Have your cake and eat it too

When we lived in the UK, we participated in many monthly health awareness raising events. Partly because my (last) job was a Cancer Information Specialist working within the Library Service – so was aware of just about every health campaign that exists. In fact, it was during one of these that I ended up becoming vegan for a year or so. I took part in Veganuary in January 2017 – but found it very hard so resorted back to eating a bit of cheese, but then dabbled with veganism for the following year or so, before moving out to France and finding that I really struggled without all the “meat replacements” that are readily available in the UK (I can eat Quorn but this doesn’t seem to have made it to France yet, but not Seitan which is available, and can only tolerate small amounts of Tofu). So, I conceded that sticking with vegetarian was the way to go henceforth. At least I tried!!

This year Martin and I done our usual January detox in which we attempt to recover from the excesses of Christmas. It’s funny how we always say we will “treat ourselves” by eating cakes, chocolate and our body weight in cheese, but then we end up feeling really ill afterwards – fat, bloated and in my case awful skin rashes. It’s hardly “treating” ourselves.

We aimed to cut out alcohol, meat and fish, wheat, dairy and sugar. Loosely following Carol Vorderman’s Detox for Life.

We managed the alcohol part absolutely no problem at all – neither of us drink much anymore, and obviously being vegetarian the meat was not a problem, we had only been eating occasional fish, so that didn’t bother us either. The wheat was not too bad – I have discovered red lentil and chickpea pasta which I love – and it doesn’t bloat me out like regular pasta does. But I could not manage to stop eating my favourite bread.

However, dairy was a big problem – out of all the dairy products it is only cheese and yogurt that I can manage to eat. I am lactose intolerant – and they both have some of the lactose removed in the process. I heave at the mere thought of drinking cow’s milk – I cannot stand the stuff, and as much as I like cream, any more than a tablespoon really upsets my tummy.

But I love cheese – all types – so I didn’t manage to cut back on this at all.

However, the really big shock was mine (and Martin’s) complete inability to cut back on sugar!

It seems that the bad habits of the past few years of Pain au Raisin, cookies and cakes (both at friends’ houses and also since I was lucky enough to get a fantastic Kenwood Food Mixer, I have been venturing into cake making myself) have crept up on us and we realised we were both suffering from quite bad sugar addictions.

Having a family history of Type 2 Diabetes (Mum and Uncle Peter were both borderline and managed well through diet alone) and knowing damn well that when I lived in the UK my blood glucose levels were high up within the pre-diabetes brackets – I know only too well that I can’t afford to let this become too much of a problem. I’ve been in denial for the past few years – struggling with weight gain – mostly around my tummy – all the classic signs of insulin resistance – middle aged spread, daily headaches, carb withdrawals, grumpiness after eating carb heavy meals, carb cravings, constantly hungry.

On top of all these things I am trying to eradicate Helicobacter Pylori and the resulting gastritis and sugar is a big no, no for this, and hyperglycaemia increases the risk of cancer in people with H Pylori – so in short, sugar will stop me clearing it – AND if I don’t clear it sugar will increase my chances of gastric cancer.

And, apparently Covid-19 raises your blood glucose – so if you have issues with high blood glucose and were to catch Covid-19 then this could be an issue.

Martin also acknowledged that he had a big problem with sugar too – not with weight gain – he’s as skinny as a pogo stick but he finds it impossible to say no to sweet things and cake, and he also gets very grumpy after eating sugary things – often resulting in the two of us having silly arguments just because we were having sugar crashes!!

So, we decided that we would both participate in Sugar Free February – a national campaign that in the UK is organised by Cancer Research UK. We decided that we would both do it as it’s easier to resist temptation if we are both saying no to sweet treats.

Martin is the one with a sweeter tooth than me – I will only eat it if it’s there and put in front of me – whereas Martin will go out of this way to seek out cakes!! So, it was only fair that I at least tried to make some sugar free cakes and treats. I also planned all our meals to include foods with naturally occurring sugars to help him cope with his sugar cravings.

In the aftermath of our “not very successful” January detox and the lead up to Sugar Free February – we discussed my “pre-diabetes” and decided it would be a good idea to get a Blood Glucose Monitor Testing Kit. One of the big challenges for me living in France is not really knowing how I can get routine health checks conducted – and I am a bit fearful that if I have some blood tests done to check for diabetes my readings will be high enough that the (over exuberant at times) French doctors will simply put me on metformin  and then it will be a vicious circle of being on a drug that makes you fat, and a condition that gets worse when you are fat. I’m much keener to manage any health issues with diet than medication having watched family members being prescribed drug after drug to the extent that no-one really knew which ones were for the issue and which ones were for the side effects.

So, we embarked on Sugar Free February in very good spirits. On the second day I had an awful headache which I know from experience would be a sugar withdrawal headache – this was explained to me very well by a wonderful GP that I had in the UK – she drew me a chart once which I still have!!

It explained how, even though I was sticking strictly to a diet throughout the week because when the weekend arrived and I “treated myself” my body wasn’t able to get into fat burning mode and my sugar levels were all over the place – lots of sugar over the weekend and then no sugar from Monday – by Wednesday I would have a sugar withdrawal headache. Even though I understood this – I could never quite manage to grasp the concept of having to stick to a healthy eating plan ALL OF THE TIME!!

Once my Blood Sugar monitor arrived it all suddenly became quite serious – my initial results were very high – way into the pre-diabetes range which meant that although it started out as a light hearted month long restraining from sugar it now seems like more of a long- term thing.

Reassuringly, after a few days I noticed the readings coming down – and soon they settled into mostly the normal range with the occasional higher reading in the morning – which I have since learnt is referred to as the Dawn Phenomenon the strange occurrence where even though you go to bed with a low reading and don’t eat during the night – your body still continues to make blood glucose and in turn insulin and if your body is funny (like mine) it doesn’t know what to do with it so it raises the blood sugar level.

There have been so many benefits to giving up sugar – it has quite simply been life changing and I am so happy about it!!

Firstly, I am so reassured to know that I can get my readings into a normal range – this means I am less scared of catching Covid-19. The issue with Covid-19 and high blood glucose is that if I were to have un-stable high blood pressure, and then caught Covid-19 which raises it even further then the result could be catastrophic – that’s not a risk I am willing to take when there is something I can do about it.

Secondly, and possibly the most life-changing aspect is no more headaches!! I have gone from having daily headaches – every single day of my life I would have a fuzzy head – which on at least 2 days a week would be a full-blown thumping head that would make me feel sick, light sensitive, and very, very tired – ALL GONE!!!! I have had 3 headaches to date since stopping eating sugar! One (already mentioned) on the 2nd day as the sugar left my body. One on a day when I ate too many carbs the day before. One on a day when I had a bit of a cold threatening to take hold. But all of these have been much less severe!! I am so happy.

I also have much less fuzzy head, much more clarity……

the line from Fergie’s song Big Girls Don’t Cry

keeps going round my head

“Clarity…..peace…….serenity”

It’s amazing!! I feel lighter – like a huge weight is lifted from my shoulders. My brain feels sharper! I feel happier!

My weight has changed – I’ve been struggling so much with my weight since peri-menopause and have been in full menopause for 7 years now – and despite my best efforts I struggle to lose even a tiny bit of weight and if I did lose it – any “misdemeanour” would result in putting twice as much back on. I’ve lost 5 kilos so far and have been eating really well. Not starving myself at all. But eating different things. Obviously, all added sugar is out – that was the whole point of Sugar Free February – but also, I have cut back on carbs significantly. Not to the extremes of a keto diet (I’ve been there, done that and it’s brutal) but really focusing on keeping my carb intake to no more than 35% of my daily diet and a maximum of 125gms of carbs a day. It’s been hard as I have needed to track the carbs on an app (I use Cronometer) which is time consuming and a bit tedious – but it won’t be forever, just until I find the magic number that keeps my blood glucose stable, my weight going in the right direction, but also a sustainable diet that I can enjoy and stick to.

There is no way I can follow a diet of lettuce leaves – this girl likes her food!! In fact, I like all aspects of food – shopping for it, preparing it, and cooking it. Cooking is one of my biggest and most enjoyable past times – I show love towards people by cooking for them – and I simply cannot imagine eating the same old boring stuff every day. So, this is a major consideration to take into account.

Because my weight has gone down my BMI has dropped too – and I’m now in a much heathier range. Still overweight but closer to normal than I was. For the record I don’t much like the terminology used for BMI but it is what it is – and it’s as good a tool as any to measure if my body size is going up or down. My concern was that with a BMI of over 28 I was at increased risk of Covid-19 but now it is lower and that is quite reassuring.

The nicest thing about the weight loss is that it is fat in the right places that is going. Martin rolled over the other morning for a cuddle and said “it’s feels nice – it’s less of a splodge” I know most women would punch him for that – but that’s Martin!! My body fat percentage has also dropped – it’s still quite high but at least it is moving in the right direction.

Talking of Martin – he’s happy – he’s still getting cake – although I keep threatening to cut the supply if he won’t cut back on how many peanuts he is eating!!

He’s working so hard on the house that there is no way I could deny him his cake – I fear he would mutiny if I did, down tools and go on strike!

So, I’ve been using my Kenwood Mixer to knock up some recipes that I have found on the Internet.

One of my Knit and Knatter ladies is on a Keto diet so I thought it would be nice to make some keto cakes to take round for that so that she could have something. But unfortunately, the combination of coconut flour and artificial sweetener is not to everyone’s taste so it seemed a pointless task.

But using the principles of Keto – I have tweaked a few recipes and come up with a few sweet treats that Martin really likes, and I can still eat in small quantities so we can enjoy an afternoon tea together – sometimes in the form of a picnic on one of our Sunday afternoon drives to one of the stunningly beautiful surrounding areas we are blessed with around here.

So, we are having our cake and eating it – so to speak. And very glad that we are able to do this. It’s about balance, I guess. Some people will see a 5kg weight loss in six weeks as not very much – but for me it’s about all aspects – a healthy diet, varied food, making sure that I get ALL the nutrients that I need it, and keeping my sweet toothed husband happy (so he keeps on working).

I’ve heard a lot said about Meghan and Harry in the last few days – some of which is along the lines of she wanted her cake and to eat it too – that she should have known what she was marrying in to, that she couldn’t expect her life to be normal etc.

I’ve watched the trolls out in force on the social media, the comments on news reports, people’s posts on Facebook and once again I am shocked by the hostility that people can feel towards someone they have never met, do not know apart from what the (racist) UK Tabloids allow them to see.

Being in France and not having “normal” TV just yet (we only have Netflix and the Internet) I have not yet seen the full interview – but I have seen online the short clips from it – the salient points – and I honestly think I’m watching a different interview to that of some of the people who hate her so much.

I see a couple who are clearly in love, and in support of each other. I see two people who are guarded about what they say, knowing how damaging it could be – but equally wanting to speak their truth.

I’m a blogger – I know how sometimes people don’t really understand why I would want my “dirty laundry” aired in public – and I know WHY I feel compelled to share aspects of my life that maybe some would consider too private. I can’t pretend to know why Harry and Meghan did the interview, but I would hazard a guess that it was for similar reasons to me.

I do it because I have a story to tell, a voice that needs to be heard, and in a world where people don’t always take the time to find out why we are who we are, why we behave the way we do, I would prefer that my story is told by me, myself and I – and no-one else.

I think Harry and Meghan did try to speak their truth quietly and privately – but when their cries for help were not heard, with the UK Gutter Press and public turned against them – they probably felt they had no other options.

We all have our story to be heard, we all have our challenges that we need people to understand.

Yes, the Queen is a remarkable woman who has devoted her life for nearly 70 years to the United Kingdom and 15 of the Commonwealth realms. But that doesn’t mean that every unfortunate woman (or man) who marries into the Royal Family will find it easy to fit in. It’s not as if they (the Royal Family – the House of Windsor – The Firm – The Institution – call it what you may) make it easy is it? Diana was never accepted, Camilla was initially outright rejected, Fergie wasn’t liked.

Meghan pointed out that palace employees will lie to cover up things to protect some members of the Royal Family – but failed to protect her.

I’ve seen it written that Meghan is out to destroy the Royal Family with her lies! Not so, you only have to look at Prince Philips’ track record (he pursued the Queen when he was 18 and she was 13 – in today’s standards that would make national news as grooming). He doesn’t need Meghan to run him down – there are a multitude of his misdemeanours over the years on the Internet including terrible misogyny and racism.

It seems like people will see the side of the story that they want to see. Based on their own feelings about the person, also how they are influenced by other people in their life, by the newspapers they read, the news channel they watch. Those who don’t like Meghan will probably never see it from her point of view even if it is blindingly obvious to someone else.

All I know is, Harry lost his mother at 12 years old. In a “normal” family there is no way on earth that a 12-year-old child would be made to walk behind his mother’s coffin with the lights of the cameras from the worldwide press flashing all around him, with more people that he had ever seen in his entire life watching from the side-lines, and knowing that the world watch watching through their TV screens.

Harry has seen reports about his mother suffering bulimia through her unhappiness with her life in the Royal Family

Harry has read reports that his “ginger hair” is an indicator that Charles is not his father – and then we wonder why he would be unhappy with an issue being made about his baby’s skin colour? Meghan is an American woman. In American it is a huge issue to discuss the race of a child – culturally that alone explains why she would be so offended. And please, anyone who might suggest that if she comes to live in the UK she must adopt those ways – that in itself is racism….can you not see that? Failure to accept a person’s cultural background is racism. A person moving to another country must accept that things might be different but that doesn’t happen overnight and things that are an inherent part of their make-up don’t just dissipate on the plane over. We know that from moving to France. We will always be British. We were raised British. We accept the cultural differences in France but sometimes those differences bewilder us. We understand that because we have lived in another country. People who never live in another country to that in which they are born really should not pretend to try to understand how it is for someone who is trying to do just that – let alone do it in the most famous of Royal Families.

Sadly, Archie and the new baby girl will be able to access and read FOREVER all the horrible things that have been written about them and their parents before they were EVEN BORN

And maybe even worse – the people writing these awful comments about Meghan – don’t they realise that Meghan won’t read this – but their own families will. So, if they have a family member who ever felt suicidal that person will know just who they cannot go to for support!!!

So, back to Harry. A family that inflicts that on a child can’t have their “cake and eat it” – you can’t have it both ways. If you cause that level of distress to a child then how can you expect them to not have mental health issues further down the line???? And it is shocking that Meghan was not given access to appropriate Mental Health support. Suicidal thoughts need professional intervention, not a little chat with your new brother and sister-in-law who clearly have got a better grasp on the stiff upper lip that is required for their life – lucky them!!!

Maybe this is the Royal Family’s karma?

Maybe this scandal will be the force for change that is needed?

Maybe finally the Royal Family will realise that without resorting back to incest (yes as recently as up until the first World War they were all marrying their cousins) the only way for them to procreate will be to welcome new partners with open arms – no matter what their skin colour, their nationality and to help and support them in understanding the role they must play

I have to say, I quite agree with Hilary Mantel who likened the royal family to pandas

“expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment”

“But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they nice to look at” he wrote later in 2013. “Some people find them endearing, some pity them for their precarious situation, everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it’s still a cage”.

Harry has found his escape. He would have gone quietly I am sure, if he had been allowed to by the British Press. In the absence of any human decency from the press he done the only thing he could do.

He stuck up for himself, and his wife – who he clearly loves – against bullies.

I admire him. I would want my husband to do the same. Who wouldn’t?

Rituals, Routines and Beliefs

Rituals, routines and beliefs

After the craziness of the past few months, living on a building site, we have tried to settle down to the next phase of our life here in France.

It’s taking a while as we have not had much of a normal routine for probably the best part of 2 years now. Even whilst still in England, we were finishing up our jobs, Martin starting the wind down at work, and me starting to wind up my small business – so we didn’t have the structure that a morning routine brings for some time before moving to France, and of course once we had moved out here we were finding our feet, planning all sorts of things and then eventually having the initial stages of the building project to sort out. So, as I have previously alluded to – our lives have not really felt our own for a while. Not the fault of any one thing, or person – it just is that way.

Subsequently, we have struggled to get back into some sort of semblance of normal life. And when I say normal life, I honestly do struggle to identify what normal life is!! It’s been such a long time.

I started to reflect on all the things I used to do (when I had a house) that used to help me to start my day in a positive way, and it became really quite scary to admit to myself that I have left slip so many of my little rituals that used to help me get on to the right path each morning.

Anyone who knows me, will know that I am spiritual rather than religious. I don’t believe in a God per se, but I do believe that I have a guiding force that helps me (when I ask) to live my life in the best way possible. But, on reflection I realised that I had let so much of my daily ritual go by the by that I was feeling out of touch with my spiritual practice. And also, my self-care routine has wound down to pretty much zilch. I have been spending no time at all looking after myself in either a physical, or an emotional, or a spiritual way. And that, I feel has now manifested as the ill-health that I have experienced for the past year or so. The word disease actually is formulated from dis-ease – which when you look at it like that no wonder with all the dis-EASE in my life my health has suffered. It has frustrated me so much that when I left England I was fit, and healthy, I had a healthy BMI range, I could pump a really decent amount of iron at the gym, I could cycle for hours, could run 8km easily. And now, I cannot run at all, I struggle to walk 5km, I cannot walk down stairs properly, and my weight has sky rocketed.

With my recent health problems and trips to hospital I have of course reflected on why I might have become so ill. And can only conclude that it is a combination of two things.

Firstly, my diet became very unhealthy after moving to France (partly my own fault as I found the French bread, cheese and pastries too tempting, but also partly because eating out is so limited as a vegetarian).

And secondly, the stress levels that we have been under. The Brexit process has been incredibly stressful for us both, and this, on top of the life adjustments of living in a different country to our children, leaving work, reduction in income, pressures to learn a new language, all whilst living in a motorhome.

So, I have had to take a good, hard look at myself and reflect on how I can remedy this as the problem is clearly not going to resolve.

Having underlying health anxieties, and a huge mistrust of doctors and hospitals in general, alongside a very enquiring mind, and a lot of confidence in my research abilities, I was never going to just take the prescription from the hospital doctor without doing my own investigations and I am so glad that I didn’t. The Quadruple Therapy treatment for the Helicobacter Pylori bacterial infection was, to say the least grim. Had I followed it to the doctor’s instructions it would have been unbearable. Luckily, I found an online support group through which I found loads of ways to make the side effects of the treatment more bearable. Simple things like drinking loads and loads of water, avoiding all dairy foods, leaving 6 hours between dosages of medication (which was different as there was four dosages a day so it went like this – breakfast and morning meds at 0700, lunch and mid-day meds at 1230, dinner and evening meds at  1800 and then snack and late night meds at 2300 as I just couldn’t quite manage to stay up until midnight. Then when I woke in the middle of the night, I would have to take my probiotics as they needed to be without food and not within 3 hours of the antibiotics.

Sharon MARS sheet
I am sure I was rattling with 15 tablets a day!!

The side effects that I got were stomach cramps, a severe headache, black poop, tearfulness, anxiety, dizziness, feeling faint, vertigo, problems with my eyes, tinnitus, acid reflux, a horrible taste in my mouth, and breathlessness. Luckily the 10 days went by soon enough, but what they don’t tell you at the hospital is that the treatment strips your gut lining out completely, so you are left with the Chronic Gastritis and no good gut flora to help with the symptoms of that. So, I am now starting with a very raw, very sore stomach which needs to heal. And that process could take anything from 3 months to forever to take place. So, obviously I am going to do as much as I can to help that process. Which means, a lot of research in to the optimum diet for Chronic Gastritis, along with some supplements, and a change in lifestyle that will support the healing of my gut.

So, I’ve been introspecting a lot on what I can do to help myself. One thing I used to find helpful was the use of Essential Oils. I used to have oils for just about everything you could imagine, so I have dug them out and have put together a little Essential Oil routine for myself. The concept of ingesting Essential Oils is a very controversial one in the UK, but it seems not so much so in France as they sell little neutral tablets that you can put a few drops of oil on to and swallow. I used Peppermint Oil in this way after my Appendectomy and it was the only thing that worked for dispersing the gas from the surgery, so I am a big fan of this. But in the past I always used to ingest by diluting in water and always used Certified Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils. I’m a bit nervous about doing this at the moment as my stomach is still very raw – so I have made myself some oil rub for my stomach containing peppermint and lemongrass oils in a coconut oil base and am using it topically for the time being – but when I feel my stomach is ready for it I will start ingesting the oils.

Citrus Bliss

So, my little daily routine is:

After my yoga stretching routine I put 3 drops of a motivating blend called Citrus Bliss on my feet (the soles of the feet allow the Essential Oils to enter the system very quickly) and then I put 3 drops of a blend called Balance on to my wrists and inhale 3 counts in, and exhale 6 counts – 7 times. This is to ground me.

 

Then when I’m getting dressed, I use the stomach rub.

 

If I feel stressed during the day, I use a bit more Balance on my wrists and inhale.

At bedtime I use the stomach rub, and put 3 drops of a blend called Serenity on the soles of my feet and spray my pillows with Lavender spray.

I’ve slept so much better since doing this. And in the morning the combination of my yoga stretching, 1:2 breathing, and the oils really motivates me.

After my morning Essential Oils routine, I do my Reiki Precepts. This is the equivalent of someone saying their morning prayers. I thank my spirit guides for the gift of Reiki and ask for their love and support with helping me to use Reiki in my life for the greater good of the universe. Although I am qualified to Level Three in Reiki I have not been working as a Reiki Practitioner since being in France as our living arrangements have not been conducive to this, and also my ill health has meant my energy has been low. But I know that this will come soon, when the time is right. The 5 Reiki Precepts that I say are:

Just for today I will let go of worry

Just for today I will let go of anger

Just for today I will count my many blessings

Just for today I will live my life authentically, and speak my truth

Just for today I will be compassionate to all living beings, including myself

 

I then think about how I will spend the next 24 hours, and set intentions of how I will fill the time that I have been given.

These rituals have really helped me to start to get back on track (and now, in hindsight I regret so much letting these simple things slip as I can see how much they help – but we cannot go back and fix the past – just be in the present).

As well as looking at my self-help rituals I have also been looking at what I can be putting in my body to support my gut healing. Turmeric has come up time and time again, so I have looked at ways of getting plenty of this in to me. First, I tried the way that a friend told me – which was to add turmeric to some oil, along with black pepper and just swallow it. But I found that too difficult – I was loath to use too much oil (all those calories) so without much oil it was just an awful powdery mouthful and it made me feel sick. Then I remembered being told about Golden Milk by another friend – so I started making this in the evenings. It was a bit weird to begin with but now I really enjoy it as part of my bedtime routine – but I always brush my teeth straight after it as the Turmeric makes everything yellow.

Golden Milk

 

 

The way I make it is; one cup of almond milk, ½ teaspoons of turmeric, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of ginger, 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, some black pepper and a good slurp of agave syrup (to make it vegan) or honey (if not vegan). Warm it up in a pan, then sit quietly, sipping and contemplating. It’s very relaxing.

 

 

 

Matcha Tea is something that both me and Martin used to really enjoy when we were in the UK. So much so that we treated ourselves to some fancy Matcha bowls and the whisk, and a really good quality Ceremonial Blend matcha tea. Martin was always better at whisking the Matcha tea to get a nice froth on it – so this was his job. So, over the past few weeks we have reintroduced this little ritual in to our day and our afternoon tea break is a Matcha Break – with Martin doing his Guru bit and whisking it up. I always feel really energised after drinking Matcha and it’s an added bonus that it is good at fighting Helicobacter Pylori.

The Matcha Guru

I had been getting quite confused about stomach acid and lemon juice and had avoided lemon juice as it is acid. But apparently lemon juice turns alkaline in the stomach so it can be good for gastritis. So, I found another way of getting turmeric in to me in the form of lemon and turmeric water in the morning.

My method is this: when husband wakes up ask him to boil some water, put ½ teaspoon of turmeric into a glass cup, cut a lemon in half and take a thin slice of one half. Squeeze the juice of a half a lemon into the glass, add the boiled water, Stir, put the lemon slice in and hand the glass to sleepy wife!! It’s lovely, and I sit in bed for a few moments sipping this before thinking about starting to do my yoga stretching. He is a good husband; as my friend Frieda said the other day – he is “sent from God” as is her husband Jan.

Lemon and Turmeric Water

About 5 minutes after my lemon water I take my probiotics tablet and also a Broccoli Sprouts capsule. These sprouts are apparently very effective in eradicating Helicobacter Pylori so I have invested in these to hopefully eradicate any that are still lurking and also prevent any future occurrence.

87961826_638850083530417_5758326605810237440_n

 

One thing I have learnt with all this research is that these bacteria are stubborn little bastards and have become resistant to antibiotics, and with the treatment being so horrible I really do not want to have to go through it again. But equally I know that I must do whatever it takes as if left unresolved the Gastritis will lead to stomach ulcers, which then can lead to stomach cancer, which terrifies me of course!

The gut healing diet is going to be challenging. Avoid dairy, avoid gluten. So that’s all the amazing French cheeses and bread out for starters. Avoid starchy vegetables. Don’t go too mad on beans and lentils. Avoid sugar. Avoid alcohol. Is life worth living??? So far, I’ve not been able to stick to it completely, but I have cut back significantly. Breakfast has been eggs, with home made lentil loaf. Lunch – soup or leftovers from dinner.

Collage of food

Dinner is some form of beans, or chickpeas or lentils, with either gluten free pasta, or brown rice, and vegetables – so Veg Chilli, or Curry, or Pasta Bolognese – that sort of thing is easy and pretty much what we have all the time but I now need to think tasty rather than spicy. So, the main meals are covered – but it’s the in-betweens that is the problem. I’ve always had problems with bloating if I get hungry, which I now know is a symptom of both H Pylori infection and gastritis. When there is nothing in my tummy the little buggers start getting hungry and gnaw at my stomach mucus lining! Charming!! So, it’s best to not get hungry – which means in between meal snacks. Trouble is, the rule is to not eat fruit on its own – you need to have it with protein and fat at the same time. So, I’m struggling for ideas, although I have discovered buckwheat pancakes (taste lovely but don’t look so great. I’ll get there – I always do manage to rise to a challenge when it comes to eating – I love cooking so now that I have my new range cooker to play with I will soon be conjuring up healthy snacks that are Gastritis friendly.  In order to support this, I know that my best chance of success will be to meal plan – another routine to get in to again. I used to do it every week – have a whole week’s meals planned out.

It does all seem like a bit of a flaff at times – but I know ultimately, I need to do this. I really do need to put my health first, and although it will undoubtedly be an inconvenience at times as eating out will be very difficult, I do need to be kind to myself.

I think about that Reiki Precept a lot these days – it was always the one that really hit me straight in the heart – I would say “be kind to every living being” and then have a nagging voice coming back saying “yeah, what about those ones you eat”. And that was ultimately what prompted me to become vegetarian. I felt as if I was being untrue to those Reiki Precepts. But of course, in the same way that different people interpret the bible teaching differently, different people interpret the Reiki Precepts differently. Some people will interpret that as being mindful about what they eat, honouring and respecting the animal, others will take it as to not harm at all, and others will read that as not causing any harm other than eating it at the end of its life. We are all different, and ultimately none of us are righter, or more wrong that the next person. We each need to be able to go to bed at night and feel comfortable that whatever actions we have taken in that day make us the best version of us that we can be (or not….as the case may be).

I humbly accept that not everything I do in any given 24 hour period is all kind, but I do feel that I try hard to be kind to people when I can be, and I’m always kind to animals, but I also now realise that I have to be much kinder to myself. My default setting is to beat myself up and that has been due to past abuse, and so I need to learn to be kind to myself. I’ve also had to learn over the past few years that sometimes in order to be kind to myself I have needed to let go of people who have constantly provoked anger and anxiety within me – it’s one thing trying to accept that they may have a different point of view, but when they show no regard to my feelings it is kinder to myself to simply let go and let them be who they want to be without them harming me. A friend once said to me that people only stay in our lives as long as they are meant to be there. Looking back I was very hurt when she appeared to drop me as if I was a piece of shit on her shoe, I had no idea what I had done wrong – but I now realise that for her, I was no longer a person that had a place in her bubble. It’s true – there are people now gone from my life who I never could have imagined ever not being part of my bubble….but they have made way for the people who are meant to me in my life right now – here in this moment in time. One of life’s lessons that I have learnt is that we should not chase people, if it is hard to form a relationship with a person despite a lot of effort and goodwill, they are not meant to be in your life and that is OK.

Be Kind

 

 

There’s a lot of talk in past weeks about being kind, since the tragic death of Caroline Flack. Her story resonated with me so much, on many different levels, but in particular two reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

Firstly, I can’t help but think that the incident she was being prosecuted for was a domestic argument that just simply got out of control and led to an accident. Who can honestly say, hand on heart that they have never acted in a way that was out of control when having an argument with a partner? In this case I feel that she was a troubled woman with a need for help for her mental health issues – not a demon. Have we as a society really been reduced to a culture of attacking people who actually need help? I knew of a young woman once who hanged herself – she went to friends begging for help and no-one would take her in as she had her big dog with her. I often wondered if she would still be here now if her friends had put themselves in her position and just been a bit kinder, more flexible and opened up their homes to a poor woman in distress with her beloved dog.

Secondly, the CPS did not need to pursue the case. Her partner withdrew the allegations. The CPS could have and should have dropped the case, yet they allowed it to continue. Many years ago, a man attempted to rape me. This was a traumatic experience enough, yet by the time the police caught up with him some 9 months later I had begun to put my life back together and wanted to just move on and put it all behind me. The CPS however would not drop the case and forced me to take the witness stand. I was made out to be all sorts of things in that court room. I was victim shamed, called a liar, and told it was my fault. All so they could get an extra month on his sentence (he had assaulted a police officer on a separate occasion – undoubtedly the main reason they were so keen to prosecute him). The CPS didn’t care about how I felt about pushing those charges, and in my case, it caused me a significant amount of trauma. In Caroline’s case I believe it cost her life.

So many lessons to be learned from tragic events like these. We all need to be kind, to each other, but most of all to ourselves. An act of kindness often costs us nothing at all. It can be as simple as a hug to someone in distress.

Sometimes you just need to talk

We don’t have to have the answers to other people’s problems – it is enough to just say “I have no idea how that feels but I can see you are upset – can I just be with you?”

And to ourselves – just a few minutes a day to spend taking care of ourselves, putting the right stuff in, or doing something to alleviate some of the stresses, maybe just saying “enough is enough” and giving up on an unhealthy relationship (pressing that Unfollow or Unfriend button can be oh so cathartic), finding healthy rituals to soothe ourselves – whatever it takes …..just “Be Kind”……for your sake, for our sake, and for Caroline.

One final ritual that I always take comfort from is the marking of the birthdays of our special loved ones who are no longer with us. I usually mark my Dad’s birthday in August by eating cheese….in particular Roquefort cheese as that was his favourite. And on my Step Mum’s birthday in February I marked the occasion by planting up a lovely Meleze Planter with mauve and yellow flowers. Mauve was her favourite colour. I found it very therapeutic to plant them using the top soil dug out to create the space for the foundations of our house, from what was once “their land” and to give it pride of place on the “terrasse” of our house hoping that she is looking down and approving of what we have created here. I am always mindful that it is a sad fact that it was the devastating and abrupt end of their dreams that has afforded Martin and I the opportunity to fulfil our own dreams out here on “this little piece of land”. And for me, this simple little ritual helps me to feel that I am respecting, and honouring their dreams, and them, for giving us ours.

Planter 1

Lest we forget

 Lest we forget

One of the things I love about France is that Armistice Day is always observed on 11th November – no matter what day of the week it falls on (instead of how the UK now does it on the closest Sunday to the date). For me, it seems more poignant to be remembering those who sacrificed their lives on the exact anniversary of when the Armistice was signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France.

Sonnerie aux morts 2

I’ve always tried my best to attend something local on Armistice Day and this year was no different – as with last year we popped down to our village square and listened to the service in French, with the children reading out the names of the war dead, the small choir singing, and the band playing the Sonnerie aux Morts (the French equivalent to The Last Post). Click here to listen. Listening to the choir reminded me that I had completely forgotten the vow that I had made to the Maire last year – which was to learn the words to La Marseillaise. I had made an attempt last year when I joined the choir (for just one week) but since then it had been all forgotten. Just in case he asked me about it I had a phrase ready in my memory bank “Désolé j’ai oublié“. But luckily, he had also forgotten!

It seems that life is just too busy and a lot of things get forgotten – and how strange it seems that a whole year has gone by since the last Armistice Day and the Autumn Fair that takes part on the same day.

Animals of war

But it is good to remember on days like this, that no matter which country we originate from, our men and women, and also horses and dogs, gave their lives so that we could have the freedoms we enjoy today. At the beginning of the Second World War, many countries opted to change the name of Armistice Day to Remembrance Day, but France still calls it by its original name. It has also become a day to remember the war dead of ALL wars, and I do find myself thinking about those who lost their lives in the Second World War, and also in all the troubles that we have had since – Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Syria – to name but a few.

Being in an area of France where there are lots of reminders of the role of the French Resistance in the Second World War means there is a constant reminder of the war time troubles in this part of Europe too. In fact, I read just this week about Yvette Lundy the “Grande Dame of Epernay” who died aged 103 recently. To find out more about what role this amazing woman played in helping Jews flee occupied France click here

In our village there is a street called Rue de La Resistance and just 6 miles away in Fraysinnet-de-Gelat there is a war memorial remembering the atrocities that occurred here on May 21st 1944.

In this small village, that now has just 360 inhabitants, members of the French Resistance shot and killed one German officer. The payback for this single death lasted hours – 15 hostages were taken and assassinated by the SS. Ten of these were young males and five were young women ALL from one-child families. This was a deliberate attempt to prevent any further family line of descent. When you consider the impact that this must have had on this village, you can begin to fully empathise with this nation on the sensitivities of war. It is humbling for me as a Brit to stop, and reflect that it was not just our country that suffered the war.

 

FraysinnetThe monument which stands outside the church has a stone plaque bearing the names of the victims. It also has a wooden sign saying “Barbarie Nazie” which covers the original wording which was “Barbarie Allemande”– changed in the name of international “rapprochement”. Hopefully, in a similar way our European neighbours will recognise that us, the individuals in all this Brexit malarkey are not personally responsible for the actions of our truly appalling Government at this point in history. We can but hope!

Word Search

As well as attending the Memorial Ceremony, we also selected Commemoration as the topic for discussion at this week’s French/English Conversation Group. This was only the second session so the group is still a work in progress, but each session Beatrice prepares some fun activities in French for the English speakers, and I prepare some fun activities in English for the French speakers. This session I prepared a Word Search containing words associated with Commemoration in both English and French, and also a piece on Dame Vera Lynn in both French and English. Another Dame that has reached a ripe old age and is still going – now 102.

As nerve wracking as it is for me to read out text in French to an audience, I still find it is a good way for me to learn more of the language. My nemesis is dates – I really cannot get my head around the different way that the French use the number system and sadly all those weeks spent last year playing French Bingo seem to have been wiped straight from my memory.

combat stress disorder

One thing that always springs to mind for me when Armistice Day approaches is the impact that the battle field had on the survivors of war. Facebook is full of emotive posters that remind us of what they went through, and the sacrifices that were made, and in recent times we are so much more aware of terms like Combat Stress Reaction, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

thousand yard stare

 

The “signature injury” of the First World War was “shell shock” which was used to describe, amongst other symptoms, the “thousand-yard stare” that many soldiers returned home with.

 

 

 

My Great Grandmother lost her first husband to the First World War. His best friend returned home from war, and they became close and she later married him – but the lovely man he had been when they were all pre-war friends was lost due to “shell shock” and sadly she had a very unhappy life with him. So, I guess you can say she lost two husbands to the same war.

If that had been now, he would have been able to get some help, and at least people would have understood, and there would have been some support for her. But back then…he was just a nasty man who became violent and aggressive – with no real understanding of how or why.

 

Thank goodness that these days we have that understanding of the damage that a battle field can cause a person for the rest of their lives. However, I feel that there is now a new gaping chasm in our modern-day knowledge of the impact of trauma – one that is finally being acknowledged

That is the impact of abuse on a person. We now know that childhood trauma is one of the many causes of Complex-PTSD. (CPTSD)And no wonder – being in a house full of raging parents, not knowing when you are going to be under attack is very similar to living in on a battle field.

ptsd wordle

Of course, there are many types of traumatic events that can cause CPTSD, not just childhood abuse, but also ongoing domestic violence, repeatedly witnessing violence, being forced to become a sex worker, kidnapping, slavery. And a person is more likely to develop CPSTD if the trauma was experienced at a young age, or if it lasted for a long time, or if it was from a person close to them, and if there were multiple traumas.

So, what I am saying is that, whilst in no way meaning to downplay the issues that soldiers may experience, there are also hundreds of thousands of people who are experiencing lifelong emotional issues that have occurred as a result of traumas they experienced at an earlier stage of their lives.

I’ve always been a great advocate of promoting openness about mental health issues. After all, our mind is a part of us in the same way that our legs are – so why be fine with saying we have a broken leg, but ashamed to admit that we have a ‘broken mind?’.

I feel that people very quickly become isolated when they feel that no-one will understand their problems, and that as a society we are still not very good at allowing someone to express their mental health concerns.

Many years ago, I became aware that my own childhood trauma had a massive impact on me, when a male boss approached me suddenly and unexpected from slightly behind me and I flinched badly – so badly that the poor bloke looked at me, with tears in his eyes and said “oh my goodness my love, what has happened to you?”. I could have sat down and told him about my childhood, how years of a violent stepfather had done this to me, but I just shuffled away feeling awkward and embarrassed. But back then I didn’t fully make the connection that the trauma I suffered meant I was on ‘high alert’ to danger, always expecting to be under attack, and my young brain had interpreted the childhood abuse as a deep rooted belief that if I was not safe as a child, in my family home, with my parents to look after me, then I would never be safe.

Even now, I don’t fully understand the trigger responses to this – but thankfully because CPSTD is now recognised as something that not only soldiers suffer from, then there is help and support out there for me to access, and for those around me to help to understand why, my sometimes completely emotionally ‘out of control’ responses, don’t mean I don’t love them. It means that I have been triggered by something which causes a feeling of being under attack, and my response is to counter attack. It’s all very complex – hence the term “Complex” PTSD. My flashbacks are different to the visual ones that soldiers may experience – mine are emotional ones, although I did once have a visual flashback of a train coming down a road in the New Forest not long after my ex-boyfriend’s 17-year old nephew had been killed in a train/car crash. (The flashback was a very scary experience for both me, and my passenger, and also part of the reason I never drive in the dark – but a different story for another day).

My understanding of my own personal situation also means that I can now understand how the responses of other people are not always what they seem to be. I can spot a ‘thousand-yard stare’ at a hundred paces. I have a person in my life, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia many years ago, but I am certain that he also has CPSTD – as a result of his own childhood traumas. The stare that I always thought was some sort of intense, crazy person look – I now realise is more likely the dissociation caused by CPTSD.

So, at this time of remembrance for the men, women, and animals that gave or changed their lives forever so that we have a life to live, let us also not forget that things are not always what they seem.

No one ever knows what battles a person is fighting in their own mind.

No one ever knows what demons keep a person awake at night.

We all get up in the morning and live to fight another day (until of course the day we die) and we owe it to each other to be kind to each other.

Maybe instead of judging a person for dealing with their problems in a way that we might not necessarily do so ourselves, we should try to respect that they are doing the best they can, with what they have, in the only way that they know how. And acknowledge that sometimes they were not given the best start in life to gain the best tools for the job, or that something else happened to them along the way which changed how they see the world.

We might not have the insight, or the empathy, or the skills to fully understand that person – but we are all born with a heart, and it is good to use that part of our body to connect with all our fellow human beings.

 

Note:

If you or someone in your life is affected by CPTSD and want to find out more information this is a good place to start