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Choose happiness

choose happiness sam cleasby so bad ass

Sometimes I need to remind myself of this…

I am writing about happiness over on Life Labs for Psychologies Magazine, go take a look.

Sam x

Tramlines – what a difference a year makes

Tramlines is a city centre festival in the great city of Sheffield, it’s an amazing thing and my lovely husband Timm is one of the festival directors and the production director so each year I’m lucky enough to get a little pass that allows me to hang out backstage and have a generally fantastic time.

But it also serves for me as a fixed point in time that makes me realise how far I have come in a year. You see, at last years festival I was ill. I was 5 months into the worst flare up of my life but I was trying my hardest to hide it.

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This photo was last year, I felt like death warmed up…

I was on a lot of meds and in my heart, I knew this time felt different. I was bleeding constantly, I had to wear pads in my pants as there was just so much blood. My stomach was agony and I was running to the toilet every few minutes. I didn’t feel up to going to be honest, but felt it was important to try and be normal and to show Timm my support.

I remember standing near the loos after yet another mad dash, doing as fast a walk as I could get away with, without looking insane to the toilets. I was with Timm’s sister Nancy and friend Michelle and I was telling the that things weren’t good. I’m close to Nancy and she knows everything about my illness and is a massive supporter of me and this blog.

I was telling her about the possibilities of future surgery, I remember quite naively saying that after the second op they just join everything back up and I’d live a normal life pooing just a little every time I had a wee! It all sounded so simple on paper and easy to describe, I don’t think I’d put my emotions into it and thought about the emotional and mental changes that would occur.

The whole conversation was very much hypothetical, I knew about the surgeries but had no idea that within 5 weeks of the day I would be on the operating table having my large intestine out.

So Bad Ass didn’t exist at this point, I was still quite embarrassed a lot of the time about my disease. Family and close friends knew but I kept it quite under wraps. I spent the weekend throat tightingly close to tears as I just felt so poorly and under so much pressure (from myself) to keep it together.

So roll it forward one year and I just can’t believe all that has happened in the last 12 months! This years Tramlines has been amazing. I stood in pretty much the same spot with Nancy and Michelle thinking how good it felt to be on only one medication (loperamide) that has NO side effects that cause me to get a big swollen mood face, manic episodes or total insomnia!!

A year into writing So Bad Ass, pretty much everyone knows what I have been through and so I felt no pressure to hide anything. I got so many amazing people coming up to me to tell me they read my blog and love it. It was quite emotional to know that I have made a teeny tiny difference to peoples lives.

Friends, Timm’s work colleagues, total flipping strangers(!!!) were coming up to me all weekend to tell me what So Bad Ass means to them and I just can’t tell you how much that means to me. To know that my little blog is being read, shared and is helping others makes me feel humbled and just blown away. Thank you.

One year on, I have learnt about my own strength, I’ve found a confidence I didn’t believe I possessed and though my health isn’t perfect and I’m still on a road to recovery from my j pouch surgery, I feel good!!

I watched lots of amazing bands, hung out with too many awesome people to name, laughed with fantastic friends till my stomach hurt, spent the weekend with my three kids hanging out with me, watched Everly Pregnant Brothers, the best northern, ukulele, pun based band you will ever hear, on Kelham island whilst the sun set.

I jumped about and went mental whilst watching Public Enemy then met Chuck D and Flavor Flav (yeahhhhhh boiiiiiiii)

I watched a woman hang by her feet and juggle swords upside down.

I drank my body weight in gin and peach iced tea.

I saw so many friends and got to hang out with them (even if it were only briefly with some)

I felt confident and well.

I felt no shame.

I felt happy.

Thank you Tramlines for the best year so far, I had a blast!!! Who knows where my life will be in another years time?!

Here are some of my favourite photos of the weekend…

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Surgery postponed

I got a call today from my consultants secretary saying that the preliminary date of the 30th April is being postponed.

Mr Brown wants to see me to discuss some matters before the surgery and so everything is on hold right now and I’m not sure why.

I asked if it were anything to do with my pre op but she said that all came back fine. I’m waiting for her to call again to let me know an appointment date to see the consultant and hopefully a little more about what the problem is.

Today sucks ass.

I’m feeling totally broken and beaten down by it all. My hernia is uncomfortable every day, I’m exhausted and feeling crap. I just really want the operation over and done with so I can start recovering.

When I feel like shit, there is one person who makes it all better, Timm, my husband. And so this afternoon we snuck out for an hour to walk the dog and talked through how we’re feeling. We acted like teenagers and even had a couple of ciders in a field!

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15 ways to make your life happy


happiness

1. Make your own happiness a priority.

Your happiness matters.  Everyone, but especially women tend to put other people’s happiness before our own.  We make excuses for why we neglect our needs – we are too busy, too skint, too stressed out.  If you don’t value your own happiness then no one else will.  It is entirely possible to look out for your own needs and still care about your friends and family.  If you are happy, you are more likely to spread happiness and care for those around you.

Think about what makes you happy.  Now what would make me delirious would be to wake late, eat cake, drink wine and spend the day sunbathing somewhere hot and beautiful.  Thats not realistic at this point in my life as I think my kids would have something to say about it!  But what does make me happy is blogging, making pretty things, reading, watching a good film, open fires, sauvignon blanc, walking in the woods with the dog and my family, my chickens, a good meal with awesome friends, a lie in with Timm, going dancing with my friends, a full english breakfast…  There is a LOT that makes me happy that costs little or nothing and that I make time for.  Its easy to neglect your own desires but important that you don’t.

happiness a priority

2. Spend time with people who make you happy

Who are the people you enjoy spending time with? Who make you happy, love, respect and appreciate you and who make you be a better person.  If you surround yourself with negative people then your life will be filled with negativity, and the opposite is true also, being around positive, happy people make you aspire to be positive and happy.

Sometimes we can’t help who we have to spend time with, we may have work colleagues or family members who are Debbie Downers and we have to hang out with them at times.  But in our social lives it is so important to keep awesome positive people around us.  The ones who make us laugh, who are joyous to be around.  Im not saying fill your life with Mary Poppins’, some of the people who make me happy are filthy minded, raucous and quite dark! But they are interesting and make me feel good about myself.

3. Take responsibility for your own life

This is a biggy for me, the trait I hate the most in people is refusing to take responsibility for their own lives.  People who have constant excuses for their bad behaviour, who think it is always someone or something else’s fault.  People who say “its alright for you because…”

Own your life.  Own your mistakes.  Live and learn and move on.  The world doesn’t owe you anything, you make your own path through this world.  Everyone faces hardships throughout their life but you can choose to be a martyr to your tough times or own the shit out of them and move forward a stronger person.

4. Be yourself.  Everyone else is taken

Be the best version of yourself that you can be.  Be true to yourself and be proud of the person you are.  It’s easy to compare ourselves to others, the fact is there will always be someone thinner, smarter, prettier – but honestly? Who cares?  Whatever part of yourself you admire the most, be that more.  The parts you dislike about yourself, be that less…

Be proud of your quirks and weirdness, stand tall and proud and applaud your inner awesomeness!

be yourself everyone else is taken

5. Create your own happiness

No one else can change your life and make you truly happy.  Choose positivity over negativity, smile because you can.  Choose to be happy.  Be happy with who you are right now and allow your joy to shape your present and your future.  Do the things that make you happy more often, spend time with those who bring out your smile and create your own happiness.  If you are waiting for someone else to make you happy, you may be waiting a long time.

6. Find the silver lining

This is a toughie.  When you are going through a really tough time it is easy to slip into feeling defeated and that life is just too hard.  We go through things in life that we think will break us, illness, bereavement, job loss, money troubles, and it can feel like there is no way to get through these times.  The truth is we are stronger than we think.

It is important to look for the silver lining even if that is only the tiniest sliver of hope.  When I was recovering from my bowel surgery and was in pain, I was feeling humiliated by leaking bags and the inability to care for myself.  During  that time I struggled to see the silver lining, but the reality of it was that I was no longer sick.  My Ulcerative Colitis was gone, ten years of illness, pain and medication were now in my past.

If there is no silver lining in your situation, for example the death of a loved one, then try to count your blessings and be grateful of the good things in your life.

When things are hard, and you feel down, take a few deep breaths and look for the silver lining – the small glimmers of hope.  Remind yourself that you can and will grow stronger from these hard times.  And remain conscious of your blessings and victories – all the things in your life that are right.  Focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t.

7. Be kind

Be a kind person, one who is caring and thoughtful, who thinks of others and treats people with respect.  Kindness breeds kindness.  Its a simple one but so important, kindness sometimes is confused with being a doormat – this is bullshit.  You can be a strong person who has a kind and loving heart.

8. Be open

Be open, share your thoughts and feelings with the people closest to you.  If you are hurting then accept the hurt and allow yourself time to heal – let your loved ones in and be honest with them.  A problem shared is a problem halved is a great saying, the act of speaking your troubles out loud can be of as much help as any advice you can receive.  Becoming a more open person can lead to real happiness.

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9. Let go of the past

Our pasts define who we are and we can learn lessons from the things we have gone through, but when your past is keeping you from moving forward it becomes a problem.  We have all had tough experiences but if you are reliving the pain of this experience again and again and it is affecting your present then it is time to let go.

Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting what has happened or pretending it didn’t happen, it means letting go of the pain and resentment that is holding you back.  This is easier in some situations than others, but be honest with yourself and if something from your past is affecting your present then it may be time to talk through those issues either with a trusted friend or family member or a trained therapist.

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10. Take a chance

Last December my husband and I took a leap of faith, we sold our home and rented a 15th century mill to push our photography business forward.  It was a risk, but a calculated risk.  I knew that if there was a motto to live by (other than ‘If you can’t sing well, sing LOUD’) it was ‘I’d rather regret the things I did, than the things I didn’t do.  We plotted and planned, did the sums a million times and then decided to take a chance.  And it was the best thing we ever did, don’t get me wrong there have been some very tough times but throughout the year I knew we had made the right decision.

Life is not about getting a chance, it is about taking a chance.  If there is something you have always dreamed of doing, then try to make it happen.  If it works you will have achieved a goal, if it doesn’t you know you at least tried it and you WILL learn a lesson from it.

regret quotes

11. Be mindful

Live in the present, in the here and now.  It is so easy to let busy lives, technology and procrastination take over our lives, but being mindful of the things around you can bring peace and happiness into your life.  Take time to notice the things that are important in your life right now, experience life as it happens.  Don’t dwell on the past or imagine how great things could be in the future.  This moment is the only thing guaranteed to you in life, we never know what the future holds so enjoy today.

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12. Concentrate on the things you can control, not the things you can’t

Worry and stress is a normal part of life but when your day is taken up with worrying about the things in life you cannot control it is a sign that things need to change.  Worrying about things that are beyond your control is such a waste of your time and emotional energy.

Worry affects you, not the person or situation you are worrying about.  If it is important to you and you can control the outcome and positively help a problem then great, if not then let it go.  You have enough genuine problems to face in life without upsetting yourself with things beyond your control.

13. Face your problems and make a positive change

There’s no point in burying your head in the sand, if you have a problem you need to face it head on and make a positive change as no one is going to do it for you.  The problem will not just disappear on their own without action from you, no problem is too big to overcome.  It takes acceptance from you and then a plan, no matter how small the steps you need to do little and often and move it forward.

Some problems you will be able to overcome alone with a good old fashioned list and a bit of hard work.  Others are bigger and need support from others.  There is no shame in asking for help, whether it is the help of friends, family or a professional.

14. Appreciate the things you have

Perspective.  There will always be someone better off than you and someone worse off than you.  Learn to appreciate the things you have rather than worrying about the things you don’t.  Im not saying we shouldn’t aspire to be greater than we are now, but just not to be so busy in thinking of the things you don’t have that you forget to appreciate all you do.

15. Love those around you

Appreciate and love those around you, bring joy to the people who mean the most by telling them how much they mean to you.  Since my sister moved to Australia I end all our conversations with “love you!” I didn’t do this before she left but her moving half way around the world brought out something in me that makes me want her to know how much she means to me.

This isn’t about huge grand gestures, it is about personal, meaningful acts that let your friends and family know how awesome they are.  A text message, sending a photo that you think they’ll find funny, a hug, a few words.

Love Sam xx

Happiness and Optimism

I am getting a lot of emails from people who read this blog who are going through tough times, whether it be through illness, relationships or just life in general. Firstly thank you to everyone who emails or messages me, the reason I started this blog is that I wanted to help people. I wanted to give a voice to people with IBD or who are living with a stoma. To get people talking and the break the ‘poo taboo’ so it means so much to see that it is doing that. And more!

Though my blog is about life with IBD and a stoma, Im realising that many people who are reading it don’t have either, but are finding strength and inspiration through the topics I talk about. Wow! You have no idea how much that means to me. It makes my blethering into the ether of the internet feel worth it. If I can help one person, I will be the happiest person alive!

So I thought I talk about happiness. Ive said before that I think happiness is a choice. No matter what shit we are going through, no matter how dark our mood, we can all make the choice to be happy. Even if that happiness is one fleeting moment through an otherwise crappy day. I really believe that trying to be positive, looking for the silver lining and opting to smile rather than frown, laugh rather than shout makes us feel better.

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Sometimes that is hard. A bereavement, an illness, a divorce… Of course there are times when we feel life is against us. In those dark times, thinking of something positive can feel impossible. And feeling sad is a natural thing, we need to feel sad, to cry, to shout to deal with the situations we go through in life.

Having a moment of happiness, or gratitude, or pleasure does not take away from the gravity of whatever problems you face. But thinking positively and trying to be happy, whether it be the hug from your child, or ten minutes sitting with the sun on your face, or a phone call with a friend, or just a damn fine cup of tea can make you feel better even if it is just for a minute. In being mindful of these moments you can give yourself the choice to be happy.

happy good for health

Plate by MBart Studios

There have been many studies about happiness and optimism, and it has been found that positive emotions can undo the effects of a stressful negative experience. You can read a great article about The benefits of Optimism here.

I think we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves, we say things about ourselves that we would never say of a friend (or even foe!) If when we are feeling down about ourselves we could try just for a moment to think of the positive things about us and say them I think we could be happier. We are very British though and hate to be seen to me immodest, but screw that! What is fantastic about you? Are you kind? Are you a good friend? Are you loyal? Or brave? Or hard working? Do you do the BEST Tina Turner dancing in the world? Are you funny? – Seriously, think about the characteristics that you admire in others and ask yourself if you have them too. If you do, then celebrate that! If you don’t, think about why not.

Think about what makes you happy.

I LOVE having friends round for dinner, a bottle of red wine, the fire blazing, a great dish in the middle of the table that everyone tucks into. Sitting around the table, talking, laughing and being together.

Sitting in the garden with my eyes closed and the sun on my face. Listening to the noises around me and just being.

I really love being curled up with a book. I like to be totally snuggled with a blanket and cushions and just sink into the book.

A cuddle with my children and the smell of their neck.

A date with my husband.

Painting my nails.

A really good nap!

Listening to music. SInging loudly. Dancing wildly.

Walking the dog.

Watching a good film – we have ‘cinema night’ where we all pile on the sofa, lots of blankets – a film on, and lots of goodies to eat.

Think about the things that make you happy. Its not about money, its about the small things you can do that make you feel happy and good. Think of those things and then DO them!

Of course we all have time and money constraints but we can do one thing a day that makes us feel good. Whether it be getting up before everyone else and having a cup of coffee or wearing your favourite pair of shoes. We can do it. But it means making yourself and your happiness a priority.

You are worth it. You deserve to be happy. Make time for it.

happiness quote

So today, my mission for you if you choose to accept it, is to think of one positive thing about yourself and celebrate it. And to do one thing, no matter how small, that makes you happy.

MIne are:

I was told today by someone that I inspired them. I feel really bloody proud of myself for that.

I ventured out into my garden with a cup of coffee and sat in the sun. I had 10 minutes of just being outdoors, alone, in the quiet. Not worrying about things that need to be done. Just sat… And it was heavenly!!!

So go on, get to to it. It would be lovely to know how your mission goes, so please leave a comment.

Love Sam xx