Writing with a Chronic Illness.

I’m a writer. I love to write, i’m always tapping out or scribbling down something. I write poems, short stories, blog posts and bits of anything that comes into my mind. My dream is to write a book and have it published. I dream of walking into my favourite bookstore and seeing it on the shelves with all the other books I love to read. But writing with a Chronic illness is hard work, really hard work and it’s so frustrating it makes me want to scream.

Being a good writer means discipline. It means having the motivation to write every single day but it’s hard to do that when you feel like your brain is on fire. The words get jumbled inside my head and I can’t find the words I want to say. I get frustrated alot and my plans for different projects have to put back to the side so I can rest and come back to it later.

Writing is my passion. It always has been. It saved me from a lot when I was a child. When i was scared or alone or hurt, I’d grab out my pens and pad and start writing a story and I’d disappear into this make believe land that I created myself. I’d write about things that were so far from reality that I’d disappear into this fantasy land and I’d only come back when I was happy again. I dont remember any of those stories anymore, all my old pads were burnt when I left home. I wish I had them now so I could look back on them and realise how far I have actually have come with my writing skills. I do get so down on myself and tell myself that I’m a terrible writer and i’ll never write anything good enough that people will like reading.

Being a good writer takes time and practice and the only way to improve is to write. A lot of my writing today looks like a child has took to the page and attempted to write an adult story. Maybe that’s just how I perceive it and maybe I’d just been too down on myself.

Put together the brain fog from my chronic illness and my terrible procrastination skills and you will find out that not a lot of writing gets done on my end anymore. That frustrates me to no end because writing is my passion, it’s my hobby and it’s my dream to write a book that people will actually enjoy reading. I used to be able to write page after page before I got unwell, whether it was in my journal of writing bits of my book.

Some of my achievements I will mention as not to be so down on myself. But I have kept this blog and my book review blog running for over 6 months and that does make me proud. This blog is focused on chronic illness awareness and my health journey. And my book blog, I talk all things books. Because if you know me, you will know that I love to read. Reading has also been another one of the things that saved me from so much hurt as a child.

Tell me your experiences with writing in the comments, whether you have a chronic illness or not. Any tips will definetly be appreciated because I need to get my book out there. I would love to hear from writers who are published or not published. I would love to connect with some of you out there! Follow me on my social media links and come and chat to me about writing or books or just general life.

Twitter.

Personal Instagram.

Goodreads.

Bookstagram.

Book Review Blog.

– Charleigh.

So You Want An Eating Disorder?

This may contain content including pictures that may upset some people.

Eating disorders kill, that is a fact. They destroy your body and take your sanity down with it.

I was only young when I stopped eating. I remember being in primary school watching my friends eat their lunches while I ate an apple. I’d sit in my classes and stare off into the distance, my stomach cramping from hunger. Increased arguments with my mother when I wouldn’t eat the half raw chicken nuggets she was trying to force me to eat.

When I was 16 I moved into my dad’s house and that’s when things took a turn for the worse. My dad worked shifts so I was alone in the house a lot of the time. My weight started to drop and I started taking laxatives.

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I didn’t think things could get any worse but they did. At 18 years old, I moved into my own flat. I was scared and I was alone. I didn’t have a reason to live. I didn’t see the point so I decided to starve myself to death. But my body fought back and I started binging on anything I could find. And then I’d lean over the toilet and throw up until I spat blood.

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Eating disorders are not fun.
They are not cool, pretty or stylish.

Your organs will shut down one by one, your heart will fail.
You’ll wake up in the morning and there will be clumps of hair on your pillow. Your teeth will become so yellow and rotted from all that throwing up. Your periods will stop so you might not be able to have children. You will be so cold that you will be sat in a fluffy jumper in summer. You will grow extra hair on your body to keep warm.

Do you know what it’s like to have your 70 year old nan begging on her hands and knees for you to eat?
Do you know what it’s like to hear your best friend say “I thought you were gone this time.”
Do you know what it’s like to hear your 8 year old little brother asking you why you’re not eating christmas dinner?

Oh but you will. Eating disorders rip lives apart. They destroy your relationships with the people you love. You won’t care that your lying to people about why your not eating because you’ll have a little voice in your head telling you it’s okay and that it’s what you need to do.

Do you know how much self hatred it takes to starve yourself? To lean over a toilet and stick your fingers down your throat and not stop until you see blood. To take handfuls of diet pills, water pills and laxatives a day?

Do you know how unwell you will feel at 3 in the morning when you can’t sleep because your body is crying out with hungry? When your crawling on your hands and knees into the kitchen and shovelling food into your mouth until you throw up.

Do you know how much willpower it takes to keep running when your legs are shaking and your head is spinning but you can’t stop until you’ve burnt all the food off?

So yes. When I see people telling others HOW to make themselves throw up. When I see 12 year olds asking how to become anorexic and GROWN adults telling them what to do. How to hide it from their families and telling them that they can’t eat otherwise they will be seen as weak.

Yes I will report them. Yes I will get angry and defensive because my eating disorder nearly killed me and it’s taken so many beautiful people I’ve known.

Eating disorders are ILLNESSES not lifestyles. They are not something to aspire to. If you wanna live your life that way then fine but don’t encourage others to do the same.

Dear My 18 Year Old Self

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Dear Charleigh,
I know things are tough, I know big changes are coming up.
You’ve been moved out into the big wide world, away from the safety of the refuge.

Your with a guy that you don’t really love, and who is messing with your head, who repeats to you that the devil is watching.

It breaks my heart.
I want to tell you that bad things are going to happen again, that everything will crumble around you.

I want to warn you of the upcoming battles, I want to tell you not to push everyone away again.
I want to tell you to be careful who you trust, I want to make you promise that you will speak out and not be afraid,
because your an adult now and your not in the refuge anymore, nobody is looking out for you,
Your on your own.

The guy you fell for, the one you looked to for safety and love, will hurt you in so many ways.
He will not respect your space and boundaries, and he will threaten you and scare you into doing things you don’t want to do,
he will keep a surprise in your draw, and try to get you into trouble.
The police will be called and your house will be searched.

Don’t push people away,
It’s okay to lean on people for support.

When all that’s over and he’s moved back to his parents, you will think everything is okay and you can carry on.
But it won’t be that easy.
Things will seem impossible, and you will do anything you can to block the pain out.
You will continue to isolate yourself,
and depend more on the online world you’ve joined.
You will lock yourself in your flat, hardly seeing anybody from the outside world,
You won’t leave the safety of your box bedroom and you’ll spend everyday there, scared to leave.

You will obsess over weight loss and will do anything you can to become your definition of perfect.
I would tell you that perfect is not attainable and it will destroy you.
You will take handfuls of water pills, laxatives, diet pills and restrict your intake until your barely eating anything.
I would tell you it’s not worth it and to get out again while you can.

You will lay in your bed at night unable to sleep, you will cry with loneliness.
I will tell you not to get involved with that girl, that she will tip you over the edge, that you will try to end your life again.

You will end up in a psychiatric hospital, but you don’t belong there, but still you are and you hold onto the safety that is there.

I would warn you not to trust your nan and that your mother will find out where you are.

Then after 2 months locked away, you have no other choice but to go back to the refuge.

Months go by and your still so terrified, you feel lost in the world.
Soon it will be time to move on again and you will be at a loss for where to go.

You will be left with hardly any options, you have 2 weeks to find somewhere else and your petrified.

I would tell you it’s okay and that there not against you, I would tell you not to take those pills and that it’s ok to be scared to move on.

But you probably wouldn’t listen because your scared and fear does strange things to people.

You’ll end up in a hospital again with no recollection of your actions.
You’ll feel even more stupid and lost and it won’t change what’s upcoming.

You still need to move on, you still need to go out into the big scary world.
You will move back into the flat that broke you except this time you decide to do it right, to do it properly.

You fight against the lie that giving up is the way, you buy things you need and everything is okay for a little while.

I would tell you that things will get bad again.

Eating will be scary and life will be scary.
You will run away and try to find something that confirms your real, you will take another overdose.

You will scream at them to let you home but they put you in hospital anyway and your devastated.

You will feel that the police have betrayed you and they do because they tell your dad that your in hospital.
You haven’t spoken to him or mom in months.

You try to fight them away, I would tell you not to trust dad, I would beg you not to let him in again.
That it will all go wrong but It will feel like the right thing to do.
It will feel amazing and right and good but it’s not.

He will come to see you a few times and you will think he’s changed and it will feel euphoric.

Soon he takes you out and about, he says he will help you make your flat a home and starts decorating and finding you things you need.

You stay with him for overnight leave and you realise that he hasn’t changed, he’s still the same old drunk he always was.

The hurtful word piercing man he was before, the blows to your chest are the same as before, the bruises are still the same as before.

You go back to the hospital where you lie in your room, burying your head in books and deciding not to trust anyone ever again.
It’s not safe and it’s not worth it.

You get discharged and hide away in your flat, ignoring everyone, missing your appointments and not caring.

I would tell you to stop isolating yourself, to let people in, let people help
but I am you, and I know you wouldn’t listen.

But then someone will come along
and make everything okay again.
You will learn to trust this one person
and you’ll let them in.

Things will get better,
things won’t be perfect and they’ll still be nights you lie in bed and contemplate if life is worth living.
The voices will still dominate your mind
but you won’t be alone,
you’ll have someone in your corner, fighting with you.

I would tell you to stay.

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You Know My Name, Not My Story

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You know nothing about me. You know my name, not what I’ve been through. Nothing about me but my name.
Yet you still stand there and judge me, acting like you know everything, picking at my flaws, picking away at my insecurities. Things that I’m ashamed of.

If you knew me, like really knew me, you wouldn’t be so quick to judge.

You don’t know about my childhood, about every horrible thing that happened to me – again and again. That it’s broke me, it’s changed me as a person. I will never be the same. I lost my innocence and I will never get that back.
So yes, I am needy. I do get attached to people and objects very easily. I do lean on others so that I feel safe and secure. Because I’ve never had that in my life, I’ve never felt safe and secure and loved. Yes I get angry and snap out of frustration, that it’s so frustrating in my mind, I just can’t take it.
You don’t know that anything can trigger me. A picture, a song, a tv program, a comment someone makes.

You don’t know that I spent the best part of two years in a refuge – hiding. Running away from that childhood. The danger I was in. You don’t know how afraid and alone I was, with no one to turn too. I couldn’t even walk down the street without turning in every direction in fear. Without feeling my heart beating faster, sweat dripping down my neck.

You don’t know what happened next. That I was a mess, fighting against my unrational mind, it always winning. You don’t know the lengths I went too to destroy the memories, the bad parts. Overdosing and self harming and hitting my head against a wall, just to destroy it, to forget.

You don’t know that I fought against an eating disorder for years. That it nearly killed me. How far I went just to achieve my idea of perfection. My weight dropping, my body getting weaker and weaker. Taking every diet product I could get my hands on. Getting so hungry my stomach would scream out in frustration, I’d be crouching over gripping my stomach in pain. The urges overwhelming me so I order 6 people’s portions of pizza and eating it all, for the voices to then scream out at me so I end up throwing it all up until I spit blood.

You don’t know that after all that, I rise above. I move miles away from my home, the place I know, my godchildren. Just to get away from my family.

You don’t know that I’m in pain every second. Physically and emotionally. My body screaming out in pain, spasms shooting through my body. The exhaustion crippling, that even going to the toilet is too much.
My mind refusing to give me a break, refusing to let me forget, refusing to let me live. No, I can’t walk. No, I can’t do everything I used to do. No, I don’t demand things, I don’t take people for granted.

I am thankful for everybody and everything in my life. I am thankful for the support, the love and care. You don’t even know that I am a writer, a friend, an animal lover. I love reading, criminal minds and Mariska Hargitay.

I am so sick of people taking it upon themselves to judge me, to throw my name around like it means nothing. I am a person and I have feelings.

So yes, I am needy and I am fiercely protective. I have flaws like everybody else, alot of flaws. But before you think to judge me, think what your comments can do to me. Have the decency to get to know me, to find out who I am as a person before you make comments about who I am and what I do.

Dear Charley….

*Written when I was 18 years old.*

Dear Charley,

When I look at the photographs from years ago, you sitting there with your ocean blue eyes and the fly away hair,
and the little blue dress,
it seems like a different person, it doesn’t seem like me
it breaks my heart.

I want to tell you that bad things will happen,
that you won’t always be that happy,
everything will hurt and you will want to die.

I want to warn you about that day and those nights,
I want to make you promise me that you won’t keep anything a secret,
because you’re just a child, you are only 5 years old and you don’t have to be brave,
and when you grow up a little,
you still don’t have to be brave,
you don’t have to be strong for anyone,
its alright to cry.

Afterwards, you will lay in bed,
you’ll be terrified and unable to sleep,
some nights, you won’t get to sleep in your own bed,
and you’ll spend the night in a dark dingy cellar,
you’ll shut you eyes and escape to a pretend land you’ve made up.

Soon it will seem like an awful nightmare and you’ll pretend it didn’t happen,
but it did happen,
and I know that’s impossible to accept.

By your fifteenth birthday, you won’t feel anything anymore,
you will be numb
and in one of those awful moments,
you will lock yourself in the bathroom and draw a blade quickly across your leg
and you will say to yourself,
‘if anybody is going to hurt me, then it will be myself’
You are in control, but I promise you that you aren’t in control,
its a cruel illusion,
because it happens again and again,
your exposed bones and scarred skin will not save you.

Over the years you will write pages upon pages and you will read hundreds of books,
and you will do you best not to upset or anger people.

You tell yourself that you are holding it together while you hide the scars under your clothes,
and you can’t tell anymore if you’re eating or not.
You will become so cold that you won’t like anybody touching you
and the anxiety rises up in you chest like a heavy weight.

I know all this seems beyond awful,
and I know there will be days when you are so tired that you can’t even take another step,
and whenever you want to give up entirely, just remember that you survive.
At 18 years old, I can tell you this, you survive the first time,
you survive the second time,
you survive all the other times,
these terrible things happen to you and you survive,
slipcovered in lies and scars.

What PTSD feels like.

I constantly feel on guard, waiting for something to happen. It’s hard to let myself feel safe, it’s like having a protection shield up around all of the time; just in case.
It’s like being held underwater and you can’t come up for air. You’re stuck there, it’s impossible to loosen the chain that’s around your ankle, holding you down.
It’s like being forced to walk over broken glass, without anything on your feet. But the feeling spreads all over your body. Scratching the surface. You can’t get rid of these feelings, they’re everywhere. They’re watching your every move.

You’re stuck in this constant cycle of remembering the traumatic events and fighting to forget it ever happened.
It’s not knowing what to do anymore, you’re an outsider in your own body.

  I have lost so much due to my PTSD.
I couldn’t complete my college course due to my illness, I lost friends who didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I’ve had people call me attention seeking, lazy, crazy, stupid and so much more.
I’ve had to cut so many people out of my life, who are or could have been in contact with my abusers. I can’t take any chances.
I’ve had to spend the best part of 2 years in a refuge, hiding from them. And still to this day I am hiding from them, I will always be hiding until the day they die.
I’ve had to change my name and move miles and miles away just to get away from them. It’s not safe.

PTSD is so misunderstood. People don’t talk about it, it’s not something that comes up in everyday conversation.
When people think PTSD, automatically they think soldiers who’ve been in war. That is not the only reason that people develop PTSD. It can occur when someone goes through any traumatic event, whether it be rape, assault and child abuse and so many more.

My emotions are all over the place. One minute I’ll be consumed by an overwhelming sadness and i’ll just want to end my life, the next I’ll be furious with myself, with my situation, with anything. I hate who I’ve become, I hate this is the person I am. I don’t want to be this way anymore. I want things to be different but I don’t know where to start.

I lose so much time. I’ll forget the day, I won’t remember what happened yesterday or the day before. I’ll feel like i’m detached from my body, i’m over the other side of the room yet I’m sat somewhere different. I’ll be eating a yogurt but that’s not my arm, it doesn’t feel like my arm.

I feel out of control, the past swallowing me up like a tidal wave. It’s been consumed with anxiety every single minute of every single day. I can’t get away from my fears because they eat me up from the inside. Swooping down and reminding me that I’m not safe. I’m not safe because they will always be there, knocking around in my head, reminding me of why I should be on guard, reminding me of what happened every.single.moment.

I feel guilty. It was all my fault, because let’s face it, whose else was it? I feel guilty for things in my present life, I feel the need to fix things, even if I know deep down I can’t. I can’t make people angry because I’m afraid of what might happen if I do.

I just feel like this is going to be my life forever. So many years have been clouded by the trauma, I’ll never get that time back, I’ll never be able to have a childhood because that time is gone.

It’s knowing that human beings can be evil, they have the power to destroy you in a blink of an eye. That even people who you love and look up too can hurt you beyond belief, they can break you.

You’re on autopilot, no control over your thoughts, actions, feelings, dreams, body. Everything is my life is affected, I am wired into survival mode all the time. I have to be on guard, just in case. It’s like my rational part of my brain is shut down when I react to something my brain intercepts as wrong.

I’ll be sitting on the sofa, watching something completely unrelated to trauma and i’ll taste something in my mouth. Is that beer? There isn’t any beer in the room but the taste is very real in my mouth. I drink water, desperately trying to rid myself of the taste but it’s still there.

Anything can be a trigger, you have to be careful because you cannot be reminded, you cannot remember because that is too overwhelming and too scary. It can’t happen.

It’s feeling wrong, bad, taken. It’s knowing that my body will never be my own. They took that away from me.

What does PTSD feel like?
It feels like living in a prison. You’re rattling the cage doors but you can’t get out. You can’t ask for help because they keep you imprisoned. They’re whispering in your ear, not allowing you to ask for help.
It feels like hell.

Things I Wish People Understood About Chronic Illness.

I’m sat on the sofa and all of a sudden, I can’t feel my legs. This is a regular occurrence for me. The exhaustion engulfs me, the simplest things overwhelm me.

A lot of the time its all about riding the waves, its about trying to find things you can do whilst unwell. Its about having a nice day out then needing to rest for a week. I’m 22 years old and a lot of the things I used to love to do, I can’t do anymore.

I feel like a burden a lot of the time because I can’t do the things I used to do, the things I so desperately want too but my body just can’t cope with. I try my best, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like my best is good enough.

I am wheelchair bound. My flat is too small for me to use my wheelchair indoors so I have to bum shuffle around. Its so exhausting, but I do it anyway because I refuse to lose any more independence and put more work on my carer.
I get so many different reactions when I’m out and about. I get dirty looks, stares and looks of pity.
I do not want or need people’s pity. I am still me, I just need extra help to do normal everyday things.

Here are some of the things I wished people understood about my chronic illnesses.

1. A good day doesn’t mean my symptoms have gone away.
I am still in pain, I am still exhausted. I am just better able to function. Or I am able to push through the symptoms. These good days are less often now.
The prospect of being unwell for my entire life, is terrifying. I don’t know when I’ll have a good day, when I do I just have to grab it with both hands and make the most of it. Although, the good days always lead to a flare up as I do too much thinking it’s okay.

I have to cancel plans because I’m too unwell.
This leads to people thinking I’m lazy and don’t want to see them. When in reality I want nothing more than to see that person or do whatever we were planning on doing.
I can’t predict when I’m going to be okay to do things. Planning things in advance is a nightmare for me. It causes me extreme stress because I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it or be well enough to enjoy it.

3. It’s not fun to sit around all day.
This is a massive one. It is not fun or enjoyable to sit on my sofa or lay in bed, day in and day out. It’s fucking frustrating and upsetting. I want nothing more than to get a job and enjoy my life.
Some days it’s hard to even concentrate on my book or cook a microwave meal, let alone go out to work.

4. Just because I’m smiling, doesn’t mean I’m okay.
I smile, alot. It’s my coping mechanism. I refuse to let my illnesses get the better of me, so I try my best to see the positive in every situation.
I hate people asking me if I’m okay or if I’m feeling better, so I smile like everything’s all good. I don’t want to be known as the miserable one who isn’t any fun, I don’t want people fussing me around all the time. I don’t want pity.

5. Everything isn’t always about my illness, but it kinda has to be.
I don’t want everything to be about my illness but that’s hard for me, when my life does revolve around my illnesses. It effects everything I do, it effect what I can and can’t do. I’m in a wheelchair so there are places or things I cannot do. It is incredibly frustrating. I’m sorry that my problems affect your decisions. I don’t want it to be that way.

6. Limiting myself and rethinking goals is not the same as giving up.
I have wanted to start uni for a long time and have always not been in the right place. But in February I am starting an Open uni degree, part time. I know it will extremely hard and more exhausting but if I can get one step closer to my goal, it will be worth it. I have always wanted to go to a campus uni but I had to rethink those expectations and come up with something new.

7. I am not ungrateful, I do not take people for granted and I do realise how hard it is for my carer.
I have been blessed with an amazing best friend who became my carer when things took a turn for the worse.
She has been there for me through thick and thin, through everything and I will be forever grateful.
I do understand that it hard to do so many things for another person and I do appreciate it. If she turned round to me one day and said I can’t do this anymore, I’d understand.

8. I appreciate the small victories.
Sometimes all I can do one day is get on and off the toilet. Other days, I can go out and have a day out at the zoo.
When my legs are so weak or I’ve lost feeling, just moving them slightly is a victory.

Having a Chronic Illness, whatever it is, sucks. Especially when people around you, don’t understand.