2017 MUST Be Better

This year...

2016 was a really hard year, I think we can all agree on that.  I know from me personally it was probably the hardest year I have had to deal with.  But this is a new year so I don’t want to focus on the bad –I want to focus on the good that is to come.

If 2016 taught one thing, it’s that your perception of any situation is everything. The way you perceive a situation will dictate the way that you handle it.  So I knew it was important to go into 2017 with the positivity that I would carry with me for the rest of the year.  Start as you mean to go on – isn’t that what they say?

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On Monday January 2 I did something I don’t normally do. I organised myself for the next morning; clothes selected, make up at the ready, handbag packed – I even picked out matching socks! For 2017, I wanted to make more of an effort with my appearance. I spent most of 2016 with my hair in a messy bun, makeup-less, and wearing clothes that didn’t even match at times. In 2016 sometimes I just didn’t care. But this is a New Year so I’m going to care more. I’m happy to say that this is one resolution I have kept up so far. And considering we’re only a week in, that’s longer than most of my resolutions have lasted previously.

The next day saw one of the more dramatic changes – a good 12 inches was cut off my hair by my stylist at Colours.  New Year, new me. I cant really describe what a big change this was, so I’ll leave you with the before and after photos instead.

Before....
Before….
...And after!
…And after!

The final change to bring into the New Year with me was to make my lifestyle healthier. I one to see a change in my body.  People think that I exude confidence. But those of you who know me will know that I suffer with depression and self-confidence problems. At times in 2016, this depression crippled me and at one point I allowed it to takeover my life. It affected my confidence; it affected my ability to work; it affected my relationships.  The talk therapy and the meds definitely help, but I felt I needed an overall lifestyle change.

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So I have started a new health and fitness regime.  I signed up for a year with Dan Sweeney Health and Fitness. As well as tailoring a workout plan to help me tone up, I have also gotten a lot of guidance around nutrition and my food choices. From what I’ve read from others who struggle with their mental health, diet can have an effect on recovery too.  Just like it does with the physical health.  So today is the day that I do my first big food shop for the new diet.  I can’t wait to see the results –  physical and mental.

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Don’t Let Pride Get in Your Way

Flash back to the end of August.  I’d had a pretty jam-packed summer; trips to Dunmore East, Liverpool and Inis Mór.  And now I was settling down to start my masters in Government, back in UCC.  So I’m out shopping for the typical college stuff (pens, papers, highlighters) when I get a phone call.  Its from the Irish Guide Dogs Centre and they’ve found a place for me on one of their Independent Living Courses.  The course is taking place for the entire following week so I accept my place, pack a bag, and take all kinds of gear with me as its a residential course.  Sounds like I did it without even a second thought, doesn’t it? Except there was a second thought, plenty of second thoughts.

Sometimes, I find it really intimidating to partake in some of the workshops/sessions/fun-days that are run for people like me with vision loss or blindness.  I find some courses to be a total box ticking exercise – its a case of “ah sure we’ll run that course now and we’ll be done then for the year”.  Depending on the organisation of some courses, you can go in waiting to feel empowered and then come out totally deflated.  This was definitely a fear I had and kept thinking about all the way out to the Guide Dogs Centre in Ballincollig.  I had all these reasons in my head why I didn’t need to go/why I shouldn’t go:

 

– I manage grand at home, I can do some things

– I don’t really need help from anyone else, I can sort it myself, why does everyone think I need heaps of help?

– If this is a box ticker in any way, I’m high tailing it out the door.

 

Well, what a surprise I got!

 

Arriving on a Monday, I was given most of the day to settle in and meet the others in the group, as well as the course instructors and the other staff.  Together, we all got a tour of the building, and got to grips with the facilities that were there for us to use during our stay.  Then one of our instructors explained the structure of the week to us, which basically consisted of us learning during the day, and making our own fun at night.  The course was open for us to do what we wanted with it.  So as a group, we all came to a consensus about what we wanted to cook for lunch and dinner that week, made a list of what ingredients we needed, and decided on some extra household related things we wanted to learn too.  So we decided on smoothies, lasagne, casserole, curry, wraps, pittas, banoffee pie, and brownies.

Now, the whole point isn’t to learn how to make these specific foods, its really to equip us with skills we can use to make all kinds of meals for ourselves, and by extension of that, to make ourselves more independent in a safe way.  We learned how to use our other senses to tell how well our food was cooked (sound, smell, touch), what foods or sauces we were using (smell, touch), how to layer foods (touch, sound), how to use particular appliances safely (touch, sound), and how to make sure our area was clean after we’d cooked without necessarily using sight.

While we did have our instructors with us the whole time we were in the kitchen, it was still a case of “you must cook this – no one else will cook it for you”.  And that is exactly the kind of Independent Living Course someone like me needs.  Its about empowering ME to do something and finish a job MY WAY, no matter how different it is as long as its safe.  It is so daunting at my age to realise that in the next year to three years, I’ll be living on my own, cooking on my own, cleaning on my own.  And its daunting because I’ll be the one in charge of me, I won’t always have my parents or my brother to fall back on.  And I know they must wonder about it, as do I, thinking “Will she manage?  Will she cope?”.  So for me. getting these kind of skills was massively important.  It doesn’t just benefit me, it benefits those around me too.

Pride is a good thing.  But pride could have put a stop to me going out to the centre and learning all these fantastic, new, and badly needed skills.  Pride could have stopped me meeting new friends and us all sharing our experiences with one another.  I’m so glad I took that particular leap of faith and didn’t let my hesitation or previous experiences stop me – I would have lost out on so much.  I can’t speak highly enough of the training and empowerment I got from this course, words could never describe it well enough  It taught me a lot about not letting pride stand in my way too.

 

If you would like to support the work of the Irish Guide Dogs For The Blind, or want to find out more about their services, please click here where you can donate through their webpage or search through the different types of courses run.

 

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