Wednesday, 26 April 2017

THE TRUTH ABOUT EPILEPSY

Since my recent re-diagnisis of epilepsy I've been asked the same questions over and over again. Most people don't realise there is more to the condition than avoiding flashing lights and shaking on the floor. Although this can be true for some people, it's a stereotype and isn't always accurate. In fact only 1 in 20 people are sensitive to flickering lights. There are about 40 different types of epilepsy, each person has different triggers and warning signs. Every situation is unique. I wanted to write this post to explain in a little more detail about the condition and how its affected me in the past and now. Grab a cup a tea, you're in for a long read!

Childhood Epilepsy is on arise
Epilepsy isn't just a condition for adults, thousands of children are diagnosed each year. I was originally diagnosed at 8 years old and it certainly changed my life. Childhood epilepsy can certainly be difficult to deal with, not only for the ones affected but also their carers. My mum recently told me about the worst seizure I ever had (sounds like a scary story right?). Well, I was fitting for about 20 mins in total and my mum was a reck, the emergency doctor rushed to our house to help after the ambulance rang to say they were stuck in traffic, seriously! When we finally got into the ambulance the lights and sirens were on, the doctor said it was to rush through the traffic, although this was actually to keep my mum calm. When we arrived at the hospital I wasn't taken straight the children's ward, I was admitted into an emergency ward as they thought I had a few other issues. After I stopped seizing the left side of my body was paralysed, the doctors concluded that I could of had a mini stroke due to the extreme seizure. A few hours passed and I began to regain the movement in my left side, thank goodness! I can't imagine what my family and friends had to go through during this period of my life, I believe, even though I was young I still managed to throw myself a pity party as I did this time round! I really should thank my parents for everything they've done, up until recently I didn't know about these serious seizures as my mum didn't feel the need to tell me as epilepsy was a thing of the past. I guess she wanted to protect me from what happened and I'm thankful she did that.

Symptoms vary
Symptoms of epilepsy can vary from barely noticeable to very dramatic, depending on the area of the brain affected. Some people stare into space, this was a symptom I suffered from when I was younger. I would blankly stare for several minutes then carry on the conversation where I left off not realising that others had moved on by this point. My parents would humour me and repeat a conversation to avoid hurting my feelings. I got a little upset in the past as it was confusing.

Confusion is another common symptom, just after a seizure before I am aware of my surroundings I feel very confused and aren't aware of whats going on around me. I don't always recognise my family or friends, once I was convinced my boyfriend (ex now) was trying to harm me and I'm sure there are other circumstances where I've done strange things. Other people vomit, giggle uncontrollably, have difficulties breathing, loose consciousness, experience tremors or even loose bladder control (sexy I know).

Warning signs
Each person will experience different warning signs, personally I feel exhausted and have headaches before a seizure. When I was younger I would smell burnt rubber before an episode, although the recent ones haven't demonstrated this. Depending on the person, warning signs can be anything. You need to understand your body and how epilepsy affects it to figure out what these signs may be. The sooner you identify the warning signs, the better prepared you can be.

Seizures have stages
All seizures go through a 3 stage process and have a beginning, middle and end. The first stage is where you experience signs of a seizure beginning, these will be smells like how I smelt burnt rubber as a child, sounds, tastes or feel lightheaded. Stage two is the seizure itself, whether it be a partial seizure or a major one. The final stage is where the brain is recovering, this can take seconds or hours depending on the person, usual this is followed by confusion and memory loss. If a seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes, call an ambulance for help.

It's not just about seizures
Epilepsy isn't only about seizures, sometimes the condition can cause a change in behaviour and personality or lead to other neurological problems such as learning difficulties, depression or anxiety. If someone is suffering from these symptoms it should be investigated as epilepsy may not be the cause. I know that I've suffered from a few of these but can't confirm 100% that it is due to epilepsy.

Limitations
Due to the nature of epilepsy certain limitations are put on your life. I believe the hardest one for me is loosing my driving license, a lot of people aren't aware that you have to be seizure free for a year before you are able to drive. Even if you're on medication, you still need to wait a year. That is a long time and it takes away a lot of your independence. I already feel the restriction of not being able to go where I want when I want. On the plus side I'll be given a free bus pass, although you can't use it before 9:30am, anyone who works for a living doesn't get the full benefits. I'm also not meant to ride a bike, for the same reasons that I could cause harm to myself or others. The doctors basically provide you with a long list of things you can't do when you're diagnosed!

Now this next one may be difficult for some people to handle, but for me I think its alright as I already gave this up in July 2016 and haven't touched it since. It sounds like I'm talking about some hardcore drugs but no these are legal narcotics, alcohol. If you drink a lot of alcohol and you're epileptic it's difficult to pull you out of a seizure as they're unable to give you the correct medication. Everyone doesn't have to go to the extreme I have and cut it out completely, but just be aware of the quantity you're drinking as it may save your life having one less drink.

Epilepsy sucks!
To tell you the truth having epilepsy sucks! This can be said about so many other medical conditions too. At the end of the day you need to own it so it doesn't take over your life. You need to learn to accept things that you cannot change. It will be difficult to begin with, but in time everything should fall into place, at least I hope it does. I'm still in my denial / anger stage of the process of accepting everything that is going on but I know I'll be fine. I beat it once and I can do it again! I've just got to be strong and realise that everything happens for a reason and try to stay positive.

Sincerely, Kimberly.
xxx
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Monday, 10 April 2017

MY EPILEPSY RE-DIAGNOSIS

Over the last few months I've been feeling exhausted and when I say that I don't mean just a little tired. I've felt like I've needed a nap in the middle of the day to feel rested. I kept thinking it was strange that I needed all this sleep, turns out I had a medical reason behind it all. Epilepsy decided to make an appearance in my life once again, not something I wanted to deal for the second time but life has a funny way of surprising you. 

I'm not sure if you're aware but there are various types of epilepsy, people have different symptoms and triggers. For me, flashing lights aren't going to make me seize. Yes, I can drink alcohol if I want to although I choose not too. No, I don't pass out 3 times a day and start seizing on the floor. There are several types of the condition, not all of them involve having to avoid flashing lights and shaking on the floor. I wanted to write this post to explain in a little more detail about epilepsy and my experience.

I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was about 8, I suffered with seizures and had to take a lot of time off school. Up until a few weeks ago I was in the clear for about 7 years and hadn't been on any medication. Over the last 2 weeks I've had 2 seizures and ended up in A&E on both occasions. After years of being in good health, it's strange to loose control of my own body, to feel like at any moment I could collapse again. Luckily, the times it has happened I've been around friendly and thoughtful strangers who have helped me. They were nice enough to call an ambulance and ensure I got the help I needed.

Since I've had a few seizures within the last 2 weeks the hospital ran some tests and confirmed one of my worse fears, that my epilepsy had returned. All the limitations I will have on my life went running through my mind. I feel like I've had a lot of my independence taken away, my ability to drive is the hardest thing I have to loose, I can't drive until I've been seizure free for an entire year. At first I thought "oh I can't drive, but I'll take up bike riding". Apparently, I didn't think this one through and the doctor said it isn't possible either as I could still put myself and others in danger. I also can't swim, take a bath or travel long distances without supervision for a while. For some people these things don't matter, but for me it's a pretty big deal. Especially when I'm used to having the freedom to do what I want, when I want. 

It looks like my condition has evolved and changed since I was a child. Before, I knew my seizures would only happen while I was asleep, now I'm collapsing in the middle of the street at random points of the day. I believe I'm now much more at risk, especially since I don't have my mother by my side as I did when I was younger. I feel disappointed and let down by my mind and body, although I won't let my condition define me. I've got to stay positive and look on the bright side, at least I'm not experiencing seizures everyday like other people. I'll still be able to live a normal life, go to work, travel and do things I love. Yes, sometimes I'll need to rest and take extra care of myself but everything will fall into place eventually. The next step in getting back to normal and ensuring I have the correct medication prescribed. I should be receiving a phone call from the hospital to discuss this later in the week. It may take a few tries to get the dosage right but I'm feeling positive that it won't take long. After this is sorted, it will hopefully prevent any further seizures from occurring.

The recent issues in my health have given me the chance to step back and look at what I can do to help others in my situation as it can be a very scary experience, especially if you don't know what is happening. To help others in my situation my sister Charlotte, my friend Jess and I are taking part in Tough Mudder 2017 and are using this as the perfect opportunity to fundraise for the Epilepsy Society. This charity is the UK's leading provider of epilepsy services, working on new research to understand the condition further, heading up awareness campaigns and providing expert care for those affected. Doesn't that sound like a great cause to support? Well, you can contribute to this cause by sponsoring us via our Just Giving Page. Any donations will be greatly appreciated and go towards helping thousands of people who deal with this condition every day. 

Sincerely, Kimberly.
xxx

Saturday, 25 March 2017

LIFE UPDATE: REMEMBERING TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF

Anyone who knows me understands that I have a very busy schedule and am always on the go. Whether I'm going to acting rehearsals, a pole fitness lesson, work, the gym or spending the afternoon writing, I'm always doing something. Unfortunately, over the last few months I've been stretching myself way to thin and experiencing high stress levels, that resulted in me having a mini breakdown at work! Yes, how embarrassing... Just to top it all off, last week I collapsed and was taken to A&E. The doctors couldn't advise what caused it but my friends and family have come to the conclusion that I'm trying to do too much. Perhaps, I mean maybe they could have a point that I do need to slow down and take a breather. For someone who's used to going 100 miles per hour, it's difficult to imagine taking your foot of the pedal and slowing down.

I'm currently training to become a pole instructor, working as an amateur actor, blogging on this little space, gyming it at least 4 times a week (well I try too), along side maintaining a full time job. When I write it all down it does sound like a lot doesn't it? I never realised how much I manage on a weekly basis. This could be the reason why I've been ill but I've been trying to deal with the stressful days as they come.

I'm finding myself being pulled from pillar to post trying to achieve everything. When you want to achieve so many things, how are you meant to fit it all in? Am I supposed to let one hobby or ambition die so another can flourish? That doesn't seem like an option for me. It's difficult to decide what part of my life has to take a back seat because I've worked so hard and made a lot of scarifies to get to this point where I have opportunities to choose from. Although, when it comes down to my health, I can't deny that I need to make some kind of a change.

I'm not ready to let go of one of my hobbies just yet, I think the best thing I can do is ease off and make sure I have more relaxation time. Try to avoid packing my "days off" with back to back meetings and events. When I say I'm going to chill out, actually do just that! By making small changes to my schedule it will help reduce my stress levels and I'll have time to let my mind and body relax and recover.

Sincerely, Kimberly.
xxx
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Monday, 6 March 2017

HOW TO DEAL WITH STRESSFUL DAYS



Dealing with stress can be well … stressful! Busy-ness is increasing in peoples lives, stress levels are climbing and people are feeling more overwhelmed. Recently I've been juggling so many things, trying to "have it all" as they say. Working a full time job while training to be a pole instructor, acting and writing scripts along with content for this little place on the blogosphere. I think you get the idea that I've had a lot on my mind.

I've been bottling everything up for a few weeks, naturally I was bound to explode at some point. Unfortunately this happened at work, I'm not normally a person to show what I consider to be a weakness so this was extremely difficult for me to do. I should have taken my own advise when juggling loads of things to take the pressure off myself. I’m so lucky to have amazing friends and family to help me out and be there to chat when I need them, otherwise I would still be a hot mess! Next time, I'm going to take my own advice.

Talk about the problem
The basic thing to solving any problem is to get an outsiders perspective and talk through the situation. Speak to a close friend, family member, or complete stranger (if that's what helps), don't let it all bottle up otherwise you'll explode and it won't be pretty.

Take some "me time"
Step away from your busy life surrounded by people and take some time for yourself. Do something that makes you happy, that will help you relax and unwind. Perhaps some exercise, eat chocolate, do some Yoga or go out with friends. You've got to remember to take care of yourself and understand its ok to be selfish.

Focus on one thing at a time
If you overload your todo list with an unrealistic amount of tasks to complete then you'll disappoint and stress yourself out. Stop trying to multitask to an extent and do one thing at a time.

Get some fresh air
Fresh air can help with stress and anxiety. I know that it helps me in most situations, when I'm feeling drained of energy or feel overwhelmed I go for a walk and listen to some music. It allows me to relax and think about anything that's going on in my very busy mind.

Ask for help
Sometimes we can't do things on our own, we need help to get through difficult times or achieve a goal. Some people, myself included are very proud and find it hard to share my problems and think its my responsibility to solve each issue. This is such a bad habit as you’re causing yourself additional unneeded pressure to achieve everything, learn to let go and share your problems. People will be more helpful than you realise.

Get some rest
Sleep is incredibly important to be able to function like a normal human being. If I don't get a minimum of 8 hours a night I overthink little things which causes me to stress out. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep throughout the night, turn off all technology at least 1 hour before you intend to go to bed so your brain has time to shut down and rest. If you watch tv or endlessly scroll through social media feeds your brain won’t turn off and you can experience disturbed sleep. Even though you’re going to bed at 10pm your body isn’t fully resting until 11pm. When you consider this is the different between 7 and 8 hours of sleep, it's a huge difference in my opinion!

Sincerely, Kimberly.
xxx

Sunday, 26 February 2017

I HEART UNIQUE MONEYBOX FRAME

Is it just me or when you get older it becomes increasingly harder to buy presents for friends and family? Everyone seems to have what they need or want so its difficult to find the perfect present. When I was browsing the tinterweb I came across I Heart Unique. They sell a selection of novelty gifts such as works of art in frames, hanging decorations and money boxes, the best part is everything can be personalised! When I saw the money box I thought it was super cute and instantly knew it would be the perfect gift for my friends house warming. She'd finally got a mortgage and moved into her 1st forever home. 

I was nervous my parcel wouldn't arrive on time so I messaged I Heart Unique on their Facebook Page, they informed me that my order was dispatched. When my order didn’t arrive shorty after, I contacted the company through FB messenger. It turns out they confused me with another Kim and my order wasn’t on its way! I started to panic as this was a gift. Since there was a mix up they posted my order next day delivery so I would receive it on time which was very generous of them.

The frame arrived on time, I was extremely pleased with the product and was excited to give it to my friend. When I looked closer I realised that one of the letters wasn’t as smoothly applied as the others and had a rough edge, I contacted I Heart Unique and they were nothing but apologetic and helpful. They provided me with two options, to await a new acrylic sheet with the letters reapplied or accept a partial refund. 

The customer service I’ve received from I Heart Unique has gone above and beyond, everything was managed promptly and in a friendly manner. I have already recommended this amazing company to so many others due to the excellent customer service they’ve provided. 

Why not head over to I Heart Unique to have a cheeky look at what they have to offer, perhaps purchase a gift for someone special or even a little something for yourself. I'm really tempted to purchase a money box for myself <3


Sincerely, Kimberly.
xxx
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Saturday, 18 February 2017

HOW TO SPEND 48 HOURS IN CHICAGO

Chicago is an amazing city to visit and I'm so grateful I was given this opportunity to jet off for work with a colleague. I had time to get lost in the city, explore and take plenty of photos. To say I only had one weekend and a few evenings I made the most of my time and managed to fit so much in. If you're heading over to Chicago and need some inspiration for your todo list, look no further! I've listed the highlights of my trip including activities and food, all of which can be packed into 48 hours if you plan it right! 

Michigan Park - The Bean
If you go to Chicago you have to visit Michigan Park to see the Bean. We were lucky and had a day with clear blue skies and managed to get some awesome shots of the skyline reflecting in the sculpture. The city looks incredible from the park also and is a lovely little walk. Unfortunately this area is always busy so it's difficult to get any photos without people.

James Hancock Building
Originally we were going to visit the Willis tower (Sears tower to Americans) although our minds were changed as a colleague at the office recommended the James Hancock building. We were told it's an amazing view and wasn't disappointed when we reached the top. There are a few ways you can experience this view. Option one is pay $25 to go up to the top, option two you can go for lunch or drinks at the bar and not pay $25 just to go in a lift. We were going to have lunch although when we arrived they informed us the only option was bunch for $50 per person. I like bunch but not this much, we headed one floor up to the bar and had a few snacks and drinks. We got the best view seated next to the window, the skyline was incredible.

Navy Pier
Out of everything I did I would say that Navy Pier was the highlight of my trip. It's such a beautiful place and for someone who loves photography it was perfect. I don't know what it is about ferris wheels but I think they look great in photos and the fact its on a pier is even better! It was quite chilly and there was still ice along the pier, combined with the clear blue sky and crisp air it was an awesome day.

Bulls Basketball Game
If you go to America and don't see a sports game whether that be basketball, baseball or ice hockey then you're missing out. Due to the time of year we could only see indoor sports. Some of my colleagues in our Chicago office decided to go to a basketball game and George and I were happy to tag along. What an amazing experience to see a real American basketball game! During halftime we were still very entertained with the cheerleaders, dancers and the mascot shooting t-shirts out of a canon. Luckily either the Basketball or Ice Hockey will be on every other night so plenty of chances to catch a game while in town.


Lincoln Park & Zoo
I've been told that Lincoln Park is a great place to visit while in Chicago, although in the Winter months its not as pretty as it would be in the summer. To be honest the park was very grey and gloomy, so I wouldn't say this is a necessary trip to make, especially if you've only got a few days in Chicago. Just off Lincoln Park is the Zoo that is free to enter, there is plenty to cover so leave yourself with a good few hours to look around all the animals. We made a little friend while walking around, a squirrel felt the need to follow us as he thought we had food. You could tell he does this on a regular basis as he was on the chubby side!


It's time to talk about the important things, the truly amazing parts of my trip. All the food ... and Snapple, how could I forget about the Snapple!


Wildberry Pancakes
You can't go to America and not have pancakes! George and I decided to go to Wildberry Pancakes as we had heard good things. I ordered chocolate chip pancakes with a side of strawberries and bacon, it was an unusual combination but it works!

Mindy's Hot Chocolate
Omg, if you're a chocolate lover then you need to go for a hot chocolate at Mindy's. There is a range of about 8 different variants to choose from and a variety of food and snacks. I had the Medium hot chocolate and it was sweet and so creamy, a little sickly after a while even for a chocoholic like me. George had the Chia one and it was just amazing. Food wise, I would definitely recommend anything with Avocado because Avo makes everything better! 

The French markets
We went to the French Markets a few times for lunch during the week when we were working as it was so close to the office. It's quite awesome, there are so many different type of foods from various countries. From Sushi, Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese and so many more. It gets very busy because there are lots of options but definitely worth looking at.

Pearl
After work one day we went to Pearl for food, it was so busy. I decided to try and be healthy and had a cob salad with grilled chicken and oh it was so good! One of my colleagues ordered a chicken parminagno which was huge, it came on a sub and also had chips! That was enough food for 3 meals in my opinion! 

Sushi
I don't know about you but I love Sushi. George and I were told about Sunda and it was so good. Everything was cooked to perfection and I wanted to eat more but I was super full. The one thing I would recommend is the Tiger Shrimp Tempura in creamy honey aioli, now they are the best prawns I've ever had.

Lou Malnati's Pizza
You can't go to Chicago and not have a deep dish pizza, we were told that the best place to go is Lou Malnati's. I thought it would be like any pizza you get in the UK but oh was I wrong. The best way to describe it would be its more like a pizza within a pie crust. You either love or hate it!

Sincerely, Kimberly.
xxx
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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

MY STAY AT THE VIRGIN HOTEL IN CHICAGO


I was given the most amazing opportunity to jet off to Chicago with work and help our office over there. Naturally, I took my company up on this offer and boarded my flight to this incredible city. I was advised I would be staying at the Virgin Hotel and couldn't resist having a cheeky look on the website beforehand and wasn't disappointed on arrival. Wow! The hotel is unbelievable. The reception area was shades of red and gold, it was a great first impression of the hotel.

The staff were so welcoming and checked us in without any issues. I must warn you if you stay at the Virgin and use a debit card to secure your room (incase you have any room service etc) they will ask for $100 a night reserve. This means you cannot spend the money from your account as it suspends it. Fortunately, I explained that I hadn't got that kind of money in my account, they were very understanding and only reserved $300 for my entire stay instead of $1300 (for 2 weeks, although I was only required for 1 week in the end). Since I was only in Chicago for a week I knew I wouldn't be using room service a lot and rarely have snacks from hotel rooms as its normally expensive. When you've got a 7 Eleven on each corner of the street who needs a $5 packet of M&Ms right? Later, I discovered that the prices in the room actually weren't that bad only $1.75 for M&Ms just FYI!

When walking into the room I was amazed, my company booked a suite for me! The room had a living room, bathroom, powder room, a little table and chair and bedroom. I had so much room to myself and I loved it! I can honestly say that I've never stayed in a nicer hotel. The room was very open and had loads of natural light which is always a plus for me. There was a mixture of modern and retro trends, the Smeg fridge and car seat chair added something quirky to the room. There were a lot of controllers and things on the walls which took me a few moments to understand what they were for. One of the highlights of my room is that I had automatic blinds, its such a luxury and I wish I had them at home.

I was on the 15th floor, the view was great from one window in my bedroom although the other was blocked by a huge building, in a city of skyscrapers what can you expect. My colleague who was 2 floors up had a better view but this sometimes comes at a cost as she had to wake up to see the Trump Tower each morning. If you're on a lower floor and are interested in seeing the city from above, head upto the rooftop terrace. This hotel has an amazing one, unfortunately it was very cloudy and foggy while I was there so I didn't get the full impact but I've heard its a wonderful view. While on the rooftop in the evening we did manage to see the protestors after Donald Trumps Inauguration, people were outraged and marching through the streets. Police were blocking roads off and it caused delays throughout the city but was interesting to watch from a distance.

If you're like me and enjoy a good gym session you won't miss out staying here, there is access to a full gym upstairs. Normally, hotel gyms aren't equip with everything you need but the Virgin hotel won't let you down. There is an assortment of machines, free weights and an area to stretch or do yoga. I had such good intensions to get up and start my day with a workout... unfortunately I didn't make it to the gym in the end as my trip was cut short so I spent the majority of my time sightseeing when I wasn't working.

There are plenty of options to dine, during my stay I ordered room service and had breakfast in the restaurant. The food on both occasions came quickly and the staff were so polite and happy to help. Even though I was in Chicago for a week I didn't quite get the hang of ordering correctly, American portion sizes are huge! I ordered eggs Benedict with turkey, this also came with a side of potatoes for breakfast! At least you'll never go hungry while visiting the states.

My stay at the Virgin Hotel was exceptional, I couldn't think of anything to complain about. The staff were so friendly and helpful, would offer advise of places to visit and eat. The hotel was clean and it was a home away from home for my weeks stay. I would definitely recommend it if you're heading to Chicago.

Since I was so busy with working and sightseeing I didn't leave much time to get photos of the room during the daytime. I would leave when its slightly dark and get back at nighttime. I only had a chance to snap a few quick shots before we headed out for a full day of activities. I think the photos still demonstrate how nice the Virgin Hotel is.

Sincerely, Kimberly.
xxx
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