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Thursday, 10 November 2011

We Will Remember Them

I hope that this post finds you enjoying a lovely Thursday lunchtime. I am indeed very happy and extremely excited this afternoon, as this evening I head off on a road trip back home for the weekend, for my dad's birthday and for a very dear friend's wedding.
As a result of the above, this post will be my last until Monday morning; as a weekend as physically busy as this will be very difficult for me, so I will almost certainly have to take additional morphine which will render me severely fatigued and significantly lacking in concentration: therefore, any post that I may write to you will be very much lacking in any coherent content- well, even more so than it perhaps usually is anyway!
Before I head off my long weekend away, I'd like to leave you with this link to Private Aron Shelton's story on The Royal British Legion website, to read and ponder upon.
http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/can-we-help/who-we-help/aron-shelton

Naturally as a wife of a serving member of the RAF, I have been, and will continue to wear my poppy with immense pride over this Remembrance Weekend, and I continue to be extremely shocked and disappointed by the views and behaviour of  the likes of FIFA and Poundland, who have acted so disgracefully over their mislead opinions on the wearing of a poppy- which is not political and is simply a symbol of remembrance to those who have so sadly been taken from us, as well as very importantly being a symbol of peace.
Through all the military personnel that I have been so privileged to meet since my time marriage to the forces, I have got to learn of so many inspiring tales of immense bravery and heroism of those both in the military and those also married to it, who have suffered bereavement in the most tragic of circumstances.
Like many I'm sure, over the last few years I have become acutely aware of the charity Help For Heroes, who along with the likes of the individual forces benevolent funds, The Royal British Legion and SSAFA, (who we have been personally been fortunate enough to benefit from during our most difficult time in my illness)- admirably raise awareness of, and funds for, those who have been injured in, or affected by current conflicts, ( with the latter mentioned, also helping those who have been affected in conflicts prior to Afghanistan and Iraq).
If you don't already sport the accessory of a Help For Heroes wristband, you can buy one, along with many other items to show support for our forces, at H4Hs online shop- the link for which you can find at the bottom of his post.
Unfortunately there are so many lives to be remembered and honoured, over so many years- those who have been injured and emotionally scarred, as well as those who have so tragically lost their lives for the sake of others. There are just such an immense number of people who have died, who all had friends and family that loved them who have had their lives turned upside-down, who we need to think of and pay respect for this weekend and every day.
With so many lives to be remembered, it is so crucial that we ALL take the time over this important weekend to remember those who gave their health or mobility, or indeed the ultimate price for others.
As the writer of a blog which focuses upon the psychological affects on people's lives of becoming disabled, it would be wrong of me not to pay particular attention today to the stories of those have had to face such a battle- which is why I direct you towards The Royal British Legion website to view a few such stories, such as the aforementioned Private Aron Shelton's- the link for which is included at the top of this post.

A few years ago, my husband and I, along with my beloved Barley dog, took a trip in our van to France where we travelled down the coast all the way to La Rochelle. On the way back to Calais, my husband and I felt is extremely important that we should spend at least a day or two visiting the beaches where the D Day landings took place, as well as the Bayeux war cemetery.
Words really can not do justice to the overwhelming feeling that consumes you when you visit these places. Thinking of the amount of young lives that were snuffed out before they even had a chance to grow up- it's just so incredibly sad and the figures, when you see just a fraction symbolised by a sea of white headstone, is really quite incomprehensible!
 The thing that shocked me most about visiting the war cemetery, was seeing the ages of the pilots, soldiers and navy and RAF personnel who lost their lives. The most frequent age that I saw on the headstones was of 18 and 19 year olds!
I earnestly hope that this Remembrance Sunday, those young adults that took part in the disgraceful riots of the summer of 2011, will be touched by at least one piece of media relating to this such incredible generation of youth, as well as those young men and women who to this day we continually hear about on our news dying in the line of fire.
As someone who used to work with young people, I know that this negative projection of our youth is not applicable to all. You only have to have watched The Pride of Britain Awards or the forthcoming 'Millies', (The Military Awards), to see this: but I do believe that we all should dedicate time this weekend to remember the lengths that our military have gone to for others, both in past and present day, so that we all pay more respect to those who deserve it.
A few years ago, my husband and his colleagues lost dear friends in conflict and I would personally like to remember them today, and over this weekend, along with the wonderful wives and children of these brave men, who have so tragically been left behind.
The RAF community has also lost another of it's heroes this week, in the death of Red 5- Sean Cunningham, of The Red Arrows.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends right now, as well as with the family of Jon Egging of 'The Reds' who also tragically lost his life after a display in Bournemouth back in August of this year.

Please wear your poppy with pride to acknowledge the lives of those no longer with us, and to give financial support to The Royal British Legion who help the lives of so many who have been injured in conflict, as well as those who have lost loved ones so tragically.

Over the last couple of years, a friend of mine has had the honour of meeting and photographing the incredible veterans who march each year to remember their fallen comrades who were never blessed with the privilege of growing old like them. 
Below is one of my favourite piccies from his collection, along with a link to my friend Duncan Raban's site to view the full album. http://duncanraban.co.uk/my-pictures/src/project/our-wonderful-veterans
Please check out the following sites and show support for those who have done, and continue to do, so much for us all.
We will remember them.

SAFFA   http://www.ssafa.org.uk/  
RAF Benevolent Fund   http://www.rafbf.org/
Help For Heroes  http://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/
Hounds For Heroes   http://houndsforheroes.com/
The Royal Navy Benevolent Fund http://www.rnbt.org.uk/
The Soldiers Charity http://www.soldierscharity.org/
Afghan Heroes http://www.afghanheroes.org.uk/content.asp?c=2

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Spread A Little Happiness

On a mission to reassure myself that my message is actually being heard beyond the circle of my loyal band of family and friends- this morning, whilst imprisoned in my bed by my nemesis, chronic pain, I 'Googled' the phrase- Reason to Smile.
Amazingly, my own Reason to Smile posts were present within the top few results, but more importantly, on that list, I discovered this article on the importance of a simple smile.
Coincidentally, this is actually a thought that occurred to me a lot whilst on my recent holiday in The Maldives, where so many of the staff who would spend the day sweeping the leaves off the paths in the baking sun, would speak little to no English, bar the word coconut so my only means of expressing any appreciation to them for their work would be to flash them a toothy grin.
In this instance, as is so often the case throughout the world where language may be a barrier, a smile was a universal method of positive communication.
A year or so ago, whilst spending one of my frequent moments pondering life and it's meaning, I decided that although I may naturally and subconsciously tend to smile at people whenever I should see them on the street, be them known to me or otherwise: I would, from that point on, for the sake of myself and others- make a conscious effort to smile at everyone that I meet or pass everyday in the hope of spreading this expression of positivity and warmth with such a simple act that requires such minimal physical effort.
I have noticed the consequence of this decision, to be that I have felt happier and brighter and more positive of spirit myself, as well as finding that this simple contraction of facial muscles, has initiated interesting conversations with people that should I not have smiled at them, I may never had met.
This is wonderful for me as I LOVE meeting people of every kind and I particularly like talking to people who are as different to me as possible, be that in occupation, background or character to myself.
London has been particularly wonderful for this pastime of mine, as contrary to the thoughts of country bumpkins such as myself, I have found this city to be an extremely friendly place to live. Having a dog is also a huge factor, that combined with a simple smile, can lead to meeting some wonderfully warm and fascinating people.
Naturally, the fabric of life means that we are all different in our likes and dislikes and in our general characters: therefore, some people may perceive a crazy girl whizzing along the pavement towards them in her super-speedy-wheelchair grinning like a Cheshire cat, to be a little odd- whilst others, (who may perhaps find this situation a little less loopy), may simply just not have time or the inclination to talk.
I sometimes find that the wheelchair element of this scenario can well make some people I pass, conspicuously pop in their earphones, look at the floor and stride more purposefully past me with increased speed.
I think that this uncomfortable reaction of some, may well be a factor of why I now tend to smile at strangers more, as in my opinion, this makes those who are bizarrely extremely awkward about having interaction with someone such as I with a disability, perhaps feel, (after they have awkwardly scuttled past me), that I am indeed a real person who has emotions and is not necessarily unable to have communication just because I am sat in a chair.
I perhaps naively believe that my increased smiling at these people, also makes those who may be sat on the fence of awkwardness towards interacting with a disabled person, perhaps perceive me as more approachable- and therefore they may be more inclined not scuttle on whilst making themselves voluntarily deaf by Kings of Leon, the next time that they are greeted by someone such as myself.
Who know, either way, I know that I am feeling better in myself for smiling, rather than being dragged to the depths of those who choose only to project their own misery upon others.
The article that initiated this ramble is attached below and lists so many of the benefits of smiling- the most important to me, being that smiling, like happiness and positivity, is contagious- so what could be a more simple act of making a difference to the spirit of the world each day, than to make a small physical effort to contract your muscles into a simple smile when meeting people, known to you or otherwise!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Reason to Smile- The Black Dog Campaign

I hope that you are enjoying a lovely day despite the dull and dingy weather outside our windows this afternoon.
Although weather such as today's may make us all feel a little down, a frighteningly increasing number of people are silently suffering day in day out, rain or shine with the cruel and very serious illness of depression- with of one in five people anticipated to experience the illness at some point in their lives.
 The World Health Organisation recently predicted that by 2020, depression will be the world's most disabling condition, above cancer and AIDS.
Mental illness is still sadly a taboo subject to many people, so as a sufferer of mental illness both pre and post disability myself, I feel it an extremely iimportant topic to repeatedly touch upon in my blog
The Black Dog has long been used as a metaphor for depression. The charity SANE who aim to improve the quality of life for people affected by mental illness have launched their Year of The Black Dog Campaign to mark their 25th anniversary and to raise awareness of this important issue, by placing black dog statues thoughout the major cities of the UK to raise awareness, reduce stigma and misunderstanding of mental health problems and to encourage more people to seek help. SANE's press release states...
 To bring the campaign to life we have designed visually striking Black Dog statues.  The physical presence of a Black Dog will help people to define their experience of the ‘invisible’ condition, which characterises mental illness, as well as promoting more open discussion, understanding and acceptance. In order to deliver a positive message of support, the black dogs will have a ‘collar of hope’ and wear ‘coats’ designed by celebrities, artists and members of the public.

I think that this is a fabulous idea which I really hope will work towards stamping out the stigma of mental illness by evoking many to either talk about the issue, or even express their own worries to loved ones or a health professional;.
Knowing that such a wonderful campaign has been launched and is being supported so fabulously by celebrities for increased profile is what is really making me smile today.
Check out SANE's website at http://www.sane.org.uk/what_we_do/black_dog/ along with an article on the campaign in The Guardian...   http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/24/mental-health-black-dog-sculpture-campaign

Monday, 7 November 2011

A New Path

Apologies once again for my lack of contact for a few days, but I have recently gained the assistance and guidance of what I can only describe as my shrink , (to annoyingly coin an extremely American term), who is trying to get to grips with and sort out, my poor pacing skills by restricting the posting of my blog to a few times a week.
The reason that I call this lady ‘my shrink’, is because I know not what her correct title is if I’m honest- counsellor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, CBT instructor- everyone of these terms I have used in front of her has been dismissed as incorrect without the offering up of a term that she is happy with; so for now- shrink it is! The reason that she has come into my life, is I believe because I subjected the psychological services department in my local area to my incessant complaining that I hadn’t received any psychological support for the five years that I have been disabled; whilst also informing them of my quest to spread the word that this has not been so and must certainly not be the case for those people who are a few paces behind me on this path of coping with and accepting their disability.
Whatever the true reason may be, I am extremely pleased and grateful to finally be receiving some emotional assistance, at a time when I think I’m really going to need it!
Next week, my husband and I will embark upon a journey we have been anticipating taking for some time now- the beginning of a series of hospital consultations to establish whether my spinal injury and degenerative neurological condition combined, will permit me to physically conceive and carrying my own child.
If the case is that these complications will prevent us from having children ourselves, then we will then embark upon a path of exploration of alternative paths to parenthood.
This process is naturally going to be an emotionally difficult time, so I believe that this period of counselling has come at an extremely opportune moment in time.
Besides this impending exploration, the primary points that have been touched upon thus far in my ‘shrink sessions’ are the problems that I have with pacing myself, along with the guilt that I all too often feel over my inability to be quite the friend that I would so love to be to those friends of mine who've stood by me through the difficult times that I've been confined to bed unable to even have conversations by any means.
Those of you who have been following my ramblings for some time now, will no doubt be aware of these concerns that I have and how at times these concerns can consume me.
The whole point of me pouring out my heart about things such as this, (which may well feel trivial to some), is that I believe that these are issues that occur to many people who become disabled, yet are not generally issues that are talked about, or indeed that perhaps occur to people who are unaffected by disability when they think of problems that disabled people may face.
I believe that the issues that we may encounter exploring potential parenthood also fall into this bracket of problems that do not occur to people when they think of others becoming disabled- this is precisely why I am intending to lay myself bare during my discovery of my destiny in this area.
On that note, I must heed the warnings of my shrink and keep to the 3hr limit on typing my post, (my concentration issues pertaining to my morphine intake cause even the smallest of tasks to take five times as long as they did prior to my life with a disability)- I’d like to wish you all a very good night and I hope that you all sleep soundly and do not experience the pain induced insomnia that I am currently experiencing each night- 4am can be such a lonely time!

Before I sign off this evening, I’d just like to take a moment to acknowledge and send my prayers and general thoughts to, all of those who were involved in, or have been affected by, the dreadful motorway crash in Taunton on Friday evening. That area of the M5 is one very familiar to my husband and me, as it is where we so often travel at that same time on the start of a weekend when we are visiting Garry’s family who live just a few miles from where the tragedy took place.
I pray for all of those still in hospital or facing a physically altered life ahead of them, as well as of course for those who have so tragically lost loved ones.
God bless you all.