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No ifs or butts

Life is hard.  It sometimes gives us fights that we never thought we could conquer, but it also has moments of pure happiness too.

I was on BBC Sheffield recently on a piece they do called ‘My Life So Far’ where I spoke about family, illness and the lessons I have learnt through my life.  One of the questions was ‘if you were to write an autobiography, what would it be called?’, my answer was ‘No ifs or butts’.  The reason is, firstly I love a pun and I no longer have a butt! The second was a more serious point in that I think we need to stop making excuses and take responsibility for our own life.  No one is going to come along and make your life full of rainbows and sparkles, no matter how tough things are, only you can make your life better.

positive life quotes sheffield lifestyle blogger

There are lessons in life that we could all do with listening to now and again.  Here are mine…

Take full responsibility for yourself.

Success isn’t about money, it is about happiness.

Have a hobby that makes you happy

Find the people who make your soul happy and spend time with them.

Learn that some people are toxic, avoid them.

Read books and feed your mind.

Make time for the people who you love.

If you spend Sundays dreading going to work, you are probably in the wrong job.

Be yourself, don’t follow the crowd.

Travel whenever you can, it broadens the mind.  Explore your local area, travel doesn’t have to mean going to the other side of the world.

Accept your emotions, laugh when you’re happy and cry when you’re sad.

Say yes more.  Fear holds us back, say yes to things even if they scare you a little.

Look after you, make yourself a priority, you can’t help others if you are broken yourself.

Know that we are all struggling in our own way, you are not the only person who is anxious, scared and nervous.  Some just hide it better than others.

Just be nice.  Kindness is underrated, be open, loving and kind.

Don’t judge people based on their appearance but on the kindness of their soul

Be in the moment, over analysing is a sure way to make you sad.

Open your mind to new things, you are never too old to learn something new.

Life is short, live your dreams even if others don’t get it.

Accept that sometimes you will fail, but at least you tried!

Sam xx

Surviving and striving

Things have been tough for the past few years but specifically the past 3 months have been absolute shit.

I feel like I’ve been in a really dark time, between work, moving house, losing my grandfather, kids and my health, everything has been so overwhelming.  Yet I’m starting to have hope that I’m coming through the darkness and like my favourite quote, I am remembering to turn on the light.

happiness quotes

No matter how tough life is, you have to just keep getting up every morning, you have to just get through each day.  There’s no real option is there? Everything that’s been going on has been so difficult, my last surgery was massive and such a bloody hard thing to come through.  But I survived it.

And that got me thinking about surviving and striving.  Survival is our basic instinct to get through shit times, it’s our fighting spirit, our adrenaline filled desire to live another day.

Surviving isn’t living though and it’s not enough for me. I want to strive to do more, I want to fill my life with excitement, happiness, laughter and experiences.  And the thing that stops us from striving for what we want is fear.


I have notoriously itchy feet, I am forever searching for the next adventure, the next job, the next event, the next wonder.  That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate what I have! I relish in my wonderful family, my exquisite friends and I find joy in pretty much every day I live.

But I think throughout my life fear has held me back.  The lack of a father made me fearful of not being loved.  I have a huge fear of disappointing those who I love, and sometimes that stops me from being myself.

I have a fear that people will think I’m stupid because I didn’t go to college or university and that becomes a chip on my shoulder that is forever with me and stops me applying for jobs, it stops me speaking to people I think are smarter than myself.

I have a fear of heights that stops me from doing the exciting things my husband and kids want to do.  That teamed with my fear of vomiting in front of others means scary rides, roller coasters, sky diving, all these exciting daredevil things, are a complete no no!

But overcoming my surgeries, surviving 4 operations in 3 years, standing tall after years of health horrors and anxiety filled mind fucks have actually taught me something.  It’s taught me that I have faced and overcome things that would break some people.

ibd warrior inner strength confidence ostomy ileostomy bag

 

It’s taught me that I’m braver than I believe, stronger that I could imagine and a tough old badass.

It’s taught me that if I can deal with the shit hand I have been dealt, then I have no need to fear all the other stuff.  It’s made me want to strive.

So this year (after full recovery, don’t have a fit Timm!) I am going to, more than ever, be brave. I’m going to strive to do more things that scare me, to enjoy more, to try new things and to embrace every new experience that comes my way.

This isn’t about being a daredevil. But about me stepping out of my own shadow and enjoying life. Because I could have died. I could not be here right now and I need to celebrate that I am.

I’m going to fully immerse myself in my new allotment, I’m going to try some classes, go to more galleries, find events that are interesting and try them.  I’m going to say ‘no’ less and ‘yes’ more.  I’m going to read more, go out more, call friends more. I’m going to be a better mother, a more patient person.  I’m going to try and be the fullest version of myself that I can.  No regrets.

I’m not just going to survive. I’m going to strive.

 

Sam xx

I’m not sorry

My name is Sam Cleasby and I am not sorry.

I apologise constantly, I say sorry to people who bump into me in the street, I say “sorry to bother you” to people who serve me in shops, I apologise to the postman if I don’t get to the door immediately.  If I am offended by someones behaviour, I end up apologising for being over sensitive.  I even said sorry to the dog this morning.

I spend a large amount of my days saying sorry for things that I have no need to apologise for and that needs to stop.  I think it is a throwback to a Catholic upbringing filled with guilt or perhaps that I hate for people to dislike me, though I am learning to deal with it, I don’t like conflict, I have a fear of making others angry.

 

I grew up feeling quite insecure, I worried constantly about what others thought of me, worried that I wasn’t enough and maybe I always felt I have to apologise for my mere existence. So I say sorry.  A lot.

apologising too much

I hate that I apologise so much but it has become a kind of verbal tic, it comes out of my mouth before I even realise it.  It’s funny as I am a reasonably confident person yet the part of me that doesn’t feel enough comes sneaking out all too often.  And it’s not just me, according to a YouGov study a third of British people feel they apologise too much.

Saying sorry when you are in the wrong is the right thing to do and I am all about good manners but when you over apologise, it can give others the impression that you are not confident, are weak and easy to walk over.  Beverly Engel, a psychotherapist and the author of The Power of the Apology talks about how over-apologising can send a message that you’re ineffectual and have low self-esteem, she says “It can give a certain kind of person permission to treat you poorly, or even abuse you.”

 

I strongly believe that when you are in the wrong, an acceptance of your fault and a true, heartfelt apology goes a long, long way.  I have a real problem with people who don’t accept responsibility in their lives, those who think the world owes them a favour, I grew up with people like that, those whose favourite words are “it’s alright for you”.  People who no matter what, believe they are in the right.  And those people suck.  This isn’t about never saying sorry, just only saying sorry when we really are!

I am making a stand for myself and I am going to stop being such a walk over, I have always let things slide or apologised even when I am not in the wrong and I have had enough.  I am done with the people who treat me badly, done with saying sorry when I have done nothing wrong.  The next time someone bumps into me in the street I will not say sorry.  The next time someone upsets me, I won’t apologise for my feelings.

I have been through so much in the past few years with my health that I realise I need to start to care more about myself.  I need to put me first a lot more, I need to cut those who have hurt me, who don’t care about me, out of my life and I need to not say sorry for just being myself.  What my illness has taught me is that life is short, you don’t know how long you have on this Earth and so we need to live every moment to the fullest.  That means celebrating your time with people who bring love, joy and happiness into your life and not apologising for your existence.

My name is Sam Cleasby and I am not sorry.

Excuse me! I am here!

I am well aware of the Everyday Sexism project and applaud it’s work in giving an outlet for every woman to share instances of sexism in their lives.

“The Everyday Sexism Project exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis. They might be serious or minor, outrageously offensive or so niggling and normalised that you don’t even feel able to protest. By sharing your story you’re showing the world that sexism does exist, it is faced by women everyday and it is a valid problem to discuss.”

I identify loudly and proudly as a feminist and I see the issues around inequality on a social scale; the pay gap, victim blaming and many other issues.  It worries me for my daughter and future generations, but on a personal scale I can say that I rarely have instances of sexism in my day to day life.  Perhaps that is because I work from home in an office with my husband, perhaps it is because I am confident and strong willed and others would see that I would call them out on it? Or perhaps I just don’t notice.

So it was a shock to me when I had an experience where my gender became an issue.  This year I have been working for a few different clients, sometimes alone and sometimes with a colleague.  On some occasions I was working with a male colleague in a situation where I was leading the project and he was learning on the job from me and this is where it all got a bit odd…

We entered the workplace and found the person we needed to see, I introduced us both and the company and put my hand out to greet them.  This person turned away from me to my male colleague and said hello, she then addressed all her questions towards him.  He told her that I was “the boss” and he was there as an extra pair of hands.  She seemingly ignored this and continued to address him over me for the entire day.

Now, I suppose there could have been other reasons behind this, but it very much felt that she assumed as he was male, he was in charge.  I let her know that I was leading the project and any questions she had, she should let me know and I would address them.  I am a friendly and open person, so I can’t imagine that she had taken a dislike to me.  It was all very odd.  We laughed it off and the day continued.

Only the following day, it happened again! Are we really so ingrained in a male dominated culture that we can’t imagine an event where between a male and a female, the woman is in charge?

Another time, we were staying at some accommodation.  I was driving (my male colleague can’t drive), and also towing a trailer.  As we arrived at the hotel, the owner came out to greet us, he went straight to my male colleague and spoke directly to him, despite the fact that I had booked directly with him and all correspondence came from me.  He then showed us where to park addressing my friend, he was told that I was in charge and I was the driver.  It was at this point that he asked me if I would like him to reverse the car and trailer into place for me!

HahahHAHAhahAHaaaa!! (That’s a manic laugh…)

 

laughing mum and son

Charlie and I think your sexism is hilarious…

 

What is funny (odd, not haha) is that I actually feel uncomfortable sharing these events, I feel that others will think I am making something out of nothing, that I am imagining the worst and assuming sexism.  Perhaps these people were “traditional” or “courteous”.

Or perhaps we are so deep into a culture where it is assumed that women aren’t the boss and can’t drive that it is seen as acceptable to act like this?

Don’t get me wrong, I know these events are so minor in the grand scheme of things, they were a tiny irksome point in my day, nothing compared to the huge scale inequality going on in other parts of the world.  Nothing compared to women who are verbally abused in the street, sexually attacked, nothing compared to those fighting for justice for women.

But it is these little things that make up the day to day sexism that we live through.  There are stories today about female only carriages on trains, an idea based on making women safer as they travel.  This kind of act puts the responsibility to deal with harassment or assault onto the victim instead of the perpetrator where it belongs.  It is another aspect of a victim-blaming culture of ‘why didn’t she keep herself safe’ rather than ‘why did he harass/assault her’.  I really don’t think we should be “shaming women into limiting their environments, but focus instead on teaching men not to degrade them.” (Via everyday sexism Twitter)

I am aware that the remarks by Jeremy Corbyn were based on him saying he would like to open a dialogue about safety on public transport and came from comments from women to him (I am actually a big Corbyn fan!) and also that this idea is one about immediate safety whilst the issues of public attacks on women is addressed, but what a sad world we live in where women can’t feel safe just getting the tube home from work.

Often the response to women who point out inequality is that men are just trying to help, the old ‘we can’t even hold a door open any more’.  That’s just silly, please do hold the door open for me if you see me coming, but not because I am a woman, just because it is a nice and polite thing to do, I hope you do it for everyone.  I am happy to ask for help if I need it, I am not ashamed if I can’t do something and will ask for assistance, but please don’t assume that I need help because I have a vagina. Don’t assume I’m not the boss because I have a vagina. Or that I can’t drive.

In fact, that is probably a good rule of thumb…

Don’t assume anything about me because I have a vagina.

 

 

Sam x

 

 

10 GREAT things about life with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

We all know that life with any chronic, lifelong illness sucks,  when that illness is Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the form of Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease, it is shitty! (Pun definitely intended).  I am as guilty as everyone else in writing about all the negative aspects of this, I have spent two years doing just that, but I thought it time to write about the great things…

 

1. Regular new underwear.  Well, when you end up abandoning pants in sanitary bins because you shit yourself, you have to replenish the stock! Make it some nice ones.

ostomy photoshoot sexy ileostomy 50s pin up photo shoot so bad ass sam cleasby

 

2. You know more about the workings of the digestive system than most people.  Including doctors.

ulcerative-colitis digestive system crohns ibd

 

 

3. You sound like you’re carrying maracas in your bag due to all the meds rattling around.  Make the most of it and shimmy as you walk.

chronic illness funny

 

4.  You become the Poo Oracle of all your friends.  Revel in the power of knowing about all your mates poo stories.

poo taboo everybody poos so bad ass sam cleasby

 

 

5. You know your way around your local hospital and so never get lost.  You have been in most wards at some point, you could draw a map!

sam cleasby author so bad ass sheffield

 

6. You have an excellent excuse to eat crap, beige food when you are in the mood.  Yes, you need a mcdonalds, everything in there is on the low residue diet!

junk food and ibd

 

 

7. You have a sense of humour.  Sometimes sick, sometimes inappropriate but when you have been through so much, you have to learn to laugh or you would cry.

ibd funny poo jokes lol

 

8. People get so used to you looking rough that when you are well and scrub up, you look amazing and people comment.

too ugly for love ostomy bag sam cleasby so bad ass

 

9. You have the ability to teach those around you.  About illness, invisible disability, compassion, love and positivity.  Use it.

ibd periods menstruation sam cleasby so bad ass blog

 

10. You know that life is precious.  You have been through hell and are still standing! You know that no matter how tough life is, it is ALWAYS better than the alternative.

sam cleasby mum parent blogger

 

 

Sam x

 

To the father who left,

When you and mum split up, I was just a baby and don’t actually remember you ever living at home with us yet your presence, or lack of it, has still managed to affect my life greatly and I want you to understand how your actions have ripples throughout the family you walked away from.

For a girl to grow up without a father who cares, or even a father figure, it is tough.  No matter how strong I think I am, there is always a part of me who is a frightened and sad little girl who just wishes her dad loved her.

There is a photograph of me as a small child, I am sat in the bay window of my childhood home with the sun shining through, dressed in a cute 80’s outfit and sporting a dodgy fringe (thanks mum!), it is a lovely image yet one that is tainted with bad memories.  For when I look at that photo, the memories of sitting and waiting for you to turn up to visit come flooding back.  With my bag packed and hair brushed, I would sit and wait for you to arrive, looking up and down our quiet street, listening out for the knock on the door, but so many times that knock didn’t come.  You let me down so many times that I lost faith in you.

Then there were all the times that I was brought to your home by my eldest sister, taking on, as she has all her life, the responsibilities that did not belong to her.  She would take me to visit your new home, your new wife, your new daughters.  Everything in your life was shiny and new, not like the tainted old daughters you left behind.  Your second wife was very kind, she had to be to care for me during those visits, the times that I was supposed to be spending time with you was usually spent with her.  And years later as I stood by her coffin alongside the half sisters I hadn’t seen since childhood, I would tell her a silent thank you for the care she gave to me.  As yet again, the women in my life picked up after your failures.

When I was a kid, this mean girl in my class told me that I must have been so ugly and bad as a baby to make my daddy run away.

Doesn’t that sound like a throwaway nasty comment? A spiteful child’s bullying words.

Yet on those dark days when the demon voice inside starts to tell me I am not enough, it is those words I still hear.  As a little girl I believed it must be my fault, perhaps if I were better, quieter, whiter, more like your new daughters, maybe then you would love me?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not the sort of person to allow my past to ruin my future.  I am a strong and confident woman who is happy in life, but these things from childhood do run deep and I still find myself wanting to please those around me in the hope they will love me truly and not leave.

I am a strong woman now despite you, not because of you.  You don’t get to take credit for me.  And I see you doing that.  Telling your Facebook friends, your born-again church about my accomplishments and it angers me because you don’t get to warm in my glow.  You lost that right a long time ago.

You soon left another family, leaving more children in your wake and went onto wife number three.  She didn’t want us around and so you disappeared.  The sporadic contact became nonexistent and I was left bewildered and frightened, wondering what I had done, believing I must be a terrible person for my father to simply go away.

affects on girls without dads

I understand that life is difficult.  Relationships change, people face addiction, communication can be tough.  But you made choices based on those things that meant I was the one to suffer.  I have never known how it feels for a father, or father figure, to love me.  Never had the opportunity to be a daddy’s little girl, to have a dad to guide me, worry about me, care about me.  I find it hard to trust that men aren’t going to treat me badly, I wonder whether my husband will one day have had enough and leave me.  I have a wonderful husband who loves me and our children, who supports and cares for me, yet that demon crops up from time to time to whisper in my ear that if my own father couldn’t love me, how on earth will my husband?

A few years ago, you reappeared.  Facebook has a lot to answer for and you got in touch, wanting to reignite a relationship whose embers had faded 20 odd years previously.  I decided to give it a go.  Not for you, but for me.  Because tragically, despite everything, I desperately want to be loved.  I want to join in with my friends who talk about their dads who are their heroes, their dads who they go shopping with, who come for dinner, who they holiday with.  I wish I had tales of my dad coming to my rescue, of feeling protected and safe when in the arms of dad, of being someone’s special child, a daddy’s little girl.

I tried.  I swear I did.  I told you about all the pain you had caused me, of how your decisions had broken my heart, I opened myself up and poured out the years of rage, hurt and disappointment.  I allowed you into my life so I could show you the emotional battering I had taken because of you.  I told how sorry I felt for you, that you had gone through your life abandoning children at the wayside and now in your senior years you were alone.  I told you about my beautiful, amazing, intelligent and wonderful children who you had missed out on and that the title of grandfather was one that was earned not given.

You told me “Jesus forgave so that you can forgive”

That was the moment that I realised that you hadn’t changed.  You weren’t taking responsibility for your failings, you had just found a way to absolve yourself of your sins and expected us all to rejoice.

I am not giving you that.  I don’t forgive you.

The opportunity to tell you all the ways you had fucked up gave me a release, I thought perhaps I could find a way to have some relationship with you, perhaps not as father and daughter but maybe as friends.  But I soon realised that you don’t have the credentials to be my friend.  You aren’t worthy of me. My friends, the people I have in my life are awesome, they are full of love, respect and loyalty.  They are interesting, funny, caring, special and they bring joy and laughter to my life.

You hide behind people and things who allow you to not take responsibility for yourself.  Children, women, alcohol, a higher being.  But at some point you need to accept that you have wasted your life and the opportunity to have me as a daughter.

Because I am fucking awesome.

sam cleasby parenting blogger fathers self esteem

In the end, I walked away not through hate, not through pain, not through fear.  I walked away because I couldn’t find the passion in me to hate you or love you.  I had no feelings, a numbness, a malaise, a disinterest.  There was nothing about you that was intriguing or interesting, I didn’t want you as a father or as a friend.

This is me drawing a line in the sand, I do so without the shame or embarrassment that I usually feel if I think I am letting someone down.  I am always trying to make people happy, yet teaming that desire with a hard shell.  This interesting mix of wanting to please yet feeling I have to be defensive and ready for disappointment.

I am giving myself permission to move on, to not look back and to be happy as a fatherless woman.

 

Sam x

 

Aiming high

My husband is one of those bloody annoying people who always seem to be a high achiever, you know those gits who just do well in everything they try? When we met he was working in the music industry as a sound engineer, he went on to work for some amazing bands and then to be the tour manager for Arctic Monkeys, he won Tour Manager of the Year before having a change of career.  He then became a photographer and now is renowned for his amazing talent and runs (with his pretty awesome wife) The Picture Foundry.

He wanted to ‘keep his hand in’ the music industry and so years ago became involved with Tramlines, he is now the production director and helps to run Sheffield’s biggest festival.

timm and sam cleasby sheffield

One night he went to the pub with his mate James and together they came up with an idea for an arts group that was about nature, play and upcycled fun… Five years later, their company Responsible Fishing UK just got their SECOND year’s contract at the UK’s biggest holiday camp taking the brilliant project Camp Cardboard to inspire young people to be creative and families to spend time together and play.

Do you hate him yet? Only kidding!

The reality is that he deserves every triumph he gets.  He does all this with a kind hearted energy, fun and a great attitude.  He does all this because he sets goals, aims high and goes for it.  He is without doubt, the hardest working person I know and has the most self belief I have ever seen in a person!

My lighthearted dig at Timm is a joke, but it does show the side of humanity that seem to want to hate on the people who achieve in life and that’s what todays post is about.

When I got really ill in 2013 and had the surgery to remove my colon, I felt like my life was over.  I couldn’t see how the path I thought I was going to take could be an option to me now.  I was scared, anxious and fed up.  After having a massive cry and slowly learning to adapt, I did what we Cleasbys do best.  I sat down, thought of what I wanted and set my mind to making it happen.

We are by nature ‘doers’, Timm calls me itchy feet as I am always looking for the next move, the next adventure.   We always have a plan for the next year and then a long term plan, sometimes these change and move, but it makes me feel better to have an idea of where we want to go and also keeps us, as a couple, on the same page.

timm and sam cleasby wedding

Because of my illness, I have been better with the planning than the action for the past few years, and before that my plans were raising three young children whilst Timm was away on tour.  We had three kids in four and a half years and he was touring for nine months of the year and so you can probably imagine that my planning revolved around the whirlwind of semi single parenting!

But now things are starting to look up for me health wise (let’s not talk about my surgery on Saturday, eh?!) and my bambinos are getting that little bit older.  I know they still need us an awful lot but at 10, 12 and 14 they are so much more independent.  This is giving me more time to think about what I want.

I know what I want.  But voicing it is where I falter.  I worry that people will mock me, laugh at me or think I am too big for my boots.  We British love an underdog and don’t tend to like the confident, outspoken extroverts that shout about their goals, which is funny as Americans sometimes seem to be the opposite.  The american dream makes it ok to say ‘I want to be the best’ whilst the Brits look you up and down and wonder who you think you are!

But I am going to take a leaf out of my husband’s book.  He believes in setting goals and aiming high, then getting that shit done.  This isn’t about being a bitch or a hard faced business man, it isn’t about The Apprentice who show high achievers as being pretty much the worst people on Earth.  It is about remembering that life is short and we are only here once.

sam cleasby blogger writer sheffield

Not everyone wants to be a CEO, a brain surgeon, a millionaire… success isn’t about money.  But we should all be thinking about what do we really, really want in life.  Whether that is to spend more quality time with family, to travel the world, to go back to university, to learn to tango, to speak another language…

Or to write a book…

Since I was a child, I have loved to write.  I always wanted to be a writer but not going to college or University felt like a huge barrier to me becoming a writer.  Having babies at 19, 21 and 23 didn’t help my confidence either.  I’m always scared some super clever academic type will laugh me down if I speak the words ‘I want to write’, yet here I am writing this blog that is read all over the world.

And so I am aiming high.  I am writing a book, it is a continuation of this blog with parts of my story, the lessons I have learnt and a self help element for people to conquer their difficulties and be happier, more confident and more fulfilled.

I feel like a bit of a dick writing this down but sod it.  I want to write a best seller, I want to travel the world and maybe live for a while in Sydney near by big sis, I want to earn enough money to support Timm for a while, as his goals include playing more in the woods with James and sexing up motorbikes, I want to make a difference to people worldwide, I want to leave a legacy that will outlive my rotten bowels and chronic illness.  I want to be on Oprah FFS!

Are these goals too high? Yeah, probably.  But my retched colon nearly took my life and so why shouldn’t I aim for the stars?  What is the worst that can happen?  Timm and I have a motto that we would rather regret the things we have done, than the things we have not.  I would rather put myself out there and try to write a book and it fail miserably than to spend my life thinking ‘what if’.

setting goals

Aiming low and expecting little is a terrible option.  If you never strive for more, how will you achieve?  Again, this isn’t about money, it is about assessing your priorities and thinking about what you want.  We all have to work and so shouldn’t we aim to work in a job that makes us happy?  We all want to spend more time with the great people in our lives, yet often end up putting it off due to other commitments.  But if you make that a priority and voice it as your aim, you are more likely to do it.

I’d like to ask you a question… If I was your fairy godmother and could wave a magic wand right now and you could have one personal wish granted, what would it be?  I’m not talking about world peace, end to hunger or those things that we all would like to happen.  But if I could put you in a different situation, what would that look like?

Would it be a change of career, a change of destination, a better relationship with someone in your life?

Whatever that something is, ask yourself, what is stopping you from striving for that?

Make lists, set goals, aim high, think big.

You have one life and only you can make it what you want it to be.

Five years ago Timm and I set a goal for him to stop touring and to start a photography business, it was terrifying walking away from a good wage packet but we knew that his touring was making us all unhappy.  We made plans, worked hard, had some EPIC struggles but we managed it and we are now happier than ever.  Eighteen months ago, after a chat with the marvellous Faye at Keep Your Fork, I set a goal to start writing a blog about my experiences, it was a great way for me to start writing, today I sit here with a worldwide audience and well over 2 million views.

Some days, my illness and fatigue means that my plans are much smaller, I plan to shower, to do a couple of hours work, to watch a film with my kids.  These days aren’t failures, they are my tiny triumphs on a longer path to what I want in the future.

I am right at the start of my journey with this book and want to thank everyone who has sent their love and support.  It is pretty scary but knowing how much good I have done with my blog pushes me forward and makes me want to write something amazing that can make a real difference.

So this week, think about want you want from life.

Think big, aim high and be happy.

 

Sam xxx

Life with chronic illness – what it's really like

“Get well soon!” That’s just one of those every day sayings right? But what if you have an illness that you will never get better from? The worst part about having a chronic illness is that it is a life sentence, unless there is some miracle cure, if you have a chronic illness, it will be with you for forever, there is no getting better soon, no happy ending,  there is no end in sight, there is no cure or end game.

And that is why, often it isn’t the physical pain that is the hardest thing to deal with, it’s the emotional pain that goes along with it.  The guilt, the idea that you are a burden to those around you.  It can feel like you are being crushed, that the illness is drowning you and swallowing up the person you are, leaving only this shadow of a person, a patient, weak, ill. It is so hard to deal with this.

How on earth can you fight this emotional suffocation when the root of it is never going to leave you?  If you have a ‘normal’ illness, you see the doctor, get a diagnosis, receive treatment and get better.  Chronic Illness just doesn’t follow that path.  Often diagnosis is difficult as the symptoms can be confusing and varied, it is so hard to quantify a tiredness that never goes away, or a feeling that your limbs are lined with lead.  How do you explain that your mind whirs constantly whilst simultaneously feeling like it is filled with porridge?

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Being ill in this way is living with the unknown.  Every day is different, it’s hard to plan when you have no idea how you will feel when you wake up, not knowing whether you will feel ok or like you are 100 years old.  And so it is hard not to feel anxious, depressed or completely lost when you are in living one huge question mark.  There are constant questions and often no answers.

When people say “Get Well Soon” or ask how you are feeling, it is an uncomfortable exchange, you can either lie and say ‘fine thanks’, or horrify them with honesty ‘Well I have a slight blockage, a hernia, I have been to the loo 16 times today, the acid in my poo has burnt the skin on my bum and I am so tired I feel like I am dying’ or the one I usually go for is ‘getting there!’ with a cheery thumbs up…

People don’t know how to deal with chronic illness, both the person who has it and the people around them.  There is no guidebook for lifelong illness, no way to answer all the questions because it is so personal and there are so many illnesses that are a lifelong battle.

When you have an autoimmune disease, your body is literally fighting against itself.  The physical side of it is all through the body, living with daily pain, fatigue, aches, toilet trips, medication, food intolerances along with hospital trips, surgeries, treatment.  It is, at times, too much to bear.

But mentally and emotionally it is devastating.

The title of this post is ‘what it’s really like’ and I want to try and explain how I feel mentally…

I feel like my body is a failure, that it lets me down constantly.  I feel guilty.  I feel like a burden to others.  I feel like I let down people around me.  I feel like someone has a grip on me, a crushing hold on my chest that is squeezing the life out of me, holding a pillow over my face.  I am exhausted from trying to be stronger than I feel.  I feel a sickly jealousy when I see healthy people.  A heavy hearted knowledge that my illness affects my husband and children, that I am not the wife he deserves or the mum they need.

I feel a sadness that sits deep in my bones, a guilt that is a lump in my throat stopping me from speaking and an embarrassment that my body is so broken.

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That is a bad day.  On a good day where I have little pain, few toilet trips and energy in myself, I feel upbeat, I feel proud of myself, I enjoy life because I know this healthy feeling may only be brief, I love harder, I am more open, I laugh longer, I am silly, I am fun. I have hope.

And hope is key.  Without hope, we have nothing.

This is life and so you have to learn to live it.  And LIVE well.  Your life may not be the one you have hoped for, the life you ever imagined.  But is the one you have and there is nothing you can do to change that.

You can’t take anything for granted, and sit on your laurels, you are ill but at least you have a life, there are many facing cancer and other illnesses that are terminal and so you can’t feel sorry for yourself.  (Not all the time, but sometimes everyone needs a full on mope!)

You learn to embrace and enjoy every good day you have, as you don’t know when the next one will be.  You learn to appreciate the small things, the good things in your life.  You take control of your own destiny and try everything you can to make your health better, through diet, medication, alternative therapies, talking, sharing, living…

Being sick makes you a lot of things, many negative, but some can be positive. Strength. Weakness.  Empathy.  Guilt.  Wisdom.  Fear. You have to take the lows, but learn to see, embrace and appreciate the highs too.

What is living with a chronic illness like? This is my story, but ask others.  You have a friend with ME/CFS? Lupus? Rheumatoid Arthritis? IBD? Don’t be afraid to ask questions, talk about it, tell them you want to hear how they actually are, not just ‘fine’.

The isolation attached to Auto Immune and Chronic Illnesses is immense and I feel that if we could all talk a little more about our lives, that we can help each other to bring discussions about illness into everyday life and make a difference to so many people.

This is my life with chronic illness.

Tell me about yours…

Sam xx

2014 – what a year!

What a year! I started 2014 in Sydney with my sister and our families, we travelled up the coast and had an epic road trip.  It has also brought me a hernia, a house move, surgery to create my jpouch, a couple of weeks in hospital, a new life learning to live without my colon or ileostomy bag and one more hernia!

I have been on the radio a few times, done talks all over the UK, hit my 100K views on So Bad Ass (now up to 160K) and started a writing course.  I also visited my aunty and uncle in Spain and honeymooned in Lanzarote with Timm  I made a new friend who has a stoma… we made friends because we have no colons but stayed friends because we are awesome and he makes me laugh in a rather unladylike fashion and knows, like really knows…  I made new friends without stomas who I now feel like I have known forever and I hung out with so many old friends who made every tough part of my year easier and every lovely part of my year happier.

We bought a hot tub, I got a big tattoo, I met Chuck D and Flavor Flav, went on a nudist beach and my sister came over to the UK to visit with her family.

I renewed my wedding vows to the best husband in the whole world in the BEST WEDDING EVER surrounded by all my absolute favourite people and married by one of my best friends Violet.

2014 has had it’s ups and downs.  The wedding was amazing, it was just the most beautiful and perfect day and to get to marry my perfect bloke for the second time was the best thing ever and my total highlight of the year.

The surgery was tough, 10 days in hospital after a long, difficult surgery and now 7 months later I am still recovering and learning how to deal with my jpouch.  The past 18 months have been the toughest of my life.  Being so ill and having life changing surgeries have been at times almost too much to bear, there were times when I felt so low, so broken and in so much pain that I just didn’t know how I would cope.

I learnt that coping is the only option.  Every day, no matter how hard it is, you have to just keep plodding, just keep swimming, just keep going… Having fantastic people around you helps and I am lucky enough to have some of the best.  My amazing husband, family and friends make it all bearable in those dark moments and I can’t thank them enough.

This year has seen So Bad Ass turn from a small personal blog into something that is read all over the world and (hopefully) helps people.  All I ever wanted from this blog is to make a difference to other people, to use my pain and my journey to help other people with IBD, to use it to raise awareness, raise money for Crohns and Colitis UK and to help people everywhere to have better self esteem, body confidence and to love themselves.

You are all amazing and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for every read, every like, every tweet, every share, every kind word.  You are awesome!

Enjoy and I will see you in 2015!

 

xx

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ostomy photoshoot sexy ileostomy 50s pin up photo shoot so bad ass sam cleasby

 

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Thanks again for an amazing year, if you fancy doing something wonderful please go to my Just Giving page and give whatever you can to Crohns and Colitis UK.

 

Have an amazing christmas and a brilliant New Year!

 

See you in 2015

 

Sam xxx

8 ways to stop procrastinating and get s**t done

My name is Sam Cleasby and I am a procrastinator.  Don’t judge me, because I bet you do it to.

I run a photography company The Picture Foundry with my husband, I work with arts group Responsible Fishing, run this blog and I’m in the process of setting up a new business (launching December 2014… EEEEEPPPPPPPPP).  Working a portfolio career means I need to be organised and motivated.  Now I am an organised person on the whole, I love a list, hate being late and generally keep on top of things.

But now and then the old procrastinating demon sits on my shoulder whispering “Google images of funny talking dogs, Sam”

I stand firm at first, “NO demon! I have deadlines!”

“Sam, Mishka loves you” (if you don’t get this reference, click here.  But be warned, you will lose the next hour of you life…

The next thing I know, I have spent two hours on youtube watching goats screaming like humans.

But I am learning to curb my procrastination habit and thought I would share my hard earned wisdom to improve productivity and teach you all how to get shit done.

 

1. TURN OFF THE SOCIAL MEDIA

This has to be number one.  Whether it is Facebook, twitter, vine or tumblr, social media is the nemesis of productivity.  It is great fun and all, but it sucks you in and stops you from doing what needs doing.  Don’t have the pages open in the background, because it Will ping and you WILL click and next thing you know you are watching a girl being woken up by a hoover attached to her face

Set times to check your social media and don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you have your work Facebook page open, it means you are working.

 

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2. MAKE A LIST

I LOVE lists, I get a massive sense of achievement in crossing things off lists.

The important thing is to not over face yourself, as a ten page list will be overwhelming, stressful and not helpful at all.  I have a weekly list of the things that need doing and then a day to day list.  It keeps me on track and I feel good when I know I have completed it.

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3. REWARD YOURSELF

Make a decision that when you have completed X, you will treat yourself to Y.  Be that a cup of coffee or ten minutes on candy crush.  It doesn’t have to be anything major, but a small treat will be that dangling carrot that can get you to finish the job in hand.

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4. GET ORGANISED

It is really difficult to be organised and productive if you are working in a total mess.  Sort out your desk and clear out the crap.  Give yourself 10 minutes at the start of every day to make sure your workspace is clear and easy to work at.

 

 

5. KNOW WHEN YOU WORK BEST

I am not a morning person, BUT I know I feel guilty working in the evenings when the children are about and so I start my day early, but leave creative tasks which require more effort to the afternoon.

Work out when you work the best.  I have a friend who wakes a couple of hours before his kids because he works best in the silence of the morning with a big coffee.  Other friends swear by not starting till midday.

 

 

6. TAKE A BREAK

Sometimes your brain just doesn’t want to get into gear.  If you are really struggling to concentrate, take a break.  Go walk around the block, get some fresh air or a drink.

There are times when there is no point in forcing it, you won’t be creating the best work and will probably need to re-do it.

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7. MAKE YOUR WORKSPACE SOMEWHERE YOU WANT TO HANG OUT

If you have to spend 8 hours a day somewhere, then make it look pretty/awesome/inspiring… You are never going to work your best if you are in a hovel.  Make it personal, make it creative, make it you.

I have images I love, photos of friends and family and things that make me smile around my desk.  It cheers me up to have those things in my eye line.

 

 

8.WORK WITH SOMEONE

If you are a homeworker, it is really easy to end up feeling isolated, bored and fed up.  Make a point of getting out and working in the same space as someone else.  Do you have any home working friends? Can you team up and work in the same office?  I am lucky that I work with my husband and so we share an office, but on the days he is out on assignment I HATE it and get so much less work done.

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Love Sam x