As if I have an 18 year old child!

This week, my eldest bambino turned 18 and I’m still a bit confused by it all, as if I have a child who is an actual adult?!

I had Charlie when I was 19, it was a pregnancy that many family and friends thought a mistake. I’d been with Timm for two years and if I’m completely honest, we were kind of stupid. We worked to go out, went partying a lot, spent our money on stupid things and were silly people in love.

But as soon as I found out I was pregnant, we both got our shit in order, we rented a tiny flat together and made a commitment to do this right, to support eachother and to be the best parents we could possibly be.

It brought out a different side in both of us, in me a deeply maternal animalistic desire to grow this little human and protect him with my life, a nesting instinct to make a home for the three of us. In Timm it was a desire to nurture and protect me, to commit to his career and to ensure we would be ok.

During 20 hours of labour, a labour where the judgement of others hung heavily over us, the midwives seeing this teenager in her boyfriends clothes as we couldn’t afford maternity wear (and also because maternity clothes in 2000 was flipping ugly!!!) and her boyfriend who had skater jeans and no clue.  The comments that I should just have an epidural because I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain. It was a scary and overwhelming time where we both felt like control had been taken from us.

And then he was here. We made a human. And he was amazing. The moment I looked at him, I realised that I was made for this moment, that being a mum was the most important thing I would ever be entrusted with. I fell in love.

Teen mum holding new baby

We went home from the hospital and both just sat looking at him in his basket asleep, we looked at eachother and asked ‘what now?’ We couldn’t believe we had complete responsibility for a baby. We knew we weren’t a typical family but we also knew we loved him more than life itself and so thought ‘fuck it! We’ll do this our way!’ My sister in law told me that we needed to feed him, clean him, keep him warm and just love him more than anything. And so that was our mantra and it didn’t do us bad!

Raising my boy over the past 18 years has been a rollercoaster, I always knew he wouldn’t be a person to fit in a box and go with the crowds. My boy is a rule breaker, a pioneer, a wonderfully weird person who will make his own road through life.

We are so alike in lots of ways, stubborn and headstrong and so sometimes we butt heads, neither of us backing down. But we can be screaming at eachother one minute and cuddling the next. I love him in a way that comes from somewhere deep inside, it’s primal and pure. And though of course I adore all three of my kids in the same way, there is a special bond between Charlie and I.

He was my first, we learnt how to do things between us, he made me a momma! For the first 2 years of his life, he was known as my shadow, we were always together and we’re eachothers comfort blanket. Timm was touring with work and would be away for weeks on end and so me and Charlie were a team.

In the past few years his kindness and patience has floored me, my illness has been hard on us as a family yet Charlie has always been there, laying in bed chatting with me when I can’t get up, visiting me in hospital and making me laugh, loving me and putting my needs ahead of his own, which is no mean feat for a teenage boy!

Mum and adult son in park with a chihuahua

And now here we are, my baby boy is all grown up. 18 years old, ready to take on the world, make his own decisions and move into the next section of his life.

But however old he is, wherever he is in the world, he will always be my bambino and I will always love him, tell him I love him, be there for him and always, always be his momma.

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam

My depression looks like…

I used to think depression looked like someone crying all the time, someone with a sad face who is weeping and wailing. And sometimes depression does look like that! But not always.

Last year I had a really bad time with my mental health, I hit a big wall and I couldn’t shake it. I struggled to exist, it was a really dark and terrible time. Through talking therapy and antidepressants, I came through that valley of sadness to a place where I could see the light again.

Im still on antidepressants and for me they have been a life saver. But last week I found out that my surgeries haven’t worked and I have another hernia. My stomach is a map of scars and underneath I have adhesions and mesh and pig skin and all sorts of pain and discomfort and it’s hit me hard.

I feel low and I’m struggling, I can’t come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably never be better, that I may always struggle with pain and I won’t be physically fit and healthy for the rest of my life.

And it got me thinking about how my depression looks and just how different it is from person to person.

My depression looks like a smile, a forced cheery “I’m fine!”, it looks like me sleeping a lot, it looks like me avoiding friends. My depression looks like me wearing a hat because I can’t bring Myself to shower and my hair is dirty. My depression looks like me pushing through and managing to work and be cheerful to the outside world.

My depression looks like me crying because I missed the blackberries in my allotment. It looks like my stiff upper lip as I excuse myself to sit with my head between my knees in the loo because I can’t breathe and it’s all too much. It looks like me smiling too big and laughing too forced because I don’t want you to see my sadness because if you’re nice to me it will all spill out and I don’t want to scare you.

It looks like brief moments of honesty when I can bring myself to write things like this.

Depression takes many forms, don’t be mistaken into thinking the person smiling in front of you is a-ok.

If you’re reading this and have depression, could you do me a favour and share what your depression looks like using #mydepressionlookslike – because I honestly believe that by talking and sharing we can create a more nurturing, understanding and caring environment where depression stops being a taboo,where people stop suffering in silence, where people stop dying.

#mydepressionlookslike

 

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam xx

Healing an old stoma site from the inside out!

Just a word of warning, this post has lots of graphic and medical images of my old stoma site healing and may not be suitable for everyone.

So after the last surgery where they resited my stoma, the old site was left open. I was gobsmacked when I first saw it as I’d never seen an open wound like this before.

They explained that they heal better if they’re not sewn up and they want it to heal from the inside out and so it was packed with dressing and I saw a district nurse every day for just over a month till it healed up.

I had a big cry when I first saw it, it was 3.5cm deep and looked like a gunshot wound, they said it would take around 4-6 weeks to heal and I couldn’t believe that could be true!

So I took photos of the healing process as I found it intriguing and I thought it might help others going through the same situation.

What follows are the images of it healing, as previously warned, they may be upsetting to some so don’t scroll down if you don’t want to look!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we go…

Open stoma wound healing

12th June – 5 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

21st June – 14 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

27th June – 20 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

29th June – 22 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

1st July – 24 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

2nd July – 25 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

5th July – 28 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

11th July – 34 days post op

15th July – 38 days post op

18th July – 41 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

11th August – 65 days post op

So there we go! Isn’t the body brilliant!!!

I hope this helps anyone who is facing this sort of healing process to know that it does get better.

 

Loce Sam xx

Chronic illness and guilt – when we can, we do

I got a message from someone on twitter today from a mum who is facing stoma surgery.

“You have made a difference. You made me feel ok about stoma surgery, you help me to remember I’m not the only one feeling like this. These school holidays are breaking my heart, I feel so guilty for not doing things with the kids. Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone xx”

I responded telling them that today I’m in bed as all my kids are on computers and though I feel bad about this, I remind myself that when I can, I do.

It struck me that this is a good motto for anyone with chronic illness who is feeling guilty.

 

There is so much guilt in living with chronic illness or disability, it’s wrong, it’s unhelpful and it’s crap but almost everyone I speak to has had feelings of guilt at some time in their lives.

Guilt that they’re letting others down, that they’re not good enough parents, partners or friends. Guilt that they don’t pull their weight with work, guilt for taking time off. Guilt that their houses aren’t tidy enough, their dogs aren’t walked enough. Guilt that they sometimes eat fast food as they’re too tired to cook. Guilt that their kids have to care for them when they want to be caring for the kids. Guilt that family days out get cancelled or become about their illness rather than the fun of it.

Its easy for me to say that it needs to stop, that these things we feel bad about are out of our control and that guilt doesn’t help anyone. But I’d be a hypocrite. Because I feel all these things too.

But I do remind myself that when I can, I do.

When I can take my kids out for the day I do. Yes, it’s sometimes to the cinema as I know I’m not strong enough for a more physical day but I do.

When I can, I work hard, I put my everything into careers that I love.

When I can, my house is clean and tidy (and when I can’t, I hire a cleaner!!)

When I can, I see friends, I think about others, I’m there for them.

Life can be tough, but remember…

When we can, we do.

 

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam xx

Matron, Medicine and Me – 70 years of the NHS

I was thrilled to be interviewed for the BBC’s Matron, Medicine and Me which was aired recently.  The episode I was on was hosted by Fern Britton who went back to the hospital that saved her life from sepsis a few years ago, there were lots of amazing stories shared about the NHS and if you’d like to watch it again, head over to the iplayer here.

You can see my interview here.

 

Love Sam xx

3D meditation?

At a time when everyone I know seems to be in such high stress mode, I was interested to read about 3D meditation from Bellabeat.  I have used a few apps over the years to help with health, sleep and wellbeing, Im a big fan of the Sleep Well app that uses guided meditation to help send you off to the land of nod.

So what the hell is 3D meditation? Bellabeat has come up with some products and an app that are designed to immerse you in the moment of meditation through the experience of hearing, feeling and breathing and is designed by women for women.

They do this through an app but also with the add ons of a wellbeing clip-on health tracker device called a leaf (think of a fit bit but for your soul), headphones and mala beads that add a tactile addition to count your mantras on.

Even though I know that using guided meditation and taking that time for myself is really beneficial, I still find it hard to actually force myself into doing it.  There always seems to be another more important thing to do, but I know I need to try and prioritise some time for self care and a bit of me time and so I’ll be trying the Bellabeat package in the coming weeks to see if it helps.

You can find the Bellabeat app on your App Store it’s basically a lifestyle app that has both the physical stuff like step counting and activity levels, sleep times but also your menstrual cycle handy if you are trying to get pregnant but also good to keep track of when the red mist is about to descend.  You can count calories and water intake too.

Obviously the app is developed to go alongside the clip on health tracker and other products but you can use it without those things too. The meditation side of the app has lots of different meditations based on mind, body and soul, they are quite specific from one about menstrual pain to ones to help you sleep as well as more general calmness and wellbeing ones.

bellabeat wellness health tracker

The Leaf health tracker looks cool, it could easily be a piece of jewellery rather than a traditional tracker and are available to purchase instore and online from John Lewis and Selfridges, as well as amazon.co.uk, OutdoorGB and ASOS. Whisper and Mala Beads are available from the Bellabeat webstore.

bellabeat health tracker leafbellabeat leaf

 

I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything since the surgery and losing my nan and I am trying to take steps to improve my health, my happiness and my wellbeing.  I am making better food choices (mainly veggie, cutting out as much processed food as possible), I am seeing a physiotherapist and working on my physical health and I am trying to make time for quiet, for calm and for meditation so we will see how it goes with these products soon.

How do you help yourself? Do you have any self care tips to share? When life is just so bloody stressful and busy, how do you find time and energy to give yourself what you need? I would love to hear from you.

I will let you all know how I get on

Love Sam xx

 

 

Disclaimer: I have not been paid or reimbursed for this post, I do sometimes choose to work with companies who either pay me to share a review or give me free products.  All my reviews are honest and all my own thoughts and feelings and I will always let you guys know if I have been paid in any way for those posts.  I pick who I work with really carefully and only work with brands that I feel have something of interest to my lovely readers.

 

 

Work and chronic illness

I’ve been thinking a lot about work at the moment, I work for the brilliant charity Scope and have been off sick since my emergency surgery at the beginning of June. They have been great but that doesn’t stop me feelinh terribly guilty about having time off and the pressures that puts on my team.

During this time off, I have also found out that I got my own show on BBC Radio Sheffield and so it’s felt pretty weird to get a new job when I’m not even at my current one. I’m thrilled to start presenting my radio show and there was no doubt in my mind that I would be staying at Scope and doing one evening a week with the beeb.

They too have been really understanding about my recovery and we’ve prerecorded the first two shows to fit in around my time off and my health. We’ll be going live on the 5th September!

I obviously also run this blog and the so bad ass social media and I have to admit that everything is getting a bit much.

I love all the work I do but as I feel my body fails me year on year, it’s hard to fit everything in and the fatigue, joint pain, aches and ostomy bag troubles do make life really difficult to be in the work world every day.

I give myself a hard time, I push myself so hard because I despise the fact that I can’t do everything that I’d like to do and I’ve got in a bad habit of cycling through the phases of push, push, push, crash. And repeat.

Im questioning dropping my hours with Scope but this brings on waves of anxiety, both financial and the feelings that I’m letting them down, that I’m so useless I can’t even do the hours and the job they hired me for! I think this is exasperated by the fact I’ve been off sick for so long. I’m terrified of letting them down and scared I’m not up to the role any more. I need to say this is all coming from my head, not at all from my employer.

Having a chronic illness is a full time job in itself, I wake up almost every morning feeling hungover and like I’ve run a marathon and adding in full time work just is exhausting and draining. I worry massively about whether working full time and then consequently sleeping and resting a lot means that my kids are missing out. Am I a good enough mum? Am I there enough both physically and emotionally?

And so to add in one night a week doing my radio show is scaring the pants off me.

How do I fit everything in? How can I be ‘enough’ at work, on my show, on the blog, as a wife, as a friend, as a volunteer, as a mother?

Yet dropping hours at work will affect us financially, it makes life harder for my husband who will have to do more hours to make up for it, it will affect my team at work, my role and maybe my potential as an employee.

I feel like I can’t do right for doing wrong, like whatever decision I make will negatively impact someone. But I need to think about my body, my mind and my health.

The last surgery broke me, it was so tough to get through and the recovery was horrific. I’m still getting the odd panic attack whenever I think about going to see a doctor or hospital. I’m scared about my future, I’m worried, I’m still in pain, I’m still recovering.

I feel I need to make changes to myself and my lifestyle to self care more. I’m seeing a physiotherapist, I’m looking at my diet, I’m thinking about my attitude and how I can live a more positive and happy life.

On one hand I feel that reducing my hours will allow me down time and a better work life balance which could really benefit both work, the blog and the radio show, but on the other I find this decision upsetting and embarrassing.  I hate feeling like my body is letting me down.

I’ve no idea how best to move forward and I really need to start some planning around the desision to get to a point where I’m happy and comfortable

Anyway I’m sorry there’s no resolution in this post but I’ll update when things change and I’ve made some decisions

✌🏽 & ❤️

 

Sam

Why you need to stop hating and start being kinder to yourself

Last year I did a talk at the Steel Belles Women’s Institute about body image I talk about how my surgeries were the start of feeling good about myself, how when you feel lucky to be alive, it is easier to stop the negativity.  I also talk about passing poor body image down through the generations and the time my kids told me I had long boobies.

Enjoy.

If you would like me to speak at your event, get in touch now.

Who am I?

Sometimes I wonder who I am, especially in times of recovery, I feel the person I am or was drifts away as it’s trapped in a body that in so many ways, has failed me.

Who I feel I am is someone very independent yet right now I am so dependent on those around me.

I feel I’m an adventurer yet I stay in my bed so often.

I feel I’m a worker but I’ve been off work now for a month.

I feel I’m a doer yet I can’t do so many of the things I want to do.

I love cooking and dancing and walking my dogs and having dinner parties and gardening and traveling and visiting people and helping others but right now I struggle to do any of these things.

sam cleasby mizoram aizawl

I know this is temporary but I feel I’ve been in this temporary state since the beginning of the year at least, my hernia was bad from last year and I’ve had two surgeries this year so far so it’s been a while and I suppose it just starts to make you question a lot of things.

Its hard to be unwell for so long but always in the recovery stage, if I knew I’d always be a wheelchair user then I could start to rebuild my life around that, to figure out how to bring the things I love into an accessible way. But when you’re in a place where you should be improving over time it can feel like you’re in limbo.

I don’t want to complain as I know how lucky I am but it’s hard sometimes, I do start to question who I am and how I’ll ever get back to feeling like me.

Whatever happens I know I’ll get there, and I can always answer the question ‘who am I?’ with ‘I’m so bad ass!’

✌🏽 & ❤

Sam x

What NOT to wear this summer if you are fat

The summer months are upon us and magazines and websites are flooded with articles of what to wear and what not to wear.  For the larger ladies, it is apparently a minefield of finding ‘flattering’ clothes and how to cover up.

I’m a size 16 and love fashion, so here is my guide of what not to wear this summer if you are fat.

1. Shame

Fuck the shame, that’s the last thing you should wear.  Your size doesn’t define you and shouldn’t bring feelings of shame.  Shame suggests that you should feel bad about your body.  Your body is wonderful, it is the only one you get and you should celebrate the one you are in.

how to wear a bikini body confidence so bad ass

2. Fear

The worry and fear that others will judge you.  You know what? Some people are dicks and might judge your shape, but those people are horrid and if you were a size 10, they would find something to pick at you about.

sam cleasby stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

3. Hate

“I hate my bum” “I hate my belly” “I hate my arms”

How many times have you said that about yourself? Stop with the hate, if you allow yourself to say that, then you are open to allowing others to say it.  You are teaching your children that it’s ok to say you hate yourself, you are teaching yourself that you are not worthy of love.

Yes, we all may have parts of our bodies that aren’t our favourite but don’t tell yourself you hate your body, because you are listening…

The naked podcast Sam cleaaby

What you should wear…

Anything you feel amazing in!

Don’t allow society to choose your style, wear what makes you happy.  If you love a bikini, wear it!  I’m covered in scars, stretch marks and have an ostomy bag, I am far from the fashion magazine ideal of beach beauty, but I like an all over tan and hate being too hot and so I rock a bikini!

If you don’t love a bikini, then wear what makes you comfortable and happy.  Covering up doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself, being proud of your body doesn’t mean you have to bare all.  Just wear what you love, what makes you feel like a QUEEN!

A nurse is hospital jokingly said to me after my last op that my bikini wearing days were over, and you know what I felt sorry for her! Sorry that she couldn’t imagine how someone like me would feel comfortable wearing a bikini on the beach. NEWSFLASH! I don’t wear a bikini to look good for anyone else! I wear them because I don’t like being too hot, I like an all over tan and I love how I look and feel in one, screw everyone else!!

In this heatwave at the minute, I hope you all can have the confidence to wear whatever you want and I hope you feel amazing.

 

✌🏽& ❤

Sam xx