CT Scans and updates

You may have seen this week on social media that I have been for a CT scan this week and so I thought I would do a quick update.

I believe the hernias are back. I don’t really want to admit that out loud but I think there is something wrong. I am in a lot of pain, my stomach is really swollen and it’s so painful.

CT scan for hernia

CT Scan

So I have had a CT scan and I will be seeing my consultant in a few weeks to get the results and see what the score is. I had the contrast CT where they put it through a cannula and it makes you feel like you have wee’d yourself!

I am devastated. I honestly can’t even think too much about it because I don’t know how I will cope. I know Im not strong enough for another surgery and I don’t know if they will be able to offer any other solutions. The thought of this being my life forever now, being in pain, is too much to bear.

I’m pinning my hopes on it being some awkward swelling, something that will go down on it’s own. But honestly, I don’t feel very hopeful.

These ideas I had of everything being good now are drifting away. My dreams of kayaking and adventuring in our campervan seem less and less likely. But I can’t allow myself to stop and cry because I’m scared if I do, that I will never stop.

Things just all feel quite tough and stressful right now. I feel so unsure on everything, life, work, home. What I want, what I need. I feel like I am on unstable ground and everything could topple at any moment.

I am having to take a lot of pain medication which isn’t helping with the confusion and uncertainty but is necessary to get through the days of pain.

Anyway, Ill update after seeing the docs and let you know what is happening.

Peace and love

Sam xx

Reasons to stay alive play – review

Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. Years later, he chose to write a book about that dark experience and what he learnt through depression and suicidal feelings. That book was Reasons to stay Alive.

The book was a bestseller and has been turned into a stage play of the same name. Last week, I was invited to see the play at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. And oh, how I sobbed…

I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest, I had read the book and found it raw, honest and strangely comforting. As someone who has faced mental health challenges, it certainly hit a nerve and felt very real. But how would it work as a stage play?

Imagined for the stage by Jonathan Watkins, it uses music and movement to portray the realities of living with depression both as the person at the centre of the story and also as the family members.

Reasons to stay alive Sheffield theatres

#ReasonsPlay

It starts with Young Matt at a desperate point in his life when he is considering ending his life. He is led through the darkness by the older version of himself as well as his partner, parents and less than helpful boss.

There were parts that were so real, so honest, that they caused rueful laughs from the audience. You know, that knowing laugh that is saying “Oh fuck, yeah me too!” Other parts were so heartbreaking that they hurt my chest.

What was incredibly clever was that though the play centres on Matt (both old and young), the other characters are far from bit parts. I felt the anguished confusion of his mum, the devotion of his partner and the awkwardness of his dad. I have had times of depression where the darkness swallowed me whole, but watching this play gave me an outsider’s perspective of depression.

For a story about depression, panic attacks and suicidal feelings, it is surprisingly not a big downer. Yes, it was thought provoking, it made me cry and it brought up a lot of feelings that it has taken me a few days to process. But the overlying theme is hope.

‘Life is waiting for you. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it’

Reasons to stay Alive is on at the Crucible Studio till 28th September 2019 and you can get tickets here.

I was invited to a press showing of Reasons to stay alive but I wasn’t paid for this review.

Its World Suicide Prevention Day

Research has shown that men are 3 times more likely to take their own lives than women across the UK – with men alone accounting for 3 quarters of suicide in 2017. 

These figures are just unacceptable. The following was sent to me and comes from Caba. I haven’t been paid in any way for this post.

Spotting the signs of suicidal thoughts in men

According to the mental health charity Mind, many people think about suicide at some point in their lives. Here are some of the things you may think or feel: 

  • Everything’s hopeless – what’s the point in living? 
  • There’s nothing positive in your life, everything’s negative 
  • Everyone would be better off without you 
  • You’re useless, unwanted or unneeded by others 
  • Your unbearable pain is never going to end 
  • You’re physically numb – you feel cut off from your body 
  • Taking your own life is your only option 

Meanwhile, you may also experience things like sleeping problems (including waking too early), changes in your appetite and you may lose or gain weight. Your self-esteem may be very low, and you may try to avoid contact with other people, and feel no need to take care of yourself (including your physical appearance).  

Spotting the signs in others 

Spotting when someone else is thinking about suicide can be difficult. But, if you notice any of your loved ones exhibiting the following signs, then it might be time to step in:  

  • They talk about feelings of hopelessness 
  • They have sudden episodes of rage and anger 
  • They act recklessly and take part in risky activities with no concern for the consequences 
  • They say they feel trapped, and that they can’t see their way out of their problems 
  • They self-harm (this includes misusing drugs or alcohol) 
  • They become increasingly withdrawn or appear anxious and agitated 

The good news is that, according to Mind, the majority of people who have experienced suicidal feelings go on to live fulfilling lives if they get the support they need

How you can help 

If you do think you or someone close to you is experiencing any of these feelings or showing any of the above signs, there are many organisations that can give you the right advice and support.  

If you’re worried about someone or feel like you could do with chatting to a trained, impartial professional, then do not hesitate to contact 1 of the below free helplines. Alternatively, contact your GP or call NHS 111 for an emergency appointment.   

Samaritans 

Call 116 123 any day, any time. If you prefer to express your feelings in writing, email gro.s1574099337natir1574099337amas@1574099337oj1574099337

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) 

CALM is a resource for young men who are feeling unhappy. Call the helpline on 0800 58 58 58

PAPYRUS 

This voluntary organisation aims to support young people thinking about suicide and those who are concerned about a young person. Call 0800 068 41 41

✌🏽&❤

Sam xx

It’s International Men’s Day

In celebration of International Men’s Day I wanted to big up some of the most amazing men!

Of course I have to start with my lovely Timm. Not only has he been my rock in the past few years and supported me through so much, he is also a brilliantly talented man. From photography, to Tramlines to his art collective Responsible Fishing, he is so hard working and creative. He is my favourite boy in the world.

timm cleasby

 

Speaking of Responsible Fishing, my number two is Timm’s partner and best mate James Brunt. Together they run the arts collective coming up with the most amazing ideas and going round the country building huge dens out of cardboard boxes, but he is also an artist in his own right, creating beautiful natural world of art. He is bloody brilliant!

James brunt artist

 

CK Goldiing is a presenter and film maker and his debut short film 61 hugs is a wonderful look at society and the people of Sheffield. Go check him out now, you can find him on Twitter.

CK Goldiing

 

Sheffield’s Lord Mayor Magid Magid is a breath of fresh air and in my opinion, an absolute hero! A British-Somali activist and politician who has served as the Lord Mayor of Sheffield since May 2018. He is the first Somali, the youngest-ever, and the first Green Party councillor to hold the role.

 

Thomas Hough has Crohn’s disease and is an amazing advocate, he works for Crohns and Colitis UK and his adventures around the world inspire so many including me. You can find him on Twitter.

Thoms Hough

 

Ive been a fan of Sheffield’s finest, Jon McClure for many years but seeing him on stage in conversation with Magid this year talking about mental health blew me away. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 and anyone using their platform to lessen the stigma of mental health challenges is a hero in my book. He writes a decent tune too… find him on Twitter.

Jon mcclure

 

I could name so many more awesome men but that’s my lot for today.

Tell me about which men you think are making a difference.

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam x

 

How to survive a road trip with teenagers

Alternate title: how I drove over a thousand miles with three teenagers and managed to not completely lose my mind or abandon them on a highway

We have just got back from our CleasbysAmericanAdventure, a two week road trip from Long Beach up the Western coast of America to San Francisco and it has been a blast! But as any parent of teenagers can imagine, there were times when traveling in a car with 13, 15 and 17 year olds wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. There were tears, shouting and tantrums and that was just me!

I adore my kids, but honestly, sometimes parenting teenagers can be challenging and putting a family into a tin box of an SUV for 14 days becomes a bit of a pressure cooker situation, but hooray! We survived it! And so I thought I would put down a few of the lessons learnt from road tripping with the family.

surviving a roadtrip with teens

Space matters

Whether it is in the car or a hotel, space matters. Go for the biggest car you can afford, squashing multiple teens into the back of a mini is asking for trouble! If possible, can you get a car with two back rows? We went for a medium sized SUV, basically the biggest we could get on our budget and to be honest, it was still quite small.  This meant daily arguments of who went in the middle, who was touching whose leg, who was breathing in an annoying way…

Move around, let them swap seats for different sections of the journey, I also sat in the back sometimes making sure each of them got (equal) amounts of time in the front passenger seat.  This actually was quite nice, it gave Timm a change in front seat buddy, a new DJ and I got to hang out and chat with the other two.

The same goes with accommodation, due to us being a family of 5 it can be tough on a budget.  We tried to get family rooms or airbnb apartments but this still tended to mean two double beds and a single meaning two of them had to share… You honestly would have thought we’d asked them to tear off their faces and rub them in salt rather than to share a sleeping space with a sibling.

In hindsight I wish we’d paid more attention to this, as the air bnbs where everyone had their own bed were so much more peaceful!

Your idea of relaxing and theirs may be completely different – and that’s OK!

So imagine the scene, we pull up to a buffalo ranch, like actual real life buffalos are roaming in the garden, it’s the most beautiful site I have ever seen.  The house we are staying in looks like it’s from an old western movie and we are surrounded by trees, animals, sky and little else.  It was amazing and I was so proud that Id found this hidden gem.  We quickly unpack and I am raring to get out and enjoy the views, I grab a sun hat, a g&t and a book and head to the garden to take in the awe inspiring beauty.

I look around, waiting for the teens to join me, after all what else would they want to do? But they are no where to be seen! Have they fallen down a well? Has a buffalo gored them and are they lying injured calling to Lassie to find me? No.  The little shits are all in their own beds, searching for the internet code, watching youtube, playing computer games and messaging their mates.

For a moment, I was FUMING.  Were they taking the piss?? We’d brought them to the most heavenly place, I had been planning this for months and they wanted to lay in bed on phones and ipads??? THE UNGRATEFUL LITTLE SHITS!!!!

Then I took a breath.  I remembered that we had all been together for the past 6 hours in a car, we’d stopped at multiple view points where they’d trailed out of the car and posed for photos at the spots I loved.  I remembered that for me, relaxing is sitting in the sun and reading a book but that for them, it was chatting with their mates or playing a game and I realised that is all ok.  We can have chill out time in our own ways, whether I understand them or not.

surviving a roadtrip with teens

Electronics – yes or no?

Do you have a total ban on phones/laptops/ipads on your road trip? Well if you do, you are a better person than I am.  Honestly, the devices saved all of our sanity and kept them happy.

I don’t allow electronics at the dinner table, that’s my only rule and they were left in the house when we were on days out, but otherwise I let them amuse themselves with their devices.

Also there were times where I just wanted to scroll through Instagram and look on pinterest and so it would have been a bit hypocritical! And teenagers can sniff out hypocrisy and unfairness at a mile away!

On a similar note; find the wifi codes asap, they are the best currency you will ever have.

surviving a roadtrip with teens

Ask for their ideas

Get them involved in the planning stages, ask them where they want to go, what they want to do. I got mine to do a bit of research and let me know their ideas.  A family holiday with teens is nothing like a holiday with younger kids where they go and do whatever you want, this should be a collaboration.  If you want them to go see a bridge you want to see, then expect to do something they want to do too.

As it happens, my kids ideas ended up being some of the best days out.  They all wanted to go to Universal Studios and to be honest, this is not mine or Timm’s idea of a good day out, but it was the only thing the three of them agreed on and so we went for it, and it was joyous!! We all had an absolute blast and they appreciated that we listened to them.

Other examples were the Getty Museum, the Queen Mary ‘haunted’ ship and breakfast at Denny’s – all brilliant times and things we may not have thought of otherwise.

The joy of teens is they’re (usually) OK to be left alone for a while!

I have done my time of having a child attached to my hip 24 hours a day, those days are passed and now I can leave them for periods of time. Praise be!

When we rolled into Santa Cruz after a long day of travelling and sight seeing at around 8pm, the kids groaned and flopped onto beds and put the TV on. Timm and I needed to stretch our legs and not watch repeats of Seinfeld and so we left them in the motel and headed out for a few hours.

I do still worry about leaving them, especially in another country, but the eldest is almost 18! We left them with a phone and instructions to not open the door and to call us if they needed anything and went out.  When we got back a couple of hours later, they literally hadn’t moved a muscle.  And we’d had a nice time!

surviving a roadtrip with teens

Cold, hard cash

Before we went away, we explained to the kids that we would be buying everything we needed and a few treats thrown in but if they wanted to buy extra things then they needed to make sure they had their own cash.  We gave them plenty of warning for this to save wages/spending money and then gave them free reign to spend their own money as they wanted.

This meant that the eldest had £300 whilst the youngest had £30 but it worked for us, there wasn’t any unfairness as it was money they’d all earned separately. (The youngest does chores for weekly spending money, the middle one did some extra jobs to earn spends and the eldest works in a bar/restaurant so had his wages).

We still treated them, they all got a Harry Potter wand from Universal courtesy of us and we bought American candy and obviously all food/drinks/treats but it meant we weren’t having to say ‘no’, we were saying ‘can you afford it?’

Get used to listening to them talk crap

This may sound harsh, but it is true. At least in my family! I spent two weeks listening to them bang on about this youtuber and why he is amazing, and that computer game and detailed explanations of the best ways to smash level 57.  I’ve heard about how Jack and Leonie did it at Julia’s party but Jess told Simon that Louis had smoked weed and passed out in Bella’s sister’s bed…

There were times when I smiled and nodded but inside I was imagining what it would be like if I ever met Oprah and how we would become BFFs, but there were other times when I revelled in these glimpses into the usually unseen and unheard lives of my kids. Times where it was wonderful to have the time to lie on the beach chatting to my kids rather than rushing about trying to juggle work, housework and life in general.

Have some idea of a plan. And then ignore the plan

I am a planner, I love to organise and to find new and exciting things for us to do, Ive spent the last few months on pinterest scouring the internet for all the best places we could go and I had a general plan for each day we were away.  I do this because I don’t want to miss out on anything that we would regret later. BUT it is also important to not stick so strictly to a plan that any spontaneity goes out of the window.

There will be hiccups along the way, days when your plan just doesn’t work out, or when you find something so much better! Especially if you are disabled or have a chronic illness, there were lots of times during our holiday when I just wasn’t well enough to do the things we’d planned.  I could have let this get me down but instead I tried to just go with the flow, my kids have grown up with my illness and are aware of my limitations and so sometimes you just have to give in to it.

surviving a roadtrip with teens

Enjoy them

I may sound like the teens are a thorn in my side, that holidaying with them was a chore. This simply isn’t true, I have adored spending time with them as a family unit but also one to one.  Yes, there have been times where their arguing over whose leg was slightly over the imagined barrier between them in the car or when they take forever in the shower whilst you are all queuing for the same bathroom, but I have loved it as a whole.

Someone who’s kids were all grown up once told me “You never know when it’s your last” – be that last time they get in your bed after a nightmare, the last time they hold your hand to cross the road, the last time they genuinely care about your opinion on whether they should wear that outfit.  And for us, this feels like it could be the last time we all have a big holiday together as our family dimensions stand right now.

In three weeks, my eldest turns 18.  He will be an adult, legally responsible for himself and who knows where life will take him, and so I made sure I enjoyed the time we had together, as I have no idea when it will be my last with him.

 

So there you go, I hope some of this helps! I think the main thing is to remember that you are privileged to be going on holiday and so try and make the most of every moment.  I love to travel and wish we could do it more, so despite the fractious times, I knew that in no time at all, it would all be over and we would be back to normal life, work, school, college.  Busy lives where sometimes we don’t have enough time for one another, so if you are planning a trip, have a blast and enjoy it!

Sam xx

Why Miriam Margolyes was wrong to judge a book by it’s cover

Miriam Margolyes is the wonderfully outspoken actress from Harry Potter and star of recent TV show The Real Life Marigold Hotel.  She spoke out this week about an incident at Waverley Train Station in Edinburgh, when a young man refused to give up his seat for her.

Miriam told the Daily Mail that she has arthritis and was carrying a backpack when she looked for a seat on the station platform, when a man refused to give up his seat and pointed to one further down the platform, she emptied a water bottle over his head.

‘I was really p****d off. It’s really hard being old — it’s horrible. I was in pain. I was really hurting,’ she says today. ‘So I just thought, ‘F*** you!’ and I took my bottle of water out, took off the lid and poured it over his head.’

Now, as much as I do like Miriam, and I think that if you are able, you should give up your seat to those who may need it more than you.  Older people, people with mobility issues, pregnant women, all those who may need a bit of assistance, but you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

sam cleasby tut disabled toilets more than meets the eye

Last week I was at the coast, it was only 4 or 5 weeks after surgery and it was a scary feat to be away from home.  I was away with art group Responsible Fishing UK for a project with Coastival, I wrote a story that was transformed into an art installation, my words were carved into tubes and became floating lights in a story trail.  I am really proud to be part of this and though I wasn’t able to be part of the installation, I wanted to be there to see the finished product.

responsible fishing uk a light to guide

Anyway, we stayed in a big holiday home with our friends who looked after me and were just brilliant, one afternoon my friend had to nip to a shopping centre and I wanted to get out of the house.  It was good to just be outside for a short while, after 10-15 minutes though, I was struggling.  My stomach was sore and my back aching, so I went to sit on a bench whilst my pal finished her shopping.

As I sat, an old man came and sat next to me, then another.  Then I saw an old lady shuffling towards the bench and thought ‘oh crap’.  I knew it would be expected of me to stand and give up my seat and as she approached, I was panicking wondering how to deal with this.  I knew that though inside I was in pain and I was starting to worry about a bag leak, on the outside I looked like a young, healthy, able bodied person.

She got closer and the two men looked to me, I hesitated, embarrassed and then one man stood up to give his seat.  I could feel the judgement and so I bit the bullet and spoke up.

‘I’m ever so sorry for not giving my seat, only I’m recently out of surgery and I really need to sit right now’

All three were polite and kind and told me not to worry about it and to rest my legs and I have to say I was relieved, yet I was a bit embarrassed that I had to explain my personal medical issues.

more than meets the eye sam cleasby sheffield so bad ass

So when I read this story, I couldn’t help but relate my own experience to it.  The Daily Mail describe Miriam as “a 4ft 11in, 74-year-old — her bosom alone is the size of small hay bale — with a knapsack on her back, a wheelie case in one hand and hobbling in pain from an arthritic knee (she’s having a knee operation in May).” and only says the man was young and on his phone.

It is easy to assume the worst, but the reality is that we have no idea of his circumstances, perhaps he had his own, less visible, health issues.  Perhaps he’d had surgery, perhaps he had back issues, perhaps he had one leg! Maybe he had anxiety problems or autism.  We just don’t know and as the More Than Meets The Eye campaign shouts about, there are so many invisible or hard to see medical issues that millions of people deal with every day.

Does Miriam have the right to be pissed off that she doesn’t get a seat? Yes, if that’s how she feels.  But does she have the right to judge all those around her who aren’t 4’11 arthritic pensioners, does she fuck…