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Can you take on a big project whilst fighting chronic illness?

Nanowrimo

The short answer is YES. I managed to do NaNoWriMo in 2012 in spite of M.E. and Fibromyalgia. This project involves writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. You can read more about the project here.

Two years later, however, and my illnesses are much, much worse. I struggle to stay awake for most of the day, and haven’t been able to write any fiction for literally over a year because I didn’t have the energy or concentration. I am wondering whether I am ready to start writing again. NaNoWriMo might just be the push I need. After many weeks of swaying back and forth between deciding to join in and deciding to give this year a miss, I have resolved to jump in with both feet.

Things I am considering:

  1. The overall impact on my health.

    Will pushing myself to do NaNoWriMo ultimately have a negative impact on my health? I don’t want to have to rest up for most of December, my most favourite time of year. As the month goes by, I will have to listen and respond to my body. I’ve asked my hubby to be a second opinion on whether I am pushing myself too hard. He’s promised to encourage me when I can push through, but also be there to tell me when I should take a break. If this means me failing to hit my daily word count, so be it. You could ask a close friend or family member to do the same if you don’t live with a spouse or partner. IMG_0429

  2. Other projects I have already committed to.

    I’ve already planned to do several other projects throughout November. I have made a list of all my commitments and projects, then prioritised them so I know what I’m willing to sacrifice in favour of NaNoWriMo, and what I’m not.

  3. How will it affect my mentality if I don’t finish in time, or at all?

    Lastly, I will be addressing how I will feel if I don’t “win” this year. I will choose to see whatever I write as an achievement, a positive step forward, and not focus on the words that are yet to be written.

 

I hope that sharing my thoughts helps you come to a decision, whether it be about NaNoWriMo or another project you want to take part in.

Love Katie x

 

Out of Office

It’s time to brush off the cyber cobwebs and chase away the virtual dust bunnies. This blog has been dormant for some months but, finally, the time has come to reignite the embers and let the fire roar once again.

Out of Office

Where have I been and what have I been doing? That’s a good question. Frankly, I’ve mostly been in bed doing very little. I’ve been going through a horrendous period of sickness, which is ongoing and showing little sign of relenting. Just when I thought that my illness couldn’t get worse, it took me by surprise and it did. I’ve been far too sick to do anything for months. Most weeks I’m unable to leave the house, even getting out of bed has become a mammoth challenge. When I have been able to leave the house, or see friends, I’ve grasped the opportunity and made the most of every second that I’ve been gifted. My sanity has depended on my ability to appreciate these times and remember them in those long hours of pain, exhaustion and boredom.

Usually during these periods when I’m too sick to write, Paul, my husband, would keep the blog going. This hasn’t been possible for these past few months. He’s in his final year of university and his workload is heavy. Between university and looking after me, he hasn’t had the time to keep this particular ball rolling.

In truth, the blog has never been too far away from my mind. I’ve written hundred of posts in my head but unfortunately that’s where they’ve stayed. It’s frustrating to have so many ideas and be unable to use them. I am comforted, however, that my creativity has kept flowing and that my desire to write has never extinguished.

I’ve been encouraged by the fact that this blog is still being regularly visited despite the lack of new content. I’d like to offer my sincere apologies to those who have been in touch, through this website, over the last few months. A lot of people have asked some important questions, looked for advice or offered kind words of encouragement. It’s pained me to not be able to reply, especially because some have been really heartfelt, but please know that I appreciate all of your contributions. When I start to get better I will do my best to reply to your comments and messages.

I wish I could promise you that this post will mark the return of regular content but realistically, I can’t. I might write again in a few days or it might be in a few months. This is the unavoidable, and unpredictable, nature of my illness. What I can promise, however, is that I will be regularly using Instagram (@chronickatie) and Twitter (@Chronic_Katie). This is a manageable way for me to keep in touch with my readers so please follow me on these platforms.

In the meantime, I am still fighting to take back ground against my illness. I have not, and will not, give up my ambitions or give up on my calling, which is to reach people through my writing. It doesn’t matter how hard my journey is. As long as I have faith in God’s plan and keep inching forward, I will never be beaten. I will continue to be relentless in the face of adversity.

Be Relentless

The Subjectivity of Achievement

Katie has been too unwell to write this week, so I thought I would write a short post to share some thoughts with you, and hopefully some encouragement too.

One of the things I’ve had to learn whilst being a carer is the subjectivity of achievement. The true scale of an achievement can only be realised when you look at the person, and situation, behind it.

Over the weekend, I ran just over 7 miles. A few days before, Katie, despite being in intense pain, managed to sit, talk to and eat with her mother and sister, in our lounge. Which do you think was the greater achievement? Whilst I usually avoid comparing one person’s achievement with another, it is undeniable that Katie’s cost her more. It took her more effort and was ultimately more valuable to her than my run was to me. If you took away the context of these achievements then you might not count Katie’s activity as an achievement at all. It’s only when you understand her situation that you can really value the greatness of her achievement.

What have you achieved, but have undervalued because you have forgotten the context? I find that if I forget the context of my own life then I ignore the genuine achievements that I make on a daily basis. If I were not a carer, also trying to fit in studies and employment, then finding 20 minutes in my day to write might not be an achievement at all. But I am, and it is.

I’ve found that people consistently achieve more than they give themselves credit for. The problem is that we don’t recognise, or we undervalue, what we achieve. I do this all the time, despite my best efforts. As a result I am continually beating myself up and losing perspective. I would bet that I’m not the only one.

What have you achieved recently

So I ask again, what have you achieved recently? and Why is it important to you?

Best,

Paul

Housebound: An Update

Housebound is a strong, and negative, word but it is a realistic description of Katie’s life, at the moment. Her sickness has regressed to a point where she’s only awake for a few hours a day. In those precious hours, Katie pushes herself as hard as she can but finds even simple tasks, like reading, to be exhausting. With the exception of a two hour writing class, every Thursday, our home has become her world.

Katie recently went 2 months without leaving the house. The pain and exhaustion she felt was often overwhelming. As much as she hated being stuck in bed all the time, she just couldn’t do anything about it. Since then she’s been managing to get out of the house, for that 2 hour period, on Thursdays. This is exhausting for her. She generally spends the following three days in a daze, sleeping around 20 hours a day, and barely functioning when awake.

One of the newer symptoms of Katie’s condition has been extreme light sensitivity. Most of the time she lies in darkness. The curtains of our bedroom have been permanently closed for these past 4 months. To guarantee complete darkness, which is sometimes all she can manage, a face mask is always close at hand. When she has briefly left the house, she does so in thick sun glasses. The light hurts her eyes and gives her headaches which are simply unbearable.  There are hundreds of other people who share Katie’s condition and experience this. Katie has had countless people get in touch, through this blog, who have spent years of their lives in complete darkness. We thank God everyday that Katie’s experience has not been as bad.   

Regular reader would surely have noticed that Katie has barely been updating her blog over this time. After reading this blog post, I’m sure that you don’t need telling why. Most of the time writing has felt like scaling Everest to her. When she has been able to pen something, she focuses on homework from her writing class. Unfortunately, however, this mostly remains undone. Katie is passionate about writing. She has a real talent for it, even if I do say so myself. It has therefore been difficult for her to go so long without pursuing it.

Despite all this, her life remains full of hope. Not for one second has Katie stopped fighting. Her mental toughness over these last five months has been remarkable to see. Katie has countless reasons to despair, but she never indulges them. She smiles, she laughs and she loves. She is never bitter and is rarely ever sad. Even though she’s awake for a handful of hours a day, and she spends those hours shrouded in exhaustion and pain, she always makes the most of everything she can do.

We don’t believe that Katie will be this sick forever. We have faith that this is just a season of her life. A season that will ultimately strengthen us both. We continue to place our trust in God, who watches over us, and has a purpose for our struggles.

I’m not writing this to incite sympathy for Katie. She neither needs nor wants it. I’m writing this because it’s the reality of M.E. and Fibromyalgia and the purpose of this blog was always to tell you the truth, to raise awareness. The truth of Katie’s conditions are hard to hear, and even harder to live. But today, I want to show you how joy and hope exist in all situations. In our experience, life can never be so hard that a smile can’t be found. Darkness can never extinguish light.

Best,

Paul

6 Alternatives to NaNoWriMo

Typewriter

Image source: Google Images

The end of October always brings for me a dilemma, and no I’m not talking about how to look both scary and sexy in a Halloween costume. November is National Novel Writing Month, or as it is more affectionately known, NaNoWriMo. If you’re not sure what the frick I’m talking about, you can find out what NaNoWriMo is here. Last November, after many years of observing, was my first try at NaNoWriMo, which I ‘won’, or for all you civilians I completed it (you can read about it here). I enjoyed  it so much and would happily have done it again this year, but, unfortunately, I’m really not well enough. Last year was a real struggle for me and since I was no where near as ill as I am now, I’ve decided not to just bow out this year.

I am, however, still going to set myself some kind of writing related challenge this November though. I figured that some of you reading this might also not be able to write 2,000 words a day (for a variety of reasons) so I thought I would share some of the alternatives that I’ve come up with.

1. Write one hundred words a day

Create one flash fiction a week or a short story by the end of the month, remember to leave a few days for revision.

2. Keep a daily journal

You can set the amount of pages, or words, depending on whether you’re planning on writing by hand or word processing. Published author Ben Hatch said the journal he kept when he was 21 turned into the bones of his first novel. You could even begin a character Journal, put yourself in your character’s shoes and write from their point of view, just let the words flow. It’s a great way to build a strong character for your novel.

3. Read books 

This could be research for something you want to write, something to get you inspired, or even read some books about writing to improve your work.

Image source: Google Images

4. Fill a book with ideas and observations

I recently read about a retreat that Julie Cohen (bestselling authors of ‘Dear Thing’) took with other writers. Having just sent off a manuscript, she decided to use her time away to re-engage with the world. She used a notebook and camera to record every bit of inspiration she found. Take walks, eavesdrop on conversations, read, bake, just do whatever it takes to re-engage the creative part of your mind.

5. Do one writing exercise a day

Writing exercises are a great way to develop your writing skills and they have the added bonus of being short and quick. My favourite book of exercises is ‘5 Minute Writer’ by Margaret Geraghty, although I often got lost in my ideas and wrote for longer than 5 minutes.

6. Start ‘morning’ pages

Many professional writers begin their day by taking a short amount of time to write a stream of consciousness. They have the complete freedom to write what is in their mind, not worrying about technique, proper use of grammar or style, since the intention of these pages is not for publication but simply to warm up your mind, just like an athlete takes the time to warm up before a workout. Usually the vast majority of these pages are simply the emptying of our minds, but every now and then looking back through these pages you’ll hit upon a gem. Regardless of whether you ever re-read these pages, taking time to “warm up” before you begin writing “properly” will save on editing and re-writing later.

 

Just in case you’re wondering, I’ll probably be going with option four because I’m low on both energy and ideas at the moment. I’d love to hear what you decide to do with your November writers.

Love Katie x

My BT experience so far…

Last week a lovely man from BT came to put in the phone line for that trial I mentioned here (click link). Now that I’ve had a few days to play around with it, I thought I’d let you know what I think of BT’s service so far.

BT do offer a fibre optic broadband, which looks awesome, but that isn’t what’s included in the student package. I was a little disappointed to find that out, but in hindsight we really don’t need faster internet than we already have, since there are only two of us! I would be a little worried if there are quite a lot of people in your house that the 16mb speed might not be fast enough. To be honest, however, at the price BT is offering to students (see below), you could definitely afford to upgrade.

This is the ‘hub’ you get for wireless broadband. It’s not too big, and there’s a good length of wire so you can put it somewhere convenient. Image source: Google

So far I’ve been pretty impressed with the service BT has provided. I had to wait about two weeks for the internet to be installed, but I guess that’s probably got a lot to do with my timing- lots of student houses are getting their internet installed at the moment. I’ve been getting regular e-mails since I joined up though, keeping me updated on my order and letting me know about the special features available (more about that below), which are accessible even before they installed my phone line. When the engineer did come, he was polite, worked with as little inconvenience to us as possible, and best of all he cleared up after himself, leaving our house exactly as he had found it. The instructions for setting us the broadband hub were really easy to follow and it took minutes to set up. The hub hardware comes in a small package via a courier, but it’s small enough to fit through the letter box so you don’t have to worry if you miss the delivery.

I’m only just beginning to discover all the cool benefits I can get with my account. Instead of listing them all I thought I would tell you about my favourites so far:

  • BT give you all the usual free bits and bobs you’d expect- a free e-mail address, the ability to pay bills online, and regular e-mails letting you know when your bill is due, and free features available. You can also check online whether you have incurred any extra charges so far that month, if you’re vigilant you can make sure you never get any nasty shocks when it comes to paying the bills.
  • One of the things I really like about the BT package is that it includes free weekend phone calls to all UK landline numbers, and to 0845 and 0870 numbers, which is particularly handy since these numbers are often charged at a higher rate to mobiles. It’s also worth noting that BT has been working with the government to make calls to their departments free. This is probably of little consequence to most people, but when you’re on the phone to the DWP for over an hour, it’s very useful.
  • Another great thing about BT calls is that they provide a free answerphone service, with a message that you can personalise. This is great for me because I often don’t feel well enough to answer the phone, with my last provider you had to pay extra for this service. When I was having a quick look at the many free manuals and information online, I noticed that you can also dial 1471 to check the number of the last caller, and use a call barring service to get rid of all those pesky cold callers.
  • I was most impressed with the Smart Talk app though. This allows you to use your BT call plan on any mobile phone, as long as it’s connected to the internet. That’s pretty easy to do when you’re out and about with BT because you can use BT cloud to connect to the internet in tons of wi-fi hotspots.
  • Another feature that I was less excited about, but Paul was very enthusiastic about is free access to BT Sport via an app or online (btsport.com). In all honesty I can’t say I’ve looked into this much, but whatever it includes, it’s pretty awesome that I get it for free.

Paul and I last week… Image source: Google

I hope this blog post has given you a bit of an idea of the kind of service you can expect from BT, or at least an insight into my experiences. Until the end of the month BT has a great deal on for students (read about it below or visit www.bt.com/students), and when I checked at the time of writing, if you sign up online you can also get a £25 Sainsburys voucher and 6 months free*- can’t say fairer than that!

Love Katie x

P.s. I know that this blog post is a little outside of the realm of what I usually write, so I’d love to hear any feedback you’ve got about these kinds of posts. I’m not planning on becoming a PR junkie and making every post about whatever I’ve managed to scam that week, but working with PR companies does give me an opportunity to experience and write about things that I might not otherwise be able to access or afford, after all blogging doesn’t pay! I promise that I’ll always be upfront about posts that are either sponsored or as a result of something I’ve received from a company, and my opinion will remain honest. No company could pay me enough to write something I don’t believe in, that’s my number one condition for working with anyone.

*Terms and conditions may apply.

 Start the student year with savings thanks to two new BT Student 9 month package deals

BT wifiWith the University year steadily upon us, BT’s Student 9 month broadband packages that have been recently unveiled include the BT Unlimited Student Broadband & Calls deal for only £16 per month and Unlimited Weekend Calls for just £20 per month.  Both deals have “totally unlimited” broadband, with no download limits on usage.

With the value and benefits of both BT deals outweighing their competitors by not only offering the calls and downloads, but BT Sport.

“Ultimate entertainment package to be won”

Once signed up, students can enter the prize draw to win an “Ultimate entertainment package” There are five packages to be won. Each prize consists of the following:

  •  Nine month student Unlimited BT Broadband and Unlimited Weekend Calls (or Unlimited BT Infinity if available in the winner’s area) subscription, including all activation and delivery charges
  • A Samsung PS43F4500 43” Plasma TV
  • A Samsung HT-F4500 BluRay Theatre System 5.1 (black)
  • An Xbox 360 S Console 250Gb HDD, a Nikon Coolpix S9050 Digital Camera (compact, 12.1 Mpx, 15.5x optical zoom)
  • X4 Apple iPod Shuffles (4th Generation September 2012, 2Gb, Silver)
  • £300.00 Sainsbury’s voucher

 Student broadband price comparison chart

Broadband

BT Unlimited Student Broadband & Calls

Virgin Media 30Mb Student Broadband

Sky Unlimited Broadband & Calls

Talk Talk Totally Unlimited Broadband

Plusnet Essentials

Speed

Up to 16 Mb

Up to 30 Mb

Up to 16 Mb

Up to 14 Mb

up to 16Mb

Usage limits

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

10GB

Calls package

Weekend calls AND includes BT Sport

n/a

Weekend calls

Evening & weekend calls

Evening and weekend calls

Total Monthly cost

£16.00

£22.50

£19.50

£19.50

£8.49

Total first year cost

(£16.00 x 9) = £144.00

(£22.50 x 9) + £49.95 set-up fee = £252.45

(£5.00 x 12) + (£14.50 x 12) = £234.00

(£3.75 x 12) + (£15.40 x 12) = £229.80

(£8.49 x 12) + (£25) = £126.88

BT’s student broadband will be available online only at www.bt.com/student.

 

*PR post

 

The Big Chop

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter then you’ll probably know that I recently lost something I love… my long hair. I have been growing my hair ever since I can remember and in the last two years it’s finally hit that length that makes people marvel at it. Unfortunately, my long hair didn’t look sleek and beautiful like I wanted it to because I’ve been far too sick to style it or look after it properly. Not only do I not have the energy to spend on playing with my hair, the pain in my upper arms is just too severe at the moment for me to use straighteners, curlers, or even be able to brush my hair. Yes, P can now add ‘knows how to brush bad knots out of long hair’ to his CV.

picstitch

As you’ve probably guessed from the photo, I decided to have my long hair chopped off. I swayed back and for between my decision until the last bath before my appointment when it took what felt like hours to wash my hair. Bearing in mind how badly baths exhaust me, it was the last push that I needed to take the plunge.  Now that my hair is much shorter, taking a bath is much quicker, and my hair looks a lot tidier, even though it is getting styled just as often, by which I mean not at all.

As much as I love my hair style (I have a great hairdresser), sometimes I get a little sad that I finally got the length of hair I wanted and I had to chop it all off. Okay, feel free to roll your eyes at me, I realise how ridiculous that last sentence sounded. In the grand scheme of things it’s only hair right? I do have that perspective 99.9% of the time, but every now and then, on particularly “bad” days I find myself thinking that my illness has even stolen my hair style. I love styling my hair and putting on make up but I’ve not managed to do either of those things for over a month. Hmph.

What I’ve decided to do is try to focus on cultivating a new style for myself. I’m in a new era of my life now that I’m no longer at university and have a rehabilitation team (more about this soon) so I should have a new look to go with that. Rather than see my new hairstyle as a result of circumstances beyond my control, I’m going to seize it as an opportunity to shake things up. Since I’ve not had shoulder length hair (that’s classed as short in my book) for six years, and then it was only briefly so this is new territory for me, any styling or hair related tips would be very welcome.

Love Katie x

To Infinity and Beyond

I’m back! Well actually, Paul and I came back to Cardiff over a month ago, but we’ve been buried under applications and assessments for various types of support and financial help we’re been trying to access. On top of this Paul came down with some kind of flu-type illness which knocked him for six, so it’s been a bit of a juggling act the last few weeks. Thankfully, all of this stuff has come after Paul’s exams, otherwise we’d never have coped.

One thing that has become painfully obvious to me in the last couple of weeks of being almost completely housebound is just how much I rely on the Internet. I have no idea why it’s taken me quite so long to realise this fact, I am a blogger after all, but now that the revelation has hit, I feel I owe my undying devotion to Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Blogging

It’s not just that most of the time all I can manage at the moment is watching telly and movies online, or that I use the Internet for blogging, but for the most part it’s my window into the outside world. I am able to manage a few social visits, but not for very long, and they leave me completely drained, so the Internet is the main way I socialise. It is also have I have begun to get to know other people in similar positions to me. I use Facebook not just to keep track with existing friends, but also get to know new ones through crafting groups. I do all of my shopping online now, and without the Internet, I’m not sure how else I would manage to find out about any developments in the treatment of M.E. and Fibromyaglia. I could go on, but I sense that you get the point.

Since Paul is also stuck at home looking after the vast majority of the time, he uses the internet almost as much as me, we need a good internet connection to deal with all this traffic. You can often hear either P or I groaning at how long something is taking to load. I hate taking over an hour to watch 30 minutes of video because of continually having to wait for it to buffer. I have come to loathe that little loading circle. The problem is that good internet, at an affordable rate, is tough to find. Everyone claims to have top speeds but, in my experience, they usually don’t deliver. That’s why when I jumped at the chance to trial BT Infinity when I was contacted by a PR company recently. I can’t wait to let you know how I get on, but in the meantime, I want to share with you an offer that BT is currently running for students. You can find details of the offer below, but be sure to be quick because you only have until the 31st of October to take advantage of this amazing deal.

I’d love to hear about your own internet experiences, and what you use the internet for.

Love Katie x

 

Start the student year with savings thanks to two new BT Student 9 month package deals

BT InfinityWith the University year steadily upon us, BT’s Student 9 month broadband packages that have been recently unveiled include the BT Unlimited Student Broadband & Calls deal for only £16 per month and Unlimited Weekend Calls for just £20 per month.  Both deals have “totally unlimited” broadband, with no download limits on usage.

With the value and benefits of both BT deals outweighing their competitors by not only offering the calls and downloads, but BT Sport.

“Ultimate entertainment package to be won”

With a 9-month contract, students can reap the money saving rewards and not have to worry about subscribing for unused time.  BT is offering this money saving deal to the millions of students living in shared houses across the UK.

Once signed up, students can enter the prize draw to win an “Ultimate entertainment package” There are five packages to be won. Each prize consists of the following:

  •  Nine month student Unlimited BT Broadband and Unlimited Weekend Calls (or Unlimited BT Infinity if available in the winner’s area) subscription, including all activation and delivery charges
  • A Samsung PS43F4500 43” Plasma TV
  • A Samsung HT-F4500 BluRay Theatre System 5.1 (black)
  • An Xbox 360 S Console 250Gb HDD, a Nikon Coolpix S9050 Digital Camera (compact, 12.1 Mpx, 15.5x optical zoom)
  • X4 Apple iPod Shuffles (4th Generation September 2012, 2Gb, Silver)
  • £300.00 Sainsbury’s voucher

 

 Student broadband price comparison chart
Broadband

BT Unlimited Student Broadband & Calls

Virgin Media 30Mb Student Broadband

Sky Unlimited Broadband & Calls

Talk Talk Totally Unlimited Broadband

Plusnet Essentials

Speed

Up to 16 Mb

Up to 30 Mb

Up to 16 Mb

Up to 14 Mb

up to 16Mb

Usage limits

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

10GB

Calls package

Weekend calls AND includes BT Sport

n/a

Weekend calls

Evening & weekend calls

Evening and weekend calls

Total Monthly cost

£16.00

£22.50

£19.50

£19.50

£8.49

Total first year cost

(£16.00 x 9) = £144.00

(£22.50 x 9) + £49.95 set-up fee = £252.45

(£5.00 x 12) + (£14.50 x 12) = £234.00

(£3.75 x 12) + (£15.40 x 12) = £229.80

(£8.49 x 12) + (£25) = £126.88

Coupled with the savings, the BT Package deals will enable students to be able to access Internet when visiting home by benefiting from BT’s estate of wi-fi hotspots.

BT’s student broadband will be available online only at www.bt.com/student.

 

*PR post

Spiralling: An update on our favourite chronic fighter

It seems like the beginning of all my blog posts begin this way: Katie has been very sick. In fact, it’s quite possible that she’s never been this sick before, and that really is saying something. The last few months Katie has been travelling on a steep downward spiral. Our prayer is that she has now reached the bottom. The idea of her getting worse doesn’t bare thinking of.

Kate has struggled with abdominal pain for over six months. It began after she was taken into hospital in March, and has since existed as an underlying problem. Over the last ten days, however, the pain has escalated dramatically. It has kept Katie in bed, constantly, for the whole ten days. It’s stopping her eating, she’s had sleepless nights, and standing up has felt like a pipe dream for our chronic fighter.

You’ll all be glad to hear that she is doing just that: fighting. Katie fights to stay positive, she fights to find achievement in even her worst days and she is fighting to get better.

Katie is the kind of person who gets bored very easily. She can’t sit still and do nothing. That’s why she spends endless hours doing crafts, or writing, when she’s too sick to get out of bed. Sometimes, however, she’s so sick that even these things are beyond her. That’s how you know she’s really ill, because she won’t be doing anything. This is what the last ten days have been like for her. The vast majority of the time, when she’s actually been awake (which sometimes has only been a few hours a day), she’s been unable to do anything.

I must emphasise that I really mean that she hasn’t been doing anything at all. It’s hard to understand what that’s like until you’ve actually had to do it for such a long period of time.

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. This week we’re going back to visit our parents. We haven’t been back since Christmas so, even though Katie will spend most of the time in bed, we’re very much looking forward to it. Even a week in a new bed will be better for Katie, who must be sick to death of the four walls around her.

As for me, I’ve just finished my exams so I’m looking forward to some rest and relaxation before the new academic year begins in September. Hopefully I’ll also manage to get some writing done too. You might now that I write my own blog, and write for the Huffington Post. Let’s just say that, if you do follow me, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’ve given up. The river has run dry lately. Hopefully this break will give me the time I need to start afresh.

While it might be a week or two before Katie posts again, don’t forget that you can leave comments at any time and you can follow her on social media. As always, she would love to hear from you. If you know us personally then jigsaw puzzles, audio books and DVDs are always well received . As you can imagine, she’s worn a whole in all of ours so it would be a great help if you could lend some to her.

This blog post was written by Paul Davies.

Chronic Katie’s Guide to Dating

I recently received an email from a reader asking me for date ideas, which made me really happy. I love hearing from and getting contributions from readers. I was also happy because it was a really great question. It can be very difficult to balance a relationship with a partner when you live with an illness. It brings new challenges and dimensions which have to be dealt with. I became bed bound not long after P and I had started our relationship. Even though we had been good friends for a long time before, trying to think of date ideas in such a constrained situation wasn’t easy. I wish that someone could have given us some advice and ideas.

Since then, my health has had better periods and worse periods, but whatever constraints we’ve had, P and I have worked hard to make sure we have dates. Even though we’re married now, have our own house, and spend nearly all our time together (P is my full time carer), dates are still as important, if not more important, as they were when we first began our relationship. Making sure that P’s carer role doesn’t dominate his relationship with me is tricky, but dates help make sure that we have time each week where we act like a “normal” married couple.

Living out my dream date at an outdoor cinema

Living out my dream date at an outdoor cinema

The good news is that it is possible to have a great relationship even when you’re chronically illIf you’re willing to be creative, then there is no reason why you can’t have just as much fun with your partner as someone who isn’t constrained by health issues.

1. We try to make sure we have a date once a week. We class a ‘date’ as a time when we completely focus on each other (no phones or social media) and do something fun. Sometimes this may only consist of 10 minutes playing Top Trumps together, or watching a film. To a large extent, it doesn’t matter what we do, the important thing is that we do it together.

2. Apart from bringing creativity to your relationship, it’s also important to bring positivity and happiness, even when you’re feeling terrible. It doesn’t matter what’s happens in your day, week or month, P and I always put your issues aside and place real value on our time together. Being positive doesn’t have to mean being fake, you can still talk about how you’re feeling or how your week has been, but try to keep it to more light hearted topics. You have the rest of the week to talk about awful or difficult things, what does a hour or two matter? You’ll be surprised how this can help lift your mood, even during bad episodes of depression.

When we’re trying to be creative about our dates, but also have to consider my health, we often find our minds going blank. To make sure that we don’t just get repetitive, we keep a list of dates, which require different amounts of energy input and financial input. The list includes things I could do on my worst days and then dream dates for we aim for.

3. I want to encourage to dare to dream. I recently had the opportunity to cross off a dream date I’ve had since before Paul and I were together. I’ve always wanted to go to an old fashioned out door cinema. While we were in Gran Canaria, we found out that we were only a short  journey away from Europe’s only open air cinema. I saved up my energy (and our spending money) so that we could go to the Moonlight Cinema on our last night. When you shoot for the sky, you begin to notice more opportunities around you. Paul and I have dates on our list that are far from within our reach currently, but we remain hopeful that one day they’ll be crossed off.

 4. Date ideas:

I thought I’d end this blog post by sharing some ideas Paul and I have come up with in the past, they reflect different ability levels, time and financial cost. These dates might not appeal to you because they reflect our personality and interests, but hopefully they may help give you some ideas of your own. Some may sound lame, but it’s worth giving it a try, you may just discover a way to have fun with your partner.

  • Turn your living room or bedroom into a personal cinema. Turn off the lights and get in some popcorn. If you want to take it to the next level, you could even pop into your local cinema and ask for the bag they usually serve popcorn in.
  • Take cheap, plain crockery, old or new, and use permanent markers to decorate them for each other. You can find the rest of the instructions here.
  • Play board games- an obvious but undervalued choice. You could even have a tournament. Paul and I have invested in some low energy, quick and simple games over the years. When I’m really feeling exhausted and in pain, my go to game is Top Trumps (see link below).
  • Bake something together. You can get a cake mix (Betty Crocker is my fave, you can find a link below) to make it quicker and easier. I sit at the dining table and only do the easy parts, and even though P isn’t a major fan of baking, we always have fun together. You can see a vlog of our baking fun below. Cake baking fun begins around 2:20.

      •  Read to each other. At times when all I’ve been able to do is lie in the darkness, P reading a book or the Bible to me has been a great way to keep me entertained and distract me from the pain (if that’s possible). I know that doesn’t sound like a date, but P has told me that he also loves doing it because it means we can actually be enjoying something (i.e. whatever he’s reading) at the same time, despite how sick I am.
      • Do a puzzle together. Difficult to do in bed, but if you can get out of bed, this is a low energy activity, just be sure to buy a fairly easy puzzle or it gets frustrating.
      • Taste test some new food. For an anniversary a few years ago, Paul and I spent out on importing some Japenese food from a website called J List. You can also import food from lots of places on Amazon now. Or, you can just simply pick out some stuff you’ve never tried before and taste test it, you might discover a new favourite together.
      • Have a fancy dinner. Crack out the best plates and light some candles. Making a “posh” dinner would be quite energy draining, so maybe get your partner to do that, and you can just do the enjoying part.
      • Take a relaxing bath together. Go all out on candles, music and bubble bath.
      • Do a craft project together- big or small. Pinterest (see below) is a great place for finding interesting projects.
      • Play with Lego, Playdough or whatever your favourite childhood toy was. Date night/day/afternoon is a time for you to relax, so why not bring out your inner child?
      • Potato portraits. Take a potato each, and then using cocktail sticks, attach whatever you like to create a portrait of your partner.
      • Coffee dateCoffee date- it sounds simple (because it is), but it’s a date idea that’s often overlooked. A coffee date can be a good option for getting you out of the house without requiring too much energy. Challenge each other to try a new cafe/coffee house or a new drink, to make the date a bit more interesting. Alternatively, your partner can grab a takeaway coffee for you both for you to drink at home, in your bed.
      • Have an in door picnic in your living room or even in bed. I stole this idea from my mother-in–law, who knows how to get creative on a rainy day with a hyper 5 year old. She used to put a piece of blue material on the floor to be the stream, a blanket for them to sit on, and of course a basket of food to eat. The rest is up to the imagination.
      • Take a virtual trip. This one requires quite a bit of preparation, so you would need to ask a carer or your partner to do that. I know it sounds lame at first, and in all honesty, a virtual trip is never going to beat the real deal, but it can be fun when getting out of the house is not an option for you. Explaining ideas and experiences of virtual trips could take me a whole post or more so I’ll try to do a whole post just on this topic soon.

5. If I had to sum this post up in one sentence, I would say that creativity is the key.  I have so many more ideas and tips that I would love to share with you, but since this blog post is already very long, I shall bid you farwell with a last piece of advice.  Many of the ideas I have shared with you require imagination or for you to see an activity a week in a new light. Remember that every date you have together is investing in your relationship.

I often post pictures of mine and P’s dates to my Instagram and Tumblr. Check out the links below to follow me for more ideas and daily updates. I’ve also make a slideshow of some “tools” that will help you have a great date below and a link to where you can buy them online.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this (long) guide to dating, whether you suffer from a chronic illness or not. If you have any dating advice or date ideas then please share them in the comments box below.

Happy dating love birds!

Love Katie x

Additional resources: 

Pinterest is great for picking up all kinds of crazy and new ideas. You can follow me on Pinterest by clicking here. I even have a board devoted entirely to ideas for the ceramic decorating date mentioned above.

You can find some products that will help you have great date nights below. Just click on the product to find a link to buy.

Follow me on…

YouTube ChronicallyKatieblog

Twitter chronic_katie

Tumblr ChronicallyCraftyKatie

Instagram ChronicKatie

 

 

This blog post was worked on by both Paul Davies and Katie Bennett-Davies.

 


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