Cut the crap! 💩

Whenever I see or hear something sad about dogs/animals I have to scoop my fur baby up for a big cuddle. This is what happened yesterday. Cellulite and all.

Reason for this post though (the cellulite kind of plays a part here), is because I have just overheard a young girl/teenager on the phone talking about some “miracle cream” – someone had a baby 2 weeks ago and she’s used the cream non-stop since and her stretch marks are “almost gone”. If the girl had hung up I 100% would have turned around to her and told her the truth.

OH MY GOSH I am so fed up with products being marketed like this. That is WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NATURALLY OVER TIME ANYWAY 🤦🏽‍♀️ once you’ve got stretch marks – they ain’t going anywhere (ok maybe they will with some laser surgery or something) – a cream is NOT gonna make them just disappear. Stretch marks stretch and fade over time. As your belly returns to its non-stretched state over time, the stretch marks will reduce and fade. I know this, because not only have I had them on my thighs since puberty, but I’ve been there with every stupid diet pill and miracle cream there is for cellulite/stretch marks (I never even had cellulite until I was pregnant. My dysmorphic brain just thought I did.) I won’t lie – I hate them, but they’re part of life. I moisturise a fair bit anyway, and when my thighs are slimmer [through running] they are fainter. To be fair, they’re quite faint now (considering how slim my thighs ARE NOT 🤣). I am moisturising like a crazy person whilst pregnant in a bid to not gain any more – but if it happens, it happens. They’ll be a mark of what my body has grown. I’ll probably still hate them, but at least I got the chance to finally be pregnant and carry our child: something I never thought would happen. I honestly don’t seem much difference in creams being marketed as a miracle cure for stretch marks much difference to that of bloody Kim KW and her stupid appetite suppressant lollipops.

It. Is. All. Bullshit.

Moisturise, exercise, eat a healthy, balanced diet. Get outside and [safely] enjoy the sun. Don’t waste your hard earned cash on miracle BS.

Love x

I.V.F

Quickly – I think I have done this before; but a quick reminder of the differences between IUI and IVF.

IUI – Intra-Uterine Insemination

With IUI, the women stimulates her ovaries (in my case I injected Gonal-F) to grow follicles (sacs which contain the eggs). Ideally no more than 3 follicles will be stimulated, or treatment will be cancelled and re-attempted the following cycle. This is because if 3 eggs mature and ovulate, and then all 3 fertilise and implant, you have yourself some non-identical triplets… If any (or all!) of those fertilised eggs then split… you got yourself a lot of babies and a potentially high risk and dangerous pregnancy for Mum and babes. A split egg (identical multiples) can happen to anyone, any pregnancy, whereas non-identical multiples are likely to be either a result of fertility treatment, or is something which genetically runs through the female side of a family. Once follicles are stimulated to the right size, a trigger is done to conduct ovulation, at which point you will then be invited back to be “inseminated” with sperm directly into your womb. The idea being the sperm will meet the egg(s) almost immediately in the womb, ready to fertilise and implant. I believe the success rates are around 16-21%. It obviously didn’t work for us, however I do follow a lady on twitter who it has worked for – so some faith is restored! IUI – I believe – is not used for couples where the “problem” is Male Factor Infertility (MFI), as its likely then that sperm have poor mobility and still won’t fertilise an egg.

IVF – In-Vitro Fertilisation

IVF is different in that, in a way, you are stimulating your ovaries with the intent to make them produce as many eggs as possible… within reason..! For us, I wanted a lot so we didn’t have to go through the stimulation part again, yet too many means discomfort, pain, potentially dangerous {OHSS} and may also mean you cannot proceed with a fresh transfer… for those going through the painstaking hell of infertility – any delay is bad! At school you are constantly told if you have sex you’ll get pregnant – & I’d have been in major trouble with my parents as a teen mum (not that I would have wanted to have potentially had children with different Fathers!). However, I have been with now husband 10 years, I wish I’d known contraception was a waste of time – I might then of been a mum already 😰 but I guess everything happens for a reason..!

After completely shutting down ( including inducing a fake menopause!) and having the IVF “take control” of your cycle, you once again stimulate your ovaries (in my case I used Menopur) and are again monitored for quantity and growth, before moving onto Egg Collection. After egg collection your eggs are then fertilised in a dish (!) and watched daily for development. Just a little side note here – if your infertility stems from MFI, then your eggs will probably be fertilised using ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) where basically the sperm is injected into the egg directly, rather than them meeting together in the dish and fertilising on their own. This wasn’t used for us, as we all know my husband is Mr. Perfect and has such top quality sperm seemingly everyone loves it!! Either way, the best sperm are selected to either be injected or placed in the dish with your eggs. From what I have seen, some people have a 3 day embryo transfer, but the ideal stage is to develop your “babies” to blastocyst stage and have a 5 day blastocyst transfer. NOTE; not all collected eggs will fertilise/not all fertilised eggs will develop properly.  Now, if less than 20 eggs have been collected, and you’ve had any develop to the right stages, you will likely proceed with what is called a “Fresh” Transfer, within 5 days of egg collection. This happened for us. If more than 20 are collected, it is likely you will have a “freeze all” approach until the risks of OHSS have reduced….. I think that is enough for now.. If anyone has any questions though feel free to ask if you haven’t quite made it to the “experts” stage (by this I mean the actual trained infertility doctors/nurse/embryologists/HCA’s ETC!)…

Apparently I bruise easily!! Cannula bruise 6 days after it was removed!!

Firstly – obviously no one ever thinks the process of infertility and all that goes with it is going to be easy, I’m sure. But never for a second did even I think it was going to be this HARD. For someone that struggles severely with mental health issues I thought I could handle this a bit better after everything else, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The sheer anxiety is there every step of the way – they collected 15 eggs? Cool but what if none fertilise? 12 fertilised? Great! But what if none develop? 11 developed? So happy! But what if they don’t develop enough! We finished with an incredible 5 great quality blastocysts (so yes, I am *technically* a mum of 5..!) – the best of the best of which was transferred, the other 4 are frozen for future (hopefully siblings, not because we’ve failed) – but oh! It means nothing whatsoever if they don’t stick and become your healthy, happy baby! And what then if you miscarry? Or get further but then have a stillbirth? And what if, that tiny thought that you daren’t think about – but what if your baby survives everything – against seemingly all the odds – and makes it? Your dreams come true and then you keep worrying some more for the entirety of your life for every single step of the way!  I’ve been writing this blog as we’ve gone through the process, because as I said after our first IUI fail, I just couldn’t keep posting live information… despite the fact that if anyone asks me anything then I’ve provided full honest updates.. so basically all my friends and family knew exactly what is going on, when. I’m posting it now, because I do think it’s important to share. Not everyone feels they can be or even wants to be open about what they’re going through, for whatever reasons, and sometimes coming across someone else’s story can just… help… I found solace in interacting with strangers on twitter some days, and others with “old” friends who have been through IVF – “openly” (some friends I didn’t know about until they contacted me off the back of seeing one of my blogs..) or not.. IVF, infertility is NOT an easy process. It is long, and painful and hard to remain positive, and much like everything else in this world, unless you have physically experienced the heartache of something, you’ll never truly know how it feels.

15 soon became 12…

12 soon became 8…

And 8 soon ended up as 5 (hopefully dad doesn’t get eliminated too?! 😂)

It is quite a long blog, but then we were also undergoing “long process” IVF.. I hope you will stick with it and read it through…

I feel like I should add a caviat that I’m not sure my mental health was great.. November appears to be a notoriously bad month for me (3rd year running). I had not had a proper, decent, unbroken nights sleep since we had been on safari in SEPTEMBER, and even then, I didn’t get a long enough sleep. This is the longest in one go I think I have struggled with insomnia. A mix of being unable to fall asleep (in fact, the bulk beginnings of this blog, was started off the back of a 4 hour sleep night, I was exhausted but couldn’t stop writing down all the thoughts in my head – because if I didn’t, I wasn’t sleeping..!), or having entirely insane dreams/nightmares meant I was waking multiple times throughout the night. Or some nights, I’d have the joy of experiencing both in one night. Sleeping tablets don’t always work – in me if I start taking them too regularly then they stop working, so I tried to only take them on nights when I really needed to be “on form” the next day. Fortunately, as I don’t work, that wasn’t often.. at best, the ones I have only seem to knock me out for 5/6 hours at a time. Some people survive off that, but I can’t.. particularly within a long period of time of a mass lack of sleep. I was consistently exhausted and feeling run down, but I do think the medication heightened all that.

I also was convinced that it wasn’t going to work. Despite one lovely dream that I was pregnant – on the same night my best friend had the same dream – with 3(!!), healthy babies, I just could not see myself getting a positive result. I couldn’t imagine being happy or celebrating because I honestly believe it isn’t going to work – after all, the ovulation induction/IUI didn’t..

After a slight hiccup with our hospital, (as we needed to start treatment the NHS funding was removed from BCRM and in true lack of consistency in care, it looked like we were going to be transferred out elsewhere… but, very gratefully, it was sorted by one of THE BEST nurses on earth which relieved a lot of extra stress and anxiety) we were slotted in and began our IVF treatment. I started with Norithisterone tablets on day 19 of my cycle to induce a period. On day 21 I started the Buserelin nasal spray. I’d heard from others, and our nurse did state that it really affects your mood in the second week.. she did mention that as my mental health is such a disaster (NOT in those words!!) that perhaps it would have the opposite affect and make me happier… safe to say that DID NOT happen, and bang on time (although I only noticed in hindsight a day later), I became extra crazy. Easily irritable, emotional about being emotional, in tears for no reason… followed by two days where I was high as a kite, before going back to easily irritable. Up and down up and down.. not entirely dissimilar to my mood on the norm but it did feel faster and more rapid in its changes.. having said that, in an attempt to start weaning myself off citalopram at the same time, I completely lost track of when I had and hadn’t taken it and ended up doing 5 days without. I may only be on a mild dose, but I do feel me missing it so drastically all of a sudden (I had been generally managing to take it every other day, and was easing into every third) made me extra insane in my irritability..

Team IVF Stronger Together 💕

Then I started Menopur. I have only ever heard or read bad things about Menopur, and that, coupled with it feeling like absolutely ages since I had last injected myself (negative IUI was early September, started injecting Menopur late November) left me super anxious and dreading it. I had heard it bloated you, was painful and burned when you injected and left small bruises all over your tummy at the injection sight, but I was lucky to have no bruising or bloating (in fact, I actually felt like my stomach was slimmer and flatter, which for someone who constantly feels fat is saying something!). Our lovely nurse had made it look super easy in our personal planning meeting to open the glass vial of liquid, but we seemed to struggle every night. For the first three nights we shattered the lid into the liquid which only added to my anxiety of potentially a tiny bit of glass also being sucked up into the syringe and then injected into me (yes, I am that paranoid/mental/anxious to essentially imagine absurd scenarios). On the fourth night, I managed to get the lid clean off after much force… only to shred 3.5 of my fingers on my left hand when the force of my right arm pushed the raw glass edge of the lid right across them.. it wasn’t pretty, and was very painful.. and meant the entire vial was wasted spilt all over myself..

However, as at day 5 of injecting, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d heard. I had no needle entry-site bruises on my tummy, and had found the injecting itself quite similar to Cetrotide or Gonal-f (but without it being a pre-filled pen). I felt a slight light burn at the injection site once the needle is pulled out and I start moving around, but it soon passes.

It’s hard to say what is what, especially as my mental health is quite erratic anyway, but I’d say I had only a few mild side effects. I noticed I had a light headache that wouldn’t properly shift and kept returning for a few days, and I felt like when I washed my hair a lot more was coming out than “normal”. At one point I felt like I had diahrrea – but again, is it the meds or did I just eat something funny? My head insists that I have an intolerance to some foods which make me feel uncomfortable, bloated and have diahrrea so who knows if it was just that?! I also noticed both arms felt like I had done some serious weightlifting (I really should!!) for a couple of days, which I later read aching muscles can be a side effect – but again, I’m unsure if that was from doing a bit of painting of a unit, or because I’d had blood taken from both arms after the first refused to give any out on my day 21 bloods, or if it was truly a side effect.. I did also notice I was having to “stretch” and contort my limbs/body a fair bit trying to get comfy in bed, and I found myself with a fair few bruises on my thighs and no clue where they’ve come from (which isn’t unlike me to forget but there seemed to be a lot?!)

The last, but biggest side effect is the additional knock on to my mental health. I have read somewhere before that those with anxiety and depression have a tendency to really feel – more so than those that don’t suffer, and I’d say that was entirely true for me. The simplest of things can overwhelm me and have me in tears – tiny bits of kindness from strangers (I recall an incident when I was signed off sick when still working where a couple gave me the extra 25p I needed to park to walk Rufus, and it both sliced through me and made my day). On the flip side something – that I even acknowledge as being fickle – as an unfollow or unfriend from someone I considered a friend or just generally felt a connection with, also hit me hard – harder I would say, whilst on the meds. There were days when age-old suicidal thoughts returned, alongside some self harm, and I questioned if I even wanted to bring a child into this hideous world with an absolutely insane mother who frequently, literally lost the will to live.. I finally recognised that the restriction and tightness in my chest I had noticed a couple of weeks previously, was indeed the return of panic attacks and nothing to do with my asthma.

I find myself quite often struggling to distinguish between dream and reality, but there seemed to be many more times whilst on meds that this seemed to be happening. With the buserelin nasal spray, you have to take it every four hours (twice at bedtime), one morning, 40 minutes after I *think* I took it, I had no recollection whatsoever if I had or hadn’t.. in part I blame the extra exhaustion. I figured it was better to potentially take too much and took the dose at 8.40, rather than have missed that dosage entirely..

It is safe to say the meds made me crazy. Crazier. I lay awake one night unable to sleep thinking about everything and nothing, in tears, then not in tears, feeling fat and disgusting and telling myself I was not to eat any longer, to find my mind telling me I needed to run. At midnight, after I’d taken a sleeping tablet [which failed to work]. It had been a long time since I felt the need to run like that, at that time of the night/early morning.. nevertheless, by 1am I gave up and found myself outside in the pitch dark of the night, under clear skies and not quite feeling as cold as the 6 degrees it was, running 5 miles. It was so peaceful, so oddly calming and beautiful, that eventually it cleared my head, and I found myself back home at 2am stripping my running gear off, throwing my pjs back on, and falling straight to sleep… I guess I need to listen more to what my body is telling me, because although I doubt anyone wants me running at that time of day, it worked. I’m 30 and I still can’t just trust myself.. I may have got an extra hours sleep if I’d just got up and gone at midnight rather than 1am!!

Everyone says to be kind to yourself, but no one thinks running is being kind to me and would rather I didn’t, but at the end of the day, you need to listen to your own body. Running when I needed to was – is – being kind to me. There is no evidence either way to say running is good or bad when trying to conceive, although I do agree too much (for me at least) isn’t conducive, and I had continually said I would stop in the two week wait (tww), but up until then if I needed to, I needed to. I think it is important to remember that being kind to yourself isn’t atypical and “same size fits all”, it isn’t just spa days and sleeping in and watching all the TV and films and eating everything and anything you fancy – being kind is listening to yourself and what you need. Sometimes I needed a lie in, sometimes I needed a (ok all!) the doughnuts, and sometimes I needed to run at 1am. Although, I will say that I didn’t realise *quite* how dangerous that could have been running with mild OHSS, AFTER egg collection – I stopped when I felt serious pain, but essentially ran right up to our transfer day…!

And what about James, I hear you ask?! I can’t even begin to describe how much of a rock he was throughout all of this.. give or take the odd fuck-up-morning alarm situations/inability to have a clue what was going on despite being at the same meetings as me (#men 🙄😂) – I am the “expert patient” after all…!! I know I am lucky to have him, and he is a true gent always, but throughout all of this he was incredible. He worked so hard to try and “keep the peace” – to keep me calm and sane. He cooked, he cleaned, he worked, he shopped. He was quite consistently in touch with me and checking in. He prepped meds or injected me when I couldn’t. He walked Rufus, and literally held my hand all the way, figuratively as well as literally. He made me laugh, and cracked me up with coining terms (alongside an IVF friend) like “Dildo Cam”/”Fanny Vision”/Uterus-tube/Womb-with-a-view for the transvaginal ultrasound you are subjected to as a woman throughout fertility treatment. I think this stolen image best sums up his part in it all (& quite literally how I am with him after!!) – seriously these illustrations are a perfect sum up of it all!

And so, we did indeed go through with a 5 day transfer with a top quality blastocyst…. there is another blog to come on the outcome (this one is already long enough!) but what I will say, is that, IVF, just like any other fertility treatment we have tried, I felt had failed straight away. As soon as I trigger ovulation my boobs get sore, literally straight away, like they do about 2 weeks before I have a period. The evening of our transfer I had some cramping, and the following day I had some huge cramping just trying to walk the dog and I was constantly light headed. About 4 days after transfer I awoke in the early hours to horrible agonising lightening bolt like cramps flashing across my tummy. Was this implantation cramping? I hadn’t expected as much pain for that – and who knows even now what it was!

Reflection; VLM17

R E F L E C T I O N 


Last Sunday was one of the best days of my life – right up there with our wedding day [soz Dad, who’d have thought you could’ve saved A LOT of money by just getting me into a £39 marathon?! 😂 💸💸💸] From even before the moment the incredible Dame Kelly Holmes wished me Good Luck to even now, to still now, one week on my enthusiasm was through the roof to run this awesome event.

Once a crazed runner, always a crazed runner!

I have to say I disagreed slightly with the second episode of “Mind Over Marathon” – at the start of the episode they mention about mentally preparing for the marathon and the atmosphere… Absolutely nothing could have ever made me guess or understand what I would feel like at the start, end, and entirety of that marathon. It was 1 million, billion, zillion times better 😍 an experience I can barely even put into words (but clearly, here I am about to try!). I am still thinking about it and still talking about it; finding any opportunity to chat about it; I am still “riding high” and happy and as buzzing as ever at the mere thought of it. 

The other day, my friend and neighbour, and now VLM17 running husband (!), Iain wrote his first ever blog; covering his VLM17 experience. Just reading the blog had me welling up in tears over the sheer overwhelming happiness that day was. Gosh it was so, so amazing 💖.

I have to say though; I just don’t think I can write anything like Iain did. But I’ll give it a try…

Firstly, let’s just rewind 7-ish months to a vague recollection I have of my (then) fertility nurse, Debbie, telling me to not go OTT with the running… and me assuring her that once I had run Cheltenham Half that September, James and I were jet setting off on holiday 👙, where I would begin a vast cut-back on the running. I was hopeful that somehow that treatment cycle would have meant we were pregnant, and James and I discussed whilst in Singapore (where we would find out if we were, or weren’t pregnant) naming the bump 🤰🏽 “Raffles” as a tribute to the famous hotel. (I feel the need to add that only whilst bump was a bump were we going to do this!). Almost 3 weeks on from this, we were on the last leg of our brilliant 3 week holiday – not pregnant – and woke up one morning in Kuala Lumpur to an email from the London Marathon Ballot team… I very nearly deleted this email 📧without even reading it, suspecting, as per the last few years, that I hadn’t gotten a place again; I had said to friends and family I wasn’t going to apply again as I needed to cut back on the running 🏃🏽‍♀️ for the sake of creating our family, but something made me open and read that email…. And my jaw hit the floor (or, my chest, because I was still lying in bed!) 😵 to discover I had finally won a ballot place! I hadn’t run in almost 3 weeks, having struggled round a 5k loop in the (beautiful) ☀️ 30+ degree heat of Singapore, and had gained about a stone eating EVERYTHING whilst moving barely anything while sunning ourselves in Indonesia…. Let’s just say we got up every morning we had left in Kuala Lumpur and attempted the 5k loop around the KLCC Park to begin my training! I have to say, whilst I didn’t think it would be easy, I just knew that I could do it; I love, love, love ❤️ running and have been doing it for years, so my plan was to keep up some “gentle” running until the New Year and then begin my training properly… So, of course, my body found this to be an ideal time to become so injured that I had to take over 2 months off – this is the first time I have ever had to take so long off, and I was getting more than a little concerned as every time I saw my sports therapist, he would say “don’t run on it just yet!” – yet by February I knew I had to ignore him and get going – I was now a month and a half behind my training plan, hadn’t run in over 2 months, with only about 9 weeks until the big day! 🗓

FYI, for anyone that thinks they can just “RUN a marathon” with no training; you are wrong… not unless you aren’t worried about being cut off by the 8 hour 15 minute time limit! I knew from my half marathon times that I could finish a marathon in around the 4 hour mark, and so that was always my aim; under four and a half hours. Thankfully, as I have been running for years, I listened to the warm up advice of my sports therapist and soon got back on top of my training plan; but I would never have been able to start from scratch with only 9 weeks to go!

Throughout all of this, I was still undergoing fertility treatment, and a somewhat hopeful part of my brain continued to tell me I wouldn’t actually be running this year because I would be pregnant and deferring until 2018. Even though I personally knew a few other people running or involved with the marathon in some way for once, which would make it nicer to run. Every month when another period arrived, so did the heartache and grief for another month lost with no baby 👼🏼. I avoided doing any longer training runs (over 13 miles) until as late as possible, desperately clinging to the thought that I wouldn’t be running this year, until I could avoid it no longer.

I ran my first long training run (16.6 miles) on one of the worst weathered days of the year. There were brief elements of sunshine, but mostly horrendous, battering wind, rain and even some hail ⛈. It was awful; but I did it, and even better, I could walk the next day, and run a day after that! And so the “highs” started. I knew I could do this. I still continued to undergo fertility treatment, and didn’t do my second (and last) long 20(.4) mile training run until I knew I wasn’t pregnant (and the weather couldn’t have been more opposite; the hottest day of the year so far!). Somehow, that month was the easiest month I have ever experienced knowing I wasn’t pregnant. I don’t know what on earth I was thinking previously, but it took Debbie saying it would be much better to run this year, than next year with a new-born; and it suddenly dawned on me that yes, trying to run 26.2 (or in my case 27.5) miles having had a baby just months before, inevitable gained baby weight, milk-leaking boobs and sleep deprivation 😴 that comes with a baby, would NOT be an ideal situation to run a marathon in..!

And so, it finally felt right for the first time in my life, to not yet be pregnant. To run my first marathon knowing I had another friend running it meaning the extra personalised support along the route, and, poignantly – given my own ongoing battle – to run the first Mental Health Marathon.

 

What now feels like a rapid fast forward; the big day arrived. Without realising it, I had subconsciously developed what our neighbourly “Wilstock Run Club” were dubbing “Maranoia” in the week preceding the marathon. I was super excited, but my calves were refusing to co-operate and were tight, heavy and painful for the four runs the week before the marathon. Fortunately, a massage the Friday night before the big day, alongside pure elation on the day, meant that maranoia had disappeared by the time I crossed the start line.

Almost crossing the start line!

Despite encouragement to enjoy and take in every step, I just don’t remember stuff [standard Karen 🙄]. I know from seeing the second part of the fab “Mind Over Marathon” programme that I managed to miss the brilliant Duke and Duchess of Cambridge alongside Prince Harry at not only my start zone/line, but also mile 6, as well as me failing once again to listen to my gut instincts to head left at the finish line to get a medal from them (Hence my picture is of the back of Harry’s head and the side of William’s, and NO Kate!)

Prince Harry’s head and Prince William…

Although there were some points when the weather felt insanely hot, it wasn’t any warmer than when I did my 20 mile training run, and as there was no evil rain and barely any wind/breeze, the weather conditions were more or less perfect by my own standards… I only have *slight* tan lines….😉 I discarded my orange long sleeved top base layer and pink fleece to Rosie and James at the start and donned what must be the thickest bin bag known to man which also got chucked mere metres after the start line. This is an oddity for me; I am normally found running in layers upon layers because I am ALWAYS cold and I do not like the wind and the rain! I think the sheer excitement, plus the absolute masses of people were surrounding me in a nice warm glow..

Spot me in the bin bag (Thanks Sally for this!)

Getting to my “Blue Start” was surprisingly easy thanks to my London-travel-expert Rosie 🦄, and, as someone who has run A LOT of half marathon’s, I can’t even describe how surprised I STILL am that I only needed one last pee on the walk up from the DLR, before I joined my zone… Usually I leave the toilets and re-join the queue immediately for several last emergency toilet stops (yep, maybe too much info, but normally several nervous number 1’s and 2’s!) I guess my body understood the sheer excitement my mind was in and hadn’t quite realised what was to come! 😄

App results

I was bouncing off the walls as I headed to the start line, seen off by my wonderful husband James and one of my besties Rosie. As I walked further forward I spotted another of my besties, Becky, alongside her sister Kate, Mum Sally, her two children (one of whom is my goddaughter Ellen 👧🏼, and the other my honorary godson Ollie 👦🏼!) and their cousins Charlie and Jake stood at the metal fence of their hot-air-balloon-area searching the crowds for me. I remember excitedly bounding up to them like an absolute maniac; jogging and jumping over already-discarded layers of clothing from other runners up the bank to try and kiss them all through the fence, before pouncing off back towards the start line. I think all of the kids, even the 2 I see fairly often, were slightly alarmed at who this bin-bag-wearing nutter was! As I approached the start line far quicker than I thought I would (crossing at just under 9 minutes after the “gun”) I remember looking up to see the start, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of runners and spectators, and felt myself welling up slightly at the pure size and unitedness of this event, before the excitement took over me again and I started my running properly some way before the actual start (all this adds up towards me running 1.3 miles OVER the 26.2!) – which is definitely how I didn’t notice the Royal’s 👑 as I crossed the start line….!

My awesome cheer squad! 🦄

I remember the happiness emanating from everyone more than the sights of London themselves. I remember how funny I found myself when we reached the first mile marker, announcing happily and still excitedly out loud “Only 25 miles to go!!”… 🤣 with a few others around me laughing. I counted down in my head like this most of the run, but I didn’t share the same kind of happy enthusiasm for it at miles 23, 24 or 25……! Those last 3 miles honestly felt like there was 26 miles between each one of them. I can clearly remember the voice in my head saying “WHERE THE FCUK IS MILE 23?!” and probably almost immediately thereafter (but it felt like forever) “WHERE THE FCUK IS MILE 24?!” etc! I remember – despite my time not actually being that fast – that the first 13 miles seemed to fly by; I didn’t even notice passing the O2, and I didn’t give the Cutty Sark much more of a glance either! I took in Tower Bridge a little more, purely because I had been specifically told by a friend to soak up that moment, but I couldn’t help but find myself thinking that the slight hill up to Tower Bridge wasn’t very nice!! For me, the landmark that I remember the most was the beautifully green, tree lined street which lead up to Canary Wharf; Canary Wharf rising proudly at the end of these beautiful green trees; I remember thinking I didn’t know that road up to Canary Wharf was so beautiful and how lucky those that work in “the city” are to have such beautiful, vibrant shades of green surrounding them! 🌳🌳

I also remember desperately trying to remember all the crazy-costumed people I saw. The one that sticks in my mind the most, I quite literally said out loud “JESUS CHRIST” when I saw him…. A guy running barefoot, carrying a cross on his naked back, wearing what appeared to be just a white cloth, dressed as, well, Jesus Christ himself. I laughed at myself when I realised, as it was seeing his bare feet that had made me say “Jesus Christ” before realising that’s who he was dressed as! I also saw the rhino 🦏, various dinosaurs 🐉, a postbox, a tree 🌳, a few people dressed in chainmail or as wonderwoman, a smurf, Batman & Robin 🦇 and the absolutely insane guy carrying a tumble dryer (I am glad he achieved his WR!)

 

There was not a single point along the entire route of the London Marathon (with the exception of an underground tunnel, which I think is acceptable and also didn’t feel particularly horrendous considering!) where the streets were not either lined with supporters, or absolutely rammed full with supporters! People with funny signs with messages of support – “This is Virgin on ridiculous!”, “Don’t shit 💩 yourself Abi!”, “Your feet are only aching because you’re kicking so much ass!”, “Shortcut ⬅️!!” are just some of the messages I can remember that I loved, but I know there are so many more I can’t quite put my finger on as I write this! People had cow bells, clappers and their own voices must have been practically non-existent by Monday. Pubs, pop-up’s and other venue’s along the route blared out 🎶 music, musicians clubbed together to play the drums (Caribbean drums are my FAVOURITE to run to!), the bagpipes, brass bands, etc; anything and everything and anyone and everyone was out supporting that day. It is what makes the atmosphere of an organised run so brilliant. Hundreds of thousands of people from all different backgrounds come together as one, big swell of happiness all cheering for the same goal, and boy, do I wish we could come together as a nation and live in happy harmony like that on a daily basis. You cannot help but smile; and I did; a grin from ear to ear the whole way through (the odd picture which suggests otherwise is a lie…!)

Thumbs are up still 👍🏾! Just a slightly more tired grin!

However, despite the amazing all round support from the general public, there is clearly nothing like being cheered on by your own friends/family. It was evident in Iain’s splits, and it is evident mine; minutes per mile for the times I saw friends were 8:53, 8:37, 8:28 (my fastest mile; AT MILE 20!!) and 9:33 (Mile 25!); they worked out as some of my fastest splits so it is clear seeing your own people makes a difference – I wonder what I could do if I had someone at every mile….!! James and Rosie (& eventually Jon, once his lazy ass was dragged out of bed 😜  !) managed to get round and cheer me on from no less than FOUR amazing points of the course; although I missed them once, because the third time I was too busy jumping (running) for joy at the sound of Iain’s wife Dasa screaming my name and cheering me on.

 

And finally, the “600 metres” sign came into view, swiftly followed by the footbridge announcing “385 yards to go!” I was almost there. Buck Pal looked gloriously inviting underneath the blue skies, and for once with no crowds specifically around it; instead, everyone was turned to face away from the palace, cheering on the 40k runners in their final 400 metres, and finally 200 metres. As I turned away from Buckingham Palace onto The Mall I heard the voiceover announce “If you are finishing around about now, you might well get someone very special handing you your medal!” and I glanced up to see the Duchess of Cambridge on the big screen handing out medals 🏅. Instinctively I felt like if I headed left, I could be one of those people; but in the last 200 metres a combination of self-doubt and memory failure meant I aimed for the middle, and then forgot completely that they were even there (hence photograph being the back of Harry’s head and the side of William’s before I was swiftly ushered away!) as I happily crossed the finish line, quickly calculating that I had managed a sub 04:30 time in a haze of pride and overpowering happiness.

So, so happy!
 

I was overwhelmed last week with the amazing support, messages of love and encouragement. I felt so, so loved, and I still cannot get over how fantastic the tracking part of the VLM app was; because within seconds of crossing that finish line, I had tonnes of congratulations texts, whatsapps, emails, messages on facebook, instagram and twitter from all of you fabulous friends and family that had been tracking me every step of the way.

Top right – just over the finish line!

One of the best things I saw were these words from my goddaughters mother “what an inspirational godmother”. As part of my ongoing mental-health crisis, I always worry that I’m not “good enough” – there is no limit to this enough. I’m just not ever good enough. It’s mostly subconscious, but I’ve promised to always be there and be the best for her and I wonder sometimes if I am a good enough role model now – now that I no longer work full time or have my career goal of power woman to lead her path. With all my crazy 🤕 mental health issues; and yet they still chose me. They still knew I was an absolute nightmare with food (& I distinctly remember holding her tiny days old body, clinging her into my arms whilst refusing to eat lunch) and yet they still believe in me to be her godmother. I love this little girl, (even if she’s still not so sure about me, even when I get her her one true love; food!) way too much. But can she STOP growing already?! I’m excited to see who and what you become in life – but it needs to happen slower baby girl….. (Tangent!) 

And so, a week on. After 2 days and 2 sleepless nights of severe leg achiness, an over-optimistic failed run attempt on the 3rd day, I’ve now managed two 3 mile runs. I’ve had several alcoholic drinks 🥂🍹🍸 5 out of 7 night’s, eaten out three times, takeaway pizza 🍕once, demolished 15 hot cross buns, several bars of chocolate🍫, Haribo, skittles, protein flapjacks, energy/bounce balls, Lucozade sports and probably not enough water. My total distance that day was an insane 30.7 miles – I doubt I will ever top that “magic number”! I think, a week on, I have finally satisfied all my cravings and am ready to get back onto eating healthier! But I still find myself talking about it at any given opportunity… however, can someone tell me how on earth I have a fairly large graze on my right butt-cheek?!

Magic number..

VLM17 you were absolutely amazing, and despite hating being wrong, and constant promises I’ll never do another marathon – I have to admit my friends were right.. And if I can still run and love it as much as I do now after children… London, I’ll be back…! Even my insane husband is encouraging me to apply for next year, saying if I did somehow get in and was {finally} pregnant/just given birth, I could defer until 2019…. I am thinking about it…!!

Grinning as I reach the finish!

I know over the years I have inspired friends to run; it makes me so happy to feel like I am actually achieving something in this world; I am a typical millennial in that sense! And so, if you’d like to experience the absolute exhilarating and fantastic atmosphere of (a) marathon – VLM18 ballot opens tomorrow people! If you want an absolutely amazing day and experience of a lifetime – DO IT! I’ll come and cheer you on just to experience the day again! 🎉🎉🎉

I did it!

A compromise 

True story 🏃🏽‍♀️😍. Even if every time I hear 👂🏾 the word “activewear” I still can’t get the 🎶doing literally nothing in my activewear🎶 song out my head [ https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CYRENWT8lz8 😝]

117 fabulous miles for April done with #RaceAtYourPace @raceatyourpace . Absolute highlight being #VLM – an amazing day, atmosphere and experience that I still can’t stop finding an excuse to talk about! 

Now, as we somehow enter May in just one day {😫}, a very different challenge lies ahead of me.. I’ve been told NOT to exercise. Not to run. Nothing. Not even swapsies for swimming or yoga.

N O T H I N G. This honestly feels like a harder challenge for me both physically and mentally than actually running the [27.5 for me!] seemingly endless miles of the #LondonMarathon .. I’ve discussed it with friends, family, doctors, nurses, and my therapist. Both he and I are concerned at what the consequences of NOT running or exercising at all might be for me. What it might do for my mental health. What it may result in if I start deeming myself too fat. It’s a concern I’ve felt for a long time – that really I’m only the (healthy) weight I am now so that we can have a family. Not eating or making myself sick is far worse than a little running.

I love running. It makes me so happy. It is a huge part of me and has been for years. 

So I’m compromising. Breaking myself in gently. I don’t feel like I can completely give up yet. I feel like it’s right for me to do what I was meant to do 8 months ago, after I ran Cheltenham Half and before I found out I’d won my place in #vlm17 ; just do less, chill out more, but still exercise a little. So I’ve signed up for just the 25 mile challenge for May (because I’m a sucker for a medal 🏅🥇🥈🥉and I neeeed them all 🤣) and that will be my test. 25 miles-ish for May. I might go over slightly, like I’ve done the last 2 months, (I can’t go under for the sake of the all important medal!) but nowhere near the 100+ I’ve been managing, and certainly nowhere near the 200-300+ I used to do! A compromise. A deal. Come on body, let’s make a baby 👶🏻 (or 2 👯…!). It’s time.



#runner #run #running #vlm2017 #activewear #infertility #infertilitysucks #fertility #iui #ttc #LondonMarathon #VirginLondonMarathon #VirginMoneyLondonMarathon 

World Health Day 2017

I’ma just leave that ^ right here.. sometimes, I think, it can be even more important. I am physically fit, healthy and able (mostly), and yet, if my mental health isn’t up for it, then all of the physical health crumples too.
Today is #WorldHealthDay – with the focus on #depression – and so… time for another blog!
As always, depression never feels like the right word to describe that black cloud hanging over you for no reason. I’ve lost count of the amount of times people have said to me – or my husband – “Karen doesn’t look depressed” or “but you have SO much/you’re SO lucky” … you get the gist, right?!
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s because anxiety is my biggest problem, sitting alongside as depression’s BIGGER, brattier, harder-work sibling.. BUT, what exactly does depression look like?! Seriously! Before reading the rest of this blog, comment what you expect depression to look like in a person; I am honestly keen to know.
Do you expect me to turn up to a birthday/wedding/house warming/hen do/child’s christening dressed all in black with tears streaming down my face?! I cannot even begin to express how much I 100% HATE how often I do cry. I try my best to not, but it happens, a lot. (Although generally these days in the surroundings of Doctors/Nurses/Therapists.. at least they’re half expecting/trained for it..!) It washes over me like a tidal wave for absolutely no frigging reason whilst I’m in the middle of a conversation [with anyone] and suddenly there I am going beetroot red/purple, fighting and blinking back the tears welling up in my eyes, loosing my train of thought and ending up being handed a box of tissues, seemingly constantly. I feel like an over-sized baby. Generally, I seriously try to avoid this happening – particularly in public! How many people do you actually see, “depressed” and walking around in public in tears?? Not many, right? What about him? Or her? Or that child over there? Or that 90-year-old? Race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion; mental health illness doesn’t discriminate. Personally, I find it {my own crying} embarrassing. I sure-as-hell wouldn’t know what to do if I came across someone crying, or if someone broke down in front of me like I so often do to them.. And the worst part of those tears that are associated with “depression”? It’s normally anxiety that causes them in me..
And, I know. Believe me I know. I know how damn “lucky” I really am. I guess I wasn’t born into that surname for no reason, eh!! I have a generally all round brilliant life. The best, most supportive husband, family, friends (having dwindled out those who aren’t really..). I am {reasonably!} fit, and mostly {physically} healthy. I can see, speak, listen, smell, think, read, run, dance, learn, live, breathe, travel and do on a daily basis… if my mind allows.
All of this doesn’t make me feel any better. Telling someone how lucky they are or how they don’t “look” depressed simply adds this kind of “guilt” pressure and, for me, when I am left alone to think (often) then it gets to me and makes me feel worse and worse until in the end it’s spiraled out of control; and I end up at utter breaking point. And I do get to breaking point. I have, I really have. Several times. Almost 20 years of guilt carried around on my shoulders. Years of self-punishment; starving myself, making my self sick (even swallowing a small amount of bleach in a desperate bid to make myself sick; my crime? I ate an apple), over-exercising, over-dosing on laxatives, cutting myself, and all for what? For some brief relief and element of “control” over myself, but years of further pain; knee pain, neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, insomnia. And the worst, the one I can’t just battle through and live with; infertility pain. I’ve asked it before, and I’ll ask it again, but for anyone that thinks this is a choice; why would you choose to suffer like this?
I am no longer “tiny”, and I miss it. Boy, do I miss it. I look over old photos of my tiny waist, tiny boobs, thinner, toned, legs and thigh-gap thighs, smaller bum, flat stomach, thin arms, prominent collarbones, hip bones and sometimes even rib bones and I miss looking like that. I miss the scales saying my “magic” number. I miss being told I have “no {brown} fat” by my [wedding] dressmaker. I miss being the smallest, tiny, invisible. Because that feeling of invisibility makes me feel better about how often I am overlooked/called the wrong name/forgotten about/left out/alone. I feel very much like I am only managing the (healthy, very healthy, “must stay at this weight” [thanks, doc]) weight that I am now just so that I can conceive, and yet, still not conceiving no matter what meds I seem to be given.. No matter if I run or don’t run, eat sensibly, R E L A X…
I now spend a lot of time alone. And on those days that are increasingly becoming more common – when I actually want to see and engage with people – it makes me miss Clarks and working full time like that. But deep down I know, I remember (because I was), that I was surrounded by people there yet feeling more alone than I do when I am physically alone now. And yet being alone is scary, it allows me time to think, which can be dangerous in plummeting myself back into that spiral of utter panic; anxiety with depression. And yet, on better days, even I wonder what all the fuss is/was about. Even now, I find this blog harder to write; the sun is shining, I’m on a small amount of medication for my mind, I am undergoing therapy, I am eating well and running really well; I am excited for events to come. I struggle now, to think back to those bleak days that I last fought only a few months ago. And it can be quite a scary place to reside; you feel fantastic, but after the first few times of it happening, you start to almost not be able to enjoy that feeling of happiness and feeling “high”, because you worry for when the negative thinking and behaviors will return, because they will, they always do.  But I cling on to memories. I over-take photographs and I look back on them fondly; it makes me sad for life gone, but reminds me of life and more excitement to come… So sorry, not sorry for the oversharing/posting 😉
I really thought – I was convinced in fact – that at the ripe old age of 26/27 (when I was wedding planning/got married) that we had whittled out all the fake friends. People that wouldn’t be there for us but seemed to expect us to be there for them. I was wrong. Really wrong, and it will probably always annoy me that those people got to be guests at our beautiful wedding. The “best wedding ever” (& that quote is from a friend, not either of us, although we believe it to be true!)
I just don’t understand people. I will go out of my way to help, to be there, to do anything I can and fight your corner (unless you’re in the wrong, in which case, I’ll let you know). And I have never asked or expected anyone to give me the world. I’ve never asked anything of anyone, but I guess a tiny part of me thinks – hopes – that if I’m there for you, you’ll be there for me… I guess not.
Sometimes, I just don’t know what to think, or what to feel. People really mess with your emotions and it’s outrageous. A subject of being “overlooked” comes up consistently in my therapy sessions, and it is so, so true. For my entire life I am constantly overlooked. From doing readings at assemblies, for being picked in sports teams, from accidentally being called “Kate” or “Lucy” or anything other than my actual name. From sitting down with me as a child/teenager/adult with my teachers/colleagues/friends/family and getting to the real bottom of why I constantly resort to harming myself one way or another. To desperately reaching out to therapists only to be turned away, or worse; forgotten about once again. Blood tests missed. “Friends” letting me down or cancelling on me last minute or finding something better to do.
It all adds up, and meanwhile, that girl(/boy) that you think has everything, is surrounded by infinite walls of loneliness. All the love in the world to give, to be, to do, to make a difference, but no longer the energy to keep constantly getting rejected.
So, depression. This is my account. Everyone is different. We are all different; it is part of the beauty of the world in which we live. But depression is not a choice. It isn’t something that you “had once for 8 weeks”. It doesn’t go away. You learn to manage it. To live with it as best you can. As you start to understand your own experience, you begin to realise what works for you; you do what you can to make yourself feel happier, be it eating a certain way (3 decent meals/6 small meals/more vitamins/vegan/vegetarian/etc.) exercising a certain amount/at a certain time of day, or even just a certain exercise (guess what, mine’s running 😝🤣!!), taking medication, undergoing therapy. All of which I have done, and continue to do. It isn’t easy, but it appears to be an ever-increasing problem as we create more and more generations. We aren’t really sure why, but it is, but we can work with it, we can manage it, and we can live with it if we just take some time to understand, listen and, always; be kind. 💖
x

April..

It’s April. I know I say this every single month, but I really don’t know where March went. Another blur and whirlwind of appointments. Still not pregnant. Still questioning if I ever will be and what happens if I won’t…

As a quick update – generally, I’m ok. I am off fertility meds for the first time in several months; hoping for a clear view this month as to what my body is up to on it’s own, before hopefully starting IUI/IVF end April/May… I’ve dropped (what I feel) is a necessary few pounds – but I really, really don’t think or feel like I have starved myself or over-exercised. For once. I’ve listened to my body. Ate and run as I wanted (more or less..!), and fortunately, this weird craving I seem to be having for all things healthy seems to be working well. I ran 20.4 miles Sunday just gone, and, as I am not pregnant, will be running the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday 23rd April 2017… Wish me luck…! I am excited and super nervous.. I will be glad and super proud to have finished it, but it is not going to be easy.. I have done what I consider the bare minimum training for it; although, I was already a runner so it isn’t like I was starting from scratch! I just haven’t done that many “long” runs. 2, to be exact. One at 16.6 miles in the most horrendous weather (epic, resistance-training-that-I-didn’t-need brutal wind and spells of rain), and the other on a gloriously perfect day for running, at 20.4 miles… Harder than I was hoping it was going to feel though, however I also ran quicker than I thought I was, so swings and roundabouts!

I’ve done so little distance training, as of course, I had continued to hope that I would actually be pregnant and not really running it… I continued to put off long runs so that I wouldn’t have trained up to a stupid distance and then have to “throw in the towel” and “give it all up” for pregnancy, and also, because that kind of distance running just isn’t really conducive to conceiving… I purposely waited to run the 20-miler once I knew I wasn’t pregnant. A new nurse at the hospital I am now under the care of for fertility treatments, mentioned to me at a blood test last week that I shouldn’t do “too much exercise” as I “want my body to be nice and sluggish for pregnancy”……. Never heard that one before… Obviously, I declined to mention I was running a marathon in 3 weeks..! Clearly, I know marathon training/running isn’t ideal for pregnancy, but it really is a once in a lifetime achievement – I do have the running bug, and I see how people become addicted (like me!) but I will NOT be taking up marathons as my new thing… Halve’s I can do, marathons; NO! Anyway, like I said, I have done minimal training in order to try and keep my body prepped for pregnancy. That is the single biggest and most important goal for me.. But exercise surely is good for you?! Once I have done the marathon I still intend to run, but my distances are likely to be 3 and 5 milers mostly. This is ok, right?! Maybe 5 times a week?! I need to run for my physical AND mental health… I love running..

In other “me” news… I am really not sleeping. I seem to be waking up almost hourly, even despite running 20 miles I didn’t sleep well that night. I have no idea why or what is going on. I don’t feel particularly stressed, upset or anxious about anything, although I have been having some insane dreams/nightmares when I am sleeping. I am confused! I have started taking a very low dose anti-anxiety/depressant med (10mg citalopram, low because; fertility) , which to my amazement did seem to kick in (or placebo) and do something straight away. I don’t feel like it has helped the anxiety side of things (1 example; I called my parents earlier because Dad hadn’t answered my face-time the night before, and I was genuinely worried they weren’t still alive..!) very much, but it does seem to have improved my “mood” and, aside from last Thursday (where I thought I was doing well and then cried 3 times in one day!) I don’t seem to be in tears quite as much… the arrival of my period last month didn’t destroy me quite as much as it usually does; in fact, my husband seemed more disappointed for the first time than me, which was sweet, and yet saddening for me to hear.. I thought I was the one mainly driving the desire for a family 😕.. Although I think the reality of “if I’m pregnant I can defer the marathon until 2018!” and then attempting to train, and then run a marathon with a newborn (or multiple newborns!) and potentially {milk} leaking boobs had finally dawned on me and I realised, really, it is best to run the marathon this year and get it done and out the way… At least (fingers crossed) I should then achieve something on my “30 before 30” list (having a baby clearly not going to happen now..!)

Anyway, despite this now-essay, I don’t really have much to say or update. I have been pretty busy, and thus not having the opportunity to think (probably why I’m not feeling as “depressed”!) or writing as much. I do have several blogs started that are only a paragraph long, where words have formed in my head, but then quickly disappeared before I can get much written down.. I’ll attempt them some day.. xxx

~ F E E L I N G M A N I C ~

I thought I hadn’t had this feeling in a while, and I wasn’t expecting it any time soon. I don’t know how I’ve got it now, or where I’ve got it from.. it’s normally born from a period of dire insomnia or food restriction.. But both are ok at the moment.. yet still I feel super high, like I can do anything, be anything, confident, happy and chatty to anyone, my usually low “people tolerance” feels heightened (which I love because it makes me kinder which in turn makes me happier) and I basically feel like I’m flying. It usually comes with a bad crash though, although, I wonder if this time will be different..

Anyway, regardless I am very pleased to see I am the Strava female leader (out of only 21, but still, I never lead!) for the “Stockmoor Incline” at home! The record was set over a year ago when I was fitter.. so I hope no one over takes me as I don’t think I’ll get it back 😂
#mentalhealthmatters #kindnessismagic #mentalhealthawareness #anxiety #depression #eatingdisorders #anorexia #run #runner #running #strava #endorphinjunkie #leader #femalelead #stockmoorincline #somerset