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The best mental breakdown I ever had…

Five years ago, I was preparing for j pouch surgery, I had a date booked in (ironically 30th April which is the date of my next surgery!) and I was mentally preparing myself for a big operation. When suddenly it was postponed by 6 weeks and all that emotion and adrenaline bottomed out and I was left utterly devastated.

I was so wound up readying myself for this huge surgery and when the plans changed it really knocked me and was a mess. I was crying and shaky, I couldn’t sort my head out and it was all a bit much. So I decided to run away from home! 

I spoke to my aunt and uncle in Spain and booked flights to go have a week with them on my own to try to sort my head out. It was such a difficult time and I was overwhelmed by everything, the pain, the fear of surgery, the unknown were just all too much and I went into shutdown.

traveling with a stoma

A week of sun, relaxing and time out was just what I needed and my family were so lovely to allow me to come stay with them when I was so down in the dumps.

“Just so you know” my aunty added “the boys will be here too!”

The boys are my cousins and I was thrilled that I’d be able to see them.

“And do you remember J from primary school? He is coming with his girlfriend and her daughter!”

Oh. I thought. That’s a lot of people. People I don’t know. And another woman. A stranger woman who might judge me. How can I have a mental breakdown in the sun with a strange woman watching me?!

Then I met her. Wrighty. And instantly fell in love.

Sam Cleasby

Five years ago because of having a total breakdown and running away from home, I met one of the kindest, funniest, rudest, silliest, most loving women and gained a new friend for life.

She is so open and generous, kind and caring and has an awfully sick sense of humour that makes me cackle. I feel so honoured and blessed to have her in my life.

The break was just what I needed, I came home feeling refreshed, positive and ready to face the surgery.

Over the years I have told Wrighty that I was dreading meeting her, that I couldn’t bear the thought of a strange woman being there in my lowest ebbs. And funnily enough she said that she thought ‘oh great! Some random cousin awaiting surgery! What a laugh this is going to be on our holiday!’

But we met and instantly connected, sometimes you meet someone and know immediately that you’re meant to be friends, and I knew from the very first evening I met her that we are meant to be in each others lives.

Though our friendship was so new, it felt like we’d known eachother a lifetime. She visited me in hospital weeks later, helped me, Timm and the kids out and was there in the dark times of recovery when I just needed someone to cry at.

And over the past five years, we’ve become firm friends. I’ve learnt so much from her, she’s so open with her love (that sounds weird) in that she is a very touchy feely person (I’m not making this better am I?) She made me realise how important it is to tell and show your friends that you love them and just how I probably had these walls up before that didn’t allow me to show my love so openly.

We’ve both faced good times and bad over the years and I just hope that I have been there for her as much as she’s been there for me.

It’s not often that you meet someone who you connect with so intensely, so when you do, hold it tight because that is bloody special.

Thank you Wrighty for being my friend.

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam xx

When illness gets in the way of intimacy – how do you make it work?

Who we are and how we feel about ourselves is based on so many different things and can alter, move and change depending on what we’re dealing with at any one time.

Right now I feel that I’m a bit lost, I feel vulnerable and raw and in particular I feel I have lost my femininity and sex appeal. And by that I don’t meant how others view me but how I view myself.

I’m generally very much changeable, equally comfortable in make up and sequins as in joggers and a jumper but more and more I find myself in those joggers and less and less making an effort due to illness, pain and fatigue.

In a world of body positivity, we know we’re all meant to love our bodies. But when our bodies are broken, causing pain, are fatigued and disfigured, sometimes I don’t love my body and actually the body positivity movement make it harder to voice that.

Currently my stomach is swollen, it has one large protrusion on one side and a smaller one on the other. I’ve gained a lot of weight because I can barely walk. Im in pain every single day. I hate how my body looks naked and none of my clothes fit me properly.

Its hard to say that though, especially as a blogger without feeling that you’re setting a bad example, not a good feminist, being negative about disability or perpetuating body stereotypes! Dude, sometimes I just want to say I don’t like how I look without it being about society! Sometimes I just want to be able to say I feel shit!

I end up in joggers most of the time because it’s the one thing that fits me and is comfortable. But it doesn’t make me happy, I know I look like a scruffy, fat mess most of the time. I’m so tired and so often I just wear a beany hat to cover how bad my hair looks and naps win over make up any day.

I used to feel sexy. And by this I don’t mean a pouty, booby show for others. I used to feel powerfully strong and beautiful and sexual and in control.

Right now I feel a million miles from that and honestly? It’s only going to get worse for a while with surgery and recovery. My body feels like it’s all about illness and treatment right now with no time or energy for looking good, for sex, for intimacy.

But because I feel so different it’s like losing a part of yourself. Like feeling like someone completely different. Like you’re a stranger to yourself.

And it can be hard to feel sexy, to give yourself to another person when you are not entirely sure who you are yourself!

It’s hard to feel ‘in the mood’ when you’re either in pain or stoned on painkillers, exhausted or asleep, when your body looks and feels weird to you or you’re wearing three different hernia belts! As they say in Hamilton, “It’s hard to have intercourse over four sets of corsets!”

Joking aside, I just feel so lost. So sad. So empty today.

I have a really physical reaction to upset, my stomach turns and flips and it’s doing cartwheels right now.

I wonder how I can be a partner to anyone in this state? How do you cope as the partner? Can relationships survive when illness gets in the way of intimacy?

I get lots of emails and messages about this subject and I know it’s sensitive and personal but I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts.

Chronic illness changes many parts of our lives in so many different ways and sometimes it’s embarrassing and difficult to discuss those changes.

Ive had a message this week asking about this subject and I realised what a taboo it is to talk about how chronic illness can and does effect relationships, yet it must be something that so many are dealing with.

I hope this can spark a discussion that could help so many.

✌🏽 & ❤️

Sam xx

When everything sucks, build a den

I am struggling right now with pain and everything feels kind of in limbo as it feels like  there’s so little I can do other than wait for my surgery date. It’s getting me down and then that brilliant husband of mine just made it all a little better.

I had the day off work as I’d swapped days with a colleague and so he decided to take the day off. And readers, he built me a den.

Gathering sheets and string and safety pins, candles and snacks and the telly, he built me a bed den for us to hide in all day and it was heaven!

Build a den in bed

It was just what I needed, to turn my bed which had begun to feel like a bit of a negative place of illness and pain into the most perfect hideaway for the two of us. (Well two plus two dogs and all the kids who came to hang out throughout the day!)

It was a lovely thing to do but more than anything else, just having him to myself for the day was the best. We are both so busy, he is self employed (running a photography business, an arts company and a festival!) and is constantly on the go, always working and rarely has a day off. I work three days a week for Scope and also have a radio show once a week. We have three teenagers, two dogs, a cat and 4 chickens and fitting in a chronic illness that often throws all that schedule out the window makes life a bit manic at times.

And so to have a full day of being together with no work has been pure joy. Just hanging out, talking, laughing, watching TV, reading, kissing, having that rare time when it’s been me and him.

Sometimes we wish for big things, a bigger house, more money, flash holidays or fancy cars. Sometimes we get caught up in life, working, chores, paying the bills, scrambling around just trying to make everything that needs to happen, happen.

But sometimes all we need are the simplest things that bring us joy.

And that Cleasby brought me joy ❤️

You can watch the video here.

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam xx

It takes a village

That phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” has been going through my head a lot recently.

I love being a mum, it’s the most important role of my life and I hope to raise happy kids into happy adults, but as wonderful as parenting can be, it’s also really tough at times and I truly believe that to give the best to our kids, they need a village of people around them.

I was asked about what support my family have this week and when Timm and I thought about who we have around us who support us and the kids, it made us think.

Our village isn’t just about family but friends too. We are lucky to have our amazing friends Caroline and Jamie who have known our kids since being babies and love them dearly. We talked to the kids about how they are trusted adults who they can turn to if they need to talk to someone other than us.

And though my sister and brother in law live in Australia, we talked about how the kids can still turn to them too. The internet has made the world a lot smaller place and no matter where we are, we can still make that connection.

glastonbury perfect family parent blogger sam cleasby sheffield

It can sometimes feel as a parent that you have to have all the answers, and that’s just not possible. It’s ok to not be able to be all things at all times to our kids, it’s ok to need to rely on your village sometimes.

We talk to our kids about the trusted adults in our lives, about who they can talk to and who can be their support systems when they need it.

And it’s not always about a traumatic time, we should be having wonderful people in our lives who can inspire and excite our kids about different lives they can lead.

My friend Hannah is a real role model to my child Eli, from her travels around the world to her attitude, humour and character, Eli loves spending time with her and really looks up to her and I love that!

Friends in the LGBTQ+ community can give my gay child the support, information and experience that I just can’t. Our musician and creative friends offer perspectives that we just don’t have. We should draw on the experiences of the brilliant people in our lives to be inspirations to our kids too.

Families are so different today, we live far away from eachother and most of us don’t have that immediate local family support that used to be more of the norm in the past. But our friends can become our families and we all need to lean on others sometimes.

I feel lucky and grateful for the many wonderful people in my life and I love my village of people. From those we see often to those who are on the end of a phone or who we only see from time to time, it’s a proper blessing to know so many awesome folk.

And I suppose the biggest difficulty can be being brave enough to speak up, reach out and ask for help. It’s ok to not be able to do it all alone, it’s ok to need your village.

As much as I am so glad of the people in my life and the life of my kids, I hope that Timm and I can also be a positive impact in the lives of all our friends and their kids too.

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam xxx

 

Happy Valentines Day

I know lots of people don’t like Valentines Day, feeling it’s all a bit commercial or crappy if you aren’t in a relationship.

I could take it or leave it, I tell that husband of mine I love him every day and don’t need one particular day. But I also love a bit of joy and I like seeing so many posts full of romance and slush!

It also feels like a good day to big up my Cleasby, we’ve been together for 20 years now and our relationship has just got better and better over that time.

The past 6 years have properly kicked our arse, 7 surgeries and my reliance on him has just got more and more. My body has changed beyond recognition, losing my intestine and butt has been tough on my self esteem and has had a big effect on us.

But it’s also taught us about honesty, openness and talking about everything, especially the hard stuff.

There have been really tough conversations, those laying it all on the table talks, tears, hurt, anger, frustration but in the end, love.

Illness, surgeries, these life changing events can end relationships, it can all get too much and pull people apart. I feel extremely lucky that we have managed to draw together and find a new way to make our relationship work through the toughest of times.

Today we’ve had meetings, work and lots of stuff to do, but we’ve had dinner together at home and hung out watching tv and that’s the kind of valentines we like!

I know I’m so lucky to have this dude in my life for the past twenty years. Here’s to the next 20!

Happy Valentines Day to you all!

❤️

Sam xx

Supporting Someone With IBD: A Guide For Friends and Family

“Finding out that someone you care about has Crohn’s or Colitis is a shock. You might be feeling anxious about what comes next and how their life will be affected. Things will change – but the support of friends and family can make a huge difference in helping them live well with their condition.”

Crohn’s and Colitis UK have produced some information on how you can support someone with IBD and you might just recognise the couple on the guide!

crohns and colitis uk supporting someone with IBD

crohns and colitis uk supporting someone with IBD

When your child is gay…

Last year my child told us they were pan-sexual.

At the time, though it was a surprise, I felt no different, I was pleased they knew they could talk to me and I was happy to know they felt comfortable enough to be themselves in a difficult and sometimes prejudiced world, but honestly? My thought process didn’t go much further than that.

Over a year on I thought I’d share my feelings about having a gay child and how my feelings have changed.

Well, one thing has been them telling me they were non-binary. I’ll be totally honest here, I really wasnt too sure what that meant. But after some googling and talking to my child about it, I have a much better understanding.

Theyre now 15 (how has this happened so quickly?! I’m sure I was changing nappies and freaking them out by watching Death Becomes Her only yesterday!!!) They prefer the pronouns they and them and sometimes I struggle with this. Not so much with the they/them but more when I’m describing them as my child.

Daughter or son flows off my tongue so much easier than child, I sometimes feel child or kid sounds less emotional, if that makes sense? I feel a bit like a Victorian mother saying “my child has done….”

Our relationship has never been closer, and the same goes with my husband. They share lots of things about their life (as much as any 15 year old does!) and we talk about anything and everything. (Including an in depth discussion about how a threesome with two men and one woman actually works!)

The biggest change for me has been how protective I feel.  Of course I am momma bear with all my kids, but it’s opened my eyes to the amount of bigotry that is all around me and I want to stand in front of them and protect them from ever hearing or seeing these things. I want to wrap a big blanket around us both and bat away any horrid or stupid or ignorant comments.

I know I can’t do this. And it hurts me to my soul.

I know they will face ignorant and hateful people throughout their life. I know people who don’t understand or don’t want to understand will push them away. I know that they will hurt sometimes.

I also know that those bigots will miss out on knowing one of the most amazing human beings on earth. My child is so kind, loving, funny, deep, silly, loyal, sensitive and fucking awesome.

Seriously, they’re my hero and make me want to be a better person every day.

I see things I didn’t see before. I see more of the comments on social media, not so much that they’re openly homophobic or hateful, more the snide comments that suggest anyone who isn’t cis gender is something of an attention seeker. Or that they’re something to be joked about and mocked. The comments or images where gender is questioned or laughed at.

Ive also opened myself up to a whole new world (for me) of language and understanding of gender and sexuality, I’m learning new terms and gaining a better understanding. This can be a bit scary, I feel afraid as a heterosexual cis gender woman to ask questions sometimes.

I’m afraid to say the wrong thing and upset someone, I don’t want to look like a tourist! But I think it’s important for me to educate myself so I can understand my child.

I even worry about posting this. I don’t want to put my voice above my child’s but I have always talked about being a mum on this blog and it seems worse to not talk about this than to be open. As with all my posts about my kids, they get to read and veto anything they’d rather I didn’t say publicly though.

Though my instinct is to stand in front of my child to fend off any negativity, I think the thing I’ve learnt is that I can’t do that. But I can stand right beside them, with my hand on their shoulder and my love in their heart so they know whatever they face in life, momma bear will always be right with them.

 

Love Sam xx

 

This boy

This boy

We never had wedding vows of in sickness and in health.  Instead our Elvis minister asked us if we swore never to leave each others blue suede shoes out in the rain.

viva las vegas wedding

But he’s aways there by my side.

He puts my tablets in shot glasses with little stickers with times written on them.

He kisses me and holds me close when I cry through pain, frustration or sadness.

He goes to all my hospital appointments with me because he knows I forget what they’ve said as soon as I walk out.

He doesn’t mind when I’m too tired to do anything but lay in bed. And will lay right there with me.

sam and timm cleasby

He runs me a bath, sits on the floor and washes me when it’s all just too much.

He makes me laugh when I am sad.

He comes to my events to support me and never complains about the hours waiting for me.

He works so damn hard to make sure our family has all we need.

Through every surgery he is there.

Through every recovery, he does it all.

Through the toughest of times, he sticks fast by my side.

sam and timm cleasby

Through the darkest of times, he sits under a duvet cave with me whispering and kissing.

He washes the sheets and my clothes when my bag leaks.

He helps me do my hair when my arms don’t have the strength.

He loves me even when I don’t feel worthy of love.

He wants me to be the best version of me that I can.

Wedding renewal

He runs around Ikea with me playing and making fake photo shoots.

He brings McDonald’s and makes a picnic on our bed with all the kids when I’m too sick and tired to cook.

He tells me I’m beautiful even when my hair is falling out and I’m too tired to shower and I’m wearing pyjamas.

He cries with me and tells me that no, it’s not fucking fair.

Love and relationships

He listens to my crazy plans and never tells m they’re crazy, he tells me to get planning.

At night when I can’t sleep, he gives me his hand so I can lay with my fingers on the pulse in his wrist because though it’s batty, he knows it calms me down.

When I’m too tired to go out on Valentines Day, he orders room service and beers and we have them in bed.

He once stole a wheelchair and kidnapped my from hospital so I could sit with the sun on my face.

Sam Cleasby Timm Cleasby

This year, we will celebrate being together for 20 years, and though I never thought it possible, I love him more every day.

This boy. He is my everything.

And he’s never, ever left my blue suede shoes out in the rain.

 

Sam xx

The best moment in your life

Someone recently asked me what was the best moment in my life, and I thought about it and realised how blessed I am to have so many to choose from.

Of course, the birth of my three kids were amazing, I think especially my first son as it was that life defining moment when I became a mother.  The kids changed our lives forever, they are just the best three people, they are smart, funny, loving, caring, sensitive and have beautiful souls, we couldn’t be prouder of them all and there are thousands of memories of amazing moments through their lives that have brought me so much joy.

My wedding days, yes multiple! We married in Las Vegas at the Viva Las Vegas wedding chapel by Elvis which was so much fun. And then we renewed our vows after ten years in a ceremony at home in our garden. Both of these were so special.

At our first wedding, we booked this amazing suite at the MGM grand, it had a hot tub and the biggest bed I’ve ever seen, it was super romantic. We had two kids when we married, Charlie was 3 and Ellie was 15 months old, the day of the wedding Ellie was sick, she’d cried all day and just wanted to be held and it was so stressful! My mum was supposed to be having them overnight so we could have a wedding night alone but she called to say she couldn’t cope with Ellie being poorly and so we picked up both kids. Our wedding night was spent with the kids playing in the hot tub and then all four of us ordered room service, got in the huge bed and watched Peter Pan. I suppose some might think it ruined things, but honestly, that moment of snuggling together and for the first time all having the same surname was perfect.

viva las vegas wedding

Our wedding renewal was one of the best days of my life, it was just perfect and I wish I could relive it! It was heaven, but there was a moment when all the guests had gone home (or passed out in the house!), it was quiet, 3am and after a whirlwind of a day, it was finally just me and Timm, I took off my shoes and got muddy stockings, Timm got a blanket and two glasses of champagne and we laid in a hammock together under the stars. That moment was pretty wonderful.

moody wedding photo bride with pick hair sequin dress

But there is one moment that is just my favourite. It’s the moment where if I had to live forever in it, I think I’d be happy.

Timm and I went to Vegas for a friends wedding a few years ago, we flew into LA and drove to Vegas. We stopped a night in a place called Pioneertown, Timm had been there before when he was touring and was desperate for me to see it. We got there late at night and so there wasn’t much to see, there’s one tiny motel and we crashed in bed exhausted.

pioneer town motel

We woke super early, it was still dark but jet lag kicked in and we were wide awake. Timm grabbed his jeans and I pulled on my boots and a hoodie with my nightie and we went outside as the sun started to rise. As we left our room I got my first glimpse of this amazing view, we were in the desert and I looked out on a street that could have been straight out of an old school western movie.

We went to the back of the motel and all we could see was sand, cacti and the biggest sky I’ve ever seen. There was so much sky, and as the sun slowly rose, it was every shade of pink and orange, no artist has ever painted anything as beautiful as that sky. We sat on a rock, hand in hand in silence, just watching the most perfect sunrise over a vista of empty space. No cars, no buildings, no people, just silence, nature and beauty.

pioneer town pappy and harriets

I looked back and found I had taken a picture of this morning, it’s not the best! We both look ever so tired and a bit rough and it doesn’t do the view justice at all!! But this is it, this is my best moment.

If there was one place I could go back to, Pioneertown would be it.  Ive had such a tough few years, five surgeries and one more to go, all the treatments and recovery, the anxiety, the depression… There have been times where I just didn’t know whether I would make it, but in the darkest of times thinking about the joy and love at the Pioneertown Motel kind of kept me going.  We plan to go back, I am not sure when, it is hard to plan too much when you are in and out of hospital but one day, Timm and I will be back under that sky.

sam and timm cleasby pioneer town us

I did some meditation recently and it suggested you imagined a place of peace, beauty and happiness and as I closed my eyes, my mind went straight to that moment, that place, that perfect moment.

 

What is your best moment? Let me know.

 

Sam xx

19 years ago in The Leadmill…

19 years ago in The Leadmill nightclub in Sheffield I met Timm.  I’ve told the story before but I had seen him the week before and not had the confidence to say hi, then I spied him in the DJ box working, my friend Liz went and said to him “my mate fancies you” and the rest, as they say, is history!
Sam and Timm Cleasby

I can’t believe we’ve been together so long!!! I don’t feel old enough to have been with someone for 19 years. I’ve been with Timm for longer in my life than I haven’t.

Its not been an easy ride, he worked away as a tour manager for the first 12 years of our relationship which took its toll. It’s hard to stay close when you’re apart for months at a time but we got through it.

We had three kids in 4 1/2 years so there were manic times where we barely had time for one another but we had a blast. We’re not perfect parents, we rarely do things by the book but we love our babies more than anything and we are a great team.

Sam and Timm Cleasby

Timm was my first love, I was only 17 when we met and my life was chaotic, we had a crazy couple of years of fun and silliness before we had Charlie in 2000, followed by Ellie in 2003 and Thom in 2005. We’ve had 6 houses in that time, job changes, times when money was tight, travels around the world, good times and bad.

We married in Las Vegas in 2004 at the Viva Las Vegas chapel by Elvis and renewed our vows in 2014 at home in a garden ceremony with all our family and friends.

Sam and Timm Cleasby

The past few years have been the toughest of our lives, my ulcerative colitis really took hold of my body and I had my first surgery in 2013 to remove my colon and had my first ileostomy. Since then I’ve had 4 more surgeries and Timm has been my rock.

There have been times when I’ve told him to leave me, when it’s been so hard that I couldn’t bear to put him through it any more. But he’s always been right by my side.

We make a good team, Timm and I, and though it sounds cheesy, we are closer and more in love now than ever before. Something happens when you’ve been together so long, you know eachother inside and out and the level of comfort and safety really kicks in. That’s not to say things are boring, nor do we take eachother for granted but life just becomes easier.

Of course we argue, we fall out and disagree, there are times when we scream and shout, when we get the face on and ignore eachother. I don’t think anyone can be together for so long without there being times of conflict. But we are learning all the time how we can best sort out our arguments.

Everything honestly is better when we are a team, when we fall out, it feels like life is just tougher to deal with. When we are side by side, I feel I can take on the world.

19 years have passed in a heartbeat, I still remember the feeling of butterflies in my stomach as he handed me this chipped Leadmill mug of champagne all those years ago.

Timm, you’re my everything. I wouldn’t be here without your continuing love, support and piss taking. You make me laugh, you deal with all my illness and surgeries with a shrug like it’s no big deal, you hold my hand when I’m struggling and you listen to me when I can’t bear to say things to anyone else.

 

We joke that some things are NSFT (Not Safe For Timm) because he cries at anything remotely emotional. I take the piss out of him for this but I secretly love it. As he has got older he is so much more open with his feelings, he has dealt with a lot during the past few years and sometimes I forget just how hard it has been for him. But it has made him softer and more loving, and that has to be a good thing.

family photo shoot with teenagers in Sheffield urban kelham island

 

We don’t always do gifts but this year I saw this and couldn’t not get it, from The Night Sky who create star maps of certain locations and times, this is the night sky over Sheffield 19 years ago today, these are the stars we looked at on the night we met, the night it all began.

The night sky Sheffield stars

I  so lucky to have grown up with my best friend, 19 years of laughter, being proper daft, of loving and crying and facing all the shit that life has thrown at us.

Cleasby, happy anniversary bubs xxx