Safety & Sanity

It goes without saying that we’re going through some strange times at the moment. Personally, I’ve not left the house in more than three weeks and I now find myself writing about long weekends of lockdown rather than long weekends of running.

I’m not going to lie to you, being under the governments shielding measures is tough. This time last year, I was living with my parents recovering from surgery. I was just beginning to find my feet but what do you know, I’m living with my parents again!

Whilst I can’t help but feel like it’s a little bit of a regression in my recovery, coming back to the countryside was definitely the right move for my health. Both mental and physical.  In Oxford, I live in a one bedroom flat with the only outside space shared with about sixty other households. It’s a lovely garden by the river, but not safe for me to spend time in at the moment. The fact that my parents have a garden means that I’ve been able to spend time outside. Their house is also big enough that I can spend time with them when I’m craving human interaction, but I can also maintain some of the independence that I’ve only recently got back.

My main struggle is exercise. I brought my running shoes home with me before I was told not to leave the house and they’re staring at me from the hallway. I’m really missing running so I’ve put a call out on social media for a treadmill in the local area, but no luck as of yet. For now, I’m confined to exercise videos in front of the tv!

On the plus side, the weather was gorgeous this weekend, so I’ve managed to spend some time in the sun and the levels of stir craziness have reduced significantly. Hopefully the we’ll get some nice weather during the bank holiday weekend too so I can keep my self both safe and sane!

 

 

 

Be a superhero

I’m a day late with the blogging this week because it’s taken me a little while to process the weekends news. I wanted to take the time to write a meaningful post, rather than an angry rant.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock since yesterday evening, or you’ve turned off the news for your own mental wellbeing, here’s an update: the government announced yesterday that one and a half million people would be told not to leave their homes as part of shielding measures, introduced to protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19. Today, it’s been revealed that such extreme measures were introduced partly because so many people across the country had seemingly ignored government guidelines on social distancing.

The list of people being advised to shield themselves from the pandemic is made up of those with respiratory conditions and those with past or present health conditions that cause weakened immune systems. It was confirmed by my doctors this morning that I am on that list, so for the next twelve weeks I will not leave the house. I will spend as much of my time as possible away from my parents, who I’m currently living with, and the only human interaction I’ll have outside of my mum and dad will be by phone, text or video call. My parents are also isolating themselves as much as possible. My mum is working from home and my dad is only leaving the house to go to work, where he only works with a few other people, and to get supplies.

Now that I’ve got you all up to date on the state affairs right now, here are some pleas:

Unless it’s absolutely essential, please stay at home. 

If you can make adjustments to your job to enable you to work from home, please do so. 

If you do have to go out, please keep your distance from other people. Someone stood right behind my dad in the supermarket queue today and as a consequence of that I can’t go anywhere near him for the next seven days in case he develops symptoms. Not an easy  feat when I live in the same house as him. 

I know that the government have said that for the vast majority of the population there is not a severe threat due to COVID-19 but that’s not the point. The point is that for the minority there is a severe threat. For the one and a half million minority that I am a part of COVID-19 doesn’t mean two weeks off work and a cough, it means dying.

This is a real chance for the whole country to be superheroes and save the lives of people like me. All you need to do is stay at home, so please, please, please do so.

Delays and Deficiencies

Until earlier this week, I’d hoped that I’d never have to write this blog post, but unfortunately the time has come.

I’m sure you’ve all seen in the news over the last few days that the London Marathon has been postponed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst it’s not the scenario I was hoping for when I set about my training back in August, I believe that it was definitely the right call. We’re all being told to be sensible about where we go and how big our gatherings are. It’s safe to say that millions of spectators coming to London to watch forty thousand people running probably goes beyond the event size considered sensible right now.

Whether I run the marathon, now scheduled for 4th October, remains to be seen. I’m on the waiting list for more surgery so I’ve got to hope that comes far enough in advance of the marathon for me to get back on my feet and get some training in! If that’s not the case, then I’ll have to defer, but either this year or next, I WILL run the London Marathon.

For me, COVID-19 doesn’t just pose the problem of delaying the marathon. Several months of prolonged high heart rate in the lead up to my illness, coupled with the strain on my body of spending the last eighteen months fighting off infection after infection means that I’m fairly immunodeficient. This means that for me COVID-19 poses a real threat.

For that reason, I’ve chosen to socially distance myself as much as possible. I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home, so there’s no real reason to risk getting ill by getting on the bus to work every day. I’m applying the same rules to my personal life too – no more choir rehearsals, no more visits to the gym and certainly no more weekend afternoons spent in the pubs of Oxford with friends. 

I’m nearing the end of day three of this regime and I’m bored already – it’s going to be a long couple of months!

So, for those of you beginning social distancing like me, I hope you’re okay, I know it’s not easy. To those of you who are still going about your daily lives, please remember to check in on those more vulnerable than you. They’re going to need all the support they can get.

Also, go wash your hands. Now.

The show must go on

There’s been lots of speculation recently about whether the London Marathon will even take place this year because of the spread of COVID-19. Whilst for many people in the midst of training this is disheartening (according to social media, that is), it’s just another stumbling block for me.

My point of view is this: In the last 14 months, I’ve had six ear infections (one of which very nearly killed me), been seen by 3 different doctors surgeries, spent 31 nights in four different hospitals, had two ambulance rides (one of which was in a show storm), spent six months self administering intravenous antibiotics and started adapting to life post brain injury. Whilst I’d happily accept that as the total amount of hardship I’m ever going to face in my life, in all likelihood, that’s not going to be the case. So, in times of uncertainty such as those pretty much everyone on the planet is going through at the moment, what can we do but carry on? I agree that we can all take measures to help the cause and prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, but at the same time, it’s important to listen to the experts and not succumb to the scaremongering that appears all over social media.

For that reason, my training this week has been business as usual, and will continue to be until either I cross the finish line, or I’m told that the race is cancelled. Last weeks run was very long, so I gave my poor old legs a break this week and worked on improving my time over shorter distances. I’m hoping that if I work on my pace during the week I can translate some of that speediness in to my longer runs. There are only seven weeks between now and race day, so it’s getting scarily close! Whilst I’m really looking forward to the day, I’m also looking forward to getting my Sunday mornings back! I kind of miss lazing around my flat in my pyjamas with copious amounts of coffee. Obviously I can’t run a marathon in my pyjamas, but if there are any volunteers to provide me with a coffee (or something stronger) at each mile marker then I’m all ears!

Twenty five for 25

Today is my 25th birthday. In my experience, a twenty fifth birthday celebration typically involves a gathering of friends and perhaps a bottle or two of something alcoholic. As the marathon is now less than two months away and my birthday has fallen on a Sunday, I decided that my birthday celebrations this year had to incorporate some form of training. So, earlier today I donned my running shoes and ran twenty five kilometres. One kilometre for every year of my life! My goodness did it hurt.

Thankfully, one of my closest friends front doors is exactly twenty five kilmometres away from mine, so I was running towards a home cooked birthday roast!

The run was horrendous. What other way could you describe spending a Sunday running more than half a marathon in the remnants of a storm after hosting a birthday party the previous night? However horrible the experience was though, I did it. I travelled twenty five kilometres under my own steam and I’m incredibly proud of myself. An unconventional way to celebrate a birthday, but the cherry on top of a brilliant week nonethless.

Earlier in the week, bidding on my online auction closed on an incredible profit figure of £750! That means that I’ve hit my £4,000 fundraising target for Headway Oxfordshire. I may have beat my fundraising target, but that was never the end goal. I’ve got two months left to double my distance so it’s time to buckle down and focus on getting ready for race day in eight weeks time.

Although I’ve reached my fundraising target, I’d never say no to another donation or two! You can donate online here or throw cash at me if you see me in person. Just make sure I’m having a good brain day so I’m coordinated enough to catch it!

Nine weeks to go!

I’ve been in a happy bubble for days, all because of the kind-heartedness and generosity of the people of Oxford.

On Thursday evening, I hosted Brain Buster – a quiz night in aid of Headway at the Oxford Retreat. I was supported by colleagues, friends and a team from Headway all of whom helped make the night a fantastic success. The generosity of local businesses in donating prizes for my raffle means that I managed to sell hundreds of raffles tickets in addition to selling out the event and I’m now only £500 from my fundraising target!

So, this post is to say thank you. Whether you bought a raffle ticket, helped me source prizes, came to the event or shared a social media post about my cause. Thank you. It’s because of people like you that my fundraising is currently sitting at £3,500.

Whilst it’s going to take a whole heap of happy to beat my feelings about Thursday, this weekend has also been pretty incredible. I got to see my family for the first time since Christmas, which involved a cuddle with my gorgeous niece. Then, I got up this morning and ran 15 km. Unfortunately, my hearing aid ran out of battery about 500m in so I really struggled to keep a constant pace without music, but I persevered and completed the run! I’m beginning to think I should practice running and changing a hearing aid battery at the same time though – not sure it’ll last for the whole of race day if I’m listening to music the whole time!

So, I’m going in to this week with a load of positivity. Nine weeks from now, I’ll be sitting on my sofa much as I am now, but with post marathon legs. It’s been a long old journey to get here and my journey will by no means stop when I complete the marathon, but I’m so  happy that I’ve been able to get through my training and get so close to my fundraising target. I’d really love it if we could meet my target before I cross the start line nine weeks today! You can donate online, or you can take a look at my auction and place your bids until it closes on Friday!

The pieces of my former self

If you knew me before my brain injury then you’ll know that I used to spend a lot of time sitting at my piano making music. I wasn’t the greatest pianist, but there are several pieces that I loved to sit down and just play.

Post injury, I’ve really struggled with my coordination and that’s had a big impact on my ability to play. I’ll play a piece perfectly with my right hand, but my left hand just can’t keep up!

So, in an effort to get another of my favourite pastimes back, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time sitting at the piano recently. It’s really slow progress as concentrating on something so much makes me really tired and I can only get through a few bars at a time.

Thankfully, the hard work is slowly paying off and I can now play a few sections of my favourite piece. I’ve come such a long way since I was discharged from hospital that it’s strange to think there are still little chunks of my former life I haven’t got back. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m looking forward to working on putting the pieces of myself back together.

When I’m not at the piano or out running, I’ve been spending all of my free time organising my fundraising event which is now four days away! It’s incredible to see how supportive the local community have been and I can’t wait until the event! Bidding is open on my online auction over at https://www.26milesauction.com . Theres been a lot of interest so far, so make sure you place your bids now so you don’t miss out!

Time to Talk

I’ve made no secret of the mental health issues that the early stages of my illness caused. Back in Autumn of 2018, which feels like a lifetime ago now, I was struggling to function. I was scared to leave the house and I spent most of my time curled up on the sofa hiding from my responsibilities under a blanket.

What I haven’t spoken about very much at all is the mental struggle of coming to terms with a completely new version of yourself after an illness as serious as mine.

Thursday 6th February was Time to Talk Day; an initiative created by mental health charity Time to Change, with the intention of starting more conversations about mental health. The rise of #TimeToTalk to the trending section of Twitter made me decide that it’s time for me to talk. I’ve spoken in depth about most of the physical limitations that come with a brain injury, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of how that can mentally affect a person.

It’s not surprising that I’m a completely different person to who I was eighteen months ago. I have crippling fatigue, difficulties with speech, concentration and coordination and, to top it all off, I’m partially deaf. I think it’s impossible to go through everything I went through, come out with the list of disabilities I have and not have a new outlook on life.

Whilst I’ve understood the changes to my physical and mental limits, I’m a long way from coming to terms with the new version of myself. Emotionally, I’m still a twenty-something year old woman who wants to go out and live her life to the fullest. Two years ago that’s exactly what I was doing, so knowing that my disability now prevents me from doing that is a difficult pill to swallow. There are days when I feel really low because I’ve had to cancel plans with a friend when my fatigue is really bad. There are times when I stay at home and avoid doing something I really want to do because I can’t cope with the idea of a big crowd of people on that particular day.

For me, training for the marathon and fundraising for Headway is my way of starting to come to terms with the prospect of a permanent disability. It’s a way of proving to myself  that even if there are days where I really struggle to cope, both physically and emotionally, I can still achieve my goals. Whilst there are days where thoughts of the version of myself I’ve lost bring me to tears, the new version of myself isn’t so bad. She’s strong. She’s a fighter. She’s not going to let her disability stop her living.

She’d also really love it if you could make a donation to Headway – only £1,300 to go!

 

Rest – the key to success

I’ve briefly mentioned in previous posts how important it is for brain injury survivors to find balance between going out and getting on with their lives and getting plenty of rest.

Until this week, I’d not realised quite how true that really is.

Last week was a really rough week brain wise, to the point where I couldn’t complete the run I’d got planned. But instead of letting it get to me and delay my progress, I took a few days away from my trainers and made sure I got plenty of rest throughout the week. Today, I went back to my training plan and not only did I complete my 10k as planned, but I ran it in under an hour!

There are so many factors that could have contributed to my success this morning, ranging from the extra rest, right through to the copious amounts of wine my friends and I drank last night. I’m going to assume it was the rest though and continue with that strategy rather thank drinking my way through the next few months!

So, the key to getting good at running is to make sure you get plenty of rest, and I’m beginning to find out the key to fundraising too! According to Virgin Money Giving, I’m 68% of the way to my total – that’s only just over £1,000 left to go! There’s lots of interest in my silent auction, which goes live very soon! You can sign up online here, or keep an eye on my social media accounts for new lots being announced!

Fatigue & Failure

This week has been a rough week for my brain and I.

Fatigue has hit me like a ton of bricks and I’ve spent most of my evenings and pretty much all of my weekend napping the time by to try and give my brain the rest it needs.

When I woke up this morning, I was feeling better, so I decided to continue my usual Sunday morning routine of eating a huge bowl of porridge before hitting the streets of Oxford for a run!

It turns out, that I wasn’t feeling better at all, and I could tell a couple of hundred metres in to the seven and a half kilometres I’d got scheduled that I was in for a rough ride! I had every intention of sticking it out to the end, but running when you’re fighting your brain is difficult. I couldn’t concentrate, which meant that my breathing was wrong and I couldn’t find an even pace. Pretty soon after I’d hit the one kilometre mark, I was having to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

Four kilometres in, I had to call it a day. I was tripping my way round the route more than I was running and I need to make sure I’m in one piece to continue my training!

So, not a good week training wise, but I’m not going to let one failure stop me. I’ll get some rest and go back to training stronger than I was before.

Thankfully, this week hasn’t been all bad. Preparations for my event, Brain Buster, are well underway and I was so excited to finalise my auction listing yesterday! I’m going to be revealing some of the auction lots over the next few days and the full listing will be revealed next weekend! If you want to be in with a chance of buying some of the incredible lots on offer then make sure you sign up to get an email when bidding goes live!

It’s not too late to sponsor me either! After a rough week in training, I could really do with a few of my lovely readers clicking the donate button to spur me on!