Thursday, 14 November 2013


I’ve said numerous times on TRB that the blog has not only been cathartic and a chance to explore what I’m thinking, but more importantly it has been a vehicle allowing me to challenge those thoughts and habits of mind. What could be more challenging than to think of reasons to say “thank you” to my tempestuous lodger?

When suddenly faced with something all-consuming and unexpected like an incurable health condition, people mostly split into one of two camps with their behaviour – they either succumb to despair, guilt and feelings of betrayal and indeed risk becoming consumed, or they grit their teeth, shake their fists and say “sod you”.

Sometimes people do both, one after the other, which is what I did. I then repeated the process a year later after receiving a diagnosis, because once the joy of assurance that things aren’t all in your head wears off you then come face to face with “I have what? What do you mean you can’t make it stop?”

There’s a saying that for every door which shuts in your life due to circumstances, another will open. I don’t see affliction with chronic ill health to fall outside of that observation; it’s just admittedly harder to see how it fits, particularly at first when you’re still trying to figure out how exhaustion, pain and cognitive dysfunction can be made to fit into normal human function. “Square pegs in round holes” makes a pleasing metaphor for this.

I found that life was very organically brought into sharper focus. Suddenly I could see an array of things which had occupied my mind or caused me to fret and worry which were wholly inconsequential. They might have felt less than trivial at the time, but faced with something far more important to be dealt with on a daily basis you soon learn what is and isn’t worth getting angry or upset about. I am by nature very sensitive, but even so I’ve begun slowly to temper that with a sense of “Is this worth possibly having a flare up?”

(Sometimes even I have to laugh at how British I am. Image from

One such triviality was the insecurity I carried over physical appearance. I always felt it was trivial, that there were far more important qualities to not only me but every other individual, but for one reason and another I could never quite make that philosophy stick in the face of the voice in my head who liked reminding me of all the possible (and probably a few imaginary) flaws.

I was an awfully unattractive teenager, and I’m not just being self-deprecating with that either. I had masses of frizzy hair, bug-eyed spectacles, a reasonably pronounced overbite followed by braces and neither a clue about nor any interest at all in fashion, makeup and such things. By around 21 I’d discovered layering, shed the braces and stumbled upon the wonderful inventions of thinned lenses and contacts so I looked far less like a buck-toothed electrocuted insect and a bit more like a human being.

I then fell in with what turned out to be a toxic group of people (toxic for me, at least) whose whole group dynamic and chief concern lay in one’s looks. You were either flavour of the month and hovering above the virtual cesspit of insecurity, jealousy and cattiness below or you were deemed unworthy, based on nothing more than your own physical appearance and whether you were prepared to do homage to the current favourite.

Thanks all the same, but no. All of that (I can see now in hindsight, perfect 20:20 as ever) seemed to grind any progress I might have made towards accepting the triviality of my worries to a deathly halt.

So my first reason for gratitude is that with Petunia to cope with and work around, I neither had the time or the energy to care about something so frankly unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

I still have days where I feel like something Misty threw up on the carpet, and whatever may be muttered about vanity and shallowness I still enjoy dressing up to go out. I don’t use makeup on a day to day basis so it has become reserved to a part of the routine of getting dolled up to do something special. I’ve recently been investigating buying a foundation for the first time because Miss P seems determined to make me look more and more like a Uakari monkey when she’s acting the goat, but it will be something I keep for sparing use just to give me a bit of a boost of confidence if I am going out.

(Blog post may contain liberal doses of sarcasm and exaggeration. Image from

The exercise routine has really helped with this too. Whilst a lot of people’s chief concern is how much they weigh and focus on the need to shift pounds to achieve a slimmer shape, I’m far more interested in what the exercise and a healthy diet are allowing my body to achieve. I’ll be discussing the effects of the dance workout I started in an upcoming post, but what I’m enjoying more than any visible shape change is the increase of flexibility, strength and fullness of movement in joints and muscles which have been stiff, weak and sore for some time. They’re still stiff, weak and sore a lot of the time but the difference is phenomenal.

For example having full movement in my hips after years of limitation is a great deal more interesting than how wide they are, and being able to make use of my core in a new and more effective way is far more important than what a measuring tape says about my waist. I can’t do anything about the skin reaction and wouldn't want to use makeup to cover it up every day, but in a way it’s evidence that my body’s still trying its best and I can make peace with that.

What my body looks like is never, ever again going to take centre stage in the face of what it is physically capable of and the work I can put in to improve this and to help it deal with my damaged immune system.

So Petunia? You came, you saw, but instead of wholly conquering you helped out a bit too.

Thanks. As you’re sticking around, shall we see what else we can do?

I plan to make this post the beginning of a series, as I’m slowly finding new ways to look at my situation. Can you relate to this, and do you have any gratitude of your own for the way your life has changed? I’d love to hear it.

Wishing you many spoons xxx

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