Lockdown Update!

The past few weeks have been filled with the chaos and fear of uncertainty, and an unprecedented lack of control over the events around us. Human nature dictates that the one thing we despise more than anything is being told we cannot do what we want – the element of choice has been inexplicably stripped from us. This is something I think we’re all finding incredibly difficult to wrap our heads around. Routine has been forbidden, our entire way of life temporarily jeopardised. And with that, comes a distinct increase in anxieties over the near and distant future.

For someone that normally thrives off routine and structure, this lockdown as thrown me ever so slightly. Not going to work every day, hitting the gym and not being able to socialise has proven hugely challenging, but here are a few ways I’ve kept myself busy and thus, somewhat sane.

Reading – I used to consume books within a day way back when, so I’ve recently started re-reading some of my favourites which had a profound impact on me either growing up or more recently, from poetry to prose. I find losing myself in a book keeps me centred and acts as a very therapeutic form of escapism.

Fitness – three months ago I began my personal training journey after quitting my job at the last minute (one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!). Having the sessions come to an abrupt halt significantly impacted my mood recently so I’ve decided to start doing home workouts. They take a lot of improvisation, but I was thankfully blessed with an incredible personal trainer who still motivates me every day – I’ve incorporated all of our prior training into these home workouts as best as physically possible, using weights and resistance bands where feasible. Not going into work every day has meant I have much more time to devote to exercise, and since introducing a routine of training every other day, I find myself feeling much healthier and happier, physically and mentally.

Writing – I’ve always considered writing to be my greatest form of therapy since I was a teenager, and during times such as this there is no greater way to comprehend any negative (and positive!) thoughts and feelings than writing them all down. Even if it means keeping a journal, or jotting things down when feeling overwhelmed, expressing them in words rather than keeping it bottled inside has worked wonders.

Spending time with family – I don’t think I’ve ever spent as much time with or even seen my parents as I have done in the past two weeks! But it’s been a blessing to sit with them every day and talk properly. We motivate each other and pick one another up if we’re ever down and I believe in a time like this, that is more important than ever.

Leaving the house once a day – endometriosis has somewhat put a spanner in the works with this one as I do enjoy just going for a simple walk in the park every now and then. When I’m in a lot of pain, or even when I’m not, I sometimes try to distract myself with being around green space and nature, which really does work wonders when you’re stuck inside each day! Being quarantined indoors makes you appreciate nature and all it has to offer.

Stay in touch with friends – I’ve come to appreciate my loved ones even more so now! Even just checking in with each other is so important, but true friends provide stability in times like this. If it’s for a gossip, a vent or just to chat about being bored, it’s nice to have someone on the other end of the phone in the same position, who understands and listens.

As I said before, there is great fear in such uncertainty. Not being able to do what you want can at times take a huge toll on your mental wellbeing. But staying indoors means saving the lives of our loved ones and the vulnerable, so it’s really a no brainer. If we can survive this, we can survive anything. And it makes the future that much more promising.

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay positive (and stay INSIDE!).

A x

Internship 2017

This summer I’ve had the privilege of working as an intern for the very first time. I still can’t quite believe just how lucky I got, bagging myself an internship in my first year of university (perks of studying at Reading!).

The company I work for are based in central London, and they work with the top universities in London. My role is working as a Media Coordinator for the company, which is many ways perfect considering social media is my forte. Being in charge of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for the company in addition to visiting these universities, talking to students and scientists, and creating case studies for the students has been a rollercoaster of excitement and adrenaline, and 100% worth it.

The best part of this internship, however, is the people I’ve worked with. The environment is based on putting the staff first, being as flexible as possible for them, and making sure they are happy in the workplace. These are contacts I can honestly say I would love to keep for the future.

The skills I’ve acquired are also incredible. After working in retail for two years, I was desperately craving the taste of a degree-related job. The friends I’ve made working in retail, I’ve made for life and whilst I appreciate the somewhat relaxed attitude towards working in the fashion-retail industry, it became tedious. Folding shirts everyday and analysing stock reports is alright but I wasn’t challenging myself in any way. I was physically drained after spending 8 hours on my feet, but this internship has mentally drained me, which is exactly what I love.

I’ve been pushed to work as hard as I can, to meet deadlines the day they’re set, and these are invaluable life skills I can carry forward with me into the future. This may sound awfully cliché, but now that I’ve had a taste for working in an environment related to my degree, I can’t bring myself to go back to retail. Of course, a job is a job, and when it comes to starting my second year of university in a month’s time, I will have to go back to retail part-time in order to pay for university costs, but my passion has now shifted from specialising in menswear to working in the marketing industry.

I take pride in the fact that I have put my free time this summer to great use. Thank you, to the University of Reading and to the company I’m working for, because I’ve had the best time. I definitely would love to do this again next year, and cannot recommend it enough!

A x

An Open Letter to My Parents

The past few years have been turbulent, both physically and mentally for myself and those around me; the constant rejection of the answers I was desperately looking for, the reluctance to be treated for whatever is going on inside me, and the anxiety surrounding being in pain everyday were painful to say in the least. However, with the news that the investigations into my health conditions have now come to an end, I’ve stopped hoping for a miracle, adopting a rather more realistic approach to dealing with the pain. I’ve made peace with the idea that I’ll have to treat these symptoms, potentially for the rest of my life, rather than having multiple doctors, surgeons and specialists poke me here and there, performing countless tests.

Those closest to me will know how much I despise pity and sympathy: my health is something I have yet to come to terms with (I know, I know, it’s been 4 years) so handling other’s reactions isn’t something that comes easily to me when I don’t really know how to handle it myself. However, the one thing I have always been grateful for, but now more so than ever, is the relentless support of my parents.

During my darkest hours, they shared my pain and agony. In 2013, they shared my fear of going under the knife for the first time in my life. But they put aside all their own emotions to support me, comfort me and encourage me. Many will comment on my bravery in suffering from a debilitating health issue, but I believe the bravest of them all are my parents, for being strong for me. I remember waking up from the general anaesthetic after my operation and hearing my mum sob because she couldn’t handle the sight of me being attached to wires, an oxygen mask, and tubes attached to me. This was the first time I’d heard her cry since I was diagnosed, and in many ways that was more painful than the actual agony of a gallbladder attack. As parents, there’s an assumption that you have to be strong for your children, and my parents exceeded that. I know for a fact that their support has helped me live through this, and without it, I don’t know where I’d be.

It’s time for me to stop thinking about how I’ll survive living with whatever I am going through, but rather focus on how I can live my life to the fullest with it. Perhaps I was justified in my selfishness regarding the whole thing – after all, it was my illness, something only I was experiencing. But in many ways, my pain is also my parents’ pain. I haven’t given them enough credit for helping me survive the worst days of my life. I owe them everything for helping me keep it together when I was at my lowest points. Their ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel when I’m blind to it myself is a gift they are blessed with.

So thank you both, for transforming me into the strong woman I am today. I am a survivor because of you. You love me even when I’m at my worst, and boy am I an absolute nightmare. Through your care and devotion, you have created a human being who is prepared to fight whatever life throws at her head on. You have given me the strength to survive my darkest hours, and it’s only your words which help me overcome them. Your strength and courage lives within me, and I am so proud to call you my parents. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I’ll be able to embrace it because of you.

A x

HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2017!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2017!

2016 has brought us a whirlwind of emotions. It’s felt like a bloody long year too!

From restarting my degree at the university of my dreams, to meeting some of the truly wonderful people I now hold dear to me, it’s been a crazy year that I wouldn’t change for the world. It’s also taught me how important it is to keep your loved ones close: to cherish every second you have with them, because life is far too unpredictable and we just cannot know when our time on this earth will be over.

Strangers have become best friends. Best friends have become family. Family ties have grown stronger (in some cases, mind!) 2016 has been a year of life lessons, too. I’ve learnt that people will come in and out of your life, but those who are supposed to be in it will come back to you eventually. Those who don’t come back, well, for the briefest moments, they were in your life for a reason. All we can do is learn from what they’ve taught us, and move on with what they’ve left behind. Life is too unpredictable to hold grudges and negativity against those we once cared for.

I look forward to a year of positivity ahead of me. As cliche as it sounds, I’m very much looking forward to leaving negativity behind me in 2016, and moving forward with those who stuck by me relentlessly this year, bringing me nothing but happiness and filling my life with love.

Happy 2017! Let’s make it a good one.

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” – Unknown

A x

HEALTH UPDATE: JULY 2016

It could be worse.

That has pretty much been my life motto for the past two years and it’s actually worked out considerably well. As a result, I’m less prone to wallowing in self-pity, although perhaps I can thank my job for that, too.

After 20 months of uncertainty, pain, hospital admissions and tests, I’ve been told there’s nothing that can be done for my current health situation as there are too many risks associated with surgery. (Last resort and what we were subtly hoping for as a miraculous cure) There’s no medication left for me to take; I’m already on painkillers, plus chronic pain relief before I go to sleep, so a medicinal approach is also out of the question. Doctors have now suggested a “holistic approach” to dealing with the pain and symptoms that come with this confusing/unique health condition.

I’ve been a little weary when it comes to the term “holistic” because it felt like a cop-out when it was suggested on the post-consultation report. Almost like a “we couldn’t help you surgically, so try some homeopathy or yoga.” But looking into it further, it’s worth a shot considering we’ve exhausted every other avenue.

I guess the worst aspect of living with this/these health condition(s) is the absolute loneliness that comes with having to live with it. Of course I am incredibly blessed and lucky to have such supportive parents and family, as well as exceptional friends who have stood by my side since the day I was first hospitalised. Ultimately, however, having to live with ongoing pain and knowing there’s no real cure out there for me now is the worst thing. Realising that I’ve been through so much pain, horrid health relapses and symptoms, only to be told I should ‘go herbal.’ It’s awfully lonely; having to summon up the courage to say “okay Anisah, you’ve been through this before, you can get through this now.” Accepting that pain is a part of my life I just have to live with. When I have to leave a room, or take a break from work, or even duck to the loos when out with friends, I have to pray and beg that whatever’s causing my abdomen grief will just go away. “You just have to ride it out” is infuriating to hear; why me? After everything, why am I still suffering? Will it ever go away?

It sounds terribly despondent, I know, but I guess the lonely aspect of a health condition is something I’ve not touched on before, yet is imperative to consider nevertheless. It interlinks strongly with your psychological state of mind too, almost like a vicious circle. When I experience physical pain, my anxiety levels increase and I panic a little. As a result of living with these health issues, I’m prone to periods of feeling low and anxious for the future. I’m desperately hoping that a holistic approach helps me physically and mentally, because I am drained in both senses!

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Kahlil Gibran

A x

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day!

Today marks a very special day dedicated to the heroic fathers who do so much for their children! Sadly, I spent majority of this day wrapped in a blanket as a result of being unwell, and it didn’t go to plan at all. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to making up for it when I’m feeling a little better.

These past few years have been particularly difficult and my dad has been one of the very few people to stand by me through thick and thin. With his tireless efforts to make me feel better, make me laugh and support me, I couldn’t have asked for a better father. He goes well out of his way and beyond to make my life a little more bearable and easier. From picking me up from the station at ridiculous hours of the night, to dropping me off to work at 3am when I used to work at the airport, it’s insane how he’s managed to put up with me! Yet he continues to do so, showering me with love and support endlessly.

Dad, I don’t give you enough credit for what you do for me, and for our family. You’re one of the most incredible men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and loving, and I most certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without you, and all the sacrifices you’ve made. Everyday, I grow more proud of you as a father, as a businessman and as a person.

Thank you for doing what you do. For loving me, for supporting me, for sitting down at 1am to discuss world politics and world peace with me. You’ve provided me with so much in life that I never thank you for, but will forever be grateful for.

All my love,

Anisah

HEALTH UPDATE: MAY 2016

The waiting game.

It appears I spend most of my time waiting for things to happen; currently, I’m waiting to be seen by a specialist in the field of Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction at Harley Street. Sadly, the NHS route proved to be an absolute disaster; I spent two months waiting for the appointment to come through to see a consultant who had an “interest” in the field of SOD at a tertiary centre hospital, only for him to tell me there was nothing he could do about my condition due to a substantial “lack of evidence” excluding my pain. It’s safe to say that I was livid after that appointment. His reluctance to do anything about my condition pretty much summed up why I have no faith in doctors – for over a year and a half, my condition has worsened yet they seem to intentionally brush over my three year-long suffering.

Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction is a tricky little condition; for one, the Sphincter muscle in my bile duct is so tiny that the best way to assess whether it’s working properly (or not, in my case) is to go inside and undergo a procedure. The problem is this procedure carries the risk of inducing pancreatitis; having already suffered a bout of it two years ago, I’m not too keen to risk any chances of having it again because the pain is horrendous. Pancreatitis also runs the risk of inflicting life-long damage onto the pancreas, creating furthermore health problems. However, having exhausted many medicinal routes to tackle to pain I’m in daily with SOD, I’m running out of patience and options. Being bombarded with pain relief doesn’t solve the issue and it appears the doctors I’ve seen are almost reluctant to cure it, opting for a safer, non-invasive method of treating the symptoms.

Another problem is the relapses. Whilst I was away, I suffered from an episode of severe pain which landed me in hospital – not ideal when you’re in another country. The relapses occur almost every other month, drastically impacting my life with its unpredictability. Doctors perhaps perceive my desperation for medical intervention as just another kid who comes in with pain in their stomach. They don’t realise how badly this condition has ruined my life for the past three years. They can’t imagine being in pain for a solid 18 months because they’ve never been there.

I know it’s wrong to desperately hope for something when I’ve already been disappointed so many times before, but I sincerely hope this consultant will give me some answers this time. If not surgical intervention then at least another option to consider would be preferable. Being written off has destroyed me, physically and emotionally.

So, hopefully, in ten days I may just get some answers!

A x

 

Last Day at Work!

My last day working for menswear has flown past and I’m left feeling rather nostalgic and a little at loss with what to do with myself. I remember the day I had my interview with my department manager and leaving the interview feeling absolutely terrified. Since then, I’ve massively grown as a person, in strength and in determination. Not without a few obstacles on the way, however! Nevertheless, it’s been a wild ride and one I’ll cherish for a long time.

Working for a high-demand fashion retail company isn’t easy when you’re literally running around the shop-floor all day. The one thing I was guaranteed was a decent night’s sleep after an 8 hour shift. Working for menswear was also an entirely new and exciting experience for me; I’ve learnt to style men for occasions (kinda still getting my head around that one) and help co-oordinate outfits both merchandising-wise and for customers. With regionals coming down every couple of weeks, this job has been simultaneously the most stressful and enjoyable retail experience.

The customers were a challenge, I’ll happily admit that. With men shouting at me for not smiling at them, throwing clothes on me, demanding I run up 3 flights of stairs to find them a jacket etc, it was exhausting. When customers didn’t speak a word of English, they’d start getting furious with me for not understanding them. Also, from called an “asian persuasion” to being insulted and harassed for refusing to give me phone number/ my name, I can only look back and laugh at the nature of half the arguments there’s been in menswear.

However, this job couldn’t have been as wonderful as it has been without the people I’ve met and grown to love over the course of the few months I was there. From the cashiers to the stockroom assistants to the security guards, it felt like one big family and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. I learnt the art of sass from my floor manager and how to control my tongue when men became particularly aggressive towards me and my merchandiser taught me everything I needed/ wanted to learn about merchandising – something incredibly invaluable. Their relentless support and encouragement made the experience evermore enjoyable – without it, I don’t know where I’d be. It was an absolute pleasure working with such wonderful ladies. And finally, my boss. I don’t think I have ever got on so well with a manager before. Our relationship was an odd one, though – one minute we’d be laughing, the next minute screaming in each other’s faces, at times literally hitting each other. I think 90% of that stemmed from my inability to understand what he was saying most of the time, but I’m immensely grateful to have worked for a really amazing guy. He transformed me from the timid little 19 year old at the interview into a no-shit-taking, thick skinned 20 year old. The love and respect I have for him I cannot put into words. All I can say is thank you. For absolutely everything, but most importantly for taking a chance on me and making me cry/laugh at the same time.

I looked forward to coming into work these last four months, so thank you to everyone at Croydon for giving me memories I’ll cherish and friends for life. It won’t be the same not coming down those escalators and seeing your faces again!

All my love,

Anisah x

Anisah vs Her Body: Round 3

Anisah vs Her Body: Round 3

2013: Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy. 2014: Pancreatitis. 2015-present: Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction.

I’m stuck in a kind of stand off between myself and my doctors; they’re aware of how detrimental my condition is to my physical and mental wellbeing, yet they’re reluctant to take any action due to the potentially life threatening complications associated with it. It’s made furthermore frustrating by the fact that SOD is so rare in patients, especially at my age, too.

2015 was a year completely dominated by pain and I hope never to relive the experiences I endured that year again. When you’re in a situation such as mine, it’s incredibly difficult to adopt a facade of positivity and automatic “I’m fine” responses to the repetitive, rhetorical “are you okay?” In short; no, I’m not okay. It appears I’m fighting my body on a daily basis in the hope that it’ll stop trying to reduce me to my knees from unrelenting pain. But that’s not what people want to hear.

Thankfully, I appear to have inherited my parents’ strength and willpower; I am a survivor and I will fight this to the end, but its left me questioning – at what cost? I’m unable to go about my daily activities without being crippled by the pain at least twice during the course of the day. I can’t eat properly. The prospect of a (second) good university experience is hampered by pain. My anxiety is through the roof. It’s all a vicious cycle with no bright light – yet.

I’m a strong believer in things happening for a reason, by forces greater than us. There is a plan for me, I just need to trust in myself and those forces that I’ll make it through to the other side. It’s been a traumatising road these past few years and I’m incredibly tired of fighting, but I’m also desperately hoping this won’t continue for much longer and that this is just the final stretch in a (literally) gut-wrenching battle.

Throughout this ordeal, I’ve managed to retain a somewhat positive outlook on life fundamentally thanks to the strong support network of friends and family I have around me. I say this time and time again to the point where these words almost come across as empty but it’s thanks to my loved ones that I have come this far. My mother raised me to be strong, positive and almost certainly not a defeatist; my father raised me as a fighter. It is because of their support and unrelenting positivity not to mention belief in me that I’ve managed to make it this far. My true friends stood by my side and helped me battle against my health during my darkest hours, giving me the strength to fight when I thought I could fight no longer. I’ve come to know some truly wonderful people over the past few months who have completely changed my outlook on life, not to mention made me a better, stronger person. I cannot thank them enough for simply being in my life, and I know I’m blessed beyond words to have compassionate people around me. It’s because of these people that, during the dark hours, I can see a light. Perhaps it’s not the light at the end of the tunnel, but the promise of light is good enough for me.

So, amidst a sea of uncertainty, I’m going to give this illness everything I’ve got and battle through to the end, armed with a positive mindset and determination to overcome it before it has the chance to consume me. Forgive me if I backtrack every now and then, though.

On a final note, thank YOU to everyone who’s taken the time to simply read my blog, not to mention commenting on it, too. From my work colleagues to best friends to family friends: your support means the world to me. I don’t even need to tell you I love you; you already know. Without you, I would not be half the person I am today.

A x

Perspective

It’s March 2nd and my first day back home after spending 5 days in hospital has come to an end. I have thoroughly enjoyed being wrapped up in a blanket watching ‘The Night Manager’ and ‘The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story.’ However, I’m not the same person I was when I went in to hospital.

Last Friday night, I was left feeling a little on edge after experiencing discomfort due to ongoing stomach pains. Of course, stomach pains are nothing out of the ordinary for me but they usually went away after an hour or so and even after taking medication, I was still suffering. Things reached a peak at around 11pm on Friday night; I was doubled over in pain, unable to breathe without feeling a stabbing pain rippling through my upper abdomen. Not cute. By 2.30am the following morning, I was hooked up to an IV line. Over the course of the next 5 days, I was transferred from a&e to the surgical assessment unit, to the day surgery unit. But that isn’t the point of this post.

Whilst in the day surgery unit, I came across many patients being admitted and transferred and I guess I should’ve been prepared for some sticky situations – after all, this was a surgical unit. On Monday night, a young patient was admitted to the bed next to me after undergoing surgery. It was clear that something hadn’t gone too great with the operation because she was screaming in agony and bleeding out. This was at roughly 10pm so visiting times were over and the rest of us in the bay were alone and it was pretty quite, with patients either zonked out on morphine or trying their best to sleep. Her parents were with her to ensure she settled in okay and was recovering from the operation, when things took a sudden turn for the worse. I heard the patient’s mother call the nurses frantically, telling them her daughter was feeling light-headed. Within two minutes, the patient had gone into cardiac arrest from bleeding out.

The next 20 minutes were a blur of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses running around, giving her oxygen and trying to stop the bleeding. With no theatres free to perform emergency surgery, they were forced to stop the bleeding there and then in order to save her life. Her parents were hysterical with fear and surgeons were shouting about the lack of blood bags available to them – it was terrifying. I guess I forgot that in hospitals, things do go wrong and situations like this do occur. It’s not common but it does happen and in the moment, everything just fell away. The pain I was experiencing, the sickness, all the symptoms just fell away because all I was thinking of was how young this girl was next to me and how numb I felt.

I don’t know if they managed to save her. She didn’t come back the following day, and neither the nurses nor other members of staff had any clue as to what happened in that operating theatre. Situations like this put everything into perspective; life is too unpredictable and we ought to make the most of the good health we have. What is life if we don’t have our health? Right now, I can’t get those 20 minutes out of my head. I’m not sure if I will forget the panic in her parents’ voices, the panic in the surgeons’ voices and the sound of the blood pressure monitor dropping. It’s a horrific reminder of the fact that we’re only on this planet for a limited amount of time and we ought to make the most of every single second; by being good within ourselves and towards others. Whether you believe in God and His power to guide you or not, it’s important to have a pure heart as that alone makes us immortal.

“Is not He Who listens to the distressed soul when it calls on Him, and remove its suffering, and makes you inheritors of the earth?…” [Surah al-Naml 27:62] 

A x