left out values etc incase someone does want to download it. It’s not overly complicated and is quite basic, but for me, basic is better.

So, for milder asthmatics who don’t need to factor in nebulisers etc, Asthma UK’s action plan is available to download from here.

So, Apps for managing asthma. There are 2 apps that I use for managing my asthma. I use AsthmaMD and Medisafe. I’ll start with AsthmaMD.

So, Asthma MD is an American app so it’s a bit strange to navigate. What is very useful though is that it has a good peak flow based action plan. It will ask you your height and weight and work out your predicted best peak flow and fashion an action plan (AP) from that. However, my predicted peak flow is a lot lower than my personal best, which is what I work off.  I’ve attached screenshots of what it looks like when working off your height and weight at the bottom. One of the best features I find is that it tracks your peak flow onto a chart and shows you what zones you’re in, the dates and times you hit them and then plots the line for you. You can then show this graph to your health professional if you so wish. I’ve recently got a new phone, so I haven’t gotten around to setting it up on my new phone, so the graph I’m going to put in isn’t filled in yet! I know it says I’ve not done a peak flow since 2015, that’s not entirely true! I haven’t used the right account on here in ages, so the one I’ve signed into is my old account. I’m not that bad at managing my asthma, honest!

As you can see above, I’ve loaded a screenshot of what the peak flow graph looks like, and then the predicted peak flows and signs/symptoms I may be experiencing.

Part of the app is that you can input what medications you are taking as both reliever and preventer medications. You can put what you need to do in time with the different zones you may be in on your AP. Unfortunately, as this is an American app, some of the medications are in the brand name that the Americans use, but they do have the generic names beside for most of the medications and there is the option to add your own if needs be.

Positives and Negatives of Asthma MD.

Positives

  • It is very colourful and user friendly.
  • The peak flow tracker is very good and easy to read.
  • You can put your own peak flow data into and not have to use the predicted.
  • You can add your action plan into it so you will know what to do for each peak flow reading
  • You can add your medication into it
  • It can remind you to take your medications
  • It’s free.

Negatives

  • It is American, so the medication names are all the American brands
  • It’s not useable on iPads unless you don’t mind it only being iPhone size on your iPad screen

So, AsthmaMD has a lot of positives and for me, few negatives. It’s good for tracking my asthma and I’m going to try and get better at actually checking my peak flows!

Another app I find very handy to manage my medication is an app called Medisafe. You can input all your medication into it and it will remind you when you need to take them. You can also put in when you need extra reliever medication. It’s been a game changer for me because I’m hopeless at remembering to take my meds during the day or if I’m out, forgetting to take them when I get home. But you can set your home and work into it and it can remind you take them when you reach home or work. Very handy!

  This app does have the ability to have more than one account, but you do have to pay for it. The basic version will allow you to do most of the features I list, but in order to make use of the “premium features” you need to pay £3.99 a month. This gives you:

  • Unlimited family members
  • The ability to monitor more than 20 health measurements such as temperature, blood pressure, heart rate etc.
  • You can change the colours of the app.
  • Different alarm voices

I used it without paying for a long time and found it did the job I needed it to. I just got bored of looking at the same colours so I pay the extra £3.99 a month.

Positives and Negatives of Medisafe

Positives

  • Can input all your medications, there is no limits
  • Can set different times for taking your medication
  • Will give you the option to use the brand name (eg – Salbutamol is known as Ventolin, Paracetamol is known as Panadol etc…)
  • You can snooze the alarm if you’re not near your meds so it will remind you in either 10,20,30mins etc.
  • Will recognise when you get home and remind you to take your medications then.
  • Easy to set up and use

Negatives

  • Can be very time-consuming inputting all the medications
  • The app is American, so the brand names are all American ones, but you have the ability to put your own medications brand name in if you so wish.
  • You do have to pay for the extra features.

Neither of the apps I’ve listed above cost anything to download, and I’ve found they’re game changers in my adherence and compliance.

One thing that is very important in management of ANY chronic illness, not just asthma, is medication compliance. I get my medication in blister trays as I’m on so many tablets. But it’s hard to keep focused 100% of the time on taking every medication you’re prescribed at the time you’re meant to take it. I’m guilty as sin for this and do miss doses of medications a few times a week. I’ve gotten A LOT better during lockdown

So that wraps up my blog on asthma! Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question! I’m curious as to how many people actually read this and don’t just click on it for sh!ts and giggles!

Until next time!

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About me Health Life

My physical health in a nutshell

My Physical health in a nutshell

So part of the reason I’m actually writing a blog is to have somewhere I can let off steam. A lot of the time that steam has built up is as a result of something connected to my physical health problems. I think having the chronic health problems that I do helps me to learn how to deal with a lot of situations in life. Unlike my dog, who if she doesn’t like it, pisses on it and walks away.

So, what physical conditions do I live with that gives me the right to write this blog? Primarily I have brittle asthma. This means that I have a very severe form of asthma that has me hospitalised regularly. I’ve averaged an admission a month since I was 19 and I’m 28 now. So that’s a lot of time spent in hospital as a result of my lungs. It has a big impact on my life, especially when I was in school sitting my Leaving Certificate (Irish A-Levels) and in my 2nd year of uni. At some point I’ll do a separate blog all about my asthma and how I live with it etc, but that’s somewhere a bit further down the line yet! But my asthma is probably the biggest problem I face on a daily basis with my physical health. My exercise tolerance is awful, although it’s not much better not being able to get out and go for a walk or go to the gym at the minute! Thank you Covid-19! But hopefully once this is all over, I’ll be able to get back to doing some kind of exercise! But my main symptoms of my asthma are shortness of breath, tight chest and wheeziness. But not necessarily all at the same time. I’ve been in hospital before and not been wheezy, but have what’s known as a silent chest, which means there’s very little air going in and out of my lungs. This is bad and means I really should be in hospital if I’m not already. But we’ll go into that in more detail later.

I also have a condition called Adrenal Insufficiency (AI). It’svery similar to a condition called Addisons Disease. My AI is actually really well controlled, so long as I remember to take my steroids in the middle of the day (I’m a bit of a nightmare for remembering to take my medication in the middle of the day). I have been on steroids pretty much constantly since I was 19 for my asthma. Until I was about 23 I was on very high doses regularly which confused my body so much that it stopped making it’s own steroids and got lazy. Because I was giving it what it needed artificially, it decided that it would cease making it’s own cortisol. So since I was  23, I’ve been on what’s known as cortisol replacement therapy. So I take the same amount my body would produce in the form of tablets three times a day. I’m god awful at remembering to take them, so more than once I’ve gone into adrenal crisis and needed injected with steroids. Like my asthma, I’m planning on doing a blog dedicated to my AI, as it’s quite a complex condition and I don’t want to waffle on about it on here if it’s not something that interests you!

As I said above, I’ve been on steroids for a long time, and a lot of the health issues I’ve got stem from the amount of steroids I was taking. I developed a condition called Avascular Necrosis of the femoral heads. This basically means that the blood supply to my hips stopped flowing as good as it should and the heads of my thigh bones where they go into the hip socket died and crumbled and I needed to have both my hips replaced at a young age. I was 22 when I had the right one done and 23 when the left one was done. It was tough going, but you wouldn’t even notice it now. I’m sitting typing this with my legs crossed under me!

Steroids have also caused me to gain a lot of weight. I’ve gone from being a size 16 to a size 22 in about 10 years. Partly steroids but also partly down to my own poor diet when I wasn’t living at home. But I’ve ended up with things like problems with my eyes and diabetes because of them. They’ve definitely not helped my mental health and I notice when I’m on high doses of steroids, my mental health goes to pot. Which is why we try to avoid steroids like the plague. My consultant would sooner have me admitted on IV medication for my chest than have me back on steroids. Nasty things! There’s a joke among the asthmatics online that the steroids we take for our asthma are known as the devil’s tic tacs!

But, I will hopefully blog again soon! Will definitely go into a bit more detail about my asthma and AI. Thanks for reading!

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Mental health in a nutshell

My mental health in a nutshell.

So, my mental health has played a big part in how my life has panned out over the past few years, so I’m going to give you a bit of a brief history, because I think it is important to know not only why it happened, but how I managed to get through it and some tips that I can give to try and manage any mental health problems you might face.

So, I’ve had problems with my mental health since my teens due to my family situation at home. My stepdad was a big drinker and things were difficult at home, to the point that I decided at the age of 17, to leave home, move country and moved in with my friend, Emma in Leicester. It was a big decision to make to move, not just home, but country.

That was when I started having symptoms of PTSD. Luckily it was managed reasonably well, and I managed to sort of hold it all together until I left Emma’s late in 2009. I was diagnosed with depression not long after that, and luckily until about 2015(ish), I held things together well. In 2015, things took quite a drastic turn. I was in my first year of university studying Biomedical Science. I absolutely loved the course. I enjoyed the content, the labs, just everything about it. The uni I was studying with were fantastic at helping me manage my physical and mental health, but I was putting myself under an unhealthy amount of pressure. I was spending every waking moment either in lectures or labs or sitting at my desk working or in the library. It was around January of 2016 that things started to go downhill for me. I was hearing voices shouting at me to work harder and my depression and PTSD just totally crashed. I ended up having to drop out of uni for that year, and I started again in 2nd year. Unfortunately, I found it too much to deal with and due to physical health problems, I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with Biomedical Science. I’m going back to university in September (all being well) to study psychology and counselling. It’s much more lecture and self-learning than Biomed, which means if I miss a lecture, it’s not going to take me weeks to catch up. I don’t have the pressure of trying to get to a lab when I just wasn’t well enough. But hopefully, come Sept 2020, I will be full time student again.

My friends saw it before I did and luckily were able to get me to go to my GP and let him know what was going on. From between Jan and May of that year, I don’t remember very much. I think it’s my brains way of protecting me from reliving it all and distressing me. But there was a mixture of nightmares, flashbacks, extremely low mood and suicidal thoughts, and from what my friends have told me, it was a pretty awful time. But thankfully after a lot of medication changes and input from my GP, 6 months under the crisis team due to lack of tertiary care available to me and the support of my friends, I can say that as of 2020, I’m doing pretty well.

Like I said though, my friends got me through it, but there are things that you can do to help your mental health if you feel things are starting to slide. So, I’ll give a list of things that are signs that things are getting a bit much and some tips that I use to try and keep myself going.

Signs things are slipping

  • My sleep pattern goes to pot – One of the main things for me is that I don’t sleep right. I either oversleep or under sleep. If I am sleeping too much it’s because I genuinely don’t feel like there’s any reason for me to actually be awake. If I’m asleep it’s because I don’t have to be dealing with what’s going on in my head. If I’m under sleeping it’s because my head is too full of everything that is causing me problems going round and round in circles. If I don’t sleep enough then I find my psychosis gets worse, so I aim to try and get about 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • I have problems concentrating – When I’m really struggling, one of the things I find is a sign of things slipping is I have no concentration span. I’ll go from colouring books, to puzzle books, to playing my PlayStation and then probably back to colouring again, probably all in the matter of an hour or two.
  • My anxiety gets out of control. I struggle to leave the house and find even basic tasks overwhelming. One of the prime reasons I dropped out of university was I couldn’t handle leaving the house and dealing with a lecture hall full of 140 students. The idea was terrifying, and I still struggle with my anxiety, often a lot more than my depression.
  • My mood is awful – I suppose that one of the trademark symptoms of depression is the low mood, and it’s obvious when my mood is slipping. I don’t define my depression crashing as having a bad day though, things slipping for me are a combination of things over a longer period. My mood becomes very low and I become very suicidal and I struggle to see any positive sides to life at the time. I get very quiet when my mood is low, and that’s how people tend to be able to tell.
  • A combination of these things – So like I said, for me anyway, it’s not just one factor that makes my definition of “depressed”. It’s about looking after yourself and noticing differences in your own mood, activities and overall wellbeing. Everyone is different and it’s important to remember that.

    Things to help
  • Talk to people. One of the most important things is to tell someone you’re struggling. It’s probably the hardest thing to do because nobody wants to burden their friends when they think there’s already a lot going on in their lives, but it imperative you talk to someone. Even if it’s not someone in your close family, getting it off your chest will make you feel tonnes better.
  • Set a daily routine and try and stick to it. Get up and have some breakfast if you can manage it. Set yourself small, simple tasks that are achievable. If having a shower is too much, try having a baby wipe bath and use dry shampoo. Getting out of pyjamas and getting dressed helps you feel like you’ve achieved something.
  • Try and have some good sleep hygiene. Going to bed at a reasonable time and getting up at a reasonable time. I know it’s not always possible to spend all day in your bedroom, but if you can try and make your bedroom for sleep only, it will help you get to sleep quicker.
  • Surround yourself with things that make you happy. Make yourself a “happy box”. Put good memories in that box and when things get rough, you know you have something that might help make you feel better. I’ve got some sensory things like something that smells nice, something that tastes nice (I’ve got a Vimto rip roll in mine), and a tangle that I can fidget with. There are also a few pictures that make me smile. It’s different for everyone, but it doesn’t matter what’s in it, it’s personal to you.
  • Take all your prescribed medication as you need to take it. Be it medication for a physical problem or for your mental health, you NEED to give your body the best chance to be able to deal with whatever is going on in your life. There are some apps you can download for your phone that help you keep track of when you need to take medication and what medication you’re on. I use an app called Medisafe, and it’s the best one I’ve found after 10 years of looking!

So, that’s my first post, I hope people find it interesting and useful, and you’ll hopefully read more from me soon!

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About me Family Health University

The first post.

So, I’m trying to get my head around WordPress, so apologies if this totally looks rubbish, I’m getting there!

So, my first post is going to be a little bit about me in more depth than what’s on my “About me” page.

My name is Vicky, and I’m 28 years old. I live in Manchester on my own, but my partner, who at the minute lives in Southampton, is planning on moving to Manchester in the next few months. At the minute, the whole country is in lockdown and we aren’t meant to leave our houses because of coronavirus/COVID-19. So Chris has come up to stay with me so I don’t go any more insane than I already am!

I spent a few years at uni studying Biomedical Science, but due to a lot of different things, my health mainly, I had to give that chosen course up. I’m planning on going back to the same university in September to study Psychology and counselling. I’m looking forward to it, I need a new challenge. I’m bored silly just sat at home!

So, my health. I’ve got a few physical and mental health problems that have had a big amount to say in the shaping of my life over the past 10 years. I’ll probably do a separate blog talking about them, but in a nutshell, I’ve got a few mental health problems and a few physical health problems. I’ll go into more detail in another blog. But it’s important to know that my health problems don’t define me. I just happen to have them on top of being Vicky, the techy, geeky four-eyed psychology student!

But for now, I’ll leave it at that and will let you decide what you make of my blog!