Saturday, October 08, 2016

Awareness Day

Today is Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day....and many TNers on Facebook have been trying to turn the world teal in order to get the condition noticed. Buildings lighting up teal, bridges turning teal, teal clothes, teal jewellery, teal nails even teal hair. They've done really well. Or even teally well.

I have to confess that I haven't gone teal. Actually, I've just looked down and realised that's a lie. I am wearing a teal t-shirt under my fleece. That's just by coincidence though and it's the same one I was wearing yesterday! No teal nails. No teal hair...

But for the last few weeks I've worked hard with the girls on End TN to make posters, information files and a video for today to try to bring understanding as well as awareness. So, to anyone like me, who hasn't gone teal, don't what you can, when you can. And if you can't, that's fine too.

Awareness is important. Not just for trigeminal neuralgia. There are so many illnesses and conditions which people don't know about. And so many which are well known, but still need understanding and funding.

Within my own family, there have been conditions we'd rather not have had to learn about. Kidney cancer, bowel cancer, liver cancer, Sydenham's Chorea, S.I.D.S. Each one as horrible as the other. Each one as frightening as the other. And each one leaves scars of some kind.

Every condition needs so much more understanding and awareness. Hopefully one day, we'll all get that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Life on Benefits isn't a Life Choice

I listened to a radio phone in this morning and was on the verge of picking up the phone to call in.

The discussion was about David Cameron. The programme wanted to know how people rated him out of ten. It was on Radio Scotland and he's not rated very highly up here. I didn't feel compelled to phone in to talk about him though. Talking on the phone is painful at the best of times, so I wouldn't waste my energy phoning a radio show to give my former Prime Minister a big fat zero.

Then along came Edwina Currie with her views. (Yes, the Edwina Currie famous for eggs, salmonella and John Major). She sang David Cameron's praises. Then said, "he HAD to do something about benefits in the country. People were becoming too dependent on them. It's not right to give people benefits like that. Money should be spent on roads and things like that."

So that was when I was frantically looking for a phone number to call in to that radio show. That was when everything in my vision turned red. By the time I found a phone number, they had changed the discussion topic. Maybe just as well.

Most people who are dependent on benefits, are dependent on them because they have no other option.

The Welfare State was put in place as a safety net for the poor, the out of work, the sick and disabled (people like me) to live as normal a life as possible. A lifeline to enable us to eat. To live in a house like other people. To pay for essentials like clothing, heating and lighting. To enable us to still feel like valid members of society. But many politicians nowadays believe most of us are just dependent on those benefits because we want to be....a life choice. Because it's the easier option.

It is certainly not a life choice.

Believe me, if I could choose, I wouldn't choose a life on benefits. I would choose to wake up in the morning pain free, jump in the shower, get the kids ready for school while getting the laundry sorted, living room hoovered, kitchen floor mopped, then grab some breakfast while getting tonight's dinner into the slow cooker before heading to work.

I can't and never could choose to do those things because of my pain. I couldn't choose to have kids because of my pain. I couldn't continue working because of my pain. I can't put a foot out of bed without thinking how to do it best without making pain worse. "Grab some breakfast"......that is the only thing on that list that happens most days. On the other days, my husband has to grab breakfast for me.

Being on benefits is not a life choice for the majority of people, but time and time again, it is portrayed that way. What does the government want? Bring back workhouses? Send the sick and disabled into workhouses so they can spend welfare money on roads instead of on us, the unworthy lowlife of society? That is how we are made to feel.

As you'll have gathered, Edwina Currie's comments this morning hit a nerve.

I know many people like myself who depend on benefits and have no other option. We feel like the government wants to whip that safety net from under us. And it's not a nice feeling. Actually, it's a very frightening feeling.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Nuclear Weapons

Last week there was a vote in the House of Commons in Westminster on the future of Trident, UK's nuclear weapon.

A majority of 355 voted in favour of renewing this weapon of mass destruction. There are 59 MPs in Scotland. 58 of them voted against renewing it. Yet again, Scotland has a different opinion from most of the rest of the UK.

For people who normally read my blog, you will probably already be able to work out my view on Trident. For others, I'll explain....

I detest it.

I possibly feel exceptionally strongly about Trident, because it is housed on the Clyde, just outside Glasgow, not too far from where I was born and brought up. Being so close to home, probably means I think about it more. Not so easy to just switch off from it when it is on your own doorstep. People might say that is a typical NIMBY attitude. I don't think so. You see, yes, it bothers me about where it is, but I want it gone completely, not just moved down south somewhere.  And it's not just Trident I want rid of. I also wish the world could be rid of all nuclear weapons.

There are only nine countries in the world with nuclear weapons and the majority (93%) are owned by either USA or Russia. It is a huge power game. Does UK need to be involved in that game? Other countries get by perfectly well without needing to have nuclear weapons. So why does the UK or the other eight countries on this planet of ours want to have them so badly?

Nuclear powered weapons have been used in warfare twice. Hiroshima and Nagasaki which resulted in the death of over 120,000 people. Why would anybody ever want to witness those events happening again?

As long as Trident is sitting in our waters, we actually have a threat of radiation leakage or something even worse. There have actually been cases of accidental launching, firing and detonating nuclear weapons throughout the world. 32 accidents have been recorded worldwide. So, statistically, an accident (with serious consequences) is probably more likely to happen than a nuclear attack by another country.

But we are told that we need Trident in the UK. That if we didn't have it, one of those eight countries above would attack us with their nuclear weapon. Really? I actually wonder if we are more at risk because we do have those weapons on our shores. In the event of possible war, does a country decide to press their button to attack us, just in case we do it to them first? In which case, the deterrent did nothing, and it's much too late for us. The damage will have been done. It would be the beginning of the end.

If the UK didn't have Trident, would we really suddenly become a prime target? If it is true that we are, or would become a prime target, perhaps we ought to ask ourselves why.

Our main threat in this country, and others, is terrorism. Nuclear weapons certainly don't deter that. They didn't deter terrorism in USA, in France, here or anywhere else. Shouldn't we be focusing on trying to get the right intelligence to get this dangerous, and very real threat sorted, rather than spending a shameful amount of money on a deterrent which is deterring nothing.

The cost of renewing Trident will be billions. That money undoubtedly could be used elsewhere in areas which badly need it. Health, education, poverty...imagine what those billions could do. There are people using food banks in the UK because they have no other way to feed their families. Yet we are prepared to spend billions on a weapon which could eradicate another country (or eradicate our own by accident). Why can't we eradicate poverty instead?

But it's not just about money. It's a moral issue. Money can't buy the lives which could be ruined by Trident. Thousands of innocent people would be killed after the go ahead to enter a code to attack a country. Actually more than thousands. And not just at that time. For years to come. Probably decades. Vegetation and water ways affected. Livestock, wildlife, birds and fish would be affected. People in surrounding areas would be affected too. Birth defects. Serious illnesses. Cancers. All affecting innocent people. There might be a few evil monsters at the target destination, but the majority affected would be innocent people. What did they ever do to deserve that?

A few days ago, while discussing Trident, a friend sent me the following passage by a renowned Harvard Law professor, Roger Fisher.

There is a young man, probably a Navy officer, who accompanies the President. This young man has a black attaché case which contains the codes that are needed to fire nuclear weapons. I could see the President at a staff meeting considering nuclear war as an abstract question. He might conclude: “On SIOP Plan One, the decision is affirmative, Communicate the Alpha line XYZ.” Such jargon holds what is involved at a distance.
My suggestion was quite simple: Put that needed code number in a little capsule, and then implant that capsule right next to the heart of a volunteer. The volunteer would carry with him a big, heavy butcher knife as he accompanied the President. If ever the President wanted to fire nuclear weapons, the only way he could do so would be for him first, with his own hands, to kill one human being. The President says, “George, I’m sorry but tens of millions must die.” He has to look at someone and realize what death is—what an innocent death is. Blood on the White House carpet. It’s reality brought home.
When I suggested this to friends in the Pentagon they said, “My God, that’s terrible. Having to kill someone would distort the President’s judgment. He might never push the button.
Perhaps if every person in the world who agreed with nuclear weapons of mass destruction read these words and put themselves into the President's shoes, they too would think twice. How many could actually carry out the physical killing of an innocent life themselves. Or perhaps worse still, imagine if that innocent life was their own child.

I detest war. I detest nuclear weapons of mass destruction. I want this world to be a safer, more peaceful place and nuclear weapons will never bring that to us. I want nuclear weapons to be a thing of the past. I want them to be eradicated.

Can that world without nuclear weapons ever exist? Perhaps it can. But only if everyone who thinks they shouldn't exist, speaks up and says so, then that world could become a reality. Some people would say that I'm just a dreamer. But I know a lot of dreamers. And hopefully one day, our dreams could become reality.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Your Life, Your Choice

Since April is "Your Life, Your Choice" month, I felt the need to write a wee blog post about it. Actually, I didn't feel the need at all.....I chose to write it. (Big difference!)

We all go through life making choices. What time to set the alarm? Breakfast or no breakfast? Tea or coffee? Chocolate or......chocolate? Sometimes the choices are simple. Some choices might be easier to make than others.

My Mum used to tell me that I had a good attitude to life. She said that no matter what life gave me, I always tried to smile and just get on with life.

I turned fifty last month (not really by choice😮), but I can look back on my life and I realise that my Mum was right. I do have a good attitude and I am quite proud to admit that.

I try to find the positives in everything. When I find only negative, I try my hardest to turn it around. I try to find something to feel happy about. Something to make me smile. Something....anything which can make a difficult situation a wee bit better. And there is always something.

☔️ Caught in the rain on way to the car - thankful we have a car.
🍓Not a single bit of chocolate in the house - but I have fruit!
🌎 Can't afford to go on holiday - have you seen the views from my house?

Obviously those are trivial examples, but they are real examples. For me, it seems natural to find positives. But I know it's not the same for everyone. However, it is believed that people have the power to choose whether to live with negativity or positivity.

It has long been established that positive thinking can lead to a happier, more contented life. For people living with a chronic illness of any kind, it is believed that a positive outlook can also help them to cope with and manage their illness.

I would say that in my case, that is definitely true.

When faced with daily health issues and chronic pain, I personally believe that 'choosing' positivity is so important.

I wake up in the morning and don't know if my back will cope with getting out of bed. My husband has to help me with some of my clothes, because I can't manage myself. Am I going to be able to make myself a cup of tea, or do I need to rely on my husband to do that too. My face hurts the minute I wake up. I don't know if the pain from it will stay at that level, or if it will get worse throughout the day. Will I struggle with food? Will I be able to clean my teeth? Will I need to spend most of the day in bed because of pain in some part of my body?

I could easily wake up in the morning and think about those things and be slowly dragged down into a deep black hole. But I don't want to be in that hole and I don't have to go into it. I have a choice.

Instead, I choose to be grateful. I choose to be optimistic. I choose to smile. I choose to be happy. It's my life and I choose to focus on positivity. 

I wake up and say, thank goodness I have a rail by my bed to help me get up; I'm glad my understanding husband is here to help me throughout the day; I enjoy porridge, soup, pasta and other soft food which is easier to eat; I have a dog who laughs as he bounces through to see me when he decides I've stayed in bed too long; a cat who seems to sense when I'm having a bad day and sits by my side.

Do those things take away my pain? No, of course they don't. But those kind of things help me cope with my problems. My life's not a bed of roses, but those positive thoughts help to put a smile on my face and get on with life, just as my Mum used to say.

Everyone has choices in life and there are always positives to be found.

It's up to us to find them.


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Good Pain

Saturday, March 26, 2016


I hate comparisons. I think I always have. We seem to go through life being compared. Not as attractive. Not as clever. Not as sociable. Not as good....

There is probably nothing which can knock someone's confidence more than being compared to someone else in that way. And turn it around, what does it do to the other person? Make them embarrassed or do they enjoy it and become conceited?

Comparisons will always affect people in some way, which is why I hate them.

It's the same with health condition comparisons.

Most people who know me will know that I live with a lot of pain. Chronic back pain. Chronic rib pain. Chronic headaches. Chronic face pain. Throw in a few other regular aches and pains and I suppose I'd be as well changing my name to Chronic.

Trigeminal Neuralgia is known as one of the most painful afflictions. Some days I'd agree with that. But if I am in my bed, in agony, hardly able to walk to the toilet because of my back, then trigeminal neuralgia is a walk in the park on those days. I can't make a sweeping generalisation and say that one condition is worse than the other. Yes, TN might be up there in the ranks of being the worst pain in the world. But don't tell me that when my back has decided to give up on me.

A few weeks ago, I had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. Turned out I had kidney stones. All I can say is that at 3 o'clock that morning, had someone said, "but it's not as painful as TN," I might have done something really nasty to them.

I can't even compare my own pain conditions with each other, so how can anyone ever say that one person's pain is worse than or not as bad as someone else's? We can't feel their pain. So if they think their pain is the worst pain in the world, then who are we to argue? It obviously is the worst pain in the world to them at that particular moment in time.

Right now, my husband is an extreme pain. He has an abscess on his gum. He is on antibiotics and taking strong painkillers (which he nearly always avoids taking). I absolutely hate seeing him in pain. I feel helpless. I probably feel how he feels when I'm having a bad day. The thought of comparing his pain to mine would be plain crazy. If I were to say, "but I have TN, and that's the worst pain in the world!", would mean I am actually undermining his pain. Right now, I'm sure his pain is the worst pain in the world. How uncaring would I seem if I compared his pain to mine and suggested his isn't as bad?

Flipping that comparison around the other way, I have had people say things to me like, "I had a migraine last night, but I know my pain isn't nearly as bad as yours." It's almost as if people minimise their own pain because they feel it is trivial compared to my problems. But it's not trivial. Just because I live with chronic pain, doesn't mean I can't understand other people's pain. If anything, it makes me able to understand more.

Pain is personal. It's not only about the physical pain, but how people tolerate it. So if one person is coping with it, it also doesn't mean their pain is less than someone else's. And if they are having a bad day and not coping well, it doesn't necessarily mean that their pain is worse than anyone else's.

Living with pain isn't a game and it's not a competition. But by comparing pain, it turns into precisely that. It's not a game I ever want to be part of. And certainly not a competition I'd like to win. I don't want to wear that winner's medal.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Stormy Weather

Well, we've certainly had more than our fair share of storms this past few weeks. Surely we must be due an early Spring?   ☔️


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Burn's Night

Haggis, neeps and tatties was probably the most popular meal in Scotland last night. Actually, haggis is eaten quite a lot in our house. It's not just reserved for Burn's night.

And of course, poetry isn't just reserved for Burn's Night either, but in honour of the Bard, I wrote a few wee lines...

One of the new discoveries which came after I had to take early retirement from work was a love of writing.  I believe writing can be quite therapeutic, as well as being a brilliant distraction technique. Sometimes nobody else gets to read what I write. Sometimes my writing is specifically about a friend or relative, so it wouldn't mean the same to other people. Sometimes I publish work here on my blog or on Facebook where other people can read them. Occasionally, I have entered poems and stories into competitions.

The first poetry competition I entered had to be based on the national lottery. The lottery had just started here in the UK and nearly everyone was playing it and nearly everyone was believing they could win it. So it was an easy subject to write about. A few weeks later, I received a congratulatory letter to tell me I was a lucky winner and my poem was going to be published in an anthology beside other winning entries. I'd never won anything in my life, so that was pretty amazing for me. Once I'd stopped doing a happy dance (just an imaginary happy dance, not real dancing), I read the rest of the letter. 'To purchase a copy of the book, please fill in the attached form and return to us along with a cheque....'

So, my poem was to be included in a book. But I had to buy a copy. And of course I did buy a copy. So did my parents.

I started sending other poems to other competitions. A few weeks later, I received another congratulatory letter about another poem. Another winner. Another book to buy. And yes, my Mum and Dad wanted to buy that one too.

A few weeks later, yet another winning poem. Yet another book to buy. I didn't buy it. And I didn't let my Mum and Dad buy it either. I think I threw that letter into the fire.

It could be an expensive hobby entering competitions. Many of them charge an entry fee. Then if they deem the poem good enough to be published in their anthology, they want you to buy said anthology. And of course, they are very happy when the writer's parents are so proud that they also want to buy a copy.

To be quite honest, I don't think talent is required for some of those competitions. I could have sent them a shopping list and they would have possibly deemed it suitable to publish as long as I was prepared to buy their book.