Friday, 24 October 2014


Yes!  I am going to Shut Up.  Well I am going to shut up for 48 hours at least (on 20-22 November, 2014).  Well, I am going to try.  I am going to try and shut-up, be quiet, stay silent.  I am not denying it is going to be rather a big challenge.  It is going to be a huge challenge. It is going to be a massive challenge.  Quite a big ask; as yes, I do rather like a chat.  I am rather a chatterer.  In fact, I don't really very often shut up.  But, I am going to give it a go.  I am up for the challenge.  Well-Done me.

MS is a silent and often isolating disease.  We at '' and I say 'we' as I am delighted to be included as one of the team, as I run the 'BLOG Post of the Week' feature on the Social Media sites. are hoping to 'break the silence' by staying silent in order to raise funds. Raise fund and raise awareness.

So, I am going to be silent for 48 hours for because MS Awareness needs a voice and needs to be heard.  And I can really think of no better reason than that.

You can find out more information at the following address:

At that address you can find out more and you can sign up to take part yourself.  Are you up for the challenge?

Thank You for your support.  Thank You for reading this.  Thank You for your sponsorship.  Thank You very much indeed.  It really is very much appreciated.  My Just Giving Page is at the following address:

Thank You x

Friday, 26 September 2014


It is argued that relaxation is one of the most effective self-help strategies for a healthy body and healthy mind.  It can help to prevent the development of stress and anxiety and depression, and can help you sleep.

Relaxation exercises and techniques are used to combat the signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety, to relax the body and clear the mind - that sounds ACE.  I thought that I would give it a go.

Of course any exercises or guided relaxation won't magically make the cause of your anxiety disappear; but what they can and will do is provide you with the necessary skills so that you will probably feel more able to deal with whatever is/was that was/is once the source of your anxiety; and it will do this by releasing you of any fear or tension that you may feel, and by clearing your thoughts. Right, OK. I'm ready to give that a go.

Most relaxation techniques combine breathing more deeply, and combine this with relaxing the muscles.  As with most things, this is learnt behavior. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned, and it will come with practice and become easier.  Both Yoga and Tai Chi (see previous TAI CHI BLOG) have been found to be good forms of exercise that help to improve posture and breathing and relaxation.

Awareness of ourselves and the world around us – is now often called, or is referred to as 'mindfulness' – and it is felt participating in 'mindfulness' and practicing 'mindfulness' that this can improve our mental wellbeing.  Mindfulness is advocated by the Mental Health Foundation.  Mindfulness therefore is a "mind-body based approach that helps people change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences." 

This is sometimes referred to as Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  "Mindfulness training helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, we're better able to manage them."  Mindfulness is felt to be a valuable tool in restoring people's quality of life: "Mindfulness therefore is a mind-body approach to well-being that can help you change the way you think about experiences and reduce stress and anxiety."

Research has found; and there is growing evidence that 'Mindfulness' can help with: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress 
  • Chronic Pain 
  • Chronic Fatigue Symptom
  • Insomnia 

All of these are symptoms that can be experienced with MS.

It is important to remember that relaxation or meditation or mindfulness won't make the cause of the anxiety disappear, it won't alleviate the source of your anxiety; what it will do is it will equip you so that you will probably feel more able to deal with whatever it was that was causing your stress.  Surely that has got to be a good thing?

While Mindfulness can be practiced quite well without Buddhism, Buddhism cannot be practiced without Mindfulness.  In its Buddhist context, mindfulness meditation has three overarching purposes: 'knowing the mind'; 'training the mind'; and 'freeing the mind'.

Relaxation and Meditation and Mindfulness are each concerned with developing techniques that enable us to live in the 'here' and 'now'.  They are about living in the present, about learning to live in the present.  About enjoying the moment.  About enjoying this moment.  I have slowing been trying to re-educate myself, to ensure that I live in the present.  This isn't easy.  This is not an easy thing to learn.  But, I am learning.

I love Audrey Hepburn, I adore Audrey Hepburn, everything about Audrey.  Her grace and her beauty, obviously; but she radiated other qualities of kindness and goodness.  She was kind and thoughtful in her actions, she took time and was appreciative of the good things that she had in her life.  She knew hardship and sorrow and heart-break, but she appeared to deal with everything effortlessly with style and grace.  She appeared to know the importance of living in the moment and taking pleasure from the simple things in life.  This is something that I have always admired tremendously.  Therefore an approach that I have taken to life is: 'What would Audrey do?'  That is my mantra in trying to be a better person.  What would Audrey do?

Friday, 19 September 2014


You know that feeling, when you feel fed-up?  You feel sad.  You feel a little bit flat and a little bit miserable.  You are upset.  And you don't know why you are upset.  You just are. You are just sad. You are unhappy.

You know that there is no reason, no justification.  You have no right to be miserable.  But, nevertheless you are, and there is nothing that you or anybody else can do about it.  Do you know that feeling?

Horrible isn't it?

I've had that feeling, on and off, this week and for the last few weeks, on and off.  And I know it is unfair and I know that it is irrational, and it is silly but it still feels very real.

I feel unloved.  I feel stupid.  I feel scared.  I feel lonely, and hopeless, and I guess I feel unhappy.

There is no reason why I should feel any of these things.  I am loved.  I have wonderful family and amazing, really amazing friends.  And while I may be a bit daft, I am certainly not stupid.  There is nothing for me to be scared of.  "The only thing to fear is fear itself." as Franklin D. Roosevelt famously exclaimed.  And I have no reason to be lonely.  So why then this feeling?  This feeling of feeling unhappy?

And if I try and quantify it I realise that I am being a little bit ridiculous, a little bit of a 'drama queen', a little bit 'attention seeking'.  But I am not, and actually I can't stop it.

I guess a have a 'Black Dog', as Winston Churchill famously called his depression.  But, my 'Black Dog', while it is still black, is small and cute, and with a very waggy tail.  I am not 'depressed', I am just a little bit 'anxious' and a little bit in a low mood, and a little bit unhappy.

I feel 'unworthy'.  I have a tremendous sense of 'unworthiness', of feeling 'not good enough', of feeling . . . of just feeling 'unloved', 'unlovable' . . . and just feeling 'sad'.

But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing can bring peace but yourself."

So, you have to learn . . . I have to learn . . . to love yourself, to learn to like yourself, to be accepting of who you are and what you are doing, and just be OK with that.  I do have to learn this.

Perhaps I need to learn to be grateful. To be grateful for the things that I do have. to focus on what I do have and learn to be grateful, learn to be so grateful that I don't have room for 'sad'.  I don't have time to be miserable, that I banish the unhappy.

I am not saying that this will be easy, but on those days where I feel a little bit sad and a little bit unhappy, I can perhaps learn to change my mind, I can change my mind and choose to be a little bit happy.

Friday, 12 September 2014


I love horses.  I have always loved horses.  Everything about horses.  Yes, I do, I even love the smell.  A lot of girls, almost every girl growing up love ponies, there is just something about ponies.  And we don't really grow out of it.  Yes, we may discover boys, but eventually we realise; we really do probably prefer ponies.

Contact with any animals, but with horses in particular has been used for years as rehabilitation therapy for people with MS and other neurological disorders.  Conditions such as Anxiety; Autism; Depression; Dementia; and MS.  Indeed equine therapy dates back to the times when horses were used for therapeutic riding in ancient Greek literature. That is quite a long time ago.

Certainly being around an animal seems to provide a psychological and emotional boost, but there is the general benefit of just being out in the fresh air, that somehow appeals to your general sense of well-being and sense of calm and joy and, yes, happiness.

I think that horses were my 'first love'.  I say 'horses' but I mean 'ponies'.  I mean a Shetland pony, a Shetland pony called 'Magic' ... and he was. He was, he really was Magic and I loved him.

Horses seem to know.  To know if you are sad.  To know if you are unhappy.  To know if you are hurting.  To know if you are in pain.  To know if you have got carrots; or apples; or sugar lumps; or polo mints.  They just know.

Equine therapy, also known as Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT), is a treatment that includes equine activities and/or an equine environment in order to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth.  Equine Therapy can help the individual build confidence, self-efficiency, communication, trust, perspective, social skills.  Apparently horses have similar behaviors with humans, such as social and responsive behaviors, it is easy for the patients to create a connection with the horse.

I look forward; massively look forward to the time that I spend with horses.  I am very lucky to have friends with ponies, where I can go and get a cuddle and some support from my friend, but especially from the pony.  I don't even need to get on and ride, although I have found my hat, boot and jodhpurs ... so you never know, but just being around horses for me if such a joy, and, for me, just massively increases my happy.

Friday, 29 August 2014


"When the Student is ready, the Teacher will appear."

Tai Chi is a form of martial art and a gentle exercise that combines deep breathing and relaxation techniques with slow, flowing, graceful movements.  To be fair, I don't think I have ever done anything gracefully in my life!

Tai Chi can be carried out individually or in groups.  Because Tai Chi is largely based on technique, it does not require great strength or flexibility, although practice on a regular basis will aid suppleness and physical strength.  It has become an increasingly popular activity for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and is associated with stress relief and overall health improvement.  As a martial art, Tai Chi involves considerable focus on spiritual aspects and on increasing self-concept and concentration.  The majority of teaching in the UK only deals with the exercise side of Tai Chi.  It is important to remember that Tai Chi is an internal martial art and therefore does not involve combat.

The physical and psychological effects of Tai Chi have been examined extensively in both older people and those with chronic conditions.  Research has been conducted into the impact of Tai Chi had on people with chronic health problems, including multiple sclerosis (MS).  Although as with most research, the research was not free from qualitative or quantitative limitations or biases, but the groups concluded that there was evidence that the exercise was of medical benefit.  They found that long-term Tai Chi practice had favorable effects on the promotion of balance control, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness and reduced the risk of falls in older people.  It was also found to reduce pain, stress and anxiety.  Tai Chi has been shown to improve body awareness, balance and coordination and therefore to impact positively on self-confidence.  It is a remarkably effective exercise proven to help mental relaxation, while strengthening both the mind and the body.  Tai Chi therefore is found to impact positively on general health and general well-being.

My friend, Rose is a NAKMAS (National Association of Karate and Martial Arts Schools) Thai Chi / Chi Gung Instructor. Rose herself has Degenerative Disk Disease which is a severe and progressive back condition which impacts upon her mobility.  She also experiences Chronic Pain.  She understands what it is like.  How debilitating.  How painful.  How tiring. Rose is therefore passionate about developing 'Tai Chi for Mobility' to share what she has learnt, to share the principles of Tai Chi to enrich the lives of others living with debilitating conditions and disabilities.  The idea is to bring appropriate gentle exercise within the reach of people who think exercise is not for them and find traditional sports daunting.  I had to give it a go.

Rose explains that the Aim is to "help people achieve a better quality of life. Tai Chi exercise provides the framework for the body to work at its best, by improving our posture, balance, co-ordination, concentration and reduce stress these things help the body to do its job more easily."

The first thing we are taught is to 'lift the head to raise the spirit'.  Stand naturally straight and keep your head and neck upright, but relaxed.  If your head is down then your spirit cannot be high.  By straightening your back and lifting your head, the spirit will lift.

know that some people are rather sceptical about alternative therapies. Tai Chi isn't a cure for MS, it doesn't claim to be.  Rather it is a gentle exercise, a gentle exercise that aids posture and balance and it can alleviate stress; it leaves you with a feeling of calm, and when it is undertaken in good company this does indeed lift the spirits.

Friday, 22 August 2014


"And therefore since I cannot prove a lover,
I entertain in these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain." (William Shakespeare, Richard III, Act I, Scene I)

On 22 August 1485, the penultimate battle in the Wars of the Roses was fought with the might of the Lancastrian army ranged against the Yorkists. . . Bosworth Field saw the two great dynasties of the day clash on the battlefield: the reigning House of York, led by Richard III, against the rising House of Tudor, led by Henry Tudor, soon to become Henry VII. 

Having stayed the night in the 'White Boar Inn' later to be re-named the 'Blue Boar Inn' so as not to be associated with the 'White Boar' Richard's emblem, Richard set off for Bosworth.  (There is now a pub called 'King Richard III', close to the original location of the 'White/Blue Boar Inn').

Richard rode out to Bosworth Field, just outside Sutton Cheney, towards Market Bosworth, riding out over 'Bow Bridge'. The Bridge now shows two plaques, one explaining the legend claiming that Richard struck his spur against a stone, where a 'wise-woman' foretold of his defeat in battle, the other claiming that Richard's remains are buried nearby.

Richard III was 32 years of age when he died in Battle at Bosworth Field, the last British Monarch to die in Battle, his body was brought back to Leicester and publicly displayed, then interred by the Grey Friars, a local order of Franciscan monks.  A few years later, a tomb was erected within the Grey Friars’ church. Meanwhile the victor of Bosworth, Henry Tudor, was crowned King Henry VII – then in 1538 his son, Henry VIII, split from Rome.  Across the land monasteries were demolished and dissolved, and the Grey Friars were no exception.  During the 17th and 18th centuries, the land in the ‘Grey Friars’ area of the city was built on and the precise location of the original church lost underneath houses (which was to eventually become a Leicester City Council Car Park).  This car park was famously excavated by the University of Leicester in 2013, and it was then that the remains were found, and Richard III became known as the 'King in the Car Park'.

These remains have been subjected to rigorous and intense scientific scrutiny and analysis to confirm that they are indeed the remains of the notorious King.  The fact that Richard suffered from Scoliosis, a degenerative curvature of the spine has assisted in the identification process.

Richard became King in 1483 and was King for two years before he met his death in 1485.  Describing Richard, Simon SCHAMA explains, "...whom we have been conditioned to think of as either the incarceration of godless villain or (by impassioned devotees) as a northern hero vilely defamed by Tudor propaganda." (Simon SCHAMA, A History of Britain: At the edge of the World? p268).  He is a undoubtedly a notorious king; perhaps best known through the propaganda of William Shakespeare which saw Richard III as the protagonist in the murder of the 'Princes in the Tower' where Princes Edward (aged 12) and Richard (aged 9) (sons of Kind Edward IV) were lodged in the Tower of London upon their arrival in London, (but this was the traditional residence of monarchs prior to their coronation), and were never seen againIt is unclear what actually happened to the boys.  It is generally now generally assumed that they were murdered, and murdered at Richard's instruction. Although some believe that one, or both, princes were not murdered; some believe that one or both managed to escape.  It is also William Shakespeare's text which famously sees Richard III cry out the famous lines: "My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse" (Act 5, Scene 4).  Simon SCHAMA see Richard III as, "much more interesting  but also much more sinister than either of those stereotypes allow. . .". (Simon SCHAMA,A History of Britain: At the edge of the World? p268). 

There was a statue of Richard in Castle Gardens; this statue has now been moved, and relocated to 'Cathedral Square' near to the new (King Richard III) KRIII Exhibition Centre.  This centre was opened on 26.07.14 telling the full story of the 'King in the Car Park'.  It was now been agreed, after a court ruling, that Richard's remain will remain in Leicester.

The Battlefield is just outside of Market Bosworth, has an excellent Visitor Centre, holds re-enactments and is a splendid place to go for a doggy walk.

Oh, and Benedict is going to be taking on the role next year.

Friday, 15 August 2014


The proper name for difficulty swallowing, or the medical term is 'Dysphagia'.  Actually I think it is more properly called 'Oropharyngeal dysphagia'.

Apparently, quite a lot of people with MS, it is estimated perhaps a third of people with MS, probably experience some changes in their swallowing at some time, experience swallowing difficulties, and find it difficult to swallow: 'Dysphagia'.  And it isn't just difficulty swallowing, but difficulties with other associated activities such as eating and drinking and even speaking and forming sentences: 'Dysphasia'.

So, this is another thing that I have discovered that MS can cause difficulties with, swallowing difficulties. And just like any other symptom of MS, swallowing difficulties may come and go.  Changes in swallowing can occur or happen during a relapse, and then improve, or disappear completely.  For others, difficulty swallowing may simply be a symptom that develops over time as the condition progresses.  You don't really notice it at first, don't notice that you are struggling or perhaps dribbling, but then all of a sudden you do.  You do notice.  You notice that you are dribbling.

The MS Society has found that, "Between 30 and 40 per cent of people with MS experience difficulties with swallowing at some time although for some people changes are so small that they are hardly aware of them."Dysphagia can also be made worse by lack of saliva or dry mouth, and it is known that some medications used to control MS symptoms can cause having a dry mouth as a side-effect.  So, that is helpful.

I have recently become aware that I experience difficulties with swallowing.  This feels really strange, when you have to think, have to concentrate on doing something as automatic as swallowing.  You do not have to be taught how to swallow, you are just born with the ability, it just happens, you just can, you just do.  So it comes as something as a shock as you take a mouthful of tea or coffee or water or juice, and then you think 'now what?'  What do I do now? You have to try and remind yourself to swallow it.  It is there is your mouth, but you have to concentrate to actually do something with it, to swallow it.  Surely swallowing should be second nature? Believe me it isn't.

Swallowing problems ('Dysphagia')might include difficulties with other associated activities such as eating and drinking and with speaking ('Dysphasia'):

Swallowing problems ('Dysphagia')might include difficulties with other associated activities such as eating and drinking and with speaking ('Dysphasia'):
  • Changes in speech can go hand in hand with small changes in swallowing
  • Problems chewing
  • Coughing and spluttering during and after eating
  • Excessive saliva, which may cause dribbling
There are different forms of 'Dysphagia' depending on whether the difficulty with swallowing occurs in the mouth or throat, and there are various ways that it can be treated, these include:
  • swallowing therapy
  • dietary changes 
  • feeding tubes
A Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) may be consulted to suggest exercises that can help, or a Dietitian may be consulted for advice about changing your diet, to possibly advise about softer foods or thickened fluids that may be easier to eat and drink.  There are therefore simple changes that you can make which may make a difference.  These include:
  • Ensuring good posture when eating and drinking
  • Ensuring that you are relaxed
  • Eating slowly and chewing well

A few people have suggested drinking through a straw, and I have found that this does seem to help a little bit, although it has to be said that this isn't always ideal, but I am finding and realizing that very little to do with MS is ideal, you just kind of get on with it, and learn how to deal with it. You adapt.  You learn not to worry if you dribble.  You learn, you have to.