Tuesday, 14 October 2014

What Blogging Means to Me.

Hello,

So it's been a while since my last post. I just wanted to explain to all of you lovely people why I don't post regularly.

People all over the world compose blogs for many reasons. Some write to tell stories, some write to give reviews and recommendations. Some, like myself, write because it is the only way to keep ourselves sane. It helps to put thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories and experiences down on paper (or, in this case, on the Internet). I can't tell you exactly why. Sometimes it just helps to get everything out of your head. The idea of other people reading it is comforting (if slightly crazy and scary), too. It also helps you to feel like you're being heard, that your ramblings are worth being read. Some people write to not only make themselves feel less alone, but to help drive away other people's loneliness. I write for all of these reasons, and more. For me, writing is the most therapeutic practice out there.

Over time this has become more than a hobby. Everything that I've said from my first post on-wards has been so deeply personal. And I cannot thank the Internet/blogging world enough for welcoming my presence with open arms. However, writing about these issues is so intense. I feel that I cannot always do it on a regular basis, which is what I aimed for in the beginning. But as we know, life rarely turns out the way you expect. Sometimes, usually at two in the morning for no reason whatsoever, I feel the urge deep inside my soul that it's time to write again. I cannot predict when this will happen. I have so many ideas for topics I want to discuss, but retrieving them from inside my head and writing them down in a way that others can understand is a gruelling process, and does not happen overnight. It takes me months to formulate an idea, and to emotionally come to terms with it before I can even begin drafting a post. The end is ultimately therapeutic, and it always always makes me feel better, but the process takes me time and courage to get through.

Perhaps if the subject matter were not so personal, I'd be able to roll out a new post every week. However, in my opinion, this blog to me has always been about speaking from the heart. So, even though in future I may create other blogs about music I enjoy, books I love and maybe just ramblings from every day life... This place; Shorter Beats, is here and waiting for when I'm ready to speak about the intimate truths that come from my very core. Thank you for understanding that this means so much to me, because essentially, it is me... and for that reason, it takes time. I hope that you feel that the wait is always worth it, and more than anything that my words nearly always make sense!

Lindsey
x

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Invisible Illness Awareness Campaign.

Hello all :)
Today I want to catch you all up on the various fundraising and awareness events I've been planning with some friends lately

To begin with, on Saturday, months of planning and organising came to a head when University of Gloucestershire's Dance Society held a flash mob to help raise awareness for invisible illness, and in particular, M.E. I teamed up with the Dance Society and a great organisation called 'Fixers' to help make the event happen. In particular I want to thank Chloe Dix, Rosie Mills and Jodie from Fixers for coming up with the idea and to help make it happen. The flash mob was a great success, with people of all ages asking what it was for and why we were doing it. This helped to spread the message of invisible illness and that people of any age can suffer with it. So overall, I want to thank Dance Society in general for wanting to be a part of my awareness and fundraising plans, and for making it happen. When we first talked about it, I didn't dream that so many people would want to get involved, and it means the world to me that you all did. The thing which I am most pleased about, I have to admit, is the fact that ITV have decided to get involved, and ended up filming the whole thing!

This leads me on nicely to my next awareness campaign. Through the flash mob, another idea was sparked off which I'm very lucky to be going ahead with tomorrow - Creating a broadcast piece with Fixers to go out on ITV news. For those people who have been with me since the beginning of this journey, you know that I never expected to be able to send my message across in such a big and broad way. This is such a massive deal for me, because it means I get to be the voice for so many sufferers who don't have the chance to speak out - and to give a realistic view into what living with an invisible illness is like. I realise that I've said thank you a lot in this post already, but I have to give Carrie a special mention... Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to speak out on TV (eeep!) about a topic which is so important to me, and really does deserve awareness. As part of the piece, I'll be talking with three other sufferers of invisible illness in the hope of opening people's minds up to the idea that there are so many forms of invisible illness, and how it can effect such a wide variety of people - all genders, ages etc. The illnesses we'll be looking at in particular are M.E, Fibromyalgia, Body Dysmorphia, Crohns, and Heart Disease. This broadcast piece is going to be going out sometime in March or April - I shall keep you all posted!

And finally, with my University sports club - Boardriders, we are holding an 80's night at Propaganda, MooMoo's on Thursday 27th, to help raise money for two amazing charities - Cancer Research UK and Association of Young People with M.E (AYME). All of the Boardriders have been such a huge support for me and have become such a big part of my life, so the fact they want to fundraise for my charity is a big deal for me. Cancer Research UK is also a charity which is close to our hearts as a club, so we can't wait to raise money for them too! So I have to say a final thank you to my Boardriders for helping to make this fundraiser happen and for always keeping my spirits up. You're all awesome.



http://www.fixers.org.uk/
http://www.ayme.org.uk/
http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/
-
Info on Fybromyalgia - http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Fibromyalgia/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Info on Body Dysmorphia - http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/body-dysmorphia/pages/introduction.aspx
Info on Crohns - http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/crohns-disease/pages/introduction.aspx
Info on Cardiomyopathy (type of heart disease/condition) - https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/conditions/cardiomyopathy/dilated-cardiomyopathy.aspx

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Time to Talk - Mental Health

Hi all,

I can't believe it's been 8 months since my last post. A part of me really wanted to update this sooner, but the topic I want to talk about today is one that I've been struggling on and off with for most of my life. I felt like I needed to do it justice, when I'm ready. And now feels like the time.

Today is #TimeToTalk day in the UK. The NHS and mental health charities are urging people on this day to sit down with someone, and bring the subject of mental health up. This idea initially doesn't seem too appealing - however I know that there must be so many people out there, like myself, who have struggled to open up about this topic. So, if you can, sit down with people today and have a discussion, because you might just give someone the excuse they need to open up and seek help. And if you're reading this, I hope that by sharing a small insight into my experience, hopefully that will help you to see (this sounds so cliche) that you are definitely not alone. And that confiding in someone and talking about it really does help.

As I mentioned, I have had issues with mental health, particularly anxiety and depression since a young age. However, to tie in with this blog, I want to talk about the link between physical illness and mental illness. And in particular, how the two are often inappropriately linked and misjudged. At any age, receiving a diagnosis for a long term illness is going to have an impact on your emotional well-being. It's a massive life change, which can leave you and others around you with feelings of loss and helplessness. For some people, once the initial shock is over, they can get on with life relatively normally and don't have any issues with depression and mental health. For others, it becomes a huge struggle to cope with physical illness and does inevitably lead to problems.
For months after my diagnosis of M.E. 6 years ago, I found it difficult to come to terms with the condition. Mainly the physical constraint it has on your life. All of my life, any time I was stressed, angry or upset, I would deal with it by throwing myself into sport. I used running as a way to clear my head, and every time my foot struck the track I would feel my problems slowly leave me one by one (The endorphin's helped too, I have to admit). But after being diagnosed with M.E., I had to figure out a way to not only let that part of my life, so heavily focused on sport, go but also figure out a new way to deal with my issues. And these past six years, my coping mechanism was to not cope. To not face up to and deal with my problems. To push them to the back of my head for so long, I would always end up imploding.

Over last summer, six years later, I finally found someone I could open up to - a counselor who actually understood the emotions in a way that wasn't patronising or judgmental. I was then diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of my two previous diagnoses. Since then, opening up and getting a diagnosis, I'm finally starting to deal with emotions I've been suppressing for a long time. It's been a long process, because for so long I, like many other M.E. sufferers have been trying to break down the misconception that M.E. IS depression. Because of this, I've been unwilling to admit that I have any problems and instead I just tell the world that 'I'm fine.'

I think the message that I want to put out to the internet is this - It doesn't matter if you suffer from a long term condition or not, mental health problems are something that can happen to anyone, and should never be ignored. Admitting to yourself or admitting that a loved one may have problems is a huge deal, but ultimately it needs to be addressed so that you can seek the right treatment. Mental health problems are not something to be joked about, they are not a sign of weakness and they are not something that you can just 'get over.' I do believe however, that if you want to get help, the motivation has got to come from within you. As it's nearly impossible to help someone who doesn't want to help themselves (I know, I've been there.)

So today, if you have the chance, ask a loved one (or even a stranger) how they are, and really listen.You have no idea how much they might have needed someone to just genuinely want listen to them. Most people through their lives will encounter a mental health problem of some sort - so even though you might not understand why your best friend is depressed or why that person in your class has anxiety issues, just know that you being there for them might be just what they need, and if the tables are ever turned, having someone to listen to you could do you the world of good, even if the problem can't be fixed immediately.

Hope is a powerful thing. It's difficult to believe that everything will be okay. But having hope that someday I will not feel so broken, is what keeps me fighting.

I just want to add a cheesy thank you to all of those people who have helped me come to terms with everything. My family, my best friends and my counselor. I wouldn't have got to a place where I feel like I can open up so publicly about it, without you all.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Mid-Day Mile and More!

Hello everyone!

It's been a couple of months since my last post, because so much has been going on! Today I want to update you all on what's been happening... It really has been a whirlwind couple to months.

Firstly, I'm very happy to announce that The Mid-day Mile in aid of Oxford Heart Centre was a HUGE success! After months of hard work, we pulled it off and ended up having a fabulous day. Everybody made a fantastic effort with fancy dress, with myself as the Queen of Hearts (seemed appropriate), and really had an enjoyable day with not only the run, but the raffle, cake stall and many other activities as well. I am so proud to say that collectively, we managed to raise £839.30p, exceeding our goal by £500. I want to say a massive thank you to all those who came to the event, donated money, helped out and just generally supported and helped me to achieve this. And to those who missed out this year, don't worry! We're hoping to make this an annual event, making it bigger and better next year :)
Photo of The Mid-Day Mile.

As if that isn't enough, I have some more exciting news for you! A few weeks ago, I got an unexpected phone call from BBC Radio Oxford (I must admit, they had interrupted a pretty good nap I was having at the time, but once I'd found out who it was, I didn't mind so much!), telling me that they'd received the letter my Grandparents wrote regarding this blog, and they wanted to have me on the show, to tell my story! So, yesterday I went on the Malcolm Boyden show and did just that. It is honestly one of the best experiences I have ever had. From the moment I walked in they made me feel right at home. We had a chat about my diagnosis of M.E, what M.E means to me, the cashpoint story (those who have read my first post will understand that one) and my heart conditions. Hopefully those who have listened (should be available on the website, I was on at about 10:10am) will now have a greater understanding of the illnesses, and of me as a person! It felt so good to be able to talk about these issues so truthfully, especially knowing that it will have reached a wider audience. It just felt good knowing that I was going to be heard, because it's been a long hard battle to get people to listen to me at all. This opportunity is all thanks to my Grandparents which really does show that you can achieve anything you put your mind to, if you have enough determination and a good support system around you. So thank you both of you :) Here's the link to catch the show: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p019xb0k

And finally, the reason why it's taken me so long to post in the first place; I had my surgery!
On the 5th June 2013, I had an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator fitted. It's a device that will detect any disrupted heart rhythms, and help shock it back into a normal rhythm if needed. The surgery only lasted about an hour and a half, and after months of trying to decide whether to have it done, it was over in a flash. For a few days it was extremely uncomfortable, but I'm pleased to say that it's healed up well and doesn't interfere with my daily life really at all. (Although, I am looking forward to what airport security are going to make of me next month). Many people have asked whether it's going to improve me much, but the answer is unfortunately, no. It's only there as a back up, to stop me from getting any worse! The only thing that has really changed for me since it was fitted, is that my friends now call me Iron Man. And I have a pretty cool scar, too. So all in all, it could be worse... ;)

I have just one last bit of news for you all. My heart has now improved slightly, and I am now classed as being in Stage 2 Heart Failure, rather than Stage 3! Slowly but surely, nearly a year later, my life is back on track and I feel more like myself than I have done in months.

As ever, thank you all for your never ending love and support... I promise (and I really mean it this time) that you'll be hearing from me soon!

Love,
Lindsey, AKA Iron Man.
x

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Fundraising Event #1: Fun Run

Hello everyone :)

I'm am so so excited to announce the very first Shorter Beats fundraising event! It has been a long time coming, and taken many people to help organise, but it's finally here!
We have organised The Mid-day Mile. A mile-long fun run, in aid of The Oxford Heartfelt Appeal at the John Radcliffe hospital. For more details see the link below.
It is going to be on the 26th May at 12pm, at the White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre, Abingdon, Oxford. 
It'll come as no shock to many of you that it is going to be a FANCY DRESS event! So get out your fairy wings, hot dog costumes, cat ears and face paints, and be as wild and wacky as you can! There will be a photographer on the day, so make sure you dress to impress ;)
You can walk, jog or run, or as I will be doing, roll. ;) There will also be free sports massages on the day, as well as a cake stall and many more attractions! So make sure you don't miss out on what is going to be an extremely fun day for a fantastic cause, with every penny raised going straight to the hospital.
Under 16s are welcome, as long as you are accompanied by a responsible adult.
If you want some more details about running or volunteering to help out on the day, then please email me! Information packs and sponsorship forms will be available to be sent electronically very soon, or you can just turn up on the day and donate if you wish.
his event is being supported by South and Vale District Council.

I would also like to say a HUGE thank you to Antony Shorter, Paul Lyford (Representative of the White Horse Leisure Centre) and Ashley Chapman at the South and Vale District Council for helping turn all my thoughts and ideas into action and for organising all of this. Without them this wouldn't be happening, so I can't even begin to express how thankful I am for their support and help. You are all wonderful!

I hope to see you all there!

Love as always,
Lindsey
x

If you wish to find out more, please email either:
Me: lashorter19@gmail.com
Antony Shorter: ashorter1@hotmail.co.uk
Ashley Chapman: Ashley.Chapman@southandvale.gov.uk
Paul Lyford: lyford9103@gmail.com

And the link to the charity:
http://www.oxfordradcliffe.nhs.uk/charity/fundraising/fundraising.aspx#heart

Monday, 11 March 2013

What You See Isn't Always What You Get...

Hi all!

Firstly I want to thank everybody who read my first post. The response I have had is incredible. I thought it would only reach 200 people or so, but it's raked up over 1,500 views! It means so much to me that so many of you took the time to read it, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. <3

Secondly, apologies for the lateness of my second post! It's been a crazy couple of months for a few different reasons - University is picking up the pace, and I've been working on some really exciting fundraising events coming up this year! Can't say much yet until everything is confirmed, but they're going to be huge events... So if you want to know a little more about them, feel free to contact me in the email address on this site, or on Facebook or Twitter. :) A little update about my health, as so many of you have been asking me - Things aren't improving, so I'm going to be fitted with an Internal Cardiac Defibrillator at some point over the next few months. I'm not too worried. In fact, all of you are the reason why I'm not worried. The amount of support from friends and kind words from complete strangers are what keep me so positive :)

To start my new post, I want to tell you about a frequent experience of mine. As I mentioned in the last post, I often have to use a wheelchair and crutches. Because I am so young, and don't appear to have anything wrong with me, people react in a number of different ways when they see me using them. One day, my Mum had taken me into town in my wheelchair, to do some shopping. We had to stop to get cash, so we waited in line at the ATM machine. Now I don't know if any of you have noticed, but some ATM's are built really far back into the wall. This posed a problem for me, as I couldn't reach the keypad! So, I did the only thing I could, and stood up. This sparked a number of different reactions from the people in the queue behind me. Some looked at me in utter confusion, others with a questioning look. One woman gasped in shock, as if to say 'Look, it's a miracle, she can walk!' 

This leads me on to the focus of today's blog post - Invisible illness/conditions. This is such a broad term, I have actually found it difficult to work out how to approach this subject. When I say invisible illness/conditions, I mean anything from M.E, Depression, Autism, Bi Polar, Bulimia, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, and lots more than I am able to name. We live in such a judgemental society, often with people only believing in what they can physically see. You would be surprised at the amount of the people you see walking down the street who are actually living with an invisible illness or condition. You may think that living with something people can't see, as opposed to being visibly ill (paralysed, amputation, tumours etc) would be easier. But in actual fact, it's a blessing and a curse. Especially when it comes to wheelchair users. I've lost count of the amount of times I've been treated differently whilst using the chair. Sometimes positively (like being able to queue jump... Gotta take the perks, right?!) and other times, really negatively. Often, people will talk to me like I'm a child, as if there is something wrong with my brain. Some will address the person pushing the wheelchair, and ignore me altogether! And crutches is a whole other issue. People look for a cast, and ask me what's wrong with my leg. I understand that the reason why people ask the question is, a) because they care and b) because that's what is generally expected. But I hope that by reading this post, it may open some of your eyes to the world of possible explanations out there! Don't assume that because you see someone in a wheelchair, it's because they're paralysed. Or if someone's on crutches, it's because they've broken their leg. Because I can guarantee, there will be more to it than that. And for the love of God, if you're interested, please don't just stand and stare! We don't bite! I cannot speak for every wheelchair/crutch user, but personally I take it as a compliment when people come and ask me, and treat me as an equal.

I lastly want to give a shout out to all those living with an invisible illness or condition. It's incredibly tough, but I believe you can all get through it, just as I am. Just because nobody can see what you're going through, that doesn't mean you're alone. And if you ever need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to rant to, or someone to relate with, then I am here. Always

Lots of love,
Lindsey

x

P.S. I promise I won't wait this long to update next time!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

My Story, from the heart.

Hello world, my name is Lindsey (Lindsey Shorter, hence the blog name!) I'm a 19 year old student from Oxford, and I'd like to share my story with you.


From this, I hope to spread awareness of things that can happen, even though you'd never imagine it. Also, to inspire. Even if I get through to one person on this earth, to make somebody realise that life really is what you make of it, then i'll have succeeded. And, even though it sounds clich├ęd, to live life to it's fullest, as you never know what lies in your future. Take advantage of what you have and use it to make the world a little easier, a little better, for someone else.   


Step One - My Story


Up until the age of 14, I was living a relatively normal life. Doing well at school, hanging out with friends and most of all, discovering my passion - athletics. However, little did I know that my world was about to be completely turned upside down. It started as you'd expect. Feeling run down, lacking energy, losing motivation and interest in all of the things that I loved. I was starting to feel like I was losing myself. I heard whispers of people saying I was lying, that I was making it up for attention and worst of all - that I was lazy. But, I knew something was wrong. Luckily, I have the most wonderful family who listened and supported me the whole way. In the April of that year (2006) the long process of endless doctors appointments, blood tests and hospital visits began. I cannot even begin to describe how frightening it is as a 14 year old to be told you're being tested for every illness imaginable. Then, at the end of that summer, the doctors had some news. Life shattering, terrifying news, That I have been suffering with an illness called Myalgic Encephalomilites (M.E.). 

On one hand, it felt so good to know that what had been happening wasn't all in my head, that what I was feeling was real. However, I was completely unaware of how complicated and controversial the illness is. I suffered with awful headaches, very painful joints and muscles, nausea, loss of concentration, depression and constant fatigue (to name a few!), yet even after an official diagnosis and everything I was experiencing, I still had to fight to be taken seriously. 

For the next few years I managed to stay in school part time, get my GCSE'S and A Levels, and make it to University. It was tough, as my whole life all I ever wanted to do was sport. But I did what I had to do, ignoring the huge ache in my heart and decided to change the focus of my life completely, to English Literature. 

Now, we're in the summer of 2012. By this time, I had mentally and emotionally dealt with everything and all the changes I'd had to make. That is when I felt it, same as before, my instinct screaming at me that something wasn't right. In the July I was admitted to hospital, the first time. After being treated for a suspected blood clot, I was sent home... Even though my resting heart rate was 142bpm (normal being around 70-80bpm). I felt as though I was going mad, and once again I had to fight to be heard. In the days that followed I couldn't keep any food or fluid down, I was constantly breathless and in pain with my heart visibly leaping out of my chest. One afternoon, things took a turn for the worse. I couldn't feel my arms or legs, I could barely move. So, an ambulance was called. From then on it was all such a blur - bright lights, worried voices, the icy touch of a stethoscope. But, mostly, the same thought going round and round in my head: Am I going to die? At the age of 19, before I've truly had the chance to make my mark on the world, am I about to be torn away from it? 

Luckily for me the doctors knew exactly what was wrong. Unluckily for me, my latest diagnosis was Idiopathic Dilated Cardiomyopathy and stage 3 Heart Failure. Since that moment, all I've been told is what I can't do. Can't drink more than 1.5 litres of fluid a day (Including gravy, how is that fair?!) can't go on roller coasters, can't stop taking my meds (over 20 a day), can't drink alcohol... The list is endless. 

Then I got tired. So sick and tired of being told all my life what I can and can't do. Sick of being told to be careful and sick of hearing the doctors talk over and over about heart transplants and internal cardiac defibrillators, of wheelchairs and crutches. Mostly, of having to change my life, to change me, again. Then I realised, instead of sitting here and feeling sorry for myself, I needed to do something. To show my nurses, doctors, family and friends how ultimately grateful I am for their help, for saving my life. 

At the present day, 12th of January 2013, I am happy to say I'm doing well. Studying at Uni, learning to drive. I am no longer completely confined to a wheelchair. Even though everyday feels like a struggle, I am happy again.

I figure the best way to give thanks to those who got me through the worst time of my life is to live, as well as do everything in my power to raise awareness of these very real and debilitating conditions. These illnesses not only affect adults, but children too. M.E. currently affects over 250,000 people in the UK alone, Dilated Cardiomyopathy affects around 125,000. 

This is why I've told you my story. I know I wont be able to change the world, but I hope to make the world a little easier for someone heading down a similar path to me. You never know who might be next. 

Step Two - Fundraising. 

As well as spreading awareness, I wish to raise money for the organisations that saved my life, in more ways than you can imagine. In particular, The Association of Young People with M.E. (link below) and The Oxford Heart Centre in the John Radcliffe Hospital. I want to do the best I can to show people I am worthy of being here, there is a reason why I still walk this earth. Doctors and Nurses need to know what a wonderful thing it is that they devote their lives to, as there really is no greater gift than life. So, please help. In any way you can. To start, it would be incredible if you could share this blog!

Over the next few months I shall be organising fundraising events. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know! If you wish to be involved in what I'm doing here, I would be so grateful. Just let me know via email or on here. 

If you wish to find out more about my conditions, there are some links below that should help to explain!

Most of all, thanks for taking the time out of your lives to read this. It honestly does mean the world to me. 

Lindsey
x

Association of Young People With M.E. - www.ayme.org.uk
M.E. Association - www.measscoiation.org.uk
The Cardiomyopathy Association - www.cardiomyopathy.org

My Email - lashorter19@gmail.com