Travelling is something that has always made me feel free. Experiencing new cultures, places and people is one of life's greatest joys. That can be hard when you're dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome, an invisible illness that can leave you bedridden or low at any time but, I refuse to give in and give up.
Im going to be living my life free. By using diet and exercise I am helping to free myself from my illness. I'm going to be free to explore the world. We all deserve freedom and happiness no matter what limitations we've been given.
I hope you'll join my on my journey to freedom <3
One of the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue is insomnia. Thankfully for me it doesn’t show up too often but when it does, its a bitch.
Once in a while, I’ll have a night where I lie in bed, completely unable to sleep. Then I get frustrated that I can’t sleep which makes it all worse and the cycle continues. I’m sure you get it right? It happens to everyone once in a while.
Problem is, one night of no sleep can knock me for days. Right now, I am exhausted in a way that has completely stripped me of any ability to focus on tasks that require mental energy.
That means things like work, cleaning, updating my social media, washing my hair, cooking etc. Anything that requires active engagement suddenly becomes 10x harder for a few days afterwards.
Since I’m not a student anymore, I actually need to work a good amount of house (because rent is a thing.) Issue is, after a night of no sleep, I have no ability to focus and hence can’t work without triggering a huge dip. That just adds to stress since it adds to financial worry.
Living with a chronic illness affects so much, everyday. It affects work, finance, relationships, friendships etc and so a sleepless night hits hard.
Things to do when this strikes
There are tons of guides on how to go to sleep when you can’t. As much as I’ve tried, most of these techniques just don’t work for me, so here are a few things you can do when you can’t sleep to make the experience a bit less rubbish.
I don’t know about you but when I can’t sleep, it sends me into a panic because I know of the consequences. Taking time to acknowledge the reality of the situation and try to stop panicking can help you feel a tad better. Meditation can help calm the mind and put you in a better mental state to face the rest of the night.
Have a cuppa
Call it the British in me but a good cup of tea is always a good way to help relax. Put the kettle on and make yourself a hot drink but make sure it’s decaf. Adding caffeine to your body is not going to help!
Get out the room
If you can’t sleep, staying in bed can actually be a detriment. The location becomes a stressful situation of tossing and turning so stepping out of that situation can be really helpful. Maybe go down to the kitchen and make yourself that cuppa?
Lavender Lavender Lavender
In my previous blog post, I mentioned how much I love Lavender essential oil to help me sleep. There are so many awesome lavender products as well as oils, such as lavender teddies that you can put in the microwave (they’re so cute!). As well as being good to help sleep, lavender is a relaxing scent in general so if you’re like me and panicking at 4am that you need to be awake in a few hours then a bit of lavender to calm to the mind can help.
Sleepless nights suck and they suck even more if you have a chronic illness. Sometimes there is nothing you can do but power through. Make sure you take it easy over the next couple of days and cut yourself some slack.
One of the most important things for people with chronic fatigue is to make sure we get a good amount of sleep.
I have had struggle sleeping my entire life. If it is noisy around me then there is almost 0% chance that I will manage to get a good night’s rest. It’s the same when I’m in unfamiliar locations, its sometimes a struggle to feel at ease, and in turn, to sleep.
With my CFS, it isn’t just the amount of sleep that I struggle with, it is the quality of sleep. My quality of sleep is rubbish. No matter how much I sleep in a night, I wake up feeling exhausted.
Every. Single. Day.
Julie, the PT I was seeing (who was essentially more like an overall life coach 😂), recommended I start to look into essential oils and what they could do for me. I’ve never really thought about them before and had only tried various different sleeping tablets.
On her recommendation, I decided to look up a lavender essential oil. She told me that it was important to make sure the oil was 100% pure and so I ordered this little baby off amazon.
The beautiful purple plant is known to have sleep aiding properties. It has been used to treat insomnia as well as non-sleep central issues such as anxiety and depression(it is not a replacement for medication).
To get the oil out of the plant, a process called steam distillation is used. This pure lavender oil isn’t just used in this form, but can also be added to soaps, gels, candles and even certain foods!
There are a few different ways to use your lavender oil:
One way to use the lavender oil is via aromatherapy. Using an essential oil diffuser is a great way to do it. I really want one of these so if you fancy buying me one shoot me a message ;).
All you need to do is add water and a few drops of oil- and the diffuser does the rest. A lovely lavender scented mist will be blown out into the room and all you need to do is breathe.
Apply Onto the Skin
I was told to add a drop on my finger to the top of my mouth or on the soles of my feet, but I’ve read a few things saying that you shouldn’t do that with 100% pure oil. It should be diluted with a carrier oil first (eg coconut, sunflower, avocado, sweet almond oil etc )
Since essential oils are fat soluble, they will be absorbed into the skin no problem.
Put a drop or two onto a tissue and give it a sniff! Put the tissue near (but not on) your nose and take deep breaths. Maybe use this as an opportunity to meditate! Taking slow, deep breaths with a calming scent surrounding you will help to calm your body and mind.
As an alternate to basic inhalation and using a diffuser, adding a few drop of lavender oil to a bowl of just-below-boiling water creates a steam that you can breathe in. Just place a towel over your head and keep breathe in the steam from a good distance away. Too close and the steam could scold and too far away and you won’t reap the benefits.
Use Lavender Essential Oil to Help with Your Sleep
It’s all natural and all good!
Have you tried it? Tell me what you think in the comments below.
I don’t know about you, but coffee is my life blood. I live, breathe and practically cry the beans.
I loved living in Newcastle. Uni was definitely one of the best few years of my life and I could not have gotten through it without coffee.
Whether you’re a flat white kinda queen or a cortado king, I have complied a list of the best non-big boy-chain coffee shops for all your Arabica needs.
I don’t know if it’s written in the contract that everyone who works in coffee trader has to be a lovely person, because everyone I interacted with was just so nice!
I decided to try the latte as they told me that it was their most popular coffee drink and I was not disappointed. It was smooth and velvety, just what I want in a latte, and the pattern on top gave it that little extra oomph. I also just hadto add a splash of honeycomb syrup from their extensive collection of flavours.
Try a slice of the carrot cake, I definitely recommend it!
Coffee Trader has a really chilled out vibe. Whether you’re with friends, meeting someone for work or even just going to study this is a great place to do so.
Here are some key facts about the café:
Non-dairy alternatives?: Yes
Charge for them?: Not for soy, 20p for Oat and Coconut
Location: Just off Northumberland St. 16 Northumberland St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7EL
Although the name is a little 2017 cringe, YOLO is great if you want something quick and cheap without sacrificing quality. As part of The Stack, an awesome shopping location, the inside of YOLO is really small so if you’re with a group of friends, sitting in might be tricky. Despite this, the interior is super chic and gives the space a cute, boutiquey vibe.
I ordered a Flat White and that qualified for the £1.50 coffee offer! All their 8oz coffee’s are only £1.50, meaning I could get a proper treat (because the coffee is awesome) whilst not feeling guilty about spending.
Be careful- the coffee’s here are HOT! It helps to get a sleeve and make sure to give it a minute if you don’t want a burnt tongue (I learnt that the hard way!).
Non-dairy alternatives?: Yup
Charge for them?: No cost
Camber was the one that surprised me the most whilst compiling this list. Being above a cycle shop, you wouldn’t think that the décor would be any good, right? Wrong. Camber is absolutely beautiful, with light wood tables and lots of greenery. The natural light also gives the room a really calming atmosphere.
Out of all the cafes I visited, this was the best place to come and work. The Wifi is free and fast and there are tons of tables with a lot of space.
I ordered a Vanilla Iced Latte with the house blend. What I liked about this one was that it did not taste syrupy at all, which can be a problem in flavoured iced coffees.
These guys don’t just make good coffee, they also know their stuff. They have multiple blends to choose from, with a few different origins- I for one can’t wait to go back and try some more! (Also bonus point: the staff here were so lovely to chat to!)
Like Camber, these guys know their stuff when it comes to coffee. They have multiple blends to try, including two from Brazilian female roasters (yass feminism, big thumbs up from me!), and sell their coffee in bags if you want to take some home.
PLC has a cool, edgy vibe but is a pretty good place to work too due to its free Wifi!
I got a Flat White, which came in a glass as opposed to a mug, something which made me feel very fancy- I’m not going to lie! The coffee itself was quite intense, so if you don’t like a very strong flavour I would recommend trying a longer drink, but for strong coffee lovers this is the drink for you. I also had a cheeky monch on a beautiful Dulce de Leche banana loaf (the slice was quite thin- still tasted good though!)
Non-dairy alternatives?: Yes
Charge for them?: 20p (they are considering getting rid of it!)
Location: Opposite Central Station. 1 Pink Ln, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 5DW
Campus Coffee had the glow up of the century when it turned into The Grand last summer. Not only did the coffee significantly improve, but the light blue themed décor is stunning! If it is before 4 (sadly it closes then), I would choose to stay on campus when I was a student and get my drink here 100%.
They also sell sandwiches, pasties and cakes which makes it a super lovely spot for students to take a nice break from studying.
This round I was on a cappuccino without the chocolate (its healthier that way right?) and it was pretty good! It’s awesome to have a place that does such great coffee on campus.
Non-dairy alternatives?: Yes (soy and oat)
Charge for them?: 30p for oat
Location: Newcastle University Campus. 162 Northumberland St.
So there you have it! Five of my favourite Coffee Shops in Newcastle City Centre. Next time you’re procrastinating, try procaffinating instead and check them out!
Something huge has happened guys. I graduated! Being in the class of 2020 means my physical graduation sadly wont take place for a few months but the diploma is in my (virtual) hands and I am officially free of organised education forever!!!!!
Now why am I making a huge deal out of it?
Studying with CFS
First of all anyone making it though uni- regardless of their grade- deserves a parade because we’ve all worked damn hard and deserve to celebrate.
However, for me personally, graduating has a much deeper meaning. This past year, my chronic fatigue syndrome had me thinking that maybe I wouldn’t be able to make it. Often I would have to miss lectures in the morning due to being left bed bound by it.
Focusing on lectures, essays, coursework and exams took a mental toll on my far more than it would for the average student. Often I could only work a couple of hours a day before my brain was so exhausted I couldn’t comprehend words on the page.
To be frank, being a student with CFS/ME was sh*t.
It wasn’t just lectures I was missing either. I barely went out drinking when my friends did because I either didn’t feel up to it, or I had things to do the next day and couldn’t afford to spend the day in recovery (not a hangover lol). Especially in Newcastle, there is a drinking culture so that ended up being a lot of nights out/parties missed.
There were times that I had a bad dip in front of people which, at the time, seemed really embarrassing. Lucking the majority of people around me were really nice and helpful and often helped me to the taxi that I had to get because I didn’t have the ability to walk home.
I remember at the start of my second year, when I first started to feel ill. I would miss lectures and see multiple different doctors and nurses to try and figure out what was wrong with me (who never took me seriously and just said well its another virus…)
Two and a half years later, I have my diagnosis and am starting to learn how to manage my life, but back then never even considered what my life now would be like.
Ok so I know it sounds all doom and gloom so far… but now here’s where it gets good.
I pushed through all of that.
Every. Single. Bit.
Every dip; every missed lecture; every missed party and nights out; every time I cried in my bedroom about what my illness was doing to me- all of it never stopped me. I did it. I graduated.
Life wasn’t always so bad
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the time sucked but overall, I had an incredible time at uni and will miss it like hell.
I am really lucky to have had such important friends and staff who helped me along the way.
Without these guys, I think the past year would have been much harder.
So a huge huge HUGE shoutout to my friends who have been there for me. The ones who have helped me when I’ve been down and lifted me up throughout uni. I love you guys.
The thing that probably got me through uni the most was my society. I was a proud member of NUGSS (Newcastle University Gilbert and Sullivan Society).
Every year NUGSS puts on two shows: one by G&S and the other is anything goes (well… as long as copyright allows it). Being a performer (Fun fact for those who don’t know me: I did a music degree! I am a vocalist who has trained in Jazz, Theatre and Opera), having a space to be creative and to sing was hugely important for my mental health. Having that fun, creative space was at times, a break from stress and a place where I could just have fun!
I often had dips here though. With dancing (is what we did classed as dancing? 😉 NUGSS members comment below) and projecting a singing voice with no mics, it took a lot out of me at times but everyone in NUGSS was incredible supportive and never treated me differently because of it. It could have been easy for the directors/ musical directors to say that they didn’t know if I could handle a role due to my condition but nope– I was treated the same as every other member and that meant a lot to me.
I had some great times socially too. NUGSS had awesome socials and weekly trips to the pub. I went to places like board game cafes and coffee shops, spending time with friends that I knew I could manage and yes, sometimes I did go out drinking.
Being a student with a chronic illness is possible. It is a struggle, but that struggle makes us stronger.
A couple of tips to get you through
Here are a couple of things you can do to make studying with a chronic illness a little bit easier.
1. Find a lecturer/ member of staff that you trust and let them know your situation.
Luckily for me, Music was a relatively small degree so I ended up getting to know quite a few of my lecturers who were all incredibly supportive. For a larger degree cohort, this might be more of a challenge, but the effort will be worth it.
These staff members can be a huge help in supporting you when it comes to trying to organise help from the uni.
2. Get Special Dispensation from the Uni
At Newcastle, this was called a Student Support Plan. After providing medical evidence, the uni gave me an SSP which meant that I was much more likely to have my extensions approved and I did not receive any consequences for missing lectures. I got all my extensions this past year and boy did I need them.
Having this SSP was essential.
3. Find a Supportive group of friends
This one is easier said than done but finding people who can trust and who will be a part of your support network is super important. They are the people you can turn to at your lowest moments, for things that you can’t really talk about with members of staff.
One way to make this a little easier on yourself is to join a society where you will meet people with similar interests- which is always helpful in starting off friendships.
4. Finally: Don’t be too hard on yourself
It can be so frustrating when you know you have the ability but your body won’t allow you to do things.
This is something I am still struggling with. For my degree classification I got a 2:1 which I am thrilled with but the only thing that is annoying is that I was one mark off a 1st.
That sent me onto a bad thought process. Could I have got a 1st if I didn’t have my CFS holding me back? To be so close to a better grade and the reason potentially being an illness I have no/little control over being the reason I didn’t get there is frustrating as hell.
But then I stopped to think.
Why am I letting myself be upset by this?
69 is a brilliant grade. A 2:1 is amazing! I got to that grade whilst still being held back.
To know that I was able to do well no matter the obstacles is such a positive feeling. So right now, whilst that 1 little mark is annoying, so what? I smashed it!!!!
Give yourself a break if you can’t do as much work as your peers. Don’t beat yourself up for saying no to going to a bar. You are allowed to put your health first. It is the most important thing.
“I am ready to face any challenge that might be foolish enough to face me.” — The Office
It’s time to go out into the real world. Working with CFS is already hard but knowing that I could make it to graduation means I have the confidence in myself to step out into the world with a smile on my face, ready to take on anything!
So, ConGRADulations to me! Let’s see what the future has in store.
With the government asking us all to eat out to help out, I thought I’d put together a few of my favourite food spots in Manchester to help you guys out when you can’t decide what to eat.
Want to grab a quick bite or relax into a good meal with a cocktail?Check out my top picks below.
1. The Ivy
Situated in Manchester City Centre’s classiest area Spinningfields, The Ivy hosts three separate restaurants: The Ivy Brasserie, Ivy Asia and The Ivy Roof Garden, all of which are amazing. My personal favourite is going to The Brasserie for brunch with the gals.
Top tip: try the buttermilk pancakes with fruit, Greek yoghurt and strawberry sauce- they’re to die for.
2. Mackie Mayor
Mackie Mayor is the coolest food hall you will ever see.
You can find it in the Northern Quarter where it is open every single day of the year. Serving artisan versions of all your favourite foods, it even has fantastic veggie/vegan options so that everyone can have an incredible meal.
Victors can be found in South Manchester, with one restaurant in Alderly Edge and the other in Hale.
If you’re looking for a place to eat that is full of elegance and class, then this is the place to be. The Alderly Edge location has one of my favourite interiors of any restaurant I’ve ever been to, using florals and botanics to create an otherworldly vibe.
My suggestions are the sushi (which is unreal)for food and for a cocktail, the Victor’s Garden for Her.
4. Northern Soul Grilled Cheese
Another Northern Quarter classic, the UK’s first ever Grilled Cheese Restaurant is a can’t-miss.
These are far from just your average cheese toasties. Northern Soul takes a basic staple and turns it into a gourmet masterpiece.
Who would have thought you’d find one of the best pizza spots in the world in Manchester?
Rudy’s has an official ranking of the tenth best pizza worldwide by food website Big Seven. To top it off, the prices are super reasonable.
If you’re a pizza lover, Rudy’s is a must-visit on your trip to Manchester
6. Crazy Pedros
Staying on pizza for a minute, Crazy Pedro’s Pizza Parlour lives up toit’s name– the flavour combinations are crazy!
From their ‘World Famous Hotdog Pizza’ (featuring hot hogs, crispy onions, mustard and ketchup) to their ‘Giuseppe’s Not Sloppy, He’s Vegan’ (Hot spiced fake beef chilli, vegan cheese, peppers, onions and jalapeños), you know you’re in for a wild time. Plus, their cocktails are awesome.
7. All Star Lanes
What doesn’t All Star Lanes have? With an A La Carte Menu, Brunch (until 4pm!!!) and insane cocktails, you’ll struggle not to have an amazing meaI almost forgot to mention the best part- it’s a bowling alley.
I’ve had some of my best nights out starting with a meal, drinks and bowling here.
8. Indian Tiffin Room
I don’t know about you, but in my family, curry is the ultimate food and The Tiffin Room is the hands-down family favourite.
With two Manchester locations, you can either visit in the City Centre or down in Cheadle. Personally I’d recommend the Cheadle location as the staff are so lovely.
Top tip: Try the Gobi Manchurian, Chana Batura and ITR Curries.
Have you been to any of these places? Let me know what you thought of them!
Travelling with a chronic illness, or anything that provides a limitation on your life can seem like a daunting task but there are steps that you can take to make it way easier! Here are 5 tips that I find really useful when planning my trips.
1. Stay somewhere with a Kitchen
Diet is important when it comes to keeping up energy levels and whilst you don’t have to be healthy all the time- you are on holiday after all– it can be helpful to know what is going into your meals.
When I go away, I still do go out for meals sometimes but having access to a kitchen has really helped me to plan my food around my activities.
Got a big afternoon? Make a dish with some brown carbs and veg for energy.
Light day? Make a salad that won’t cost an arm and a leg etc
It also helps to save money too as eating out for every meal can be expensive!
2. Make sure you have ways to get back to your accommodation
For someone like me who has chronic fatigue, a dip can happen anytime, and anywhere. Eating well can help to control this slightly but it doesn’t mean that this won’t happen unfortunately :(.
Making sure that you have a way back to your accommodation should you need it is essential.
If you are travelling with a car that is ideal (but make sure you’re in the right state to drive ofc!) or if you’re with someone else, make sure they are insured on the car too. Max (my boyfriend) has been driving me everywhere whilst we’ve been down in Cornwall (mainly because I still can’t drive…) and it has been really helpful to have someone help me get back when I feel bad.
Should you not have access to a car, make sure that you look up public transport links and know your route home.
Also, get the number for a taxi firm incase it is hard to get one off the street. If you are staying somewhere that is does not speak your native language, try and memorise: ‘Do you speak x’ and ‘Can you take me to x’. If you don’t think you’ll be able to remember it, write it down.
3. Make a To-Do List
I don’t know about you but I feel way calmer having planned out what I intend to do for a trip. Making plans of what to do and see really calms any anxiety of floundering around aimlessly.
To make an overall trip list I look on pintrest or other people’s travel blogs to see what previous visitors recommend. Local tourism sights are always a good bet and I even look on Instagram to see where the coolest looking spots are!
Then, it helps to make daily breakdowns. Planning what you want to do each day is great for people with illnesses because we can say: ‘Wednesday looks like a heavy day so let’s make Tuesday an easy one and plan for an early night’ etc
4. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan
After spending ages creating your perfect itinerary (or at least I do) it can be so frustrating when your illness decides not cooperate.
During my trip to Cornwall, I think I only did about 70% of what I had planned to do because I had dips. It sucks but no matter how hard you plan, shit happens. The best thing to do is try to enjoy the things you’ve managed to do andbe flexible with changing up what you want to do based on how you’re feeling.
5. Take energy boosting snacks withyou wherever you go
If you start to flag, have a dip of or just start to feel all round rubbish, having some energy boosting snacks to hand can help give you that small boost of energy you need to get back home or to get you over the hill so that you can continue on with your day.
Personally, I take a super small Tupperware of trail mix with me everywhere I go. It has a mixture of nuts and seeds that are not only a yummy, healthy snack, but are also great for a little boost.
Let’s say you’re feeling rubbish but it would take you a while to get back to your accommodation or to get a proper meal- having something like a peanut bar, some seeds or (if you fancy something more fun) a cacao bar can be a huge help.
Don’t think you can’t do it- you can!
Our bodies might be fighting against us at times but it is 100% possible to get out there and do the things we love. We just need to take a few extra precautions than healthy people.
So to all my fellow Spoonies out there, let’s get exploring!
For the last 3 years I have been living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Newsflash- it sucks. Imagine you have an energy scale with 1 being a regular person after a good night’s sleep and 10 is being about to pass out: the most energetic I ever feel is a 4 and that’s on a very good day (and also often not for long periods of time.)
With an illness like this, you know any commitment you make is 70% truthful at best. You have no idea if that time you have agreed to meet your partner for coffee, or if the day of your best friend’s birthday party is the moment your body decides to go nah not about that life and hits you with a dip.
I like to think I’m relatively a relatively positive person! I try to keep my head up and push on. I made it through university, keeping my grades up. I’ve been putting myself out there, and have been hired to work remotely on social media jobs. So you know what, I’m not doing too bad! But I live my life with a leaky battery, never feeling free to go about and enjoy life to fullest like my friends around me.
And so 3 weeks ago I decided enough was enough.
I started doing a few workouts at home, mainly beginners yoga so nothing too strenuous.
I’m super lucky because we have a family friend who is a god-tier PT and is used to helping people with illnesses like me. I rang her up and we started doing some (socially distant) sessions. Together we went through my diet, which was appalling I’m not going to lie, and decided that it was time to switch to a much more healthy lifestyle.
I love cooking so thankfully it hasn’t been too hard to incorporate some new healthy meals into my diet. I am eating; way more vegetables; less meat; brown/wholewheat carbs over white ones; less artificial sweeteners/chemicals and better, healthier snacks.
I got myself a Deliciously Ella book on her recommendation and got at it! The best bits are the baking. Over lockdown, baking has been bringing me so much joy, so when my PT and I decided on a diet change, I was so sad I couldn’t bake anymore- until I learned that I could!
I’ve been making healthy recipes such as vegan/gluten free oat cookies, sweet potato brownies and beetroot chocolate cake and get the same happiness from going the healthy route than I was before.
Keeping a food and symptom diary has been really helpful to see if there is a correlation between what I’m eating and how bad my CFS gets.
As well as eating well, I’ve also been exercising. I know, gross right? I’m joking now but to be honest I wasn’t a keen exerciser before and with my chronic fatigue, a lot of exercise would just make me feel awful.
Things like yoga and pilates are brilliant for people with conditions like me because they help you to focus on your body and breath without tiring you out too much (although some cardio is still essential). You still get a great workout and it’s actually really fun.
There have been results!
Since I started my new lifestyle, I have found that overall I do have more energy than beforehand. I still have dips- some of which are really bad- but my base energy level is higher than it was before.
Not just that but I’ve lost 3lbs/ 1.4Kilos, an inch and a half off my waist and an inch off both my chest and hips which I’m super happy with!
Thank you for reading my first blog post on my new website, it means a lot that you want to read my story. I hope that I can help others with the things that I learn/share.