I am so excited to be able to say that I am off to Italy tomorrow morning with mum! First trip of the year and, having spoken to lots of my clients who are also trying to get away for a short European break, we all agree that we can't remember a time when we haven't travelled for so long.
Venice has been on mine and mum's list for years, but we always said we'd go in the Springtime because it gets a bit smelly as the season progresses. However, if there's ever a time to visit in the Autumn, surely this must be it - right amidst a pandemic when tourists will be at their lowest numbers but all the sites will still be open for business.
Here is our itinerary which I've carefully planned to be relaxed and Fibro proof!
Tuesday - arrive and chill
Wednesday - lazy am / walking tour and gondola ride pm
Thursday - lazy am / fast track entry small group tour of St Marks basilica and Doge Palace pm
Friday - lazy am / boat tour to the islands - Murano, Torcello and Burano
We're flying with BA from Terminal 5, London Heathrow and staying at the beautiful Ca'sagredo Hotel on the Grand Canal.
Tell you all about it next time!
As you know, I love poetry, and here is one of the pieces that has really inspired me during my recovery. It's a beautiful, gentle reminder that being alive in this moment is a miracle and living a life well lived is truly a privilege.
✨A Brief Awakening by John Mark Green✨
Within the vast expanse of the cosmos
You are a tiny, warm, pulsing spark.
Your birth was a brief awakening
From silent eons spent sleeping in the dark
The reason your heart swells with wild wonder
At the dazzling diamond chandeliers of night,
Is that your body is built from ancient stardust.
The universe now sees itself through your eyes
So let the breath of sweet gratitude fill you
As the night of each new day begins.
For this moment itself is a miracle,
And to live it is your privilege, my friend.
Well, we can't moan about the weather this year as it's been glorious, although right now, this is a little too hot for me. I don't think it would be a problem if I was abroad on holiday, it's just the humidity here is wiping me out and making me feel extremely uncomfortable. I suppose it wasn't the best week to be changing medication where one of the side effects of the new stuff is extreme sweating... and sweating on sweating is yuck! Add to that extreme, agitated tiredness - and you get the picture.
Before Colin passed, I was a regular 10pm to 6am deep sleeper with minimal dreaming or nightmares and I always woke up feeling ready for a new day. Now my sleep is erratic. I will go through periods of semi decent sleep and then longer periods of terrible sleep. I track it all on my handy Fitbit. As I've mentioned in previous posts, the fatigue of Fibro gets me more than the pain. So this last week I went to my Dr with the aim of getting a medication for the long term to help with sleep. I wanted this to supplement the anti depressant I've been consistent with since coming out of hospital two years ago. In the past I have messed around with Zopiclone because I just wanted to knock myself out, but this time I was trying to approach the sleep issue seriously. I cannot function on limited sleep. Tiredness is probably my biggest trigger. I've been wanting to try Amitriptyline but, due to my medical history, I'm high risk. My Dr decided we should try one of the FDA approved medications for Fibro that treats all three issues - depression, fatigue and pain. So I've been four days so far switching from my tried and tested third choice SSRI to an SNRI - and you know how impatient I am! I also don't like feeling ill when I am trying desperately to feel better. Everybody reacts uniquely to anti depressants and my experience in the first few weeks is high anxiety coupled with extreme sweating and fast heart rate giving me the shakes and hyper agitation. This change has been no different. Fingers crossed it will start to get better soon and I can get some quality sleep every night.
Introducing... Gracie (but already nicknamed Tux because of her colouring).
They say pets are good for mental health so I decided to get another kitty, as Misty is 11 now and I dread to think of losing her. I thought about whether to have my new addition for a long time because living with Fibro influenecs everything - and I am looking to increase my hours at work again, which brings its own set of challenges working to a 12 week shift pattern!
With diminishing energy levels, even the simplest of decisions and easy yes's don't come so easy nowadays. I have to go through all the pros and cons in my head before taking the next step, if any. I definitely say NO a lot more. And I worry a lot more. In this instance: Will I be able to keep up with her? Will I be able to look after two pets? Will I have enough energy to enjoy her? Can I take care of the gradual introduction for the two of them and keep the little one from escaping through the cat flap?
One thing I have discovered is that the best laid plans (for example, setting up my big lifestyle overhaul routines) only work when I'm the only one I have to organise, consult and work with. Corona virus definitely hasn't helped with my intentions this year. And I get impatient. If I can't have the hands on treatment I desire and the face to face contact, I know I don't want to settle for second best. I have given it a good go. Hence looking to increase my workload again. I may as well attempt to do one job right!
Booking Venice for the first week of September has certainly helped to get some of my spark back again. I have really missed not travelling this year. Travel is a big leveller for me when depression comes knocking because it takes me out of my head.
So another concert postponed until next year - this time Michael Buble playing in Bath Crescent (supposed to be last Friday). My 2021 calendar is already looking super full!
I am hoping to get away for the first week of September to Venice, as Italy seems to be the only country at the moment where there's no issues either end of travelling. Fingers and toes crossed! This will be a new country for me coming in at my 42nd..
I have taken some gigantic leaps in my grief journey this week and pretty monumental ones at that. I don't realise how much things are weighing me down, until I start to get moving.
I've ordered a new bed, given the last of Colin's clothes to charity and deleted all of our text messages which have been sat on my phone for the last 3 years. It felt the right time and it felt ok to do these things. In fact, I would go so far as to say these things were hindering me from moving forward. We all move at different paces whilst grieving, but I have noticed within myself recently that it can feel like I am trying to sabotage myself.
Hurray! I've finally had a haircut and new colours! Anything to help me feel more alive.
In yoga last week I learned about how we store emotions in our hips and doing lots of hip poses can release all of the negativity we're feeling. The hips and pelvis are also the centre for creativity. Aligning with the second chakra, they represent among other things, creative energy. This is what we worked on in class and it did help me focus less on my depression and more on being creative. I am fascinated by the different chakras and how they line up with the body. This is something we're going to explore more of in my 1-2-1 sessions.
I have been trying to finish my bio for work, but because I haven't had any travel inspiration this year and I've been struggling with fatigue and pain, it's been very difficult to find the energy to get motivated. Anyhoooo, after yoga, interestingly it massively helped - and I did it!
So, here goes:
My career in travel spans over 20 years and I have had some of the most wonderful and some of the most downright bizarre experiences around the world. I remember turning up in Tripoli airport (Libya) and being the only female going through Security. The authorities looked me up and down in disbelief and then started to laugh, eventually waving me through. It was 5 days into my trip before my guide explained to me that on my visa it read "Builder" - a mistake by the Libyan Embassy in London!
My dream is to visit all 190 odd countries in my lifetime. A chunk of my early experience was in adventure travel specifically within Africa and the Middle East, before I moved into a more worldwide role here at Trailfinders, tailor-making a variety of holiday experiences all over the globe. Having so much choice at my fingertips to offer my clients is amazing and being able to personally build memorable experiences for them, whatever the occasion, is a real thrill.
I've danced with the Zulus, studied ancient bush craft with the San, sat with the Maasai and wild camped with the Bedouin - but if I had to pick a favourite travel moment, I'd struggle. I've taken incredible trips to iconic cities, stayed in beautiful hotels, celebrated festivals, sampled the delights of turning left onboard the aircraft and lazed with a good book on pure white island beaches, I've soared high above Victoria Falls and got soaking wet under Niagara Falls. I've stood on top of South Africa's Table Mountain, been in the places where oceans meet, trekked up volcanoes and boarded down volcanoes in the Central Americas. Going deep inside a pyramid was a childhood dream come true, as was floating in the Dead Sea, and the Taj Mahal and Petra captivated me for hours...
Travel is education and there is still a lot of exploring to enjoy!
It is very depressing to me that I have become a person who has to judge the productivity of her day by how much pain and fatigue she is feeling. How many spoons have I got today? (I love the above tee by the way). It also gets me down when I am too exhausted and in too much discomfort to have the capability to employ my toolbox of self soothing techniques. Especially necessary after a busy day of working, or attending appointments, or of doing jobs and chores around the home and garden. I am trying my hardest to continue living a regular, ordinary life as best I can, whilst trading off, pacing and attempting to be kinder to myself, but it is a 24/7 job and there's no switching off.
So this past week, as I predicted, I ended up in a flare up and it's been horrible. And yes, as my counsellor said to me today, I stuck two fingers up to Fibromyalgia and didn't listen to my body, carrying on regardless... and a flare up will always be the outcome. Just as I struggled to accept Colin had died, I also struggle to accept this is my life now.
There is no short (or even long) answer as to how best to manage with chronic pain and extreme fatigue. This last week, I used a bad coping strategy of pills and alcohol for two days just to numb myself and make myself sleep and then I got back on track. I know I should never have got to the point of a flare up, but it's going to happen. Pulling myself round this time, I did low energy projects where I could sit down and stretch, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation before sleep, more green and colour in my diet and I've been checking in with myself throughout each day. And, I've booked to have a catch up with my Dr.
Maintaining good mental and physical health is a continuum.
Recovery is a continuum.
I wish there was an end destination to both, some glorious magic pill, but sadly there isn't.
So... I continued my "working like a crazy" streak during the last week of my 3 week staycation, albeit pacing myself a little better decorating at my mum's and sticking with my wellbeing appointments... and now I feel absolutely whacked. Commuting back to the office for work at the weekend also required a big shift in gears.
I think all in all, I accomplished a lot and I feel really good about that, but I'm interested to see how much I crash, bang and wallop this coming week. The fatigue is already kicking my butt - tiredness on top of tiredness despite trying to get to bed a little earlier and I am nervous about depression creeping up on me again.
Did I tell you Fibromyalgia is rubbish?
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.