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I’ve always wanted to write and share stories. It is a part of who we are and where we have come from as Irish people.

“Seanchai stories are about local events, family sagas and short accounts of fairies and other supernatural beings. These stories were traditionally told by either men or women…..These stories were…

Source: Storytelling is the Flagship of Irish folklore

“It’s not a singles ad you’re writing Peter! I like long walks on the beach, swimming, cooking and reading.” “I know it’s not a singles ad, I’m just trying to give them a little idea of my hobbies …

Source: ‘The Confessional’ is Open

MTV got there before me with ‘The Real World’ so I can’t rename the work experience module in further education as that. I doubt I’d get away with pushing through ‘Cop the f**k on’ or ‘Mature now or else!’ as working titles for the module either.

Yes there is the actual job to learn about, there are the skills to learn, practice or hone and of course there are opportunities to to put new skills learnt in the classroom into practical action. However what is just as important is the bits and pieces that go along with the job.

Apart from a brief 3 month spell spell of part-time work last summer I’ve been out of work for 5 years. Under ‘normal’ circumstances spending 2 weeks in an archive, working on 3 collections of documents from around the time of Ireland’s birth would seem like a job description written for me.

However as I’ve said many times what has been ‘normal’ for me recently? What has been ‘normal’ for you recently? Probably not much.

So starting my stint of ‘the real world’ I was a man-child mix of experience and knowledge on one hand, anxiety and lack of confidence on the other. Boundless enthusiasm and desire to work hard and impress on one hand, aching skeleton and sore muscles on the other. Fully aware I’m great in groups and making people feel comfortable, petrified of ringing the doorbell and starting.

The work itself was amazing. I worked on a database of images called the ‘Birth of the Republic’. Another included cartoons from a monthly satirical magazine called the Lepracaun which had a run from 1905-1915. The third database I worked on was digitising newsletters from a local youth club scaling over 15 years through the 40’s and 50’s. Some of the advice given to the boys really shows the generational changes, including not to be drawn in and corrupted by the immoral and supposedly glamorous lifestyle depicted in the movies.

Working in the quieter environment of the library and archive was great for my arthritis. I was able to sit down as much as I wanted and move about when I needed. However the hours spent staring at the computer screen was very draining. So while the job was not physically demanding, it was mentally tiring to focus on the screen for so long. I also had to have strict attention to detail and be diligent in the work to make sure the artefacts were stored in 3 places with the same archive numbers and location points.

Outside of the work, I found the commute very difficult. Leaving the city at rush hour meant it was pot luck for a seat and losing out meant arriving home exhausted. Then it became a spoons contest. Will I cook dinner or shower? How will I prepare breakfast and lunch for tomorrow? Do I have the energy to iron my clothes? Will I leave the bins until tomorrow to put out? Is it ok to go to bed at 6.30?

The job itself was fantastic. It was quieter than anything I’ve ever done before but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Experiencing going to work however brought some other factors to mind.

Working 9-5 meant getting blood tests, repeat prescriptions, making phone calls to the medical team were all much more difficult. Travelling at rush hour made getting a seat a game of chance and that had too many knock on effects to be sustainable for a commute of over an hour into the city.

Working in the city and being away from home for the day costs money. Every so often there’ll be a coffee to be bought, a lunch to have or something else. That’s all well and good when you’ve a few quid in your pocket but what happens when you’re less well off working than you are off work?

I want to work, I want to get the sense of achievement of accomplishment but it can’t cost me to do that. I have benefits and allowances that come from arthritis and the changes it has wrought on my life. Provided they can be offset by my wages I will go back to work.

Will it be in a library and/or archive? It’s certainly not been ruled out after my exposure to the ‘experience’. I have some more work experience coming up at a heritage site which will let me see what giving tours and being in an interpretive centre is like.

I’ll review the situation after that stint as well and then we’ll see what happens after I finish this years course. I’m no closer to knowing whether I’ll be looking forward to working, studying or volunteering when I finish in May but I’m glad of one thing; I’m all the better for the experience.



Back To Work

I’m going back to work next week! Well, work experience anyway.

A little like a politician before an election I made promises about keeping you updated about my life back in college. Then I got in and what happened? I kept telling myself I’d get to that promise I made tomorrow or next week or when I had a second. The major problem for me is I chose an Arts course when I went back to school.

Arts is a broad sweep of subjects and areas. I’ve researched a family member who fought in 1916 and my family tree, taken and developed my own black and white photographs and I’m studying the excavation of the Viking settlement at Wood Quay in Dublin all in the last month or so.

That’s not to mention the journalism, the European studies, the folklore, the politics and the other modules to be studied. All in all to do well in an arts course, there is lots of reading to be done and lots of writing about that reading. Anyone who has done English and History for their leaving certificate can imagine the type of work involved.

As I told you all before I was keeping up with all my lectures and assignments but the volume of work has left me with little head space for the other things in my life. I’ve scaled back the volunteering; this blog has gone on the long finger and my mates? Well if you’re still there lads I’ll be back in circulation soon. (I did break my phone screen 8 days ago, so I’m quite literally incommunicado at the moment!)

But anyway back to work fella.

It might only be work experience I’m going into on Monday morning but who knows who I might meet, who I might impress and what may follow afterwards. I’ve two sets of work experience lined up in the culture and history fields and I’ll know lots more about my plans and possibilities after them.

I’d love to be able to get back to work full-time, I’d also love to carry on studying and carry on up the education ladder. The issue as always is management and control.

I have a feckin’ management degree but that has been of no use to me this year in managing school and arthritis/fibromyalgia. It is a direct result of the commute, the reading, the assignments that I have nothing left each day. To borrow the old chronic illness phrase; ‘I’ve no spoons left.’

I’ve been in decent form; I just haven’t been able to tell anyone because once I get home from college that’s it for me. I know there’s a little bit of Season Affected Disorder in that but mostly it’s the crushing fatigue and pain.

So I’ve coped alright with being in school five days a week and working on assignments and the rest. Now I’ll have five days of work with longer contact hours but less work to do outside of that so I’m hoping they’ll balance out to the same thing.

One way or the other I’ll give it my best shot next week. The whole point of going back to education was to retrain and find a new job so this was always part of the process. I’ll be a bit nervous, who isn’t starting a new job, but I’ll ask my questions and learn the ropes as quickly as I can.

So I’ll make you a delicate promise. I will try to tell you how my work placement goes but if I don’t, that doesn’t mean it went badly. I’m hoping it means that it has gone really well but I just don’t have the spoons left to write about it.

Wish me luck.

I Hate You Too!

Have I got your attention? I mean really got it? Good. Because this is very important and it is vital that I make you all understand how much I mean this; I hate you too!

I’m an Irishman, at least according to one definition. I’ve plenty of different definitions of what an Irishman is and since starting to study history, culture and heritage this year I’ve added a few more. Not all of them would get popular approval but for the purposes of this post, I am an Irishman. I was born in Dublin, so were my parents and my grandparents on the island of Ireland.

So the fact that in the late Autumn and heading towards Winter it rains in Ireland comes as no shock to me. Unfortunately in Ireland we don’t get nice, healthy showers of rain and then clear skies to follow. Instead we get heavy, murky, grey clouds that hang about 100 feet in the air above us sweating a fine, constant mist that soaks to the skin. But it’s not always misty, every so often we get a massive downpour of heavy rain when God realises the tap is dripping and instead of turning it off, turns it on to full! (if only he/she/they would turn it off afterwards instead of putting it back to dripping)

Anyway this morning I knew this was the type of day that we had in store. Not a difficult thing to know I hear you say but I did it while laying in bed under my duvet. I’ve spoken about this before but this morning was exceptional. I lay on my back and could feel the fibro flare in my shoulders and knees in particular.

My arthritis has caused me pain in the last few months but today was pure fibromyalgia pain and there is a difference believe me. Around my shoulders the muscles were so sore and fatigued I could have swam the Channel yesterday. It felt like somebody was standing on my shoulders pushing them down, so much so that head and neck felt like they were about 5 inches higher. The pain of the fatigued muscles and the joints being in the wrong positions because of fatigued muscles was ridiculous.

The same was true of my knees. Where my thighs and hamstrings were too tired to work correctly and knees felt like they wanted to push down to the floor through my mattress. Oh f**k me did my knees hurt!

As I lay in my bed on my back, my knees and shoulders trying desperately to burrow down through the mattress and the rest of my body feeling like a dead weight, impossible to lift, I heard myself say; “it must be really heavy clouds out there and that fine, misty rain that soaks you without you realising.”

I thought of the list of jobs I wanted to do this morning. The bank, the credit union, the post office, the shops were all to be visited on my mid-term since I can’t normally now I’m in college. I was pissed off at the timing of the weather. So as I began my gentle movements and stretching routine to see could I coax myself out of bed at least I cursed at the Irish weather of all things!

“See you, you bastard, I can’t believe your timing, with all the things I’ve to do this morning you decide to put this weather on and confine me to me bed? Well f**k you, I hate you too!”

Then I thought to myself that it was a bit of a waste of time hating the weather in Ireland because this is going to be the way of it for the next couple of months but………

I can still say “I hate you too!” and for it to be true. It might be sacrilege for an Irishman to say it but I can’t stand them. Every time Bono opens his mouth I want to shut him up and I’m not a fan of their music. So from now on whenever the weather is like it is this morning and you’re in pain from your fibromyalgia just blame Bono and his mates.

I know I will:)

We did it!!!

What a fantastic day we had on Sunday when we had upwards of 80 people become Tri-athletes and achieve their respective goals! What’s more, the elephant in the room for any outdoor event in Ireland in October, the weather, played ball too. So besides a heavy dew we had a still, dry and calm morning for everybody taking part.

It was an amazing way to kick-start National Arthritis Week and World Arthritis Day (October 12th). We had young and old, men and women, boys and girls, JA, RA, OA, Fibromyalgia and everything represented on the day. As always these things don’t just happen and the huge efforts put in by the organising committee and the help of all the volunteers and staff of Arthritis Ireland was vital in making the day as smoothly as it did.

But let’s get back to the athletes for it was their day after all.

It was about showing that no matter what type of arthritis we have, how long we’ve had it or how much it impacts us; when we set ourselves achievable goals and make a commitment to prepare and tick off the steps along the way we will get there. Alongside these athletes what was fantastic to see was all the friends and family on hand offering their encouragement and support.

It showed that we all have a support network and a community to tap into when we need to. Because there is nothing more certain than the fact that we will need help at some point. But it is there ready and willing to what it can for you. Your family, your friends, the national organisation or maybe most important of all ourselves.

Us as a group. Your brothers and sisters living with arthritis day-to-day who know exactly what you are going through and need no explanation of the difference between a good day, a normal day, a bad day and a duvet day, they’ll just get it and understand.

I was very unsure of how the event would pan out for myself with all the changes in my life recently and the level of disease activity but overall I’m chuffed with my achievements on the day. I’d a good bit of stewarding to do on the day but in amongst it I got my walk and cycle stages completed. I even think I would have given the swim a try but there wasn’t an opportunity to get in the pool, getting that far was a success for me.

I was immensely proud to have my Mam and Dad both complete the triathlon individually and also to have 7 more extended members of the clan complete the triathlon. My Dad had a big birthday last Friday so to see himself and my Mam out pushing themselves exercising and in good health made me feel both very proud and very lucky. The bar has been set for their ongoing activity levels now!

Before I go there is one very special little lady that I must mention from Sunday’s event. Anybody who knows me and has been at any arthritis event I volunteer at will know that kids and me get on really, really well. I’ll always be assigned to supervise the younger groups and nearly always I’ll have a couple of toddlers clamped to me for the day and my heart stolen by cute kids on their best behaviour before I hand them back to their parents.

On Sunday my heart-strings were tugged by a slightly older girl with JA but still a child. Her family had travelled across the country for the event for starters, she was determined that she would complete all the disciplines herself and, I found out later, she had raised an absolute fortune in sponsorship.

I was stewarding the swimming lane as the athletes finished the swim section which was the last discipline for our triathlon. This little girl’s Mam was standing on the poolside too and to see the smile that spread across this little one’s face as she climbed out of the pool was just unbelievable. Her sense of achievement, her pride, her happiness, her enjoyment were all visible and I have to say my heart melted and I felt proud for having helped organise the event.

If that doesn’t ensure we are back next year and the year after I don’t know what would motivate participants and volunteers to get involved.

This week is National Arthritis Week and yesterday was World Arthritis Day. Arthritis is an equal opportunities employer. It affects children, adults, men and women. Bring it up in conversation with someone this week and spread the awareness with this starting fact: “there are over 1000 children in Ireland living with Juvenile Arthritis.”

There’s just 4 days to go now until our Micro-Triathlon Dublin event takes place on Sunday morning. It has crept up on me very quickly and it is going to be more of a challenge to complete than it would have been when we started the planning process. At that point my full-time focus was arthritis and fibromyalgia self-management. I channelled my energies into that and used my extra spoons to do as much volunteering with Arthritis Ireland that I could and I even had a part-time job in a shop earning some money.

Fast-forward to this week however and my focus and concentration is being pulled in a few more directions. My full-time job now is going to college. It takes up the vast majority of my week, the vast majority of my spoons and leaves little time for anything other than recovery. I couldn’t continue to work alongside going to college and that is gone by the wayside. I must admit, even a self-management leader can let things slip on that front too. I’ve had to remind myself about the importance of appropriate rest, quality nutrition and putting time aside for exercise that will not only relax me but make me feel better too.

I’ve mentioned spoons a couple of times already in this post and lots of people with arthritis or chronic pain etc. will know exactly what I’m referring to but for those of you who don’t know, check out this link as our way of trying to explain chronic pain/fatigue every day.

So instead of feeling fit as a fiddle as I did in the summer and well able to take the Micro-triathlon in my stride, I’m on masses of steroids, sore and swollen and not sure how Sunday will go for me. But isn’t that the way you’re supposed to feel about challenges and goals? Yes the challenges are meant to be achievable but to make them worthwhile and worth the effort and training they can’t be easy and straightforward.

This was brought home to me in a big way last Friday night. I did a radio interview on 2fm’s Game On to share the details of the event and remind everyone that it is a participatory event, not a race and that it is all about accomplishment and finishing, not how quickly you complete the course.

To all intents and purposes I was just having a chat on the radio with Hugh Cahill but I was also listening to myself too. I was telling myself, and anyone who may have been listening, that it was ok to just complete the course next Sunday; that finishing the course at all will be an achievement. For every single one of us with arthritis or fibromyalgia or AS or Lupus or whatever who sets off on Sunday confident that we will finish our section, or all three sections, it will be a success.

It will be one back at any doctor who said ‘there’s nothing more I can do for you’. One back at a health professional who said it was all in our heads. It will be one back at the medication that didn’t work for us. It will be one back at the high heels you couldn’t wear last Saturday night (Never been a problem for me but I’ve heard it so often I had to include it! J )

All these things will be in my head and I hope will be in my fellow participants heads too. If you’re not able to take part this year, don’t worry we’ll be there next year and the one after and the one after that. The event will be getting bigger and getting stronger, we as a community will be getting bigger and stronger until we win and arthritis, of any form, no longer has any control over us.

It’s not about the race to the time when it happens, it’s all going about that sense of achievement when it comes.

(Follow this link for Friday’s Game On and fast forward to 48mins)

“Where’s the coffee??!!”

So it turns out I got the preparation thing all wrong. How do I get coffee into my body? Why is there only one socket in the classroom? Where’s the coffee? Since when did a one hour 10 minute train journey become a four-hour round-trip commute?

I finally started college last week, to the sound of people saying; ‘thanks be to God/Allah/Mohammed/Thor/Oprah (insert as appropriate) he’s started. He hasn’t stopped banging on about it since he got he’s place.’ To one and all I’m sorry, I was excited. Four years of volunteering and no study or paid work had left me slightly excited at meeting people and feeding the brain again.

The difficulty was (and is, will be) how much can my brain be fed? The fibromyalgia and its’ attendant fog of confusion, lack of concentration and soul-destroying fatigue doesn’t really inspire total confidence in a great student. How much could I realistically expect my brain to learn and adapt to before it put up its’ hands like Roberto Duran crying “No mas, No Mas!”?

I had never planned on writing last week. I knew I’d be overloaded with information and new things and my brain would be doing hula hoops trying to keep up. Sudokus, crosswords and lots of reading don’t prepare you for lectures, classrooms, timetables, new faces, early trains, long days and the rest.

So I gave myself the week to simply observe what went on. I tried and succeeded in everything I needed to. I interacted in all classes right to the end of the day and to the end of the week despite the incredible fatigue. I even dragged myself along to Culture Night for good measure.

All in all it was an amazing week. I made it to every lecture, I wrote or typed every note I had to and most importantly I’ve met some brilliant people, even if nearly all of them are scarily young. (Born in 1996/1997??) Everyone has a shared interest in the humanities and there is genuine passion in everyone for different areas of what is naturally a massively broad course.

Has it all been great?

Of course not.

I’ve found a lovely coffee shop across the road selling an incredibly reasonable €2 Americano but €2 a day every day is too much. For a serious coffee fiend like me portable instant is going to have to suffice.

Last week was extremely exhausting. When I wasn’t out I was sleeping or dreaming of sleeping or wishing I was sleeping. But anyone changing their so drastically would feel the same. So I’ve cut myself a little slack. Yes I’m tired, yes I’m going to bed earlier and earlier but I will find a routine.

Fatigue and concentration levels were always going to be a problem. The third problem was going to be pain. That too hasn’t let me off the hook. We generally describe pain in one of two ways, which I know from personal experience physio’s hate. it’s either a dull ache or a sharp stabbing pain.

My way to differentiate is usually the dull ache is a tired and stiff pain from over, or under, use. Sharp pain is the joint screaming, ‘there’s a f*****g here right now, fix me fix me fix me!’

The last three weeks has been the fix me type of pain. My hands and feet, my wrists and ankles, and my shoulders are on fire. They all hurt like there’s a loose chip inside the joint grating away. My ankles are locking, giving way and sore as sh1t when they crack. Some people might give out about the classes being in the same room but I’m chuffed. Let me stretch in my chair and around my chair and I’m happy. My hands and wrists are as sore as they’ve ever been. Yes I’m writing notes in class but it’s not a massive change because I write longhand anyway so it’s not a big increase.

So the steroids were whacked up again yesterday to hopefully get me up the hill. on the plus side I did manage to achieve something remarkable without even trying. I’m already through two courses of steroids and yet I’ve lost 3-4 kilos. It always goes the other direction so I’ve no idea what I’ve done but I’ll take it.

As I said I’m in a lot of pain with my hands and feet, my migraines are saying hello with the effort of concentrating and retaining information and I’m struggling to hold my hand up to shave every day.


Through all of this is the overriding feeling of accomplishment. I’m doing something, I’m out meeting people again and already I can see some possibilities for the future opening up before me. All I need now is for my body to keep up with me.

…….and a cup of coffee

Back to School

“What do I need to bring with me? What do I do?”

“Throw on a pair of jeans and a shirt and shove a score in your back pocket to buy yourself a pint when ye all head to the pub afterwards!”

It was September 2002 and the advice for this particular fresher was very straight forward. My sister had done the first day of college and knew how it went. Everybody would be a bit nervous and fidgety but if you sat through the speeches and the inductions and the tours, ‘someone’ would suggest a quick pint and off you’d go to begin the bonding that would be needed to get you all through to your degree.

I remember wandering over to the Sidewalk pub on Cathal Brugha Street that day as one of 30 or so leisure management students. We formed a massive circle, some had pints, some had cokes, some had nothing but we were in it together. Where would your friends be, the potential girlfriends, who did you want in your group for the assignments? It was all new, it was novelty and I flew by the seat of my pants really.

Last Wednesday I had an induction for my new course which starts next week. Times have changed since 2002 and so have I. I kept a close eye on who walked into the class to join us, not so much searching for friends and girlfriends, more, hoping to see a couple of students in my ‘mature’ bracket. There are 3 of us for sure and some of the others may be older than they look although if bar work has taught me anything it is to be a pretty decent judge of ages.

It is just a completely different attitude going back to college now. I’m studying a subject I’ve a massive interest in. I want to use this course as a springboard to more study and/or a new career. There will be students in the class who have no idea what they want to do and that’s fine but I’ve got to make the most of this from the very beginning while they might just be on the piss.

I’m worried about being seen as the grumpy older fella pushing things along and asking all the questions but feck it I’m not there for them I’m there for myself so I’ll just have to get on with it. Group projects could be interesting though as I immediately found myself biting my tongue as student after student strolled in later and later. (Worst case was 45 minutes late and then we were let go after 55 minutes!) In saying that though if time management is their worst trait things won’t be all bad. I’m sure they’ll come up with a fine list about me before too long anyway!

For me the big difference between college first time around and this is preparation.

In 2002 I planned nothing and went with what I wanted to do at the time. If I wanted to skip a lecture for a pint or a game of pool I did, if I fancied a lie on I had it and if I wanted to put up off my assignment to the last minute then I did.

Today I’m older, I’m a little wiser and life has taught me a few things that may even qualify me for my title as a mature student. From the moment I started looking at college courses I’ve been preparing and planning. I’ll have to manage my home, travel, studying and coursework like everyone else. I’ll also be doing this while managing my arthritis and fibromyalgia like plenty of people do and there may well be people on my course managing their own medical conditions too.

This adds to the planning and preparation I’ve had to do to make sure I’m ready to start next week and it is going to have a massive impact on my daily timetable to make sure I get through each day healthy and ready to go again.

This doesn’t make me special in any way, as I said plenty of people do this for college or work every week, it’s just that up until about 8 weeks ago I’m not 100% confident I believed I could be one of them.

There is such a big list of symptoms encompassed by my conditions but let’s take a look at just three and how they need to be considered if I’m to excel in college and use this as a springboard to where I want to see myself.


Every morning I’ll have to be on a train earlier than I’ve woken up at any time in the last four years. I’ll have a nearly 3 hour round trip commute and a full day of college for five days a week. I’ll have to fit in managing my home, the necessary exercise to keep the physical symptoms at bay, cooking the right food and all the little jobs that I’ve had all week to do for the last while. Between the extra activity and the early starts, I will have to watch my fatigue very carefully in case I burn the candle at both ends and run out of juice in double quick time. It may be necessary for my already limited social life to take a back seat while I settle into a routine, another doable decision. The young fella who started college in 2002 would be suggesting pints after college, coffees during the day and nights out to get to know everybody but Fibrofella is a different guy and will, due to necessity, put himself first and make the sensible choices.

Concentration Problems

The fatigue could also impact my ability to concentrate on my studies. There are times with my fibromyalgia that I can’t read a newspaper report or watch a film because I can’t focus on it so if this happens with a module in college, I’m really going to struggle to keep up. By being aware of the dangers, studying something I’m really interested in and planning in as much detail as I can I’m hoping to minimize any problems I may have with concentration. Getting enough exercise and enough restful sleep will help to keep my head clear. The ability to concentrate will be vital and hopefully the practice I’ve had from writing my books and reading consistently will stand to me when it comes to my required reading and preparing assignments. One thing is for sure I won’t be able to rely on last minute sessions to finish my assignments.


Pain is a constant companion for me at the moment. It’s there all the time whether I feel good or bad. Sometimes it is in the background but sometimes it is all I can focus on. But thankfully at the moment my head is in a good place so I can carry on even when I’m in pain. Extra activity will cause more pain. If I don’t manage my fatigue well and sleep right, the pain will increase and if I can’t concentrate on the subjects or I become stressed or anxious about the situation then my pain will probably increase. Luckily though I know that these are all possibilities and so I’ll be doing everything I can not to let them happen. And if they do? Well I’ve the coping skills and management techniques prepared to get me through that too.

So here I am older, wiser and a little better prepared for what college has in store for me.

If I can do it, you can too.

2015 – A Year of Two Halves

Hi my name is Fibrofella and it’s been 12 months since my last post. I never planned to take a year off but I found myself writing mostly about Depression and the grip it had on me and not the fibromyalgia, inflammatory arthritis and physical symptoms I was managing and continue to manage each and every day.

Had I written this post at the beginning of this year, it would have centred on my ongoing battle with depression. To use the most common euphemism; I was in a very dark place. I took myself off to a relatives place in Spain in March to read a few books and write one of my own. Before I went I occasionally contemplated not coming home at all, such was my lack of hope for the future.

Just as quickly as things can snowball in a negative way, they can gain momentum in a positive way. I began first off by getting a handle on the fibromyalgia and inflammatory arthritis I’m living with. I think the correct term for that would be acceptance. A good friend of mine wrote a post about this recently ( ) and I really related to the fact that I finally stopped denying that this was part of my life but also acknowledged that it wasn’t all of my life.

From there I began to look to the future, not with the fear and dread of how bad things were going to get but with the possibilities and potential that lay before me to make something of myself. I’m in my thirties and my generation will be working until we’re 70 so I’ve got plenty of time to work and make a positive contribution. I began to research college courses and the prospect of re-training for a job that will be less physical than the jobs I’ve had before.

I’ve also had 5 years of living on an extremely restricted budget, with amazing family support it must be said, but I’ve still got my home so money is nice but it’s no longer my primary motivator for a job. Instead I’m going to do something I’m passionate about and will be good at. So I’m going back to school in September to do a history and culture course; new schoolbag, pencil case and all. I want this to be a stepping stone to further study, to a job or even possibly to continue studying and possibly even teach or lecture at some point.

You see one small step into an adult education course and the world began to open up to me. I have options, I’m making plans, I have hope and I have ambition. Just six months ago I had none of these things; I couldn’t see any future worth coming home to Ireland for.

So once I saw the possibility of returning to school becoming a reality I thought about needing a few quid for pocket money. If I’m going to be hanging around with all the kids I’m going to need coffee and beer money, not that I drink but that costs more money than a beer these days!

So I’m on the road of getting a few hours work a week just to dip my toe in the water and earn real cash money again. It’s not much but it’s more than last year and I’m not going to complain. So now I’ve a course coming up, a few quid in my pocket and a future to look forward to. And all this came from taking a look at what courses where available for people on Disability Allowance in Ireland.

All of this comes with two big provisos of course. Is my depression gone? Hell no. Will I have setbacks? Hell yes.

I still have plenty of times where in spite of positivity I get seriously depressed and uptight. Are they the normal ups and downs of life or worse? I’m not sure, I know they are tough periods to deal with but thankfully I can now recognise triggers and warning signs and I’ve learned some self-management techniques to get me through the worst. I’ve said it before that I’m a better person for the lessons I’ve learned these past 5 years so depression and anxiety is just a part of who I am.

Will I be anxious starting college? Of course but crucially everyone else is in the same boat. Am I ever nervous making a speech and leading a course? Never. Put me in a leadership position, leading a course, teaching or supervising and I’m fine. Ask me to make a speech or a presentation on the radio, on TV or to thousands in an auditorium it’s no problem. Ask me to sit in a room with a group of people I went to school or college with, played football with or kind of know? Then we have a problem. What if we run out of things to talk about? What if there’s silence? What if it’s awkward and uncomfortable? What if they don’t like me now? Or I don’t like them?

I know from the growth I’ve made that this is about control and authority in situations and my role within those situations but they still terrify me. Plus when you catch up with old friends that’s exactly what you do, catch up. Married? Seeing any one? Kids? Job? House? Own or rent? Car? Chances of promotion? Career path?

My answers to the above; No, no, no, no, apartment, own, no, no, starting at bottom again.

But who really cares? Nobody really, I’ll walk in on my first day of school and introduce myself. I’ll have to say no more about what I’ve been through in the last few years if I don’t want to and I’ve a clean slate to start with. Who knows who I’ll meet through this course, it could lead to jobs, other courses, relationships, kids the lot or it might lead to none of these. But right this second the not knowing is exciting.

I spent months and years not knowing what was wrong with my body and hated it but now I’ve the same sensation of not knowing but the emotion is one of excitement and positivity. Our minds are so powerful that we can take the same information, process it and have two reactions that are at completely opposite ends of a spectrum.

I’ll have setbacks over the next few months without question. The pain and fatigue are constant companions as we speak so there are going to be days when they get worse and I feel overwhelmed. This would happen for anyone changing from not having too much of a routine to a full-time course. This may be exaggerated for me but it’s just a part of the process and understanding that a setback doesn’t throw me back to the bottom of the mountain is important. I’ll just go through the steps I’ve learnt that get me out of that bad day and go again from the same point on the journey without having slipped backwards.

Going back to the classroom is going to be a challenge but it’s an achievable goal for me at this point and I’m going to make it work. If it doesn’t there are other plans there but I don’t believe I’ll need them.

It was important for me to write this for anyone who has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and believed that Depression is the end game. It’s not. It may be a point on your journey but when people say there is light at the end of the tunnel I now know exactly what they mean.

If throwing a pebble in a lake was my looking at courses online, then the ripples caused include going back to school, part-time work, reducing isolation, meeting people, improving job prospects, more self-worth and excitement for the future.


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