My Autoimmune Disease: Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

I wrote a similar post over a month ago now on how I’d been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and as it was all new to me, I felt really alone with it all and was hoping there were others out there who could share their stories with me. Almost two months later and I’m ready to do an update!

If you haven’t read my last post which I’ll link here, and you’re unsure what Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is, here’s some info:

RA is a chronic and progressive autoimmune disease that mistakenly attacks the healthy cells in your body, causing inflammation (painful swelling) in various joints of the body. It can also affect and cause problems in organs such as the heart, lungs and eyes. Long term, it can result in deformity and immobility.

At age 20, I had a left knee injury which caused the onset of my RA. My knee became seriously inflamed and swollen and very painful. Walking let alone anything else became a task. A year later after many tests, x-rays and MRI’s, I was told I had RA and at that time, it had spread to my right knee. A month later, it had spread to my right elbow and the left side of my jaw. Typically, RA is more common in hands and feet but it can affect all joints.

The inflammation, swelling and pain is called a ‘flare’ and flare ups can happen very frequently or every now and again. RA is genetic and my dad was diagnosed with it several years ago yet he’s only experienced one short flare up in his wrist. Whereas I on the other hand, feel as though I’ve had this flare for roughly a year now. Shortly after my knee injury when it became inflamed and began to swell, it has never gone away. I only have bad days or better days.

Generally I’m happy, smiling and getting on with life and as much as I don’t want this to come across as a pity post, this can be a very serious disease and I want to share my honest story so far. The mornings are always the hardest. Because I’ve been sleeping for several hours, my joints become very stiff and I dread the morning stretch because it’s so painful for me now. My legs and right arm can no longer straighten properly so where my body naturally wants to stretch out, the swelling and inflammation acts as a painful barrier. I can barely open my mouth first thing in the morning because of my jaw so I try to keep yawning to a minimal. I practically crawl to the bathroom in the morning where getting up and down from the toilet seat is like mission impossible and I’m currently trying to learn to use my left hand for most things like brushing my teeth.

Honestly, I hate having to do things early in the morning because it doesn’t allow my joints time to ‘warm up’ so it’s all very painful. I’m very slow and can’t fully focus on whatever I should be doing. On bad days, it can affect my whole body because for all my affected joints, I usually have to substitute another part of my body so although my knees are inflamed, a lot of the time my legs generally ache because I’m shifting my weight and the pressure elsewhere. I often have a lot of pain in my hips and lower back too.

By mid afternoon, I’m usually back to my idea of my current normal self and I’m a lot more active and can move around more freely however as of lately, I am really struggling with fatigue. I feel exhausted all the time even with a decent amount of sleep. One thing I really have to focus on is my diet and what sort of foods I’m eating. There are a lot of inflammatory foods such as take away meals, fried foods, alcohol, bread, fizzy drinks and any processed foods. It might not sound a lot but on a daily basis it can prove a little hard to control. There are certain foods/drinks I have to have to help reduce inflammation such as fish, ginger, garlic, chai tea, green tea and fruits.

I’m currently waiting for my next few appointments to discuss treatment going forward. I’m expecting to take steroid injections mainly for my knees but as my disease has progressed I’m hoping to receive another medication for pain-relief too. I have been lucky enough to have private healthcare for the past few months which really has helped to speed up the process and answer a lot of questions for me. I’m sure I’ll do another update once I’ve started my treatment!

elisekirsten xo.

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My Top 5 Pick-Me-Ups.

As I lay here in bed on a Monday afternoon having spent the whole day lounging around doing absolutely nothing productive, I finally thought “what shall I blog about today?” and having felt not quite myself for the past few days I decided I needed a mental pep talk and a pick me up! Having just recently overcome depression (I think) and having an autoimmune disease, I do seem to spend quite a few of these crappy days in bed but I have become a master of pick-me-ups and doing little things to get me up and rehabilitated into the world, so here’s my top 5:

  1. Pamper Yourself. Any guys reading this might be a bit put off but honestly, I know loads of guys who love a good face mask and all those little feel good pleasures. For me, showering some days can feel like a chore especially if I’m having a bad flare up with my RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) so I end up stuck in bed for half the day until I can’t take it anymore. Once I’m up I may as well go the whole nine yards and do a deep cleanse facial, shave, a cheeky face mask, wash my hair etc. It gives me such a confidence boost because I feel and look human again rather than the smelly gremlin that was laying in my bed earlier! Check out my fav beauty products here.
  2. Listen to Music. We have a tendency to listen to music which matches our moods and if you’re feeling a bit low or not quite yourself, I wouldn’t recommend listening to sad and slow songs. It’s great that you’ve found an artist/song that you can relate to but they’re not exactly going to lift your mood or energy. Try listening to upbeat music! My fav album that really helps right now is Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic album, it always makes me feel good.
  3. Surround Yourself. This isn’t always the most accessible and most of the time we don’t want to be around anyone if we’re not feeling too good. I’m very stubborn and once I’m in a mood I’d rather be alone in bed but having a loved one come and drag me out of bed always distracts me from whatever I was feeling crappy about.
  4. Take a Walk. Once I’ve summoned up the energy to do so, I love taking a little walk by the river just to clear my mind, take in some fresh air and get my thoughts together.
  5. Plans and Organisation. This isn’t necessarily a pick-me-up but it’s something I like doing when I feel a bit discouraged or unsure about things. I love writing down my plans or brainstorming my ideas so I can visually see it all. I also find cleaning really therapeutic too.

I hope this helps and at least one of these will work for you!

elisekirsten xo. 

My Fav Beauty Products

I am far from a beauty/skincare guru and I barely ever use a skincare routine but when I do, these are by far my fav products:

  • For an ‘everyday’ face mask I use the Soap and Glory Deep Pore Detox Mask which is also self-heating! Using this straight after the face wash leaves my skin super soft and gives it a nice glow.

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elisekirsten xo. 

I love myself, I hate my body???

For years now, I’ve had this constant mental battle with my body where one day, I look in the mirror and I’m so happy and anywhere between a few hours to a few days later, I hate it! The typical idea was that women always go through these battles because the trends of body shapes are forever changing, but as of recently, the media has been pressurising men too! Nobody is safe anymore and with the trends changing rapidly, it’s so hard to keep up. First thigh gaps were cool, now we frown on them as if we never praised them in the first place. Now it’s all about the girls with the thick thighs and the unattainable bodies. I’m completely down for the thick thighs don’t get me wrong, but I point out the unattainable body shapes because not even the girls you see have that body! It’s all bought. I see people striving for a body shape that they may never have because it’s just not how they’re supposed to look. Some girls are naturally very slim and some are naturally bigger, others are (currently) blessed with an hour glass shape but trust me, give it a year or two and the media will be fat shaming them until it’s cool to be a size zero again!

Rant over, back to me. I remember exactly where and when it started. Prior to this time, I had NO care in the world about my body, I was simply just a young girl living my life and had no sense of self-consciousness. One day when I was in school and roughly 14-15 years old, I remember running through the playground and I felt my thighs rubbing together and within an instant, my mind was filled with thoughts of being fat and thinking ‘omg, everyone’s looking at my huge thighs rubbing together’. I almost wish I had pictures of myself from this time but I’ve always been a very slim and petite girl so I honestly have no idea how I put two and two together and made eight but for the next few years, I became so self conscious and probably a bit crazy.

I can’t say I had an eating disorder, because nobody has ever known about this. I’ve never been diagnosed with anything or had anything suggested to me, nor have I ever known why this happened to me. But after I came to my very far fetched conclusion, I just stopped eating. I never really ate breakfast much anyway but I think I managed to get out of it by telling my parents there was a breakfast club at school and I never had lunch at school ever. I would go to lunch with my friends just to be with them, but I’d rarely eat and if I did, it would be a few bites of a sandwich. Then I would have dinner and depending on what it was, I’d eat it all, eat some or eat none and I could go a full day without eating. Sometimes my parents would send me to school with a packed lunch or some fruit (I was always the healthy girl at school) but being the lost and unappreciative little girl I was, I’d usually give it to someone else. I’d convinced myself that by not eating anything, I’d become so slim (although I already was) and everyone would praise me for my body. I’d learnt the art of sucking in too which of course we all do, but I’d learnt to suck in 24/7 to the point it’s become natural to me till this day. I don’t even realise I do it anymore, I guess it’s because I learnt to make it look natural and how to control my breathing around it.

This lack of eating lasted about a year or two and then suddenly, the complete opposite happened and I was binge eating. I couldn’t tell you why or what made me change my mind but it just happened. I still wasn’t eating breakfast because my body became so used to not having it that eating in the early hours would make me sick. But by 10:00/11:00 I’d be eating chocolates, crisps, a whole packet of biscuits and whatever else I could get my hands on washed down by some sort of fizzy drink. At 1:30 would be a full lunch followed by any left over snacks, 3:30 would be chicken and chips religiously and sometimes if I was still hungry I’d have a snack, followed by dinner. At one point, I’d have some kind of greasy chicken and chips or KFC literally everyday for months. You’d think I’d be piling on the pounds by this point but my metabolism allowed me to eat whatever I wanted without it showing.

Everyone told me to be careful because it would catch up to me eventually but I’d ignored them all and now my metabolism is the complete opposite. I’m still very slim and petite and I don’t think my frame will change much but when I start to put on weight, the first places it all goes to is my neck (double chins), my hips (love handles) and the bottom of my stomach (that horrible little pouch). I don’t completely hate my body, majority of the time I’m actually very confident but one of my friends once said this and it stuck with me.. To the outside world, people may look at us and think “I wish I had a body like hers”, we may even be someone’s ‘body goals’, but we live in our own skin, nobody knows our bodies the way we do and so regardless of what everyone else thinks, good or bad, there may always be something we don’t like. So let’s not judge people. Yes, a slim person can complain about their body and yes a bigger person may have no complaints at all. The only thing we can do individually is either accept it, or change it.

Twenty One and Living Alone!

Year One.

I first moved out when I was 18 years old but that was definitely the easiest of times. I had moved to a university on the outskirts of London and I was living on campus. It was all inclusive so I had all my meals cooked for me – it might sound great but the food was crap and a part from a microwave, there wasn’t any cooking appliances, so for an entire year I was subjected to very bland food and questionable meat. My student loan covered my rent, there was no worry of bills, all my very crappy meals were made for me and I lived roughly an hour and a half away from home so I could travel back easily when I needed to.

Year two.

After my first year of university, I moved into a studio flat which was the hardest time. I fell in love with the apartment and the area and although the rent was ridiculously high, I was set on living there. However, I still don’t consider it really moving out as it was classed as student accommodation. My bills were included in the rent which I paid quarterly – the same time I would get my student loan. As I mentioned, the rent was ridiculously high for student accommodation and although the building and the apartments were nice, looking back I really don’t think it was value for the money. I struggled so much financially that year, my student loan barely covered a fraction of the rent and although I had a lot of help to pay it, it just wasn’t easy. I was working a job that I hated at the time and paid poorly, so I left and was in that horrible period of leaving one job and moving into another. It was hard but proud to say I worked through it all!

Year three.

As if the past year alone hadn’t been enough of a learning curve, this year was really about to open my eyes. I’d had enough of moving from home to home each year and having absolutely loved my area, I decided my next home would be my home for the next few years. Me, my best friend and our two friends decided we would all get a house together and planned on living there for the next few years – things changed!

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This is my beautiful little room in our house that causes oh so much stress. This has been the year where I officially feel like a responsible adult in this world, there’s no going back now! I learnt so many things that they just don’t teach you in school so from my experience, here’s my top tips if you’re feeling like your ready to move out:

  • Make sure you are financially ready to take on this responsibility! You need to consider the deposit, your rent pcm, bills and any other bills or direct debits you have. For example, if you earn £1,500 a month and you find a place with £950 rent and an £1,800 deposit. How feasible is it for you to afford your new home and keep up with the bills, as well as anything else you pay for and potentially put money away each month for savings?
  • Bills!! Nobody teaches you about bills, average costs, seasonal changes or when you can expect to receive them. Before my new found independence, I thought bills came every month when in fact, most of my bills are quarterly.
  • Are you living alone? Or with others? Living alone obviously means you are solely responsible for your home and there is nobody to split costs with. If you’re considering living with others I would recommend strongly thinking about this. For some people it works, for others not so much. You have to think about their habits and whether you can handle that in a more intense environment. I learnt that you don’t really know someone until you live with them!
  • Talk to your parents or anyone you can trust who has a good experience with moving out and managing a home on their own. At first, I was calling my mum constantly (as I always do) with a million questions.
  • Not everything is what it seems! At viewings, ask a million questions no matter how silly they may seem. Houses looking great from the outside until you move in and everything starts falling a part.
  • Consider all your options! Never settle for less than what you want but more importantly, don’t put yourself in a position where it’s easy for you to end up drowning. Think ahead!

elisekirsten xo.

A Doggy’s Day Out

I don’t have a dog (yet) but one my best friends has a beautiful and energetic little Bichon Frise called Belle. Seeing as the weather’s been pretty nice and it’s bank holiday weekend, my friends and I decided to have a nice day out and we took little Belle with us. We drove up to Hampstead Heath park which is hands down the biggest park I’ve ever been to.

We were there for roughly four hours and only managed to cover less than a quarter of the park. It consisted of two fairgrounds, an animal enclosure, a deer enclosure, an athletics track, a lido, tennis courts, croquet grounds, rugby and football pitches, coffee shops and 18 ponds. I guess now you can put into perspective how big this park really is.

We took a picnic blanket and some normal blankets for warmth as you can never be too careful with the English weather. We brought loads of toys for Belle but, she was much happier playing with all the other dogs. She seemed so free and happy running around, meeting other dogs and having fun. We were enjoying it just as much as she was. My friends and I are quite busy people so it was great to be able to take this time out and spend a day together, enjoying each other’s company simply laughing and joking.

After a long day of walking around and playing with Belle we were starving so we headed off to Shake Shack in Covent Garden. This particular location is one of the few restaurants in London that are doggy friendly and offers doggy treats so it was a perfect way to end our day! There’s a small seating area inside but a really large seating area outside, surrounded by loads of quirky little shops and other small restaurants.

I ordered a double cheeseburger with cheesy fries and a fifty/fifty (half lemonade, half iced tea), delicious! For Belle, we ordered some doggy red velvet biscuits which didn’t go down as we hoped, she was way more interested in our burgers and honestly I don’t blame her because they were so yummy! Overall, it was a great day out with great company and at some point, we will go back to try and tackle the rest of the park – although it might take a few visits!

elisekirsten xo.

Day out: Tower Bridge!

As of lately, my levels of spontaneity and impulsiveness have been rocketing! Everyday, I find myself in the most random places or doing really spontaneous things, always something out of my ‘norm’. My typical day would be along the lines of; waking up, catching up on my typically favourite crappy shows, get ready for work, blog around those hours, come home and watch more crappy tv; eat, sleep and repeat. Now, I wouldn’t dare try to plan a day because I just have no clue where life will take me and I absolutely love it!

I’ve been on this high from life lately, solely doing things I love with cool people! On this one day, I was supposed to be going to work but because of an incident on the trains I couldn’t get in (count these small blessings!). I now had all this free time on my hands and somehow, a friend and I ended up roaming around London as we do!

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We headed to tower bridge with no real aims or plans but simply, a nice day out to enjoy each others company. The weather wasn’t great, it was windy and quite cold and it rained a bit but sometimes these are the best of our days; where you don’t let the weather or anything else stop you! I’m so grateful to know the people I do, the type of friends who are down for anything; big or small! We spent hours just simply watching the world go by, laughing and joking!

If you’re the type of person, like me, who finds beauty in simplicity then I’d recommend taking yourself out of your norm every now and then and spending a day as such! We all have responsibilities, there’s always something to be taken care of and money to be made but don’t forget to make time for YOU.

elisekirsten xo.

Another Diagnosis!

I usually write posts like these as a way of raising awareness as well as reaching out to others who can relate to my life, and know they’re not alone in this! This post follows a similar theme except this time,  I’m the one who needs to feel I’m not alone in this and hoping there’s somebody out there in the same boat.

My long term readers will probably know that almost a year ago now, I had a sports related injury that affected one of my knees and a lot of my day-to-day activities. Well, a quick little update – all the swelling and pain of my left knee (the originally injured knee) also happened in the right knee! This was a cause for concern which left Doctors absolutely confused. Over time I’d had nurse’s, GP’s and doctors take a look at my knee and now roughly eight months on from the initial injury, my specialist doctor looks me in the eye and admits he’s never seen a case like this.. GREAT! I was referred to a knee surgeon because we were now looking at the possibility of at least keyhole surgery.

From the pictures you can pretty much see how over time, my knees have completely changed and swelled as well as how visibly obvious it is that I’ve lost almost all muscle tone. By this point, I’m exhausted. It’s been almost a year of constant pain and no answers, no treatment, no cure and not to mention it was all getting worse! However, one visit with the knee surgeon and he was ready to diagnose me… with arthritis! I was told I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, but what is it??

Rheumatoid Arthritis – a chronic progressive disease causing inflammation in the joints and resulting in painful deformity and immobility, especially in the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles.

In layman’s terms, my immune system attacks the cells in my joints, causing inflammation, swelling, thickening of the tissue and pain! The only thing that really runs through my mind is, I’m 21 and I have arthritis! There’s a lot of things I feel I can’t do anymore, or when my friends say “lets go and do *insert activity*” I have to think, can I really do that? It’s great that I now have a diagnosis because I can finally begin treatment and working towards regulating my flare ups. I’m aware I have to change my lifestyle by avoiding certain foods, taking different vitamins and reintroducing light exercises but honestly, it all feels quite surreal. There’s still a number of unanswered questions and as much as I understand RA, I still feel so unsure about what this means for me and what I can expect long-term. Especially as it’s now spreading to joints other than my knees, I can’t help but worry about how far this will go!

I would love to hear your stories! Especially if you’re around the same age as me. If there’s any advice you can offer or anything you feel I should know, please get in touch! I’m also more than happy to share more of my story so hit the contact button my lovelies!

elisekirsten xo.

The BIG chop!

“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life” – Coco Chanel.

This will probably be posted on Tuesday, which by then it would be four days since I did my big chop! And before any minds start wondering, no this is not my version of a Britney Spears 2007 breakdown. I had seen quite a few girls with really short cuts and I loved how it looked but I was so convinced it wouldn’t suit me at all. I was thinking I had a really big head and a big forehead so I’d practically look bald which wasn’t the look I was going for.

In the short hand of the story and reason behind my chop, I honestly woke up on Wednesday morning and ended up styling my hair in a slicked back low bun. I looked in the mirror and thought ‘maybe I would look good with really short hair’ and I took that thought and ran with it. I’ve been very impulsive lately, not necessarily in a bad way I don’t think. But I get an idea in my mind and suddenly I’m set on it. Anyway, I started looking at short curly hair cuts and suddenly became more and more obsessed with the thought of cutting all my hair off. I started searching for the best hair salons and hair dresser’s around even though I already had one lol. I just became so excited about it, it was something I’d never done before, I hated having my hair cut I’d feel so upset if I even had to trim my ends.

All the research I had done was pointless because by Thursday, I was just too excited and decided I was going to my usual hairdresser so I called to make an appointment and was shocked to get one for Friday morning! So now I was starting to feel anxious, I was thinking what if it looks terrible??? I’d have to wear wigs until it grows out again! I hadn’t told anybody about this new change, not even my mum! She was the only person who knew I was having something done simply because I had to get the salon’s number from her but other than that nobody had a clue.

I feel soooo happy that I cut all my hair off. I would have never done anything like this a year ago but honestly I feel such a sense of freeness. I suddenly have so many less worries because I didn’t realise how much of a burden and pressure it was to have all that curly hair. Without sounding over the top, it feels liberating to not have these worries anymore. I would spend so much money on hair products and I would get so frustrated at having to do my hair everyday. I needed a change and this is honestly perfect for what I needed. It was so exciting showing people this ‘new me’ and seeing everyone’s reaction was priceless. I was always known as the girl with the long curly hair and it gets old to be honest, so it will be interesting to see what I get named for now that’s all gone. I’ll post some before’s and after’s so you can all see the difference!

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The Cold Generation

This is a topic that has been on my mind for a while now because I see it everywhere. Whether I’m talking to my friends or scrolling through social media it’s promoted everywhere. We as a generation encourage this kind of cold and heartless, almost ‘too proud’ lifestyle or mentality. We make it cool to not love. Now, I’m an old school romantic in every way and I love the idea of that old school love, I wear my heart on my sleeve and I give a thousand second chances. Of course this doesn’t always work in my favour, I’m more susceptible to being taken for granted, to be taken advantage of and to be hurt. I’m aware of all of this but no matter what happens within my friendships and relationships, when things go bad I just can’t put up that front. I’ve tried believe me, but it just doesn’t last.

I don’t know why the subject plays on my mind so much but I find that it’s everywhere. I see it when listening to conversations or scrolling through twitter or even looking at memes! And it’s not just the aspect of love, we no longer communicate anymore. If someone p*sses us off we just stop speaking to them or in the worst case scenario we just block and delete them. If we do communicate we focus solely on the problem but we rarely explain how it makes us feel. Everyone seems too protected or too proud these days to be honest. I completely understand vulnerability but it seems we’ve replaced communication and honesty with fears of being vulnerable. We give off this illusion that it’s cool to not need anybody but I’ve never met anybody who promotes this mentality in a positive light. You can tell that it always comes from a place of hurt. I’ve never come across anybody who, calmly with a great big smile on their face and looking genuinely happy can say “I don’t need anybody, everybody is replaceable.” (no idea who the woman is btw)

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The truth is, people need people. It’s how we work. We all need something from each other and as scary as it is to potentially put yourself in a place to be hurt or taken advantage of, I believe life is about taking risks. I’ve learnt that getting hurt, or being lied to, or being heartbroken, or having a friend stab you in the back and everything related are all part of life. I personally can’t avoid these things and I don’t think anyone else can. Honestly, I’m more afraid to become “heartless” and not care for anyone or anything. What will matter to me? What will be important to me? But don’t get me wrong, I am not completely naive to give the best of me to just anyone. On the other hand, I am completely selective and very choosey with the company I keep, if I don’t feel a good vibe from a person the first few times we meet then it’s very unlikely I’ll make much effort moving forward and this applies for friendships, relationships, acquaintances at work etc.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, it makes me kind of sad to see so many people with this mindset. Not because I think it’s a bad way to think, don’t get me wrong I completely understand it, I’ve even been there in the past. The only people who can hurt us are the people we actually care about so it makes sense to simply not care. But it makes me feel sad because I’m scared that this is what we’re creating for future generations. The anger and the hurt from whatever situation along with fear that we have built up is what I believe is the sole cause for this way of thinking. Of course some people are a lot less valuable to us than others, let’s be honest, but if you tweet something along the lines of “I don’t need anybody, everyone can get cut off!” does that literally mean ‘everyone’? Should I as your hypothetical best friend look for the exit door now, or wait for the cut? Just know that not everybody in this world is an a**hole but you’re never going to find or be able to hold onto the goodies with a ‘sod the world’ mentality.

“Life’s roughest storms prove the strength of our anchors” – Unknown.

Hope this helps lovelies.

Elisekirsten. xo