It is my great pleasure to have this wonderful soul over on the blog today. Kelly contacted me earlier in the year, when my blog was new, my head and heart were still submerged in grief, and I didn’t know which way was up. Her kind words and honest take on life lifted me up, and her journals have given me a wonderful way to focus my mind and calm my anxiety each day. For this I am eternally grateful. She truly is one of the good ones in life, and I hope you’ll all give her a warm welcome……
I first met Elle (I mean “Instamet”) back in March this year. Elle was someone who was using all she had within her to turn pain into positive change, raise awareness and indeed raise money too. She was quite simply, one of the most inspiring and bravest women I’d ever seen, so I reached out to gift her one of my wellbeing journals in the hope to give something back to her.
Love Yourself Lean
‘Love Yourself Lean’ was born out of the concept that to be healthy in mind, body and soul, you need to focus on all areas of your health; spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically.
The concept was to do something each day for one area of your health. It might be a run, meditation, or simply a duvet day with copious amounts of tea. The key to success was balance. It required daily entry of your water intake, hours slept, food eaten as well as finding something to be grateful for. In addition to all this, each page was covered in pretty doodles, so you could colour and make each entry a mindful activity in itself.
Each month, you were encouraged to review your activities to see if you were achieving balance, as well as choosing a negative thought to leave behind, and an affirmation suitable going forward. Repetitive, simple but effective.
My motivation for creating the journal came from my own tragedy, which manifests itself in the form of Huntington’s Disease. There is far too much information to give a true depiction of what this disease did to me as a person, however it was my own personal experience that led me to creating this little book of magic; so I want to share a snapshot of that with you.
At age 18, I was given the devastating news that my Mum had a genetic condition called Huntington’s Disease. The disease has no cure and is terminal. It eats away at the brain taking a person’s ability to walk, talk, eat and even think. It doesn’t kill you, but rather keeps you alive until you are so weak that something else does and there was a 50% chance I had it too. The thing that sticks in my head more than anything in that moment was Mum struggling to catch her breath saying “I just pray you two are okay”. The guilt was destroying her, more than the disease. All she cared about was us. It broke my heart to see her feeling that way, and as a mother myself now, I understand the true depth of that fear.
Today Mum has 24-hour care, and thanks to my amazing Dad, is still living at home and about to move into an extension at the back that he has built to prevent her from having to go into a home.
I spent 13 years agonising over whether to test. There’s something pretty intense in testing for a disease that will take everything away from you and seeing the disease take over your mum daily; a mirror snapshot of your own future happening to the person you love most in the world. The only way I can describe the feeling, is that it’s like living your life with a gun pointed at your head 24 hours a day; not knowing if it’s loaded, and if it is, when it’s going to go off. I’ll spare you the extremity of my darkness, mainly because I’ve survived a big part of my life being a joker and I don’t want to bum you guys out, but it was pretty, bloody rubbish.
Two years ago, I was introduced to meditation. It encouraged me to surrender to my feelings and channel them in a more positive way. It taught me to express gratitude and build skills to compartmentalise my struggles instead of allowing them to become an overbearing black cloud over all the good. I learnt to take control of Huntington’s Disease and grow a power within that felt more powerful than the disease itself. The journal was born.
Orders were flying out quicker than I could gift wrap them, and life was one hundred miles an hour. My boyfriend, Kevin, and I had discussed testing and decided that I wouldn’t find out. I was a “live in the moment” gal and took life as it came. It was such a relief to finally make that decision. We were going to look into PGD (A form of pre-implantation that removes the risk of Huntington’s Disease for the baby) and just focus on the positives.
Life was totally going to plan; that was until I found out I was pregnant. I swore that I would sacrifice motherhood if I was the last one in my family to inherit HD, but at the same time, I had this uncontrollable urge to burst into tears of happiness after not knowing if children would ever happen for me. My dream was to become a mother, and the thought that this might be taken away from me was terrifying beyond belief. I booked my test immediately, and decided that the baby came first. No matter what happened, I was not giving up on this little bean growing inside my tummy until I knew what lay ahead for me (and inevitably for them). The motherly instinct kicked in with full force, and on my birthday, I was tested. Cracking birthday that was! I went home and stuffed my face with pizza and watched Dumb and Dumber in a bid to lighten the weight of the world on my shoulders. The wait for my result was the most intense experience of my entire life. The day finally came, and I am both relieved and grateful to say, that I tested negative, and got the absolutely blessing of an opportunity to continue my pregnancy and have a beautiful baby boy named Freddie. I will never stop being grateful for that.
Rebranding to The Bee’s Knees
Motherhood is a life changing experience. It comes in a variety of shades, with no mother’s experience the same. However, whatever that experience is, it changes you forever.
It is with this, that I felt compelled to rebrand! I still believed in the journal, but I wanted to make it more inclusive; something for all. That word “lean” had been bugging me for a while. It just felt very “You can’t sit with us”. As a new mum, my body was a million miles from the picture “Bey” saved on my camera roll, and I really was not watching what I put in my mouth! Documenting what I ate and worrying about my body was the last thing I needed.
It’s important to say that I still believe a balanced diet to be important. I am looking forward to the time when I feel ready to take control of that again. But, right now, it’s not a priority; and that doesn’t mean I can’t be balanced, happy and healthy in the whole sense.
Here was born, The Bee’s Knees. Born out of a love for the good old days, when a warm jammy doughnut fresh from the bakery was like hitting the jackpot, and learning to swim without armbands basically meant you were in the Olympics.
It’s about slowing down and taking check. In an age that’s filled with achievers and believers, I wanted to encourage people to be content. Because otherwise where does it end?
With the food log removed, and a chance to take time away from technology added, this journal took a less than modern twist on the old version. Capturing what was ‘the bee’s knees’ that day? It could be reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, or perhaps reaching the front door and making it outside for some fresh air. Both amazing.
The thing is, I don’t believe mindfulness is some unattainable, spiritual, parallel-universe that only the elite with their calm and serene beauty can enter into. Mindfulness, to me, is the basic concept of being present. It’s there for all of us; in all its toasted teacake warmth.
To me, there’s a difference between happiness and feeling happy. We can’t feel happy all the time. Nobody is happy all the time, I am certain that even Mr Tumble has his moments?! We only know what happy feels like, because we know what sadness feels like; right? We need to use every emotion to truly live; and that’s okay. In fact, that is special.
I’ve learnt that happiness, is the skill of knowing what you need at a certain time in your life to be content. That brings a whole range of emotions, and I for one, aspire to encourage people to be true to themselves, and do what is needed to find their ‘happiness’. The truth is, we are all bloody winging it aren’t we? None of us can control what comes into our lives. We can only choose how we react to it, and each day is a new day.
I am proud to now fundraise for HD, helping to support families like mine. I am also committed to raising funds for a plethora of other charities throughout the year. So far I have raised £150 for Teddy’s Legacy, with a further fundraising project ongoing at the moment (see below); £500 for Tommy’s The Baby Charity, and £500 for the HDA. For the month of December I am fundraising for Winston’s Wish and hope Christmas sales will raise some funds to help them give support to families who have lost loved ones.
If we can learn to give a little love, share a little truth and be a little more honestly, I believe we can put the brakes on this treadmill, and gift a little happiness and normality to many. Let’s learn to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Thank you for taking the time to read, and thanks to Elle for the opportunity to share my story. Feel free to come and say ‘Hi’ over on the ‘gram.
Kelly is very kindly donating £4 from each Bees Knees “Bee Print” sold until the end of November to Teddy’s Legacy fund. Click here to shop.