24th Birthday in the Highlands

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that for the last week I’ve been away for my birthday in the Scottish Hebrides. I documented what I got up to over on insta stories, and saved them under the highlight “Away with ME”. If you’d like to, you can see those stories here. I thought I would also do a quick rundown on the blog, as this trip was a bit of a milestone in my recovery.

I was really nervous before going away as I hadn’t had the rest beforehand that was intended. I was worried that this would negatively impact the trip, I wouldn’t be able to do as much, or maybe I wouldn’t be able to go at all. These worries are always in the back of your head when you have a chronic illness. Will I be able to manage? Will I suffer for it? How long will I suffer for? It’s a big ol’ process.

My body actually managed better than I had expected, something that I’m very thankful for. However I did pull a muscle in my back halfway through the trip, which of course hindered things. At least that was a separate issue that wouldn’t last forever, and not something related to my M.E. However I found having that back pain to be quite difficult emotionally. Which sounds silly I know. I suddenly needed help to sit down/stand up, get dressed/undressed, tie/untie my shoelaces, dry myself after a shower, etc. It hit me that so many people with M.E require that help every day, and that scared me if I’m being totally honest. But it also made me unbelievably grateful that generally speaking I’m able to do those things for myself. It was an odd jumble of emotions. I got really angry at the situation the day before my birthday, because yet again my body was making things difficult. I know a pulled muscle can happen to anybody, but for it to happen on top of a whole host of other painful symptoms was a bit of a kick in the teeth. I had such an idea in my head of what this trip was going to be like, about how I was going to manage my M.E in a way that let me enjoy myself, and now a new pain was ruining it. In my head anyway. After a cry and a hot shower I felt a bit better, and woke up the next morning feeling much more level headed.

I spent my birthday walking on beaches, using my legs, and inhaling fresh air. That is all I ever could have wanted. Before going away I’d spent a long period of time in the house. I hadn’t had fresh air in what felt like forever. And so the feeling of walking on something other than carpet and the wind hitting my face was a very welcome change. We got soaked in the rain at one point and I didn’t even care, it actually felt quite nice. Because as cheesy as it sounds it makes you feel a bit more alive. Living with M.E often makes you feel like a zombie, like you’re only really half there. But while away I felt much more present, and I’m sure being outside had a lot to do with that. It’s just a shame that our conditions mean we can’t do it as often as we’d like. Getting outside makes me feel better mentally, but physically I can’t do it on a regular basis.

During the week, I managed to do a fair amount. I stayed at two different campsites and three different accommodations. I got two ferries. I ate out at least once a day. I walked on four different beaches. I ticked off 10 of our saved tourist attractions. I showered every day and I managed to eat more than I would usually. Not bad right? I’m very happy with that list. That’s not to say it was all plain sailing (although the ferry trips were). My heart raced and my lungs felt tiny, I felt faint, my legs were like lead and I was exhausted. I started some things and then had to turn back, admit defeat. I had to watch as hundreds of able bodied people managed to do what I could not. And I’m willing to bet none of them realised how lucky they were, as I turned back around in tears and they kept going. I don’t want it to seem like I suddenly managed to do everything and it was really easy and no big deal whatsoever. The week was hard. But it was also so enjoyable.

I’m not going to sit here and say that if I can do it you can do it too. Because let’s be honest that’s bullshit. I don’t know you and your exact circumstances. That kind of blanket positivity isn’t something I want to promote here because I don’t find it helpful myself. What I will say, is that maybe it’s possible for you down the line somewhere, and if it is then when you get there I’ll be so full of happiness for you. If you can’t do these things right now, I hope by reading my experience and watching along on Instagram that you get a sense of being there anyway. I never want my videos on Instagram to make anyone feel bad or left out. In fact it’s the exact opposite. I want you to feel included. I want to show you something you might not be able to see for yourself. I know how mind numbingly boring it is to have to lie in your bed day after day and stare at the same four walls. Hopefully I got to show you something new for a few minutes and hopefully you enjoyed it. I enjoyed bringing you along, thank you for celebrating my birthday with me. Here’s to 24.