Clevermind

Clevermind

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the mind-body connection. We all know about psychosomatic illnesses, the placebo effect, and how a stressful life can lead to heart disease and vegan yogis can live to be over a hundred years old. So it is well established, with medical science as well as observational sciences, that positive mindset improves health and boosts the immune system, whereas negative mindset contributes to poor health and shorter life span.

I have a number of questions surrounding the studies that have been done on the mind-body connection though. For example, I wonder if mindset actually has more of an effect on behaviours that influence health, rather than a direct effect. I.e, if I feel more positively about my prognosis then I’m more likely to take my meds on time, eat better, exercise, look after my hygiene etc. Whereas if I feel hopeless and like I’ll never improve, then I’m more likely to lie in bed, eat junk food and feel sorry for myself. I’m not saying that there isn’t a direct effect, but I wonder if other variables are being discounted in certain studies.

I also wonder about the chicken or the egg aspect, i.e, are people sick because they’re depressed or depressed because they’re sick. I wonder about children who are born with certain illnesses, and who are the happiest, most positive people on the planet but still end up declining and dying regardless.

I wonder how much of the mind healing the body happens innately, and how much of it requires focused cognition. If we stop complaining, repeat daily mantras and visualise ourselves as healthy, happy people, will our bodies feed off of those signals and begin to improve? Or do we have to meditate on the specific area of the body that is damaged and will it to function correctly?

I’ve spoken to a couple of people who have experience with this, and I’m planning to listen to some books that focus on the topic more in depth (including neurological studies on the Vagus Nerve and its effect on the immune system). But, as anyone with a scientific mind would do, I also want to carry out my own experiements.

I frequently practice reducing my pain with my breath and visualisation techniques. I often find that ignoring or distracting myself from the pain only makes it worse over time, whereas if I take a few moments to sit with the pain, observe it, and breathe through it, then it can either lessen in intensity or dissipate entirely. Similarly, there are times where I’m stood at the bottom of the stairs, clinging to the bannisters, looking up in despair as my legs tell me that they are just too tired to take me up, then I take a long, deep breath, imagine the remaining strength in my body and lift myself up one step at a time. So, I wonder what else I can apply this technique to? Pain and fatigue are neural messages being passed from your limbs to your brain, so it stands to reason that I can send messages back the other way to over-ride them, but could I convince a rash on my hand to heal faster? Or an ulcer in my mouth?

I have no doubt that over time the body will heal from an improved immune system and better functioning organs and more regulated hormones, but how much time is required? How much energy is required? How much focus? These are all things that I’m hoping to learn more about.

I have been told that there are people out there who have cured themselves of M.E with the ‘mind over matter’ technique. But my skeptical mind tells me that if they have truly been ‘cured’ then they probably didn’t have it in the first place, and were in fact just suffering from general fatigue. If they have been ‘cured’ in the sense that they no longer have symptoms, then I say, yeah, I did that too, but it’s reliant on my continued treatment regime. I believe that if those people stopped doing all the other things they are doing to keep themselves well, but kept their positive attitude, their symptoms would come back. After all, is it possible to destroy tumours with positive thinking? Or regrow pancreatic cells?

These are things I’ve been thinking about recently. I want to believe but I can’t help but be skeptical.

New Year, New Decade, New Experiences.

New Year, New Decade, New Experiences.

To listen to me read this blog post, please click here: Reading “New Year, New Decade, New Experiences”


From what I can tell from my social media pages, most people seem to have had a rough 2019. I, therefore, feel lucky and guilty that I have had a good year. The first half was a little touch-and-go but the second half was the best I’ve had in as long as I can remember. And I plan to make 2020 even better.

TRIGGER WARNING: This post is going to be self-indulgent and a little braggy. If you don’t like reading about other people’s happiness and good fortunes then stop reading now.

There’s no denying that the main reason for my happiness is my improved health and, as mentioned in a previous post, that is almost completely down to my amazing, supportive partner. I spent the majority of my illness thinking about all the things I would do if I wasn’t ill. Therefor, when my health began to improve I began to do as many of those things as possible. My main restriction shifted from energy levels to time in the day, and that is an incredible feeling.

So I guess we should start with my physical improvements. I have talked about this in more detail before so I’ll just highlight my favourite bits. I do yoga. Walking a mile to the shop is not something I have to worry about. I took up running again. Every morning I can get up, shower, brush my teeth, dress, do my hair and make-up and feel ready for the day, not ready for bed. But more than that, we can go out, for meals, to shows, to fairs and fetes, or just for a walk around the park. It’s so good to spend time with the man I love outside of this house. And inside the house I can indulge my inner housewife with cleaning, baking, mending and crafting. I can “waste” energy on doing things that are completely frivolous and purely for my own enjoyment. I feel like I can function normally again and that is such a blessing.

Secondly, this is my final year of university, which for me is the culmination of 5 years of pursuing the future that I wanted for myself. Going back to education as a mature student with anxiety and depression was daunting enough, but to get M.E in the first year of this journey really tested how much I wanted it. In year 2 I was almost completely bedbound but still managed to drag myself through because this really is the most important thing that I have ever done with my life. I am sad and scared that it is ending because it has become familiar and safe, and has helped me to grow and develop as a person. I am also excited to move onto the next step of this process and actually begin living the life I have been working towards. So many more doors will open up to me once this one has closed behind me. I have also done some work experience over the summer which provided me with connections, taken on some part-time work which has given me experience, and given guided tours of the university to potential applicants which made me so proud and happy for the next generation of Biology students.

Self improvement has been a big focus for me this year. Physical improvements I have mentioned, educational improvements too, but I’ve also spent a lot of time on self-reflection and observation. I saw a councillor for a while and she was great. She asked the right questions and got me to focus on who I was and what I can do. Often we look outward to place blame and seek happiness. This year I have learned and internalised the idea that I have no control over others and the world around me, but total control over my own actions. I am responsible for my own happiness and I am to blame for my poor choices or reactions. In this way, I can make my life what I want it. My self-reflection has also lead me to ask the bigger questions too and I’ve revisited Zen Buddhism and listened to the Bhagavad Gita as well as “Letting Go” by David R Hawkins M.D PhD, and “The Madness of Crowds” by Douglas Murray. I also listened to “Battle Scars”, “Break Point”, and “First Man In”, by the hosts of the TV show “SAS: Who Dares Wins”, Jason Fox, Ollie Ollerton and Ant Middleton respectively. I also scattered some fiction in between because even made-up people in made-up situations can teach us things about ourselves. I started a Bullet Journal this year too as a creative outlet and to organise myself, but I also found that it motivated me to be more productive and to enjoy taking time over small details.

My domestic life this year gained a house, a cat and an improvement in my relationship. I don’t wish to talk too much about this as it is not just mine to divulge. My home life is shared with my partner and he deserves his privacy. I will say that I am feeling more like a wife and mother than ever before and that is a warm, comfortable feeling for me. I will be having my 30th birthday this year and I am more than ready for this phase of my life. In fact, I have been waiting for it for a long time but it has been waiting for me to be in the right place and the right time. All the chips are falling into place now and I feel like I am becoming the person I was always supposed to be.

So, to summarise, 2019 has been a year of exponential growth. It has been hard work, exhausting at times, but also enjoyable and so, so worth it. 2020 should continue this trend and although this time next year my life will look completely different, it will also be exactly as it should be.

Happy New Year. Best wishes to all of you.

Universal Energies

Universal Energies

Do you ever have those days when it feels like the universe is against you and everything that can go wrong, does? Well my day today was the opposite of that.

Science hasn’t yet nailed down the ins and outs of the energy or frequencies that radiate in all things. They are working on it and one day it will be considered fact and taught in physics class in schools, but until then people will find their own way of explaining this phenomenon depending on their culture, religion or personal experiences. Personally, I am a Wiccan (as well as a Buddhist) and we believe in the Rule of Three; all energy that you put out into the universe will return to you threefold. It is also called Law of Attraction, the Power of Thought, Summoning by Visualisation, you reap what you sow, what goes around comes around, Karma and other such things.

I have done a lot of terrible things in my youth and had a lot of terrible things happen to me but at a certain point in my life, I decided to change this pattern and try my best to be a good, kind, human being. Then worse things happened to me. I couldn’t understand why I was being punished when I was trying so hard to be good. I knew I wasn’t perfect but I thought that trying meant more than the actual accomplishment. I also tried to reason that if I was suffering there must be a reason for it and a lesson to be learned. To be fair, I did learn from those events and they have made me a better person but I am sure that the same effects could have been achieved with far less trauma.

What I didn’t realise then, but do now, is that your inner thoughts and feelings matter just as much, if not more, than your activity. If you ask someone if they are okay and they say they’re fine, you can tell if they’re being truthful or not. Similarly, if someone says that they are happy to do a thing that they’re really not, you can feel their discontent. Doing a thing or saying a thing does not make that thing a true reflection of yourself. Your inner thoughts and feelings are sensed by those around you and absorbed by the universe.

A person who wants a new job may send out CV’s, dress smart, go to interviews and attend job fairs, but if they have the inner belief that they won’t be good at anything else and maybe it’s best if they stay in the job they have then they are unlikely to get a new job despite all of the legwork they do. In another scenario someone may long for a good lasting relationship and sign up to dating sites, join clubs, socialise and go out on dates but if they believe that they are not worthy of love and no one will ever love them, then they won’t find the love they seek.

This is a concept that I’ve always been aware of but never actualised. Partly because I always thought I had little control over my thoughts and feelings (another self fulfilling prophecy) and partly because I believed in the mantra “fake it ’til you make it”. I thought if I behaved as the person I wanted to be then eventually I would become that person. Now I realise it is the other way around, you must make the change inside first, then it will shine through you effortlessly.

Since listening to “Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender” I have made a conscious effort to watch my thoughts and feelings and adjust them when they go astray. In today’s example I had the thought “What idiot would park in such a stupid place?” I observed the thought and reflected. Perhaps the person didn’t know this was a bus route. Maybe there was an emergency or they are only stopping for a short time and didn’t realise they would cause an obstruction. I myself have done similar things without knowing I was being a hindrance. In fact, I have quite a talent for accidentally getting in people’s way. When you reflect like this you remember the human-ness of us all, the anger dissipates and you forgive them knowing that if it were you, you would want to be forgiven.

Negative thoughts like this come up several times a day but when you take the time and make the effort to observe them, experience them and reflect on them, then you become a happier, calmer person. And when you become a happier, calmer person it radiates from you and people around you become infected with it. Suddenly everyone is polite and friendly and considerate and the world seems to be working in your favour. Everything goes right for you, even the things that normally would ruin your day seem to be fortuitous and even comical.

I had a good day today and I plan to have many more.

Grant Me The Serenity To Accept The Things I Cannot Change…

Grant Me The Serenity To Accept The Things I Cannot Change…

…the strength to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

I am back at Uni for my second first year. My first first year was failed because looking after myself became more important than passing a course I didn’t enjoy doing anyway. I have been housed in a handicap accessible flat with a seat in the shower, hand rails, and a lowered hob and sink in the kitchen. I was ecstatic to discover this as it meant that looking after myself would be so much easier than it has ever been before and I could therefore put more energy into actually studying. The flat is old though and definitely needs updating, but I’m not complaining since the benefits massively outweigh any of the insignificant issues I may have.

Today was the Freshers Fair. It’s the day when all the clubs, societies, sports groups and local businesses set up stalls to try and entice students to sign up to their thing. Last year I was dealing with anxiety levels that made crowds terrifying, but I pushed myself to go anyway because I had such lofty goals for myself and wanted to sign up to all of the things. This year I remembered how much I enjoyed it last year, but forgot to consider how much my health has declined since then. This year I had to manoeuvre through the crowds with a cane. This year I found myself looking at stalls and thinking how much I’d love to do that but, knowing that I am not capable, having to walk on by. Every stall I passed made me slightly more depressed. I can’t even take part in medical research because they need “young, healthy specimens”. I went to the library to distract myself away from crying, because at least I can still read… for short periods of time at certain times of the day assuming I’m not being badly effected by ‘brain fog’. I went back afterwards to sign up for the things I had previously decided I was going to do. I joined the Biology Society to facilitate my learning (I’m studying biology), The Pagan Society for religious support (I’m a Wiccan), The Sustainability Society so that some days I may be able to work on the allotment and the Sign Language Society since I’ve always wanted to learn but never had the opportunity to do so.

I compare my past self to my current self more often than I’d like to. It depresses me because even though I know I have to accept my limitations, there is always a part of me that resents acceptance and equates it to weakness. This is particularly annoying because when I think of my current self without the comparison, acceptance comes naturally and I am excited by things like living in a specially adapted home.

So here is the daily challenge to my mental health; accepting the change that brought about my limitations and learning to live within them, identifying the things that I am still able to do and pursuing them while disregarding the voice that tells me I’m useless, and learning how to differentiate between the two effectively.

Hope and Hopelessness

Hope and Hopelessness

I have been planning a different post for you to read, but yesterday the Great North Run was on, so I decided to give you a more emotionally driven post instead.

This time last year I was running. I couldn’t run very far or for very long but it was more than I had ever run in my life before. I got ill around March 2016 and after I’d had enough doctors appointments to know that I wasn’t going to get better any time soon, I decided that I would not let my illness control me or dictate what I could or couldn’t do. So I started an exercise regime. It was simple and easy at first, then got harder and more intense as I grew stronger and more capable. By September 2016 I was running three or four times a week around the local cricket pitch. I was heading off to my first year of University and I had plans. I was going to join the running club, swimming club and play badminton at the weekends. I had bought myself a cheap, collapsible cane just in case but didn’t think I’d actually need it. I had been walking unassisted for months, I was actually fitter then than I had been before the illness arrived.

So I went off to Uni full of hope, comfortable in the knowledge that I had taken control of my illness and I alone would decide what I would or would not do. I joined the running club and signed up for Swimfit sessions, I was playing badminton at the weekends and I felt great. Then November happened. I still cannot say whether it was because I came off of my medication, or if I had simply pushed my body too hard, but either way I succumbed to an almighty crash. My body stopped working the way it should, the way I expected it to. The furthest I could walk was to my bathroom and back, the rest of the day was spent sitting or lying down. I couldn’t even stand in the shower to wash my hair. I was taking Ibuprofen every four hours to keep the pain at manageable levels and I barely slept.

A year on and slowly but surely I have regained a decent amount of my strength and for the most part I am satisfied with my abilities. I can care for myself, go to the shop for things I need, I can study and I can even have the occasional day long outing. Relatively speaking, I am fortunate that I am able to do so much. But yesterday the Great North Run was on T.V and I am reminded of my goals and ambitions. Not only was I going to run a half and full marathon, but there were mountains I planned to climb and lakes that I was going to kayak across. I wanted to play Badminton on the University team and I was going to be a Nurse and travel abroad with Doctors Without Borders. Now my goals include being able to walk without a cane again and enjoying a whole day out without needing a days worth of bed rest to recover. These thoughts sting at the eyes and throat.

I think that staying positive can have its place. I think that seeing obstacles in life as challenges to overcome can make you a stronger person. I also think that there is a time to mourn the loss of dreams that may now never be. I have overcome much already. My past is nothing but boulders and hurdles that I have struggled over and it seems sometimes that the euphoria of having overcome your last challenge acts as a mirage, obscuring from view the minefield ahead. I think that, when the mirage fades and you can clearly see the nightmare that lies ahead, positivity is of no use. I think in a situation like this, all you can do is keeps your eyes down and place one foot in front of the other. “Plodding up the hill” my therapist used to call it. Feel sad for your perceived loss, feel sorry for yourself and your struggles, accept that life is hard and that it may be that way until you die, but keep plodding up that hill anyway.