I can’t quite believe I’m typing this, but this will be my HUNDREDTH post. It may have taken over three years to get here, but it feels like a huge achievement.
It’s taken a while to find my flow, and really find my blogging voice. But three years on, I’m here, I actually have readers, and it’s something that I’m really enjoying. I had a number of ideas for this special post; a round-up of my favourites, a lessons learned, and a few others. However, there was one idea that I couldn’t quite shake. My story, and how I came to start Em Makes and Bakes.
I published my first post on 2 April 2015. In one afternoon, I had set up my wordpress, photographed my (then) background image, and quickly smashed out a short intro:
‘Welcome! I’m Em, creator of Em Makes and Bakes. I’ve tried (and failed) miserably at blogging in the past, but decided that 2015 was the year that I’d give it another bash. Let’s make things clear. I’m not a professional, this isn’t my day job. It is my passion though. I love all things creative and cakey, and this blog documents my views on such things.
I hope you enjoy reading,
It doesn’t really give much away, does it? ‘This blog documents my views on such things’, you can’t get much colder/boring than that. It also sounds a bit arrogant if I’m honest, like I want to project my views to the whole world and you should all just listen. I can assure you that wasn’t (and still isn’t) the case!
So, why did I REALLY start the blog? Well, this is my story.
Rewind to Summer 2014. I was busy planning a wedding to Mr Makes (back then simply known as ‘Robs’), I’d thrown myself into planning a proper DIY wedding and was determined to make as much as possible, including my own bouquet and a whole 100 metres of bunting. Life was really good, and I was happy in my little wedding planning bubble.
I’d started to feel unwell though. Each morning I woke up feeling ropey, but I wrote it off as my IBS flaring up, and convinced myself that it would soon go away. Only it didn’t, and as the weeks rolled on, I found myself feeling worse. I visited a Doctor who wrote off my symptoms as IBS. After no improvement, a few weeks later I spoke to my usual Doctor, the one who had been my GP since I entered the world, and who knew that I wouldn’t come in unless something was really bothering me. I was referred to my local hospital for an appointment with the Gastro team.
A month before the wedding, I was starting to feel even worse, I headed off to the hospital hoping for some answers, but came away with none. My symptoms were written off as ‘wedding stress’ and I was told that I would start to feel better the second the wedding was over.
How wrong could they be? I wasn’t stressed about the wedding; I was relaxed about the whole thing. Right after the wedding? My health worsened, it definitely wasn’t wedding stress. My energy levels plummeted and I was in a lot of pain. I’d always been slim, but I was now dropping weight at an alarming rate. My skinny jeans swamped me, my skin looked white all of the time, my eyes were bloodshot, and I was just SO TIRED.
I naively hoped that a break over Christmas and our honeymoon to New York would be just the medicine to finally make me feel better, but sadly it wasn’t. In the new year, I contacted the hospital to get another appointment, and was booked in for tests. The bad news was that I’d need to wait a month. I did my usual thing and just got on with it, just about managing to make it into work each day, but hiding how awful I was feeling. I’d go home and instantly fall asleep on the sofa, only to be woken up to eat my dinner, and then fall straight back asleep.
The day of my tests came, and by then I was at breaking point. I’m not going to go into detail over the Internet, but let’s just say that you have to prep for such tests, and it’s not fun. The sedation that was supposed to calm me knocked me out completely, and I remember coming round in a hospital bed. A new nurse had appeared at the side of the bed and introduced herself to me; she was one of the IBD nurses. As originally suspected by my GP, I had Crohns.
A follow-up meeting a few days later confirmed that my case was pretty bad, and the Doctor apologised for not spotting it sooner. My anger was put to one side as I tried to focus on treatment. I rejected the initial suggestion of infusions for something that I could start right away, steroids.
If you’ve never been on steroids, it’s hard to express just how horrid they can be. In a matter of days I went from eating barely anything and sleeping all the time to wide-awake and wanting to eat everything in sight. I found it hard to switch off, and I couldn’t hack the constant feeling of hunger, but the tablets were at least working and I was starting to feel a bit better.
I was on such a high dose that it couldn’t be sustained long-term, and I needed to be weaned off them, but it appears my body wasn’t quite ready. As soon as my dose was lowered, the symptoms started coming back. I was given two options by the hospital: the regular infusions that I’d originally rejected, or daily injections. As someone with a huge fear of needles, I guessed that once a fortnight was preferable to every day.
Suddenly, I was spending a couple of hours every few weeks hooked up to a drip. Even with the promise of a hot chocolate each time I went (I knew I married a good ‘un), it was a pretty exhausting time. I’d spend a few hours in hospital and would then head straight into work. I was now being weaned off the steroids, so the tiredness was back. I also had a lovely swollen face, could no longer fit into most of my clothes, and I had all kinds of aches. Going out in the evenings was not an option, and I couldn’t face it anyway.
I needed an escape and that came from making and immersing myself in a more creative world. I started taking craft magazines with me to read during each infusion, I signed up to a Lucky Dip Club subscription, and I started this blog. Making now had a purpose again, and it gave me something positive to focus on. It didn’t matter that I felt rubbish in my body; it was still capable of making wonderful things. Creating became my therapy. My blog was a way of showing the world that despite the changes to me physically, I could still do something.
I’ve always said that I won’t be defined by my illness, and that’s probably why I’ve been so scared to reveal it on the Internet. I had no desire of joining a support group even though I recognise that for some people they are valuable. Instead I joined a craft group. In that first session, I sat on the same table as a lovely girl called Rachel, who as most of you will know, is now one of my best friends.
Three years on from my diagnosis and my health has improved, although there remains a risk that it could flare up at any point. I’ll never be happy about having Crohns, after all no one wants to be ill. Instead I’ve come to accept that it’s given me perspective, pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me find the things that I’m good at.
Blogging has been such an important part of my journey; it’s opened up new opportunities, I’ve reignited a passion for making, and it’s introduced me to so many amazing people. I’ve built wonderful friendships over the past few years, helped by communities like Lucky Dip Club, Blogtacular, and In Colourful Company. Although my blog and social media remains an edited view (because some of my life is just really boring), I think it’s important to share the good AND the bad. Personal posts like this are not really in my comfort zone, but it now feels like the right time to share my story and the ‘why’ behind all of this.
If you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU. I’m forever grateful to anyone who takes the time to read my posts. Thank you for all of your support over the past three years, here’s to hopefully many more.