11 years a slave

  
11 years ago I said ‘I do’ in front of a church full of people, agreeing to marry my husband and promising to be faithful to him for ever. I’ve just given him a card, within which I wrote ‘I think our 11th year of marriage has been the best one yet’ and he agreed (without being prompted)! 

I’ve possibly confused people by the title of this blog, but it’s not as bad as you might think! 

In March this year I had an epilepsy sister appointment. Whilst at the clinic, my epilepsy sister asked how I was coping being off one of my drugs, I said that I was feeling much better and had a lot more energy. She then turned to my husband and asked if he had noticed a difference in me. His response “well she does more washing up”! VERY DANGEROUS! But also very true!

I often use this anecdote as a joke, but actually he was just pointing out something he had noticed, I’m just upset that I hadn’t really noticed it about myself. When I say 11 years a slave I mean it in two ways

Firstly, I was almost a slave to a way of thinking, to a way of life. No matter what was going on I always had an excuse not to do anything around the house, whether that was cooking, cleaning, washing up. Either I’d had a long day at work, or it was my holiday! The simplest of things and I would try to get the hubby to do them for me!

Which brings me to the second thing, the hubby has never once complained about pretty much running the place, he felt I was tired, he wanted to care and look after me, instead I can’t help but feel I treated him a little like a slave!

But this year that has all changed, we were both stuck in a rut, again we didn’t necessarily realise it until we were out, but we are now out of that rut! We are so much happier in all aspects of our life, and we are becoming more and more of a team. That is why this year, the 11th year of our marriage, has been the best one yet, and I think so much has changed for us that there is no way we will be going back to the way we were.

Love does strange things to a person, over the last year I’ve asked the hubby numerous times how he put up with me the way I was. The response is always the same ‘I didn’t put up with you, I loved you, but I do prefer you now as we have a lot more fun’! That’s enough of a statement to make sure that I NEVER enslave myself or anyone else again!

Bouncing over the barriers

  
As we approach September I prepare myself for ‘the epilepsy talk’, this is the talk I give to all my classes at the beginning of the year, to explain what epilepsy is, how it affects me, and most importantly what they need to do should I have a seizure. This talk usually consists of me telling the pupils to leave me alone and let me sleep; and that I’m normally out of it for about 48 hours, and in pain for much longer. Basically, if I have a seizure you will find me on the sofa asleep for at least 2 days if not longer, with barely any of this time awake!

However, I think I may need to make changes to this talk! I really didn’t realise what an effect the exercise/weight loss has had on my life. Yesterday morning I had my first seizure in nearly 14 months. Gutted – yes; but actually unlike any seizure I’ve had before. There were a few highlights

  1. I didn’t bite my tongue – I ALWAYS bite my tongue, that’s how I normally know that I’ve had a seizure – I was happier just to be told by my husband
  2. I wasn’t particularly post-dictal (really ridiculously confused, spaced out, not aware of anything that has happened or is happening)
  3. I didn’t go straight to sleep, I sat for a bit, got a bit weepy, then got ready!

Since the seizure Sunday morning I have travelled to Birmingham on the train on my own; gone for a meal with the family; played board games with my mum and niece; taken my niece bowling, for lunch and shopping; visited my aunty; had dinner and will be shortly going out to the pub!!!!! Previously I probably wouldn’t have managed all that in a week, let alone 36 hours after a seizure!

As I travelled on the train I gradually noticed bruises/lumps and bumps including: a lump on my eye which is gradually going black, a painful swollen ankle, a bruise on my chin. But I haven’t let it hold me back. I had decided I was going to Birmingham, I had promised my niece that I was taking her for a day out. My brain was NOT going to stop me.

My first text this morning was to my friend saying ‘the worst thing about going over a year without a seizure is that when you have one you forget the horrific pain of waking up in the morning and not being able to move anything’ the response I got, and needed was ‘yes I am actually really pleased you have forgotten but remember how is the “today” Helen going to deal with the aftermath of the seizure’

The “today” Helen has just got on with it, I’ve not been stupid about it, and will not be going running/gym until the ankle is stronger. But I was not going to let it get in the way of my plans with my niece, or family in general. Most importantly, in the same way that I didn’t feel guilty having my mums home made lemon meringue pie, I have often been annoyed with my brain, or even myself when I’ve had seizures, especially when I’ve been ages without having one. But this time I honestly haven’t – such a relief not to feel guilty and not to let it take over! 

I’m getting more and more amazed by how widespread this lifestyle has become! Which other barriers will I be able to jump over?

It’s good to be awake! 

 
Yesterday was a fantastic day! I did my first 30 minute run; I reached the 4 stone mark; I had an epilepsy sister appointment which was so short, and highly encouraging (I’m now on phone contact only for the next year); I walked along the sea front from Tankerton to Herne Bay; had a lovely chat with my mother in law who then took me and the husband out for a LOVELY Turkish meal as an early anniversary present.

On our way home the husband said ‘it’s great having the new you at home’! Considering he hasn’t said a huge amount about everything other than ‘what do you mean we’ve got to go for a walk’ and ‘you’re going for another run?’ Or ‘what are you going to make me do now?’ So I was rather shocked when he said, I asked what he meant, but he wouldn’t explain and I decided not to probe – that doesn’t normally work, believe me I’ve tried!

So later on, I just quietly asked ‘what did you mean earlier?’ To which he replied ‘it’s just so nice that you’re awake, and not out of it all the time,’

If I’m honest, I was firstly overwhelmed by the sweetness of the comment, but then a bit horrified that that’s what he used to think of me.

My husband would never ever have said anything to me, he doesn’t complain about anything, he just gets on with it all.  This was my first thought, he didn’t tell me to change! Although I know he wouldn’t have anyway.

But as I’ve been mulling over the statement in my head, he possibly didn’t even realise that I wasn’t awake, or that there was a problem, until he’s seen me since.

It really is fantastic to be awake! I feel like I’ve experienced more since January than I have done for ages! It’s not that I’ve done more, but what I’ve done I’ve appreciated a lot more and I’ve enjoyed a lot more. The afternoon naps are a thing of the past, and I’m going to bed later.

I had a conversation with a colleague the other day which went something like this

‘Helen you look fantastic’

‘Thanks, well I’ve lost nearly 4 stone now’ (whilst doing the awkward dance’

‘No, it’s not the weight, you are just glowing and look like you’re having a great time – what’s your secret?’

I’ve got my own ideas of what I used to be like, but I don’t think I really knew that that was what others thought as well. What I do know is that I have absolutely no intention of going back to the Helen I used to be! Life is great, and I have every intention of enjoying it’ll the full. 

Saying that I’m off to the gym, then for a swim, then do some school work, then head to a fancy dress party for the afternoon/evening/night!

It’s not about me!

  

 

 One of my first blog posts was that I was doing this for me, I wasn’t doing it for anyone else. That is still the case, but what I’m (very) slowly starting to realise is that the effect is having me, is having a ripple effect to others as well!

For those who don’t know, I am teacher. I teach religious studies to 11-18 year olds. I have been told by many that I am crazy, but I absolutely LOVE it! Today was GCSE results day, and as usual I went in to give out results, to celebrate and commiserate. Whilst I was at school I realised how much more I have been enjoying teaching this year. I have had a lot more energy, in order to teach better. Today I was able to actually jump around with pupils in celebration – actually physically jumping! 

A number of colleagues, pupils, and even parents, commented on how well/fantastic I was looking, but also how the pupils have enjoyed their lessons with me this year. I hadn’t realised how tired I was, and how that came across in the classroom, especially as I get stroppy when I get tired.

The choices I have made for me, are having a ripple effect, on friends, on family, but also in my job – without me even trying!

Over the last few years I’ve been exploring vocation, things are rather on hold at the moment, but what I’ve come to realise is that my job is a vocation – I know that because not many people would willingly choose to spend their days with teenagers. 

I know that God has a plan for me, I have no idea what that is, but I know that I have been placed at my school, and have been blessed by the staff, pupils and parents of that school. Now I just have to try to do my best, to encourage the delightful pupils and staff to be able to enjoy the daily manicness that is school life, and to then encourage others to do the same.

We may not feel we are making a difference, but we all are! So many of you who have been reading this have inspired me. Let’s see how far the ripples can travel!

Fun… Friendship… Fellowship

 

This time last year the word ‘hermit’ could have easily been used to describe me, and yet the last week I’ve  had friends over for dinner, been to friends for dinner (whilst drinking my friends very tasty home brew), been shopping, and ended the week leading a service at church and then going to a friends and spending about an hour on a bouncy castle!!!!!
Is hermit too strong a word? The more I think about it, I really don’t think so. As I was walking to the gym today I saw a teenage boy wearing a t.shirt which would have been perfect for me last year… Achievement unlocked 100% got out of bed.

I’ve always been an early riser, and have never really had the capacity to sleep in. But I’m not sure why I bothered, as I never did anything. I would sit on the sofa and I would watch TV and that really was about it, a walk into town would constitute a busy day and would be one episode of a box set missed!!!!!

Now, by 10 on a Saturday I’ve normally been for a run, had breakfast, made soup for the week ahead, put a load of washing on and out,  and tidied up. This means I can then get on with ‘social saturdays’. Since making the decision to not work on Saturdays, but to do all my school work on Sunday’s, I have made a point of meeting up with people on Saturdays. I regularly head over to see different friends, spend time with them and their kids, have lunch or breakfast in town. Just having fun and friendship.

I’ve noticed that a lot of my relationships have developed over the last year, and that is mainly because I haven’t been leaving it months between visits. This means my friends children see me regularly, and also half the visit isn’t spent talking about everything that has happened in our lives, but just what has happened in the last couple of weeks. If I’m completely honest, as well as being slightly hermit like, I think I also didn’t feel that I belonged, as much as I made out that I was ok, I was very aware that I was in my 30s had been married for a long time, and yet didn’t have children. I know none of my friends judged me, but that didn’t stop me judging myself, and I think that did affect me meeting up with people.

Last summer me and my husband decided to move church, this wasn’t an easy decision but it was something we both felt God was calling us to do. We were part of a large church, with a lot of our friends. This was a very easy way to meet up with people. We would see our friends every Sunday, we would chat, say Hi, ask how the week was etc… We are now in a much smaller church, but many of our friends go to the previous one. This again has meant that we have to meet up outside of church, and when we do the time is much better spent and  the friendships develop.

I know that I would not have got this far without the support and love of my friends. They have done nothing but encourage me, which was evident at my birthday this year when I was given, graze box vouchers, hair mousse for curls, new clothes, and vouchers for new clothes. 

The other thing that moving church has done is to help me realise who I am, and what my identity is. I am finally happy with who I am, and I know that that will continue. Rather than worrying about the fact that I don’t have children, I’m making the most of being fun Helen who is chosen to be on a 6 year olds football team because I’m better than his mum, or Helen who buys toys for the kids, Helen who bounces on a castle for an hour with a two year old because I have the energy to do so! My identity before was Helen, the epileptic, who didn’t do anything. Now I’m Helen who has epilepsy, but does not let it rule her life because she is a child of God! I’m also involved in so much more than just Sunday church, which is helping me to realise what is really meant by the fellowship of Christ. 

My friend who has been my main encourager and confident from the off, and will from now on be referred to as ‘E’ was telling me at the weekend that she had been talking about me. She too has lost a lot of weight over the last couple of years and would be first to say that she has done this purely by changing eating habits as opposed to exercise! She told me something which has stuck with me since Saturday. Whilst talking about me she told her friend that she has seen a COMPLETE change in me, with the hair, the weight, the exercise (possibly the most shocking for her) and also the church things, and the quote that has stuck with me is ‘God clearly had a plan for Helen and she is where and how God wants her to be’

Today I was up early, I read my book, ate my breakfast, got dressed, washed up, did school work, ate lunch, did school work, went to the gym, had a swim, did school work, chatted to a friend, had dinner, wrote a blog! It really is a holistic thing, knowing that I’ve probably done the same amount of work today that would have normally taken a week, which gives me hope for heading back after the summer holidays.

Life is great – the core being fun, friendship and fellowship.