Thursday, 26 June 2014

BEAUTIFUL BOTHY


Having had a magical (almost) two years living on the Isle of Lewis, Jared and I have decided to move back to mainland UK. We've both absolutely loved it here, but agree that it's the right time to move on. Before we say our goodbyes to this beautiful part of the world, we're determined to make the very most of living in it.

When friends from London came to stay, we seized the opportunity to visit and camp overnight in one of our favourite spots - the bothy (stone outhouse) at Mangersta. Even if my brain weren't clouded by the fog that comes with ME / CFS, I don't think I could find the words to do this place justice. 

Aware that the trip would involve more walking than I'd managed in a while, I was a little apprehensive about it. This was far outweighed though by my determination not to allow ME/CFS steal what I knew would be a fantastic experience from me.

Since I'm not able to drive far, my lovely friend, Mr Spraggs, offered to negotiate the hour-long single-track car journey instead. This was really very kind as it meant that I could save my much needed energy beans for the next more physically demanding leg of the journey. 

Having parked up and checked with the owners that it was actually ok to stay in the bothy, the boys identified the best route through fields and highland cows for us to take on foot. With a plan in place, we began the 600m walk from the car to the cliff faceIt would be a massive lie if I said this part of the trip was enjoyable because truthfully it was really quite tough. As I looked at the expanse I still had to cross and tried 'just ten more steps' I was reminded of how I felt at the ten mile point of a half marathon several years ago.  With physical support, regular reminders to keep breathing and a chair carried along behind me for rest breaks, I managed though. It was all worth it the minute I realised I'd made it and looked up to be met with the view pictured below. Hannah, who works as a health professional, was absolutely fantastic throughout this part of the trip and I cannot thank her enough for her quiet but comforting reassurance and encouragement. Her patients should consider themselves very lucky.


The bothy, where we would be staying, was built in memory of a journalist who came from this part of the island. One of the things I love about it most is that, nestled into the cliff face and made from rock, you could miss it entirely if you didn't know it was there.



Inside there is a stove, a bench, a small wooden bed and a window looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. With the fire lit and tea light candles dotted about, it feels incredibly homely and cosy. Having unpacked our bits and pieces, we cooked a very yummy chilli con carne dinner before getting comfy for a round of the Pointless board game.


Settled in the little hideaway, non-alcoholic shandy in hand, I completely forgot about my illness for a while. It was such a treat to be tucked away from the world, in lovely company, doing exactly what I would've had I not been ill. When I curled up in my sleeping bag, listening to the others chatting away and the fire crackling I felt more content than I had in a long long while.
 

When morning came, it felt incredible to step outside into the fresh sea air and watch the birds swooping down from the cliff.  After a leisurely (attempted) pancake breakfast we packed up, and bid the bothy our goodbyes.

The trip back to the car wasn't easy but our lovely evening had given me the boost I needed to get through it. By the time we got there my legs didn't feel like they were attached to my body and I was a little emotional from the effort. Just under a mile of walking across two days may not sound like a lot but for me it was a huge achievement. I could've burst with how proud of myself I felt. There is no way I could've done it without the help of the lovely people pictured below and I'm just so grateful they were there to support me.


I had such a lovely time and it was just the escape I needed. I really hope that this was just one of many adventures Jared and I will fit in before we return to the mainland. 

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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

ISLAND LIFE


Just over two years ago, while still at university, I received an email about a job opportunity on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland. Intrigued, I opened the attachment and began to read. The job advert started like this:

"Are you interested in working and living in an area of natural beauty with clean air, no traffic jams and the prospect of being able to explore a variety of outdoor leisure pursuits?"

Immediately I thought 'Yes! That sounds lovely!'. With very little consideration of practicalities, going entirely on my gut feeling, I filled out an application and sent it off. I'd heard a million times how difficult it would be to find a job. With this being my first application, I decided not to think too much of it and told myself it would be good application-writing practice at best.

That being the case, it was pretty surreal when not long after, I found myself sitting on a noisy propeller plane heading to what would turn out to be a very unusual interview involving a trip to the beach and a scenic drive. It was even more surreal when a few days later I'd accepted a job in a place I'd never even heard of a few months earlier.



Taken on the day of my interview

Having grown up in Essex with easy access to London, moving to an island with more sheep than cars and just a handful of shops (that I'd never heard of) was a bit of a shock to the system.

Jared, my boyfriend, and I decided to embrace the cultural differences and it wasn't long before we found ourselves on all kinds of weird and wonderful adventures. At weekends, we'd grab a map of the island, close our eyes, point at random and head out in that direction. More often than not, we'd find ourselves on a stunning beach with not another person in sight.




Unfortunately, when I fell ill, these excursions became less manageable and more recently we've not been out and about in our beautiful surroundings as much as we would've liked. A couple of weeks ago, I resigned from my job and we've decided it's time to move on.

Before we go though, we're determined to do as many things as are (sensibly, given my condition) possible and really make the most of living here. It's not going to be easy and will require a little more planning than before I fell ill but I've amassed plenty of helpful strategies which I know I can call upon. Where there's a will, there's a way and there is definitely an awful lot of will.

I've managed one very exciting little adventure already and am looking forward to sharing it along with any others I manage over the coming months here on my blog.


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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

RESIGNING FROM A JOB I LOVE






Whether or not to resign from my job as a Speech and Language Therapist is one of the hardest decisions I've had to make to date. Last week I bit the bullet, met with my manager and did it.

A bit of background: I trained for four years to be become a Speech and Language Therapist and was very excited to start my first paediatric post in the Western Isles in September 2012. I absolutely loved the job from the off and found it incredibly rewarding. Unfortunately though I had to stop working after a year due to health difficulties.


Speech and Language Therapy is mentally, emotionally and, at times, physically demanding. Acting as a health professional comes with a great deal of responsibility and accountability. My job involved a lot of thinking (clinical reasoning, generating ideas for therapy activities), moving around (driving to schools/ meetings) and intense social interaction (talking to children, parents, health professionals, school staff, voluntary organisations etc). All of which became increasingly difficult as I became more ill.
My work colleagues and manager have been fantastically understanding and at no point have made me feel that I should attempt returning before I'm ready. Despite this however, getting back to work has constantly been in the back of my mind. I've struggled with not feeling 'useful' and have been very conscious of how my absence may have increased the workload of others'. Given that any kind of strain exacerbates ME / CFS, I don't think the (admittedly self-imposed) pressure of returning to work has been aiding my recovery.

After a great deal of consideration (and a long while of denial), I've decided that my priority for now has to be my health. This means that my career will have to take a backseat for a little while. Once I'm fighting fit again, I can throw myself into a challenging job but its just not the most important thing right now.
Although I'm incredibly sad to be leaving the very lovely Speech and Language Therapy Department, I'm extremely grateful for the things it has given me. I've gained brilliant hands-on experience in a field I love. I've learned (the basics of) a new language. I've experienced a very different culture in a beautiful part of the world. I've had the privilege of meeting and working with some amazing kids and their families. And most importantly of all, I've made some incredible, and I hope lifelong, friends.

Now that I've had a bit of time to think and it's sunk in that I won't be going back to work, I feel relieved and, in a way, liberated. There's nothing to say I won't get back to Speech and Language Therapy one day but who knows what exciting opportunity may be more manageable in the meantime?

I'm ready for a new adventure.


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