Tuesday, 19 July 2016

I'm an introvert... and that's okay

Source: Pinterest

Not long ago I decided I wanted to blog more about ways of nurturing mental health, self confidence and self esteem. I think if nothing else it might at the least help my own mental health, which I think has taken a little bit of a hit lately, from illness, social media and politics. But don't worry I'm not depressed (mother) just aware I need to be looking after myself a little more in the mental health as well as physical health department. And so I thought what better way to start than by speaking about my own sense of self as it were.

So, let me simply start by saying "I'm an introvert and that's okay." It's more than okay, it's part of who I am. It's in my nature as they say, part of my personality and I'm very happy being who I am.

For me to be able to say that at all is a big deal, given my past mental health demons, where I was my own worst enemy and my self esteem was at rock bottom. Now, I'm lucky that I can say I'm my own friend and I love myself. Not in an egotistical I am above everyone else kind of way, arrogance has never appealed to me. However I love myself by wanting the best for myself. You know designer clothes and accessories, a Bentley with my own personal driver, a maid and a house with as many bathrooms as there are days of the week.... Haha. No, what I mean by that is actually much more simple, love, happiness, friendship and good health would obviously be very welcome.

When I was battling depression and anxiety I certainly learnt that being kind to yourself and treating yourself with respect is important. Being at odds with yourself and constantly putting yourself down can lead you down some very dark roads. Harming yourself with words and physical harm in it's many different guises. Turning against the one person you need to believe in most- you, yourself.

Perhaps having been down that path I can appreciate all the more what knowing my self worth means, and in doing so my self confidence has grown.

So does this mean that now I am the life and soul of a party, loud and in charge? That I can walk/ wheel into a room and feel I can have everyone in it eating out of the palm of my hand. Wishing they could be as confident as I am. Or that I can post bikini photos to Instagram thinking I have a body that will leave everyone commenting #goals. Erm... No!

I think this is the image that many of us have of confident people but the fact is it's not always an expression of self confidence; anymore than it is being an extrovert. Or a believable actor. Having been involved with theatre since the age of 14, I've seen this a lot. What's funny is I always thought to myself that deep down they weren't actually that confident or secure in themselves. That they were putting on an act, and the best part they were playing was themselves. What's more I never wanted to be compared to them, although at times I inevitably was. One of the reasons I had actually started theatre workshops was to try build up my self confidence again and it really did help. But it certainly didn't turn me into a more flamboyant extrovert. In fact it literally drove me into the wings backstage. Funnily, I'm not a fan of 'drama' either.

Because I believe confidence isn't about making a scene. Confidence can come in many different guises depending on different personalities. Confidence doesn't have to be a loud roar, but a quiet, self assured nod. Ultimately, I think confidence (whether you're an introvert or an extrovert) stems from knowing who you are and having the courage to say "this is who I am and I'm happy with who I am." Whether that be the loudest person in the room or the one quietly sitting in the corner taking everything in.

So, yes I'm quiet, shy and a bit socially awkward. I always disliked having to put my hand up at school, not so much because I didn't know the answer or have an opinion; I just didn't like being so forthright. I'm much more comfortable socialising in smaller groups and in quieter places. That's not to say I can't enjoy a more noisy night out or larger groups. Not that that is much of a concern given my current state. It's just that I am more comfortable being with a smaller group, somewhere I don't also have to compete with blaring music. I'm not the best at small talk, and can find it hard to think of things to say, especially to people I don't know that well. I can't exactly say so what did you think of the latest episode of Love Island or Big Brother, because it's doubtful I'll have seen them. And I'm awful at phone calls, much preferring text messages. Socially, it might take a little while for me to feel comfortable enough around new people and let them see the lighter, more humours side of me; and that's something that I can continue to work on.

But non of this means I don't have any self confidence or belief in myself. I just internalise things more and am quietly confident; but without bottling things up so much that they affect my mental health. I still have the ability to lead meetings and speak with confidence, albeit I like to be organised and prepared beforehand. I still like to socialise. I still like company. But I'm also completely comfortable spending time with only myself for company. What's more I can still stand up for myself when I need to, and will stand by a friend in need of defending.

 We all express ourselves in different ways. I'm certainly more of a doer than a talker; although I always try to be there to talk to a friend in need. I'd like to think I give good advice and if I don't know what to say, that I can be of some comfort just being there and listening when they need to vent. But I'm someone that speaks more through my actions and I love a random act of kindness.

So for all the introverts out there, like me, don't think you have to be a certain way to be confident. Don't compare yourself to others, or be critical of your own characteristics/ personality. There are many things you can work on as you continue to grow and learn but never feel bad for being who you are. So what if you're shy? There are far worse things to be. Learn to work with yourself rather than against yourself. What's more learn to love yourself for all that you are, quirks and all.

With love

Monday, 11 July 2016

5 things I've learned in 5 years of chronic illness

So last week marked 5 years since my world changed beyond recognition. But rather than crawl up into a ball and blub about it I have decided to try focus on the positives. Because believe it or not there are still positives. I have learned so many lessons in these past 5 years, and got to know so much more about myself as I've faced these challenges. I'm sure I could make a much longer list of things I've learned throughout this experience but these are the ones that I thought of instantly. And in all honestly my cognitive functioning is pretty foggy lately, so I'm lucky I've been able to write a post at all. Anyway here are the 5 lessons I've learned from being chronically ill for 5 years. 


You are far stronger than you will ever give yourself credit for

Most of us really don't know how strong we are until being strong is our only option. If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know of my mental health battles prior to becoming chronically ill. Because of that, I fretted so much about how I would cope when I received my M.E and later my fibromyalgia diagnosis. I thought I would probably fall apart. Losing my independence, my career, friends, all I'd trained for. It's true that you will grieve for your former life. But illness is consuming and life becomes about coping with what it throws at you on a daily or hourly basis. Whilst also trying to keep your sanity. And to be fair your pain levels under control.

 There are of course times when you can't hack the pain, when you cry at how the simplest of tasks has left you completely depleted. But on the whole you manage. You just do. One of my favourite quotes I like to use as a kind of mantra when life seems unbearable is: 'On particularly rough days, when I'm sure I can't possibly endure. I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%. And that is pretty good.'

Cope with it one minute at a time and try not to let yourself get too far ahead of yourself, imagining the worst. That only adds more stress to an already stressful situation. Also the odd wobble, sobbing self pity fest is perfectly healthy. Sometimes it takes those moments of grief to actually make us appreciate just how well we're doing.

Source: Pinterest


Friendships may come and go but you'll learn who really has your back

This is probably one of the harder things to come to terms with. Especially when you feel you've done nothing wrong, except become ill. Which obviously is not your fault. It can be heartbreaking, because this is a time when you need people on your side. But it's the being on your side part that's important, if they're not making the effort to try find out how you are or have some compassion for what you're going through then it's clear what side they're on.

 It can be really difficult standing up for yourself and cutting a former friend loose. Obviously you then fear having no friends at all and making your world even smaller. So it may take time. But in time you won't miss them.

 I know in some cases friendships have fizzled out due partly to my own doing, and again I don't mean becoming ill. Rather, that illness does change you (and that is probably a whole blog topic on its own) you don't feel part of your old world anymore and as a consequence you can feel that you no longer have anything to contribute to conversation. "So what are you up to?" "Err nothing." And cue awkward pause.

The important thing to remember is the amount of friends you have is nothing in comparison to the quality of friendships. Cherish those that understand that making plans may come with conditions, and you may need to cancel them at the last minute, not because you want to but because you have to. That if you don't reply to a message straight away or read it but don't respond instantly, it does not mean you're being ignorant, or don't care what they have to say. Also remember that whatever people think they know and choose to judge you on, only you have the truth. And that actions speak louder than words.

Most of my friendships now are with people I've got to know through the spoonie community. They're my first port of call when I need help. It's strange because obviously most I've never met, but I don't doubt their friendship any less for that. It's what works for our current situations but it's more than illness that bonds us. I do often laugh out loud at an image in my head, that if I were to get married (to my imaginary boyfriend) of myself and a trail of bridesmaids rolling down the aisle.


That smiling and laughter are medicine for the soul

Simple, but true. When you get diagnosed with a chronic illness, as you can imagine, it's disheartening and like I said you do go through a grieving process. You wonder if you'll ever laugh or smile again. But somehow you do and hopefully you will smile or laugh at least once a day. My not so secret, secret is to focus on the little things. The fact you've took less pain medication today, you've seen the cutest meme on Instagram. Eat something yummy. Have a mini pamper session. Or put on your favourite TV show or film, even though you've seen it a thousand times but you know it will make you laugh. I've got to the point where if ever I need both my parents to help hold me up and support me to walk I start singing 'let's all do the conga,' because I'd rather laugh and smile at how grateful I am to have such supportive parents, than think this is so depressing.

I already have some blog posts on happiness, in particular my 'happiness is...' series if you would like some ideas. I hope to continue writing more on happiness, confidence and self worth soon.

Source: Pinterest


To grab opportunities and have adventures

Obviously this is something that is subjective to each sufferer because no 2 are alike and we are all affected differently or have differing life situations. It's true though that we all must learn to see that achievements are not just life's big milestones, but the milestones you achieve with your health. Getting downstairs for the first time in months, being able to concentrate enough to read a book, walking into a restaurant rather than have to be wheeled. These are no less worthy achievements.

My own personal experiences have shown me that every now and again if an opportunity comes along and I feel I could scrape by then I go for it. So far I am lucky enough that that has included some holidays and even an amazing experience of being in the studio audience of Strictly. You can read about these experiences here on my blog.

 Yes, there's a lot of planning involved and usually smiling through extreme pain. As well as the agony of payback in the form of post exertion malaise. But making new happy memories that you can look back on with fondness, will help you to cope on those bed bound days. There is no such thing as a break from chronic illness but every once in a while you can try divert your attention. Within your limits of course. Life is far from over. It's about learning to live in the moment, taking advantage of your better days. And ultimately, knowing that because there is no cure, that you cannot delay your chance at happiness, you must grab it as it happens. You can't put off being happy until you are better. You will only rob yourself in doing so.


That you will have a whole new self respect for your body

You'll learn to read it and continually self assess. As well as a whole improved view on body image, because you are no longer as wrapped up in what your body looks like and hating on it. But rather what it can do and how much it puts up with. You are now so grateful for it for surviving through years of pain and for the times it allows you to have little adventures. It deserves your love and respect not hate and disdain. As ever self care and having a healthy relationship with your body is about what you put into your body, as well as being careful how you treat yourself physically and mentally. Your body and you yourself are doing the best you can within these circumstances, so treat yourself with care and respect.

As I'm feeling generous and I believe it needs saying, I'm throwing in a 6th nugget of wisdom. And that is: Healing and recovery are not linear. There will be peaks and troughs, better times and worse times. Times you cope better mentally than others. Set backs and relapses. So, never beat yourself up that you are not progressing as quickly as you would like. That you could do something one day but not the next. Remember illness, especially where PEM is involved, doesn't work like that. Never, look at everyone else's achievements and feel inferior, because they are making their own path not yours. Rest when you need to rest, cry when you need to cry and move at your own pace. Celebrate each achievement and give yourself lots of credit and praise for them, because it's you that's doing all the hard work. And yes, putting up with a chronic illness certainly is hard work.

What are the biggest things that you have learnt from becoming chronically ill? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time

Friday, 17 June 2016

It's not always ME

I have seen many a tweet or post from people with M.E and other chronic illnesses about doctors lack of understanding and 'horror stories' about appointments and hospital visits. And I'll be honest, for a while I gave these posts too much head space. I started to believe that I simply must suffer in silence and accept that my health was getting worse and that no one could do anything.

Until one day when even breathing felt like too much hard work I declared that this was madness. Because if someone that was otherwise healthy felt half this bad they'd be calling an ambulance or at the very least seeing their GP. Yet because I have a chronic illness and think I know what is going on I simply have to put up with it and keep quiet. Well I wasn't having that! It occurred to me how ridiculous it was to be suffering so much yet my GP obviously had no idea how bad things had got. And if I didn't tell them, how could they know? 

What was more ridiculous is the fact that I've always had good experiences with my GP's, they diagnosed me early, have made referrals to OT, home visits and helped me find a good balance of medication. I've not had the bad experiences others write about and fear will happen again.

The thing is though regardless of your medical history we all need medical attention from time to time. Whether it's to simply review medication or make referrals because our illness is becoming more severe. We cannot do what I've actually seen some suggest in keeping clear of doctors. This is not to say we should accept poor treatment. Far from it. There are good doctors out there that do understand M.E, it's a matter of finding them. They're the ones we should be taking advice from, not some naysayers on the internet. It must be so hard on them too, to see so many patients asking for help but the science and research is so far not progressive enough to help them. When all they can do is help keep us 'comfortable,' try to manage our symptoms and rule out other things.

Because that is another reason why seeking medical attention can be so important.  Sometimes it's not going to be 'just M.E' 'just fibromyalgia' or 'just IBS', etc etc. I think many people avoid getting help because they feel they'll be told it's just (insert known diagnosis). To be fair in some cases it will be. Or you will be sent for some standard blood tests or an ECG etc only for them to come back 'normal'. It can be disheartening, believe me I know how it feels, especially when you feel so far from normal. You just want answers. Or something with a quick/easy fix.

However, when it comes down to it this is also the best we can hope for. We already know we have that condition and probably have built up a wealth of knowledge and coping mechanisms to help. We also know recovery is an ongoing process filled with peaks and troughs. Having recently been on the other side, where test results came completely out the blue and needed looking into urgently, I can tell you being on that side of the fence is certainly not the better option. So my opinion on negative results has certainly become more 'phew what a relief.' Hopefully, I'm doing okay though.

Sometimes we might even get some answers that can be more easily solved, our iron or vitamin D levels might have dropped, which can be fairly common if we are housebound and not getting all the nutrients we need for whatever reason. So a short course of them can help us get back on track.

Then of course, like I said there are the times when it's not going to be just M.E etc. And obviously we can't know this until it's confirmed. But what I feel it's important to say is, we are not immune to other illnesses, chronic or short term. From common coexisting conditions such as many M.E sufferers also being diagnosed with fibromyalgia or POTS to infections, lumps and bumps and even mental health problems. Or heaven forbid breaking a bone or muscle damage, which when you think about how drained and weak we can be could easily be a possibility after a fall.

Which is why I totally rolled my eyes when I saw a post about the junior doctors strike making no difference to those of us with M.E because the NHS can't do anything for us. If only having M.E made us exempt from accidents or other illnesses. Sadly it doesn't. Of course in those situations we cannot always guarantee we will see a doctor or nurse that will also understand M.E or other condition, but in those instances we just have to remember that we know better and we're there for another reason.

This is why it's so important to be self aware and know what is normal for you. And that includes self examination of your bits and bobs too. I have a blog post explaining how to do this for women here and for men here. I think as long term sufferers we're pretty good at being self aware, because we are constantly self evaluating and assessing. Judging how many spoons we might have. Do we have enough to have a shower? Knowing when we need to stop and rest. The effects of PEM on your body and how it will differ from activity to activity. The difference between PEM and a relapse. The difference between a flare in M.E symptoms or a flare in fibromyalgia symptoms. You become an expert in you.

However of course there are going to be times when things feel brand new and out of the ordinary. Symptoms you may never have experienced. Symptoms that scare you, such as paralysis or feeling completely trapped in your body unable to communicate. And when you are treading that line between is this just another M.E etc symptom or something else, isn't it best to be on the safe side? Wouldn't you rather know for sure that it's nothing else on top of everything else?

Not long ago after I had been in a neurological hospital for a week I began to experience a dragging sensation in my face and my speech began to slur with it. It was something I've never experienced before and with this being a key symptom of a stroke you can bet I was spooked. And so even though I was struggling with PEM, I knew I had to get it checked out. Luckily it wasn't a stroke and thank goodness for that. It turns out it was a new PEM symptom, a reaction (or overreaction) of my diva body to having been in hospital for a week and only getting 10 hours sleep in that time, when usually that's what it needs a day. Did I feel better for knowing I wasn't having a stroke? Yes, of course. Did my doctor feel I'd wasted their time? No, they were concerned too and checked me over and spent ages on the phone to my team at the neurology hospital.

Sometimes, even though we're self aware we can also not pick up on some things because we're also so used to being in pain or other symptoms. These might mask other things that might be going on. I know someone that didn't pick up on a kidney infection until they almost got sepsis, which sadly could have been fatal, because back pain and fevers were common when they were flaring.

So my point with this blog post is, be vigilant with your health. Know what's normal for you and what isn't. And if you think something is amiss find out for sure. I know it's hard when you already feel so awful but you need to be safe. Find a good doctor and never think that you have to put up with bad treatment or poor opinion. Move on from them and block out their unhelpful comments. You know yourself and you know you are far from a lazy malingerer or hypochondriac. Because you really do need someone in your corner. I disagree that we do not need them because we all need medical care, whether it is for our chronic illness or for anything else that might come your way. Remember we can't get help if we don't at least ask. Don't suffer in silence. This is all part of treating yourself with love and respect, of wanting the best for yourself.

If anyone knows of a good resource for finding an understanding GP or medical professional please do share.

Take care everyone


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Primark Haul June 2016

Hey, everyone! Long time, no blog. But such is life, it's been a busy time on top of being ill of course. And to be honest I've not been  sure on which direction to go with my blog, but I guess the beauty of blogging is that it can go in anyway you want it to. As it's a reflection of who you are as a person and a love for writing. 

Anyhow, I thought I would slowly reintroduce myself by doing a haul post. Especially as I've made a few trips to Primark recently. A new store opened up quite close to us at the end of March and now trips to Primark seem to be my measure of progress. What's even better is I don't have to battle a trip on the bus, as this store is on a retail park. Which means in theory you can park right outside. And that of course means you can buy more (wink wink) because you don't have to lug your bags too far and have them break before you get home. The store is also open until 8pm, which is great because it's so quiet of an evening and you can have a good browse. 

Below is an assortment of some clothes and accessories I've purchased over the past 2 months, which hopefully means they're still in stores if anything catches your eye. And I've included all the prices. Apologies in advance for the creases most of them haven't been worn yet.


navy printed maxi dress

I love a maxi dress, they're just so effortlessly chic and perfect for night or day. This navy print one has two small slits on either side, so not as much hiding the fact you've still not shaved your legs. But the smaller slits make it less likely to get caught in your wheels, if like me you're in a wheelchair. Although that does still need to be tested. 

dusky pink pleated skirt

I love the length of this skirt at just over the knee, it's not too long it looks frumpy or swamps you if you're short, like many of the pleated skirts out there do. It's perfect for a modern vintage look. The only annoying thing is the label has been sown onto the waistband with black thread so it leaves a mark which you need to unpick.

navy polka dots pleated skirt

Another gorgeous pleated skirt but slightly shorter for a more playful look. It's so pretty!

Black crepe playsuit with crochet detailing

I don't usually opt for a playsuit just because they're such a faff when you need to go to the loo. Plus with chronic pain and lack of mobility you need clothes to be as easy wear as possible. But this caught my eye and I'm hoping it won't annoy me too much. I think it's perfect for nighttime or daytime too. A good all round piece for holidays.

powder blue sun dress with crochet detail straps

Each year Primark bring out some gorgeous sundresses that are simply perfect for wearing over a bikini when you want to cover up. But they're also pretty enough that you could wear them out too. As ever they come in a large variety of colours and you'll struggle to stop at just one. Especially if you're like me and if you find something you like you bet you'll want it in different colours. As demonstrated below. 

crochet detailed sundress in blush and navy
£6 each

sundress with crochet detail in navy and red
£5 each

A slightly simpler sundress option this year is this one, with crochet detail on the bust and hem. Again perfect for covering up over your bikini. They also come in white and lemon yellow. I'm oh so tempted to get the yellow one.

v neck cardigan in navy and blush
£6 each

Cardigans are such a staple wardrobe item for all year round and Primark is always great for basics. There are so many colours and some patterned ones. They also do round neck ones and ones with gold detailing on the buttons. 


Primark pyjama section is possibly the most  popular section in the store. How many YouTubers have you heard say they can't go into Primark without going to the pyjama section? And probably making a few purchases too. And frankly, nor can I. Most the pyjamas I have bought recently though have been gifts so I don't have photographs of them. And unfortunately some have not washed too well before I got chance to photograph them, which is a shame. It seems some do and others not so much. 

princess pyjama set
This is a photo of the label 

I couldn't resist these. Especially given it was May and a group of us dress as Princesses for M.E awareness day to raise funds for charity. I never usually go for branded or character pyjamas but these I made an exception for. Unfortunately the print on the top has already started to break apart though and the glitter rubber has all started too peel off. Not so pretty princesses now. If you do want these though they are with the folded sets so you may need to look a bit more closely.

floral print shorts

There's so many gorgeous prints of pyjama shorts at the moment. Some you could totally wear out and get away with wearing pyjamas as day wear. Says me. And they're such a bargain


navy faux suede pointed flats

I love Primark's shoe section. There's just so much choice and lots of 'dupes' of designer or dearer high street shoes, but at a fraction of the price. And they're actually quite comfortable. Again says me that can't walk very far. These flats are just such a staple and can be styled with so many different outfits. I love the gold trim too.

nude diamante flip flops (wide)
nude chunky heel sandals
blush flip flops with gold bow 

So, I guess I like nude shoes! They just go with everything though, which is perfect if you can't fit as many shoes as you would like in your suitcase.

 I love the diamante ones as I think you could wear them in the daytime by the pool but also will dress up an outfit for nighttime. They also come in black. 

I've been after some nude heels for a while, as I think they're a good cheat for making your legs look longer. I originally wanted some court shoes with a small heel (and probably still do) but the court shoes I find don't fit the arch of your foot very well. But I saw these and thought they'd look nice for Summer and they fit well.

 And the last pair are just a basic pair for the daytime but the gold filigree bow adds a nice touch. They have them in loads of different colours too.


padded bag in cream 

I've wanted a cream bag for a while and this caught my eye. Whilst it's not a direct dupe of a Chanel bag, I think the padded effect does give it more of a designer look. But for only £7!! It's a nice size too. I also like the chain detail on the strap but that that doesn't go over your shoulder, as that can be a bit cold and annoying if you're wearing a strappy top or dress.

pale blue satchel bag

If I'd have seen the cream bag before seeing this one I'm not sure I'd have got this one, but hey now I have 2 new bags. And I still do like this one. Especially as I wear a lot of blue. What I really like about this bag is the clasp, it really locks in place (provided you do it right). And unless you know the knack to opening it, it's super secure, which I feel would be great for being in the city or busy transport.

white and gold large button studs
pale blue and gold studs

My final items are these earrings, both are such great value and I've never had a problem with Primark jewellery. The white ones are not really to my taste as they're a bit too big for my liking but I got them to wear as part of my Cinderella costume. They have so much gorgeous jewellery in at the minute. 

Everything else I got were gifts. Oh and quite a few bags of those dark chocolate coconut chips, you might have seen people mention. They're rather yummy. It's funny to see there's quite a few healthy snacks in there lately. It's becoming the place to go for so much stuff beyond clothes and accessories, from healthy snacks to wrapping paper, travel adapters to sunscreen. You really could spend a lot of time and money in there. And with a store so close by I already am. Help!

Let me know what your favourite item was. Hopefully soon I'll get to wear them and post them on Instagram. Have you picked up anything nice in Primark recently?


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Make way, make way for Team Princess 2016

We're back!! And ready (as we can be) to take on M.E awareness day 2016 (Thursday May 12th) and build on the amazing achievements of the past two years. Team Princess have raised over £10,000 for M.E charities in the UK and Australia through our The Princesses and M.E events. That has gone towards funding biomedical research, drug trials and all the great services these charities offer to help support sufferers and their families. As well as helped to raise awareness for this much misunderstood illness.

Firstly who are Team Princess and what is The Princesses and M.E event?

Team Princess are a group of M.E sufferers and supporters that become Princesses for the day on M.E awareness day to raise awareness and fundraise for M.E charities. Individually each Princess is admirable, courageous, strong and brave. Even though they might not think so themselves. Facing adversity with optimism. As a group we're a sisterhood (including the men) that want the best for one another. Getting each other through the worst days and cheering for them on their achievements.

The Princesses and M.E event is held on May 12th, where members of Team Princess become Princesses and share photos to social media using the hashtags #teamprincess and #theprincessesandME. All in the name of raising awareness and raising money to help give sufferers support and hope. More details on how you can take part this year are below.

When I first had the idea I wanted to not only fundraise and raise awareness but also celebrate some of the fantastic people that I had got to know that shared a diagnosis and soon became friends. People who left me in awe of their determination, their strength, positivity in the face of adversity and their kindness. They were princesses in my eyes.

But I think the word Princess can conjure up images of diva strops (that's the illness not us), of being delicate, fragile and girly. That they are helpless and in need of rescuing, whisked off into the sunset to live a fairytale life. Yes at times we are helpless and feel no one can offer any genuine help, until rescue comes in the shape of a cure or at least effective treatment that allows us to regain a life we can only dream of. But what I see is far from fragile, helpless and hope-less, I see strong people facing adversity with courage and even humour. They're the kind of people that you want to learn from and get to know more. They're Princesses.

This year we want to ensure that that message doesn't get lost. That people don't just look at the photos and think "oh how pretty you look as a Princess." But see the reasons why you are a Princess and that for all you cope with you more than deserve to be a Princess for a day.

So on Thursday May 12th if you wish to join Team Princess and our The Princesses and M.E event what you need to do is:

1) Get in touch and let us know you'd like to take part. Either comment here, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Links to which are at the end of this post.

2) Set up a justgiving or btmydonate if you wish to set up an individual fundraising page. This is not compulsory and because many sufferers are too unwell to set up their own fundraising pages and keep up with them group fundraising pages for a number of charities have already been set up, to make things even easier should you wish to help Team Princess' fundraising campaign. You can simply share the links,(please note not all event pages for btmydonate have been set up yet but will be added as soon as possible). Here are the links (simply click on the page to go to the page):

Justgiving Team Page
Association for Young People with M.E
Action for ME
ME Association
Invest in ME
ME Research UK

BT mydonate
Smile for ME
Hope 4 ME and Fibro Northern Ireland
Tymes Trust

I've included more details about our fundraising campaign below. And a guide on how to set up an individual page is available here http://howtodealwithme.blogspot.com/2016/04/how-to-set-up-individual-fundraising.html

3) On May 12th dress up as a Princess. Dress up as much or as little as you like, or are able too. Over the years we have had full costumes, rewearing of wedding dresses, wearing a gorgeous dress you already have, Kate Middleton fashion inspiration, pyjama princesses or simply wearing a crown/ tiara. And let's not forget our men in their full Princess attire. Remember to put your health first and if you are too unwell to dress up on that date then of course you can choose another date should you wish or prepare your photos in advance. The point is you're a Princess regardless of what you are wearing. It's not a competition. Even if you simply use an app on your phone like snapchat or pic collage to add a crown it will still help make a difference. And any men that wish to take part but don't want to dress up as a Princess then being a Prince is great too.

4) On Thursday May 12th (or another date if you are too unwell) share a photo of yourself as a Princess to social media and use the hashtags #teamprincess and #theprincessesandme Be sure to post to our Facebook page too.

3) Alongside your photos write: "Today is M.E awareness day and to help raise awareness I've joined Team Princess. I'm a Princess because..."

Post about the characteristics you share with well known Princesses. Who if you look beyond the girliness you'll find stories of bravery, courage and fighting for what they believe in. Qualities that show you're strength and even your sense of humour. Here are some examples:

I ride around in a carriage/ noble steed. Also known as my wheelchair.

I'm in search of a fairytale.

 I feel like I could sleep for 100 years.

Just like the Princess and the pea the slightest discomfort means a restless night.

Because I have help to do chores and put on my shoes. Sadly unlike Snow White and Cinderella the animals have not been very cooperative to training.

Like Ariel I can't walk on land and want to be where the people are.

Like Belle you want adventure in the big wide somewhere.

Because I have been locked away from the world but never gave up on hope that one day things will change.

I long for the day a fairy godmother will arrive and tell me there's a cure.

Like Cinders staying out past midnight leaves you worse for wear.

Brainfog means that just like Cinders we're likely to leave things behind.

One of the quotes you try to live by is 'have courage and be kind.'

Because I am brave and face the beast that is M.E each day. And just like Belle as each day passes I am learning to tame the beast and find the beauty that life still has to offer.

Being brave enough to try to change your fate like Merida.

You're a warrior, like Xena or Mulan, but battling against chronic illness.

Like Kate and Diana I champion a cause and campaign for change.

5) End your post with: "Myself and thousands more are desperately hoping for a fairytale, for a magic potion that will help treat and cure this villain of an illness. You can help us achieve that by helping us raise awareness and donating at..."

5) Link to either the teams fundraising pages or your own fundraising page.

And that's all you need to do to be a member of Team Princess. We'll be sure to share your photos across our social media too, to help raise awareness and ensure they reach as wide an audience as possible. If you don't want your photo on a certain social media then please let us know.

Once again this year we want to support the cause as a whole which means supporting and helping as many M.E charities as possible. Here in the UK fundraising pages are set up on justgiving for Action for ME, Invest in ME, ME Association, Association for Young People with ME, reMEmber, ME Research UK and on btmydonate for Smile for ME, Hope 4 ME and Fibro Northern Ireland and Tymes Trust. These will be group pages and be open from April 12th.

 You are also welcome to set up your own fundraising page, should you wish to do so, which can be linked to the overall team page on justgiving so that we can keep track of our overall total. Having your own page will be best if you plan to sell or giveaway items in return for donations. If you plan to do this or hold an auction please let us know in advance as there are rules and regulations that need to be put in place which you will need to be made aware of before setting up your page. Also please note that no online raffles can be held due to licencing laws.

 Princesses that wish to set up their own fundraising pages are free to choose which charity they would like to support. We also ask that you respect individual members of Team Princess' choice of charity if they decide to set up a personal fundraising page and understand that their decision is based on their personal experience with that charity and the way they have helped them to cope with their diagnosis. However by being a member of Team Princess you are also supporting the cause as a whole, promoting unity and wanting to help as many charities that do so much for us.

Princesses in other countries that wish to take part please get in touch and we can look into how we can help charities in your country too. We'd love to reach as many charities as possible to help sufferers worldwide.

We'll also be supporting a lovely organization ran by an M.E sufferer called Spoonie Survival Kits, which sends survival kits to help brighten a sufferer in needs day. Money will be raised for these through auctioning an item for each charity/ organization, which will be held on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/MEprincesses. Dates for this auction are still to be confirmed.

As recently announced Amanda Carroll's beautiful paintings, as seen above, will also be auctioned on our Facebook page on the weekend of 21/22 of May. Amanda wishes to raise money for the ME Association. Full terms and conditions for the auction will be available to view on our Facebook page.

But wait there is even more information and plans! In the spirit of wanting to create a postive atmosphere and celebrate the kind, generous pillars of strength many sufferers are, the ones we see as real princesses who help get us through the worst days, throughout May we're going to be holding giveaways. Where each week you will be able to nominate a friend(s) (that has M.E) that you think is a Princess and share the love by stating the reasons why you think they're such a good friend/ princess. Each nomination will then be entered into a draw to decide the winner.

There will be four giveaways in total; one on our facebook page, one on instagram, one that is eligible for international (outside the UK) entries and one in which we celebrate our wonderful carers who take so much care of us. The first giveaway, which will be on our facebook page, will start on Wednesday April 27th and they'll be drawn every Wednesday. The rules for each giveaway will be clearly stated with each giveaway announcement. It's so exciting to think about making people feel special and to be giving away prizes that will help brighten someones day.

Finally watch out for our promotional posters and please retweet/ repost/ share them to help spread our message and raise as much awareness as possible.

On our social media accounts we'll also be trying to create a positive space. M.E awareness week can be quite tough for sufferers. As much as it's amazing to see M.E being mentioned so much and people using what limited energy they have to help raise awareness, it can also hard to see so many posts on your social media feeds. It can be very in your face, a stark reminder of reality and all the adversity; that life has not gone to plan. Because as sufferers we know full well the suffering and devastation this illness can cause. It's almost like rubbing salt in the wound. As mentioned it's difficult because awareness needs to happen to reach people outside of the community but if you are in that community it can stir up a plethora of emotions. So we want to create a little bit of a sanctuary. A place you can reflect on personal achievements and strengths. How you've learned to keep a smile on your face. And a place to celebrate others achievements and give them the support and kindness they need.

We're very excited about this years campaign and cannot wait to see how much of an impact we can make this year. 

Keep up to date with all things Princess on our social media:
Twitter: @teamprincess4ME
Instagram: @teamprincessofficial

Thank you for reading, and taking the time to learn more about Team Princess.