Parklife 2021: How to do a festival with a Chronic Illness

Parklife 2021: How to do a festival with a Chronic Illness

If you’ve been following my Instagram @livinglifefree__ then you’ll know that a few weeks ago I went to Parklife.

What is Parklife?

Parklife is a music festival in Heaton Park, Manchester. It is one of the UK’s biggest festivals and you’ll find the headliners are always big names. Most of the music is either quite mainstream, with acts like Megan Thee Stallion and Becky Hill headlining, or electronic- with techno being the most common genre.

There are other genres and lesser known acts too playing on the multiple stages throughout the weekend, so make sure you keep an eye on the lineup to find your favourites.

“But Charlotte, you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, how the hell did you manage it?”

Well, I do make a good point! Here is how I did it and the advice I would give to any other spoonie who wants to experience a festival.


Intoxication Station

If there is one thing festival culture is known for, it is the huge amount of drink and drugs that are consumed. This section is not intended in any way to sound preachy- if you want to take anything that is 100% your choice. I can only give advice based off my own experience.

My first piece of advice is to drink smart. Getting drunk at 10am pres with your mates sounds fun in theory, but when that wears off, you’re left tired, fatigued and drunk very early on into your festival experience.

Either space out your drinking throughout the day, making sure you are staying on top of your fatigue levels, or wait until later on in the day before you start. Alternatively you can stay sober! This is all about managing your body so that you can experience festival life to the fullest.

As for drugs, I can’t personally comment on the effects of common festival drugs such as cocaine, MDMA and ketamine but my advice from research would be to avoid them. The boost in energy may relieve the fatigue for a short while but during a comedown you will feel far worse. As for weed, my advice is similar to that of drinking but do bear in mind it might make you feel more tired or put you in a fatigued state.


Rest and Re-Taxation

Being at a festival means that something is constantly going on. When you’re constantly surrounded by crowds and loud noise, it can be both mentally and physically taxing. That is why finding pockets of rest is so important.

Constant stimulation on all fronts is a very common trigger for chronic illness symptom flares. It will be unlikely that you will find a rest spot free of all things that might lead to symptoms, so try to take out one or two variables instead.

For example, on the Saturday around mid-afternoon I was starting to flag. My body was tired and being in a crowd was stressing me out. Since I was enjoying the music, my friends and I stopped dancing in the crowd and went to sit on a nearby hill. Whilst I could still hear the music, it was nowhere near as loud. I did a quick meditation and some deep breathing (imagine how that must have looked to passers by lmao) giving my body and mind a chance to rest. Taking moments like this was integral to my spoonie survival.

Hydrate Feel Great

This one is pretty self explanatory. Whether you are sober or not, you still need to keep hydrated. At Parklife, there were designated areas that you could go to fill up your water bottle for free as well as as bottled water being sold all over the venue. There were even specific soft drink kiosk that you could go to if you just wanted a lemonade so you didn’t have to wait in the stupid long alcohol queues.


Yum Yum In Your Tum

“But eating is cheating!” your 16 year old self cries from behind her bottle of Glenn’s vodka

Erm… hell no,” is the response!

You need to make sure you are eating a festival. Whilst street food may be spenny* as hell, it is worth it to top up your energy levels and to drink safely. Unfortunately, your body won’t suddenly decide to act differently for a weekend so take care of it like any other day.

* slang for expensive


Camper & Campress

Yes the title is a not-so-subtly reference to my more recent short film with Buff Productions (that you should toooootallyyyy check out here: https://youtu.be/XGyGZxgqrfM ) but I do have my reasons!

Parklife is not a camping festival, so I knew I could go home and get a good night’s sleep, but if you are going to a festival such as Glastonbury or Download, not being able to get a restful sleep may negatively impact your day 2 experience.

If you’re one of those people who can sleep anywhere regardless of noise, you will probably be fine (also you’re a wizard and I hate you) but to those awkward sleepers like me, it might be worth booking a place to stay such as a hotel or AirBnB. Get a real bed with some peace and quiet so you can rest fully for another day.


Just Believe!

No dumb pun in this title because this one is no joke. Whilst everyone’s situation is different, a lot of us are so used to being ill that we see a situation like a festival and think “there’s no way I could manage that!”

If there is one piece of info that I have learnt from Dr John Eaton (founder of Reverse Therapy- which I will write about in an upcoming post as well as the person who is currently providing me with treatment, and author of the book Reverse Therapy which I would recommend every spoonie to read) is that my body has the capability within. If you don’t believe you have a reservoir of capability within you, your body wont believe it either. Knowing your limits is so so sooo important but when we are so used to ‘failure’ it’s hard to think that we have the ability to ‘succeed’ within us.

One thing that helped me to get into this mindset- believe me it is not easywas creative a negative scenario contingency plan list. I wrote down all the possible had scenarios I thought might happen and thought about the actions I would take if any of them occurred. By preparing in this way, it took away the fear of the unknown, meaning I could just focus on the positives, whilst still paying attention to the signals my body was sending me.


You’ve Got a Friend In Me

When going to a festival or an event like it, try to go with friends/family you can trust. I’m very lucky to have a wonderful and supportive group of friends who understand that I have my limitations.

Having some members of your support network with you is my biggest recommendation of them all. Plus, isn’t making memories with the people you love the whole point?? (*dies of cringe*)


Quittin’ Time

Whilst this may seem contradictory to previous points, it is in fact their important companion. Managing our illnesses is all about listening to our bodies. When you’ve tried taking time to rest and have really made the effort to believe that you can do it, but your body is still telling you that it isn’t happy, then it is ok to call it a day.

If you can walk away from a situation with no regrets, knowing that you have tried your best and have had an experience- good or bad- that you can look back on, then walking away isn’t giving up, it is a victory that you have created on your own terms.

I left Parklife at 18.30 on Sunday and have absolutely 0 regrets. I saw everyone that I really wanted to see, had such an incredible Saturday (so much so that it has claimed a space in my top few days ever) and had a great time with my friends. I did everything I set out to do so when my body told me that it had had enough, I listened to it and walked away without looking back.


I had the most incredible weekend at Parklife 2021

Realising it was an experience that I was capable of having was such a huge step in learning to manage my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome without limiting what I allow myself to experience. I hope that these tips can help someone like me, and show you that whilst it is not as easy as it is for everyone else, we can do it too!

Let’s live life free ❤

Charlotte x

5 Tips for Travelling with an Illness

5 Tips for Travelling with an Illness

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

Image from Unsplash

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

Image from Unsplash

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

Image from Unsplash

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 and be flexible with changing up what you want to do based on how you’re feeling.

5. Take energy boosting snacks with you wherever you go

Food photo created by Racool_studio – www.freepik.com

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!

First Steps

First Steps

3 weeks ago I decided to make a change.

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.

My first workout at home

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.

Vegan/ Gluten Free Oat Cookies

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.

Trying out a Swan Pilates Pose for the first time

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.

Feeling good

Guess what.

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.

Keep well ❤

Charlotte x