My first guest of 2021 in my RFD Question Time series is Caz, who is 32 and lives in the UK. She’s a freelance writer as well as a chronic illness & lifestyle blogger, running the blog Invisibly Me.
1. What inspired you to start blogging?
Some subconscious masochistic tendencies? Only joking. Blogging has been an incredible journey so far. I started shortly after having first stoma surgery; I never imagined I’d keep going after the initial three month honeymoon period but here we are, with InvisiblyMe evolving naturally ever since.
I wanted to share my experiences with invisible chronic illnesses and pain, and to help others feel a little less alone in what they’re going through. I also wanted to raise awareness, challenge stigma, cultivate a community vibe, and hopefully provide some advice and support. If I can make the tiniest positive difference to even one person then I’ll be happy with that achievement.
2. What advice would you give to other bloggers starting out?
Before making a start on a blog, sketch out the exoskeleton so that you’ve got a solid groundwork from which to start. What do you want to achieve with your blog? Do you want to be named or anonymous? Is it more personal or professional, or a mixture of the two?
I’d also suggest being 100% sure of your blog title and domain name before you get carried away because it could be a nightmare to change them further down the line.
3. What is your disability and how does it affect you on a daily basis?
I’ve got a rather boring shopping list of conditions, and there are no straightforward answers as to how I procured them. These include the likes of a stoma bag (ileostomy & no large bowel), chronic migraines, chronic pain, nerve damage, autoimmune connective tissue disease, Raynaud’s & erythromelalgia, bladder dysfunction from nerve damage, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, bronchiectasis & lung scarring, widespread inflammation, osteopenia and so on.
Sadly I didn’t keep the receipt for any of them so I can’t get a refund.
4. What do you love about being disabled?
I can’t say I ‘love’ having any of these conditions! Being chronically ill isn’t a choice, though I can appreciate the learning curves and silver linings along the way, albeit grudgingly sometimes.
For instance, I can appreciate how much more assertive it’s forced me to become. I’m more able to advocate for myself and I’ve learned a lot about health, medications and illnesses. I’m grateful for the chronic illness community, and the warmth there is in knowing others who ‘get it’ without judgement.
5. If you were given a pill to cure your disability, would you take it and why?
Absolutely, providing it didn’t trigger a myriad of new conditions like my first surgery did! I’d like to have the chance at a do-over, to train as a Clinical Psychologist and make a positive difference to the lives of others. I’d like to be physically more able to take care of myself and my parents. I always thought I’d have a solid career, settle down, then have a child and a family of my own. That life trajectory was something I’d taken for granted, and it’s painful once it’s ripped out from under you, and it’s not something I often talk openly about.
6. What has been your favourite concert or festival you’ve attended?
That’s easy because I’ve only attended one – Sonisphere. Raging with Metallica was an unforgettable experience. The porta loos were an experience I’d rather forget though.
7. If you were organising a music festival, which three acts would you book as your headliners?
Placebo, as my long-time favourite band from when I was in my teens.
Plus The Goo Goo Dolls and Mindless Self Indulgence. Then I’d have Biffy Clyro, The Distillers, Duran Duran, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Alanis Morissette, Hozier, Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine & Rammstein on the side stage.
8. If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Japan. This is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go for many reasons, including the culture, aesthetics and environmental beauty. When I was around 18, my ex and I would talk about going to Japan. In the years after we broke up, he apparently made it over there, and although part of me was a little heartbroken, the bigger part of me was glad that at least one of us made it. Walking it on Google maps is probably the closest I’ll ever get to Japan.
9. If you got stranded on a deserted island, what three things could you not live without?
Oh, how times have changed. Years ago it would have been my MP3 player, lip balm and phone. These days it’s probably my prescription painkillers, stoma bags and an iPad filled with thousands of Kindle books to keep me company.
10. What is your favourite film and why?
Donnie Darko. Granted it’s not the best film out there, but it’s one I re-watched countless times during my teenage obsession with it. I love the unusual premise, the curiosity it sparked, Jake Gyllenhaal (needs no explanation), and the awesome 80s soundtrack.
11. Who would you like to play you in a movie of your life?
Angelina Jolie, but she would need to get rid of the boobs and several inches in height.
12. What is your favourite book and why?
I love to read but there’s no way I could choose a single favourite as I’m too indecisive and there are oodles of amazing books to appreciate. I’m a sucker for American crime thrillers, so I have a selection of much-loved authors I tend to cycle between, like Karin Slaughter, James Patterson, Tami Hoag, and Gregg Hurwitz.
I also read something a little different recently – A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – and it was the most beautifully heartbreaking book I’ve ever read. I can’t remember having cried at a book before, but I did with this one. And I’m a snotty crier.
13. If you were to write an autobiography, what would you call it?
I told you I was sick : A homage to everyone that fobbed me off over the course of a decade.
14. If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I’m not sure if this is a serious question or a time-machine hypothetical. If it’s the latter then I’d go to the swinging 60s for the happy vibes, free love, flares, platforms and peace, dude!
If it’s the former, then I’d go back to when I was 19. I would have pushed harder with the doctors to make someone believe me and take me seriously. I wouldn’t have broken up with the love of my life the way I did; I would have been honest about the health issues I’d developed, the chronic constipation that made me unbearably embarrassed. I would have fought harder than I thought possible.
If I had received the medical help I needed back then, it could have saved me years of grief and heartache, I never would have sought the private referral for my first surgery, I wouldn’t have a stoma and my health wouldn’t have gone down the metaphorical toilet. But the ‘what ifs’ do nothing but keep you stuck in the rose-tinted ‘good old days’ while living resentfully in the now.
15. If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?
A cat so I could sleep and chillax without a care in the world. I’d have the humans wrapped around my tiny little paw, catering to my every whim.
16. What is your worst habit?
Does over-stressing count as a bad habit or as a talent? Either way I’m very good at it.
17. Are you an early bird or night owl?
Neither these days! In theory, I’m a bit of both, especially during periods of insomnia.
18. Which is your favourite season and why?
Summer because then I’m no longer dressed like the Michelin man and I can properly move my arms! My body feels the cold a lot since getting ill, so chilly ol’ Blighty isn’t ideal. If only I could get a prescription for Australian sunshine.
19. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A vet, until I learned that animals could die. A pop star, until I realised I couldn’t sing. A lawyer, until my teacher told me it was her husband’s career as a lawyer that led to their divorce. I wanted to be an FBI agent (and secretly still do) until I realised I’m not American, I just wish I was. Lastly, a psychologist. That was the only one that stuck.
20. What is your dream job?
Clinical psychologist. I have a first class self-taught Psychology degree that feels utterly wasted. Prior to my first surgery, I’d always thought my health would get better and I was sure I’d get my post-graduate degree and work first within the NHS, then probably private practice later on.
Admitting this will never happen as my health gets worse has not been easy. I’ve always found the notion of forensic psychology fascinating, too. The fall-back dream job would be a best-selling author, but having not started on the first page after all these years might be a small problem. I’ve got a better chance of becoming a pop star or a swimwear model. You never know.
You can also check out other RFD Question Time interviews.
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