30 before 30 – An Update!

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A few years ago, in 2016 to be exact, I wrote a blog post about 30 things I wanted to do before the age of 30. I am now two and a half years away from the big three-oh (OHMYGOD) so I decided to look back on those goals and do an update.

1) Complete a masters degree.

I have applied for a masters degree and if all goes to plan, I should have finished by the age of 31, so I’m counting that as in process.

2) Work in a role which supports young people with mental illnesses.

Done, since leaving university, all my jobs have been supporting young people with social and emotional needs in some capacity and it continues to be my plan for the future.

3) Travel the world.

This hasn’t been so successful. I have traveled in the past four years but nowhere near as much as I was hoping. As I became more unwell, my priorities changed and I realised that as much as I want to explore new places, I also like being near an English speaking hospital or somewhere with a good healthcare system. I’ve realised that owning my own house is also higher up on the list of priorities so when I’m able to save money, it goes towards that.

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Copenhagen, Denmark 2016

4) See the Northern Lights.

See above. Although I do plan on going to Iceland one day because I think it is a beautiful country. Maybe when Rona has stopped ruining everyone’s lives.

5) Marry.

I am literally the most single person you could find. I am happily a cat lady and not sure how my cat would cope if I started sharing a bed with someone else. That said, I would like to marry and probably have children, just right now that’s not something I’m focusing on. If it happens, that’s great but equally, I’m not actively looking for Mr Right.

6) Have children (hopefully).

As above. I wrote a blog post recently, about frequently asked questioned that people with EDS get asked and I touched on the baby and child thing in that. In short, yes, I would like children, but I have to consider the risks to myself, but more importantly my child. EDS complicates things a bit. I’ve said more about the whole thing here.

7) Have my own house.

Twenty-three year old me was very naive about the cost of Adult Life. I’m in the process of saving and am considering selling a kidney to fund a deposit. Joking, joking. I like to torment myself by looking at Right Move and to admire all the houses that I can’t afford (aka so all the houses) but I really hope that by thirty, I will be in a better financial position to be able to afford my own little abode.

8) Be financially stable.

To be fair, I would say that I am fairly financially stable. I was on universal credit for two years and it really taught me about the importance of budgeting, although even before that, I was pretty good with money. I don’t take money for granted and I love the feeling of satisfaction when I’m able to buy something that I have saved a long time for. Right now, I’d much rather save money than spend it, however that doesn’t include buying books or anything from the Body Shop.

9) Sing on a West-End stage.

As if I’d ever really have the confidence!

10) Sky dive.

I plan on doing this, as soon as it is possible! As I’ve said in other posts, I spent over six months as a psychiatric day patient in 2019 and I really want to give back to the day hospital to say thank you. The building is old and the interiors are more than a little run down and I would love to be able to contribute to a more cosy atmosphere, making it feel even more like a safe place. Watch this space!

11) Bungee jump.

I think I was being a bit over-optimistic here. This would probably break me.

12) Complete a half marathon

Really, Laura?! I have no desire to do this.

13) Complete a triathlon.

I haven’t completely ruled this one out. I found out that there is a Superhero Triathlon which is specifically for people with disabilities and I think I’d to complete it.

14) Raise £1000 for Blue Skye Thinking.

I raised just over £500, so I’m happy with that.

15) Write a book.

Ahhh I don’t know about this one. So many people have said that I should write a book and there’s part of me that would like to, but the thought of it also fills me with so much anxiety.

16) Publish an article for Huffington Post.

Done! And I have also had articles published on The Mighty.

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17) Meet some of the people who I have met online and thank them in person for all they have done for me.

This list is ever growing but I have been able to meet so many people, who I originally met online, including trekking up to Scotland and meeting friends there.

18) Cuddle an orangutan.

I’d love to do this, but I’m more aware about conservation and actually, cuddling orangutans isn’t good for them.

19) Complete the North Wales zip wire.

I’m still desperate to do this.

20) Teach young people to not be ashamed of who they are.

I’d like to say that I try and do this in day to day life, it’s something I’m really passionate about and I will forever be people’s biggest cheerleader.

21) Become and MP and fight for what I believe in.

No and right now this is not part of any plans. I am interested in politics but I’m more comfortable contacting my current local MP and having a rant on twitter.

22) Learn basic Polish.

This hasn’t happened, but I have self taught myself British Sign Language and Makaton/Sign Supported English.

23) Thank every single person who has made a difference to my life.

I probably haven’t thanked every single person, but I do make a point of thanking people regularly.

24) Go to a festival and not spend the entire time grossed out by the toilets.

Let’s be realistic here, I can’t think of anything worse than festival toilets. I’ve gone to festivals on a day ticket and that’s enough for me.

25) Visit all of the the seven wonders of the world.

See above for why travel is complicated.

26) Live for a week without internet, TV, phones etc

I haven’t done a week, but I have spent a long weekend away from social media/TV/my phone, when I was visiting a therapeutic farm and living in a therapeutic community. I was not a fan.

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Kent, England

27) Go to Wimbledon men’s final

Maybe one day.

28) Leave a note for a stranger in a public place.

I’m not sure if I’ve done this or not, but if I have, I’d like to do it again.

29) Learn how to take a compliment 

I’m getting there, slowly. It still makes me feel uncomfortable and like I want to hide under a stone but there has been progress.

30) Fall in love, deeply, properly and unequivocally.

I have fallen in love but not romantically. There’s plenty of time.

Skye Has No Limit

I’ve spoken on numerous occasions about Blue Skye Thinking, a charity set up in memory of Skye Hall, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour ahed five and sadly passed away less than a year later from radio-chemo neurotoxicity. The aim of Blue Skye Thinking is to support the research and treatment of childhood brain tumours and ultimately, to give children like Skye a better chance of survival. It is also a way of ensuring that Skye and his courage is remembered; he truly was an amazing little boy.

Having got to know Skye’s family pretty well, I have become more and more passionate about raising as much money as possible for the charity. I recently promised Sally (Skye’s mum) that I wouldn’t ever stop talking about Skye or Blue Skye Thinking. The latest appeal for Blue Skye Thinking was launched a couple of weeks ago. Aim Skye High is encouraging people to come up with wacky and crazy fundraising ideas, with the goal of raising £50,000. The more wacky the better, because wacky = publicity and that is crucial in continuing with the fundamental targets of Blue Skye Thinking.

My previous fundraising efforts have seen me abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower and having eight inches of hair cut off to be made into a wig, by the Little Princess Trust, to help a child who has lost their hair through illness. People who know me won’t ever let me forget who emotionally traumatising I found having my hair cut off, the only thing that prevented a full on meltdown was knowing that my hair would be helping a poorly child and in reality, they needed my hair a lot more than I did.

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charity haircut for Blue Skye Thinking and Little Princess Trust

 

So when I told Gill (hairdresser, general hero and gossip queen) that I have come up with my latest fundraising idea, I can forgive her for looking somewhat terrified. I quickly reassured her that my hair would be remaining on my head and that this idea is less traumatic for all involved.

The 5th November would be Skye’s 8th birthday and for a while, I have wanted to do something to mark this. When the Aim Skye High appeal was launched, things slowly fell into place and my latest idea came about.

To mark Skye’s 8th birthday, I will be swimming 8 kilometres, to raise money for Blue Skye Thinking. The actual time/date/location are yet to be confirmed and whilst emotionally, this isn’t such a huge challenge, my various health conditions will mean that this is going to be bloody hard work. I’m not entirely sure how well my body will cope…or if it will cope. I’m training hard and can comfortably swim 2km but I still have a long way to go.

Am I scared? Yes. Very.

However, Skye fought so damn hard against the biggest cancer killer in children so, if I can share even a tiny bit of that strength then I know that I can do this.

This is where I start begging, because I can’t do this without you. The money won’t be helping me but it will be helping children like Skye and families like the Hall family and the other families who are currently going through hell.

If you would like to donate, you can do so here or via Just Giving text, by texting LCBS48 £2 to 70070 to donate £2 (or enter whatever amount you wish). Every little helps and it will make a huge difference to the children diagnosed with brain tumours, as well as their families. Give a child a better chance of survival and continuing with their childhood, please.

If you’re unable to donate with dollar, I’m hoping to have a little cheer squad and your cheers might be the one thing that stops me from drowning.

As always Skye, this one is for you.

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The Last Goodbye

Life and death go hand in hand. As with life, death is unavoidable, cruel and spares no-one.

Last summer, I lost a close friend to suicide. It’s not the first time someone close to me has taken their own life, but nothing will ever prepare you for the news of such tragic news about a loved one. N died when I was 15, K died when I was 22. Seven years in between the two, but more or less identical feelings.

Guilt.

Anger.

Blame.

So many unanswered questions, which to this day remain unanswered.

I will never know exactly how N felt, although I, along with others, firmly believe that her death was the result of a huge cry for help, gone very very wrong. There had been no indication of her levels of despair and inner-most turmoil, but even as I write this, I end up thinking that there must have been signs or manifestations in her behaviour which could have suggested how unhappy she was. As one of her closest friends, I still feel that I should have noticed something; was she shorter in her texts, less willing or open about her life, dismissive or changing the subject to talk about something other than her? I read and re-read texts, emails and saved instant messenger conversations that we had had in the weeks and months in the lead up to her death no matter how much evaluation and analysis I did over her words, I couldn’t find a single word which suggested what she was planning. Like most other sixteen year olds in the final run up to GCSE examinations, she was stressed and preoccupied by revision and the need, want and desire to achieve. Talking about my disgust in academic expectations and the stress they unfairly place on young minds is a whole other post, but I will say this: N was predicted 11 A* grades in her GCSEs. She went to a very good independent school, whereby anything less than a B (if you’re being generous) was treated as a fail. N felt the pressure, we did know that much. She wasn’t stupid, anything but and she worked damn hard…but she was realistic and knew that chances of achieving a straight set of A* grades was unlikely. So, by the age of sixteen, in the eyes of education and the government, she had already failed. A harsh lesson to have learnt, by the age of sixteen. There is a small mercy that N’s school made changes after her death. I’m told that their pastoral and support network within the school improved drastically and that students are now given emotional and mental support as part of the GCSE package.

But other than that, we won’t ever know how N felt. I hope to this day that she was at peace with herself, that she wasn’t lonely or scared. We’re told that she didn’t feel anything and wasn’t in pain, but as my medical knowledge and awareness has improved with age, I doubt that was the case. And that makes me sad. At a time when she needed us most, we weren’t there.

Unlike with N, the death of K wasn’t so out of the blue. She had been struggling with her mental health badly in the months leading up to her death. I had sat in numerous crisis team meetings with her and had spoken as her advocate, at times when she reached a stage of being utterly catatonic. I knew the ins and outs of previous traumas, I knew how to calm her down and get her to an emotionally safer place. I sat and held her when she cried and screamed and I took implements away that she could harm herself with. I begged her mental health team to hospitalise her because I/we were scared about K’s safety. They stated that until she did something which could put her life at risk, she did not fit the criteria for hospitalisation. When she did something, that something ended her life. But I wasn’t there. Rationally, I know that I’m not psychic, I could not have known her plans and if/when she would carry them out. Irrationally, I feel that I should have just known. I should have had a feeling or inkling.

During a recent conversation I was having with someone, they said that there isn’t a hierarchy for grief and that all feelings and emotions are valid. I agree, to an extent, but I also recognise that however upsetting a death may be, it is not about me. Nor should it be about me.

Today I said “The Last Goodbye” to a wonderful lady, who I admired and loved so much as I was growing up. So many fond memories were shared and amongst the tears, there was laughter, as we remembered her funny, witty, caring, loyal character. I could continue. With her own beautiful voice, she reminded us that no one is alone.

That’s a powerful message. Whether in life or death, I don’t think that we are ever truly alone. People hold their own views on what happens after life and in death, I’m not going to preach my own views because that isn’t the purpose of this post. Shortly after N’s death, I read a fabulous book by Gabrielle Zevin, called Elsewhere, suggesting that after we die, we are reunited with loved ones (and pets!) and live our lives backwards from the day we die. I don’t know if that is true, but it gave me comfort to think that when N died, in just sixteen and a half years, she would be back offering love and joy to more people on Earth, and hopefully have a happier and more fulfilled live. Every single person lives and changes lives, some more, some less. They leave behind families, heartbreak and sorrow. But maybe, just maybe, in time, they will change someone else’s life and so on. A legacy, on one way or another.

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In life after death, you’re never alone either. Grief is a lonely, isolating experience. It doesn’t matter if the person you have lost is 5, 45 or 85. The loss of a person close to you feels a bit like part of you has been ripped out; the severity and healing time depends on the individual. There isn’t a right or wrong way to feel. Your feelings are more than valid.

It is okay to be hurting. It’s also okay to not feeling anything. It’s okay to feel intense anger or endless calm. The sadness will lessen, it won’t ever fully go, I don’t think it should. That sadness is a sign of the love that was had and that will carry on forever. The love, memories and honour of the person will always remain.

Goodbye isn’t forever, but for now, here is my last goodbye to those lost but eternally loved.

 

 

 

Snip Snip

I’ve talked before about Blue Skye Thinking and my quest to raise £1000 for them: whilst less dramatic than abseiling down a building, here is the most recent fundraising round-up!

On Saturday 19th March, I did a joint fundraising event for Blue Skye Thinking and the Little Princess Trust and had my long locks much shorter. Although getting my hair cut has, so far, been the least demanding challenge in my quest to raise £1000, psychologically it needed the most psyching up before hand. People close to me will know that I suffer from an eating disorder and body dismorphia and my hair is hugely important in my self confidence and esteem. I actually underestimated how anxious I was going to feel and by the time I arrived at the hairdressers, I wanted to be sick. A lot. 

The sickness eased slightly when Sally, Jesse and Flynn arrived, in Blue Skye Thinking attire, and I tried to put my nerves to the back of my mind and focus on why I was doing it. Not only does the money raised support the treatment and research of childhood brain tumours, my hair will hopefully form part of a wig for a little girl who has lost her hair, in her fight with cancer.

So, months and months of hair growing was about to come to an end; as we all stood around and measured my hair, I realised how short it was going to be. Jesse did a fantastic job in asking for donations from other people in the hair dressers; when I came up with the idea of having my hair cut off, my first thought was to ask Jesse if he wanted to help in cutting it. What four year old is going to say no at the chance of taking centre stage with a  pair of sharp scissors?! And we all had a good giggle at how silly I looked, with my hair divided into four sections.

 

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Once the seven inches of hair had been hacked off, there was literally no denying how short my had was. I felt naked and all I could think was how was my hairdresser going to make my hair look okay again? To be fair to the wonderful Gill, I shouldn’t have doubted her.

It’s different, that’s for sure. It’s shorter than I expected. I cried. But I’ll get used to it and it will grow. Meanwhile, all I can hope if my hair makes a child going through something impossibly tough to feel a little bit of happiness.

 

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If you would like to donate, you can do so here https://www.justgiving.com/LauraHCharlton/ or via Just Giving text, by texting LCBS48 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 (or enter whatever amount you wish).

 

Huge thank you to Gill, Lea and Sam for working their magic on my hair. Thank you to all the staff at Tangerine, Abingdon, for allowing the madness to happen (and for being so generous).

 

 

 

 

Blue Skye Thinking

A while ago, I met the incredible Sally for the first time; mum, wife and co-founder of Blue Skye Thinking (along with husband Andrew). Sally and I had conversed via email for a while, prior to meeting and without pouring out all the clichés, I have always been struck by how honest and rational she is, both in emails and in the Hall family blog, which you can read here. What Sally and I discussed remains between the four walls of her living room (slight house envy!) but something which is very apparent was how important it is for Sally to help other children and their families who are facing the same or similar to what Skye and his family faced. In various parts of the living room where children’s toys and dressing up clothes, ready to be delivered to children’s ward across the country. The toys and clothes have now been delivered and Sally’s living room now resembles a loom factory, as they begin to measure the length of all the loom bands sent to them, to hopefully loom to the moon. Clothes and toys won’t cure cancer, but they will provide a sense of normality to the otherwise scary hospital routine, and ultimately give children a sense of childhood.

I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like returning to the hospital and ward where my child received treatment, or visiting other similar wards across the country. I have a huge level of respect for Sally for being able to do this.

These toys and clothes don’t appear by magic and they are the result of a great deal of hard work, approaching companies, celebrities and organisations in order to spread the word about Blue Skye Thinking.

SHOCKING TRUTH – There is NO formal data collection, monitoring and sharing of side effects for Standard Treatment Guidelines (such as the Milan Protocol) used for many children suffering with cancer. How can we LEARN if we don’t SHARE??

Family Blog – Blue Skye Thinking 7th March 2015

After talking to Sally, it’s really hit home that whilst yes, I am doing this to support Blue Skye Thinking and Sally, Andrew and Jesse and most importantly for Skye’s memory, I am also doing this for every single parent who has lost a child or has been told that they face losing their child as a result of childhood brain tumours. It’s for the parents facing their “new lives” without their child, it’s for the parents facing this journey of unknowns, it’s for the parents who have to explain to siblings that their brother or sister won’t get better. And it’s for the children who are fighting; for the children who need to be given a better chance of survival.

On Saturday 2nd May 2015 I completed my first challenge: abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.This was done on a bad knee injury and at no point did I consider how scared I would be swinging from a rope above Portsmouth..how I didn’t vomit I do not know.. As I said before, this was the first of a number of challenges I will be doing to fundraise for Blue Skye Thinking. The charity relies on donates and all money goes directly into research and treatments.

Due to illness and life stuff, I wasn’t able to carry out any other big challenges last year, however it’s now 2016 and I’m back. In a couple of weeks, I will be doing a joint fundraising event for Blue Skye Thinking and the Little Princess Trust and will be cutting my long locks much shorter. I will be raising money for BST and donating my hair to children who have lost their hair due to illness. Although getting my hair cut will be the least demanding challenge in my quest to raise £1000, I think psychologically it could need the most psyching up before hand. People close to me will know that I suffer from an eating disorder and body dismorphia and my hair is hugely important in my self confidence and esteem. 


If you would like to donate, you can do so through Just Giving here or via Just Giving text, by texting LCBS48 £2 to 70070 to donate £2 (or enter whatever amount you wish). Every little helps and it will make a huge difference to the children diagnosed with brain tumours, as well as their families. Give a child a better chance of survival and continuing with their childhood. No amount is too small and it will make a real difference.