How I Live with Anxiety

Let’s talk about anxiety. It’s irrational. It’s toxic. It can take hold of your thoughts. It can make you feel helpless.

It’s not always what you expect. When we think of anxiety, it’s often imagined as a dramatic physical and visible reaction to something; think of hyperventilating into paper bags, sweating palms, break downs with flowing tears and general panic.

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It can be much more internal than that. My chest tightens, my heart almost palpitates, my breathing feels laboured and my scalp tingles. I can almost feel stress coursing through my veins and it feels like poison.

How I Live With Anxiety and Stopped Losing Hair. Alopecia Areata

What’s wrong with me? Why isn’t my body working? Why am I reacting this way? Why am I so sensitive? Why aren’t I stronger?

Of all the issues with my health, anxiety was the last thing I expected to have such damaging consequences on my hair.

Treating my own Anxiety

I want to reiterate that I am most definitely not an expert in this field. I don’t have professional training and I don’t proclaim to know the answer to banishing anxiety forever. In fact, for me, it’s just another aspect of my well being that I accept I will be managing for the rest of my life, just like my hair loss.

What I Learned About Anxiety. Alopecia Areata. Gone Swatching xo

Of course this is counter productive because stress worsens hair loss. It worsens your body’s ability to heal itself. It creates new issues that need to be resolved.

It’s because of this, I don’t ever really think that I will ever completely eliminate anxiety because who knows what else my body will decide to throw at me? No one knows how life will unfold. However,  I have developed some techniques and treatments I believe helped ease my own anxiety and now I can use them whenever I experience it again.

What I Have Learned About Anxiety

The biggest thing I’ve learned about my own anxiety is that it is a learned behaviour. Now, I don’t mean that we purposely learn anxiety, in the same way we train ourselves to learn habits.

What I mean, and especially in my case, is that I experienced a trigger and then reacted to that trigger, which worsened over time into anxiety. My triggers are anything that I know in turn will cause me to lose hair. An example would be; smelling a synthetic fragrance, which would then lead to a sensitive reaction and hair loss. Immediately I would feel a very familiar tightening of my chest, my heart beating faster and my breathing becoming shallow. A split second reaction. One that felt immediate and uncontrollable.

Once I realised that my anxiety was a learned behaviour, stemming from other factors, I could make a conscious effort to treat myself.

Professional Help

I’d like to quickly point out that there are varying degrees of anxiety, low levels of which can be felt by everyone, anytime for any reason. As I’m not a professional I can’t ascertain exactly what level I’ve experienced, but it was bad enough to negatively affect my life, have repercusions that were visible to my physical health and on a unspoken level, my mental well-being. If you believe that your anxiety is affecting you in a way that impacts your life, then seek out help, whether it be from friends, family or a professional. 

While I’ve worked through my anxiety alone, I did use information and cues taken from others. There is absolutely no shame in seeking professional help for any condition, whether it be mental or physical. I just can’t speak to my own experiences because I never sought professional help for anxiety specifically.

How to Live With Anxiety. Gone Swatching xo

What I do recommend, is that whoever you seek out, you are comfortable with them. If you don’t feel comfortable with them you will never trust them to heal you. You will never be able to open up to them honestly about your symptoms.

I also recommend finding someone committed to treating you. They’re not treating anxiety. They’re treating you and your anxiety. Your experience with anxiety is going to be different to someone else’s.

Identifying the Trigger

As I said before, I have triggers that always have the same end result; I lose my hair. The fact is though you can’t change these things if you can’t identify them and why they are triggering you. No amount of help from professionals can help you with this unless you are completely honest with yourself. It doesn’t matter if you think it shouldn’t be affecting you mentally. It doesn’t matter if you think you should be more resilient. The first step is admitting the trigger is affecting you. It also doesn’t matter if it is. Everyone is different. Everyone has different tolerance levels and it doesn’t make you weak.

Removing the Trigger

If you can pinpoint your trigger, then determine whether you can remove it from your life, or remove yourself from being around that trigger. Of course this isn’t always so simple. Your trigger could be work, a situation or even a person in your life. I’m not saying completely eliminate the trigger at all costs. I’m not saying you have to become a hermit (though some days I felt like that was my only relief) but you can always minimize your exposure. For me this meant changing my habits at work and at home. I’d purposely go to a park for lunch to be out of the office, listen to music through earphones to avoid listening to what seemed to be endless chitchat, worked from home whenever possible, started later or left earlier if possible. At home I kept to myself, increased my exercise regime and eliminated all fragrances and toxins so I only had to deal with the ones at work. I even started Gone Swatching xo and Beneath the Hair as an outlet.

Overall Health

Working on your entire body when you’re fighting to be mentally healthy seems like a huge task but if you’re physically healthy, it will aid your mental health too. At the peak of my anxiety, I was also struggling with my physical health and that contributed more to it. At my healthiest, my diet is full of fresh fruit and vegetables, my chemical load is low and my liver and kidneys are functioning well. I have my ways of keeping myself healthy but you have to find your own way. If that means addressing your diet, sleep patterns and exercise regime then that’s what it takes.

Exercise

Speaking of exercise, everyone will recommend exercising as way of easing your anxiety and I will always agree. What I will say though is that you need to find a form of exercise that suits you. I’d never play a team sport, or even go for a run. I love yoga and pilates, but I prefer doing it alone rather than going to classes. It doesn’t matter what form or exercise it is, as long as it raises your heart rate and therefore has the run on benefits on your cortisol and serotonin then it will help your anxiety.

Supplements

While diet and exercise are the best changes you can make, we all know that it isn’t always possible. This is where supplements come in. If you go on the internet, you’ll find copious articles recommending supplements and yes I use supplements too. I don’t believe that popping a supplement will be the answer though. It says so in the name. It’s a supplement. Use it to boost what efforts you’re making to ease your anxiety and that way you’ll never be reliant on them. You should always consult a professional you trust because medications and supplements will affect everyone differently. If taking supplements isn’t your ideal treatment, you don’t always need to take them in tablet form. Consider taking herbs in the form of tea. This can dilute the strength and it can also become a self-care ritual that can help ease your stress.

Self-Care

If you look at social media, the term ‘self-care’ comes across as well .. a little over indulgent and pretentious. Self-care isn’t instagram picture perfect, or Facebook status worthy.

How I cope with Anxiety. Alopecia Areata. Gone Swatching xo

There are small every day routines I chose to improve my well-being. Spending a little extra time applying makeup and skincare make me feel good. Why? Well I feel better when I think my skin looks healthy. Other things include playing with my cat, blogging, listening to music, photography, writing, yoga, watching movies, singing, crystals and sometimes silence is all I want. I love silence. I also love alone time. The list is endless.

I had to consider what daily choices were hurting my recovery. I had to actively stop eating foods I loved because of the extreme reaction to them. I stopped using fragrances, even essential oils in some of my favourite skincare.

It means I protect myself from situations that cause me anxiety. I often avoid situations like the ground level of a department store which is going to reek of perfume, or sitting outside at a cafe with smokers.

To begin with, I even completely avoided explaining to anyone that I lose hair. Not everyone understands what living with sensitivities means and I didn’t want anyone to know I was different.

Self-care also means being kind to yourself. At first, I had to find ways to avoid thinking anxious thoughts but eventually I changed my way of thinking. Not to mention, the stronger you become mentally, those periods of anxiety become smaller and smaller, until they’re barely moments in your day.

You don’t have to be a positive, happy little rainbow every waking hour, but you do have to believe and again make choices that are good for you and will give your body the best chance to heal. You have to give yourself time to recover. Nothing happens overnight.

Living Creatively

Another way I like to care for myself is to take the time to do things that matter to me.

Just think … out of your day, how much time is dedicated to someone else? Whether that be making someone else richer, caring for loved ones or volunteering time and effort for nothing in return. These are all worthy causes that deserve your time but if your whole day is taken up by someone else’s needs, ask yourself why you aren’t worthy of your own time? How much time will you dedicate to yourself?

Obviously everyone has their own lives, their own desires and their own drive. I’m not saying don’t work, or forget your responsibilities. I do encourage you to honestly talk to yourself about what does make you happy. Just find what you enjoy and never feel guilty about taking the time for yourself.

I have to say there is nothing more satisfying than working on something that you love and seeing progress. Seeing that you’ve achieved something, or that you’ve created something that started as nothing more than a thought in your mind. When you’re focused on creating something that makes you truly happy you can spend hours at a time being lost in your own little world.

I personally love photography, dancing, singing and writing. All these things I can develop and I’ll likely never be the best but if I enjoy it, then it’s never a waste of time. I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve lost myself in my own imagination, creating stories.

Creation can take on many, many forms and everyone finds satisfaction in something different.

Meditation/Mantras/Manifestation and finally Belief

Call this what you want, but I do strongly believe in the benefits of mediation.

If you feel silly or don’t even know where to start with meditating, then go to classes. Research it. Use props you’re comfortable with. I started meditating with a candle. I’d focus on the flame rather than trying to force myself not to think. I also use breathing techniques and I’ve recently discovered a true love for crystals.

If you really don’t like meditating try an activity, that forces you to concentrate on something outside of your own thoughts. I prefer writing, sketching or photography.

In the times that I really needed to quiet my mind and I didn’t have time to myself, I would close my eyes and mediate on the train ride into work. Even 15-20 minutes (though the train ride was a lot longer than this!) of quieting my mind and therefore the doubt, the worry and the stress was enough to help a little.

I also do really believe in the power of manifesting belief. Find a mantra that works for you and repeat it so it becomes ingrained in your beliefs. The one that resonates with me is:

How I stopped Losing Hair and Dealt with my Anxiety. Gone Swatching xo

Changing Your Notion of Anxiety

Now the reason I’ve chosen this mantra is because of an article I read. I want to apologise because I can’t find where I read this article but it definitely helped me and I hope to explain effectively.

If you think back to an anxiety attack, how do you think of it? It feels irrational and detrimental right? In that moment, you’re fighting your bodies reaction, because you don’t want to show the stress; it’s socially unacceptable, it’s not the appropriate time, you don’t want to appear weak or you simply don’t want to feel that way.

Ask yourself why your body is reacting that way to begin with. On a physical level it’s because your brain has been exposed to something, a situation or trigger that it deems as a threat to you. It has released the hormone cortisol in an effort to prepare the rest of your body to either fight or flight.

Instead of believing your reaction to stress is irrational and detrimental to yourself, try to think of it as your body as trying to warn you that you shouldn’t be in that situation. In fact it is. It is a well researched survival instinct that is meant to keep us alive in dire situations. The problem is now our environments have changed and we no longer have an outlet for the unused cortisol.

Your body is not your enemy. It’s not fighting you.

It doesn’t want you to be in that moment. What it is trying to do for you, isn’t negative. It isn’t detrimental. On the very basis that it is a survival instinct, then isn’t it protecting you? This was the biggest turning point of my own anxiety. Every time I felt anxiety come on, I reminded myself that it was my body trying to protect me from a situation it did not want me to endure.

How I stopped Losing Hair and Dealt with my Anxiety. Gone Swatching xo

This was easier for me to believe and train myself to believe because my body had already demonstrated this with it’s extreme sensitivity to chemicals and certain foods. It doesn’t seem any different to me that my brain would act in the same way, by instead sending messages to the rest of my body that indicated I was in a toxic situation.

I tell myself this anytime I feel anxiety. Anytime my scalp starts to tingle because something has triggered a sensitive reaction. Anytime I’m angry or frustrated at my body for being so sensitive. Anytime I doubt that I’ll ever stop losing hair. Anytime I’m feeling weak and tired. Anytime I fear that I’ll never feel healthy again.

This is where the belief comes in. Every day is a new day and there are some days where I can’t manage my anxiety and I fall into a crying heap. It sets me back, yes but it doesn’t undo all my hard work. Every day I feel a little stronger, a little wiser. I’ve learnt something. Eventually the anxiety attacks become smaller. They have less impact. Finally, I can stop an anxiety attack. Then one day I haven’t felt anxious at all. Then another and another.

That doesn’t mean I’ll never have another anxiety attack, but as I just proved to myself, I have the power to not let them overpower me.

Never disregard your bodies ability to heal itself. Give your body the best you can and it will return in kind.

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Living With Alopecia Areata – The Changes I Made to Stop Losing Hair

When I was young and naive, losing hair seemed like a terrifying health obstacle I could never face. Now days though, my hair has completely grown back. In fact no one would ever know I had such a struggle!

Even when I knew nothing about it, hair loss always seemed to be caused by something going on inside my body. Now that I have about 10 years of experience, it seems to be a symptom of other health issues; digestion and liver issues or stress and hormones imbalances. If I do wake up with more hair shed than usual I can quickly re-adjust my lifestyle to stop it.

Living with Alopecia Areata - The Changes I Made to Stop Losing Hair

I no longer treat myself once the hair loss becomes bad enough to notice. I manage my health every day. It all started with big changes that added up to creating a healthy environment and life, which makes periods of severe hairloss a lot less daunting. All these changes are now everyday for me.

For anyone experiencing hair loss, I wrote a post on how I can tell the difference between normal hair shed and hair loss associated with Alopecia Areata. This will be different for everyone, so any concerns should be discussed with a professional you’re comfortable with.

The Changes

Diet

First up, I am well aware that contributing my hair loss to my diet is a bold claim and I’ve been dismissed by both a dermatologist and trichologist. You may find that diet is not a contributing factor to your hair loss at all.

However, I’m not going to dismiss my personal experiences. My first major change was to my diet because after eating certain foods, I noticed significant hair loss and a tender scalp.

There are known foods which either cause or contribute to inflammation in your body. If you experience hair loss as I do, inflammation of your scalp will be the precursor to hair loss.

When I minimized inflammation, no matter what the cause was, that’s when I stopped losing hair.

When I was at my weakest, my body reacted badly to:

  • White Refined Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Salt
  • Refined flours
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oils
  • Lactose
  • Gluten

Of course your body will have different tolerances of food than mine. Some of these won’t bother you, some people can’t eat foods with high FODMAPs.

You should consider that sensitivities aren’t always a life sentence. You can eliminate foods and then slowly reintroduce them. You can take supplements and eat foods to improve your digestion. There are plenty of food alternatives that can be better than their counterparts. It’s all about experimentation and patience. I’ll be posting a list of just a few of the food swaps I’ve found over the years.

Supplements

First and foremost, I used supplements and naturopathy to heal my weak digestion and liver. I also had to address diet deficiencies to also give myself the best chance of regrowing hair. It wasn’t until later that I took supplements to improve hair growth and quality.

Do your own research. I also recommend finding someone who understands the underlying causes of your symptoms to help you. You should guide them by reporting back with what’s working and what’s not. On numerous occasions, the homepathic remedies my Naturopath gave me were too strong, but he at least had the knowledge to change dosages and reverse implications that arose. He also really appreciated that I was tracking any and all changes so well.

Chemical Burden

I struggle with chemicals at my healthiest state but when I’m weak I can’t even bear the smell of them. I can strengthen my liver and therefore ability to filter them from my body but nothing works better than eliminating them completely. It’s overwhelming trying to find replacements for all your household items, so start with what you’re exposed to the most. For me, that’s skincare and makeup. I then moved onto household items such as dish washing liquid and especially detergent. I also have the added bonus of being sensitive to essential oils, so while that makes things harder, it’s not impossible. I’ll also post a quick list of truly fragrance free house hold items that I use soon.

Stress/Anxiety

A little hint, never tell someone to just stop stressing! I know I’m guilty of it and I hope I’ve learnt enough to know that it’s really such pointless and unhelpful statement, even to say to yourself!

There are many things I’ve learnt through my own struggle with anxiety, the greatest being that you can’t simply tell yourself to stop stressing. It is an accumulation of small efforts that build and build over time, gradually making you stronger to face what is causing your anxiety.

I will have a much more in depth post on how I dealt with my own anxiety, but I would encourage anyone experiencing hair loss to deeply consider how much stress can be contributing to hair loss. It raises your cortisol, throws your hormones out of balance and wreaks havoc on overall health.

Hair Care

So my hair care didn’t change that much during my hair loss. In fact it was worse! During the worst periods of hair loss I was terrible at looking after my hair. I barely wanted to touch it, I hardly brushed it and it was either up in a bun or covered by a hat. I kept it washed and clean, but looking back I should have let it down more often than I did.

I’ve seen many shampoos and treatment that claim to regrow hair and I’m not dismissing them at all. I suppose I never tried them myself because I knew my issues were internal.

What I will say is that if you keep your scalp well nourished, your hair will have the best chance to grow back stronger. Clogged follicles will block hair trying to regrow. Also try and give it a break, don’t always have your hair up in tight hair styles, let it down at night. I know how hard it is to leave your hair alone when it’s shedding but being gentle will minimize hair loss.

How I tell the difference between normal hair shed and alopecia areata. Gone Swatching xo

In the next coming weeks, I’ll have separate posts for each of these. I can honestly say that being more conscious of myself and my environment has completely changed my life, and for the better!

*Please, please remember I am not a doctor. If you are experiencing your own health issues with hair loss, you must find a professional you feel comfortable with*

How to Tell the Difference Between Normal Hair Shed and Alopecia Areata

I celebrated my 30th birthday last year and in doing so have lived with hair loss for 10 years. I’m surprised at how something abnormal has become such an integral part of my life. I changed my entire lifestyle to grow my hair back and now that lifestyle is just normal!

How-I-tell-the-difference-between-normal-hair-shed-and-alopecia-areata-hair-loss

Dorky picture aside, this was me, back when I was about 19 (and drank wine!). While I struggled with my skin, I always had my hair. Long, straight and perfectly manageable with little more than a wash and air dry.

I still remember the day my ex-boyfriend told me I was losing hair. He saw it because he’d seen the back of my head and where the hair parted to expose the perfectly smooth oval. Back then I hadn’t even noticed I was losing hair. These days I can tell instantly between normal hair shed and hair loss attributed to something more.

 

Normal Hair Loss

You should read up on the growing and resting phases of hair, but put simply your hair is either in the growing or rest phase.

It’s completely normal for people to lose 50-100, even closer to 150 strands of hair (yes in one day alone!)

The most important thing to remember is that normal hair shed is different for everyone. Only you can tell what amount is normal for you.

Abnormal Hair Loss

For me, I have a few tell tale signs that my hair loss is being caused by something, rather than being a natural process. These causes are either:

  • Diet
  • Stress
  • Reaction to chemicals

How it looks

Majority of the time when I’ve had a reaction to something, the entire bulb falls out along with the strand. The other thing I keep an eye on, is what type of hair fell out.

How I tell the difference between normal hair shed and hair loss from alopecia areata. Gone Swatching xo

It’ll be hard to tell from this photo, but the strand on the far left is a normal strand. The one in the middle is one with a bulb still attached and then the two on the right are baby hairs.

What you should be able to notice is how thin the baby hairs taper at each end. This is what happens when inflammation affects the bulb and therefore the whole strand. Losing a lot of thin, short baby hairs is also a great giveaway. I lose hair in the same places, according to the reason why I’m losing it. If I’m losing these hairs, which are in the growing phase, then that’s an issue. It means that my white blood cells are attacking the follicle and turned it to the dormant phase before it’s had a chance to strengthen.

How it Feels:

The hair shed itself doesn’t feel like anything and that’s the problem. If I can gently pull on my hair and it hurts my scalp I know my follicles are strong and healthy. When I can run my hand through my hair and pull out clumps without any tugging on my scalp whatsoever, I know something is wrong.

It can be bad enough that I can shake my head and hair falls off. The other big indicator is a tender scalp. It feels like it’s bruised in the spots where it’s falling out. It’s starts off with inflammation, followed by itchiness and often huge under the skin pimples. The tenderness will last a few days.

Talking About Scalps

My scalp is the biggest and easiest indicator of hair loss. Irritation can feel like anything ranging from heat (to the point where it can feel like it’s on fire), itchiness and pimples. My dandruff also flares up. Another thing I notice is that spots that are losing hair feel flatter, as a slight depression in my scalp.

Where it Falls Out

Brushing my hair always ends up with what looks like a lot of hair in the brush. I also don’t worry about losing more hair in the shower (most anyone with long hair knows the joys of pulling odd strands out of … oh gee almost anywhere!) but if I go to bed and wake up the next day with a lot of hair on and under my pillow, it’s a pretty good indication it’s fallen out too easily.

How I tell the difference between normal hair shed and alopecia areata. Gone Swatching xo

I won’t lie, it’s taken me a good few years to work out the patterns, the precursors and the causes of my hair loss. My hair’s condition is different to before, it even parts differently, but in any case it’s regrown.

It took patience and a willingness to pay attention to my body to get to this point. It took me even longer to get myself healthy enough to not live in fear of severe hair shed! My greatest lesson learned is that if I give my body the right conditions, then I can heal myself, no matter how bad it can be.

If you’re worried about hair loss, then I’d always recommend speaking to a professional you trust. Everyone experiences hair loss differently and not all hair loss is alopecia!

20th April 2018 – Hair Loss Diary

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog. For almost a year I was quite steady in my hair regrowth. I was able to wear my hair down and not worry about losing too much while it was loose. I was also a lot less stressed in my life, which helped maintain my health and the hair loss.

We all know that things have to change, as life is ever changing, and it gradually caught up with me.

It definitely confirmed to me a few things I already discovered about my hair loss.

Stress

Along my young adult life, I’ve managed to develop severe anxiety, especially when it comes to my hair loss. I’m not going to say I’ve cracked the cure to anxiety, but I’m learning how to deal with it. This time around I really noticed that I lost hair from a specific area if it was caused by anxiety and stress. I also felt pain and irritation in specific areas. Yes I’m aware this sounds impossible but hey, this is my blog. I’ll report what I believe I experience. This was absolutely the initial trigger for this round of hair loss.

Diet

I have the misfortune of being very sensitive to many foods, but I had determined what to avoid and what I thrived on. Controlling what I eat is the easiest way to minimize my hair loss. The trouble was .. my sensitivity to food decided to change. Trying to find new sensitivities was only more difficult this time because the foods I previously removed from my diet made sense. These foods did not. Not only that but I became sensitive to some supplements I was taking to try and help with the inflammation that was on my scalp.

Exposure to Chemicals/Essential Oils

This hasn’t been a problem for me for quite a while but last year I started working full time in an office and boy did the exposure to chemicals hit me hard. The first week or so I handled it and then I started smelling the perfumes, the deodorants and pretty much ANYTHING with fragrance. It became so bad, it was giving me eczema on little patches around my face.

I also started dating a new man during this time and being exposed to every day products that he used, contributed to my hair loss. It’s always a challenge, having to introduce someone new to something that is normal for me.

 

When I break it down it’s very easy to lump all these issues into 3 main categories. Trust me, it doesn’t feel like it’s this simple when I’m dealing with them every day.

If anything, this proves to me that my hair loss is a condition that I will continue to manage for the rest of my life.

Blink and it’s Gone

I had mixed emotions about coming back to Australia. I was really ready to return to my family and boyfriend, but at the same time I didn’t want to leave the orphanage and the children. This was made worse, when some of the carers told me that they didn’t want me to leave either. I went with the mind frame that it was all about the children. Of course it is. You want to make sure they are being properly cared for and they are prepared to go to their new homes. I also had so many good times with them. Learning their little quirks, when they played, ate, slept, threw tantrums, and what made them laugh was exciting, interesting and fun. I never thought I’d come away feeling so protective of them. I never thought I’d come away being even more protective of the carers there.

During my stay, a girl I used to work with, posted an article about how some orphanages are being created, purely as a tourist trap. I don’t doubt that this happens because let’s face it, there are some horrible people in this world. Those people create a situation for children to live in and it shouldn’t be encouraged by ignorant tourists. It was a very informative article, just completely biased and very narrow-minded, not mentioning once that there are genuine orphanages that need donations and that are creating families.

What annoyed me most about this article though, was the fact that it had no mention of the many people who work at the orphanages with genuine intentions. I know, through my own adoption, that carers often remember every child, and they are very proud and over-joyed that they have grown up in families. However, in working with these ladies on a daily basis I saw much more. Their patience, their love and energy. Yes we had to discipline the children, yes I had to distance myself from them if they were becoming too attached, but they become so protective of the children, they aren’t just orphans, they are their children. If I had never gone to FFAC, I never would have seen the dedication that these ladies have. Which is the complete opposite of the people written about in this article. In exposing a ruthless and heartless act, it over-simplified a really complex situation that arises when a child has the misfortune of being abandoned. It generalizes the people involved; directors, social workers, carers and children. We are not so simple to be summarized in an article.

For me, this particular trip has been such an eye-opener. I’ve seen a child being taken by her adoptive parents, the reactions from the children left behind, families created by adoption return and be welcomed with open arms, the frustration of not knowing how much longer a child has to wait and not much progress in a system of red tape. There was also a young mother, who visited her boy monthly, knowing that eventually she’d never be able to see him again, but in doing so was saving his life.

I don’t regret a single moment and I would definitely do it again. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who made this possible.

Pi Saovanee; for allowing me to stay at the orphanage and taking me on trips around Bangkok and Thailand. All the lovely social workers; for helping translate between languages, teaching me Thai and helping in general. The carers; for being patient with me when we didn’t understand each other at all, plying me with fruit and taking such good care of all the children. My boyfriend; for understanding my desire to leave for 3 months to volunteer. My own orphanage and carers; for starting me on my life. Finally, my parents; for putting themselves in a terrifyingly vulnerable position, adopting a stranger and then loving me as their own.

My second chance at life, is the result of hard work, dedication and trust, which never would have been possible without Phayathai Orphanage and my parents.

 

8th Feb 2015 – Mahachai Markets

One thing that I have definitely loved about this trip is being able to travel as the locals do and not on a tour. While it’s nice to be guided through some things, you end up either rushed, or feeling like everyone else is doing to same thing. You are able to plan in advance though!

Saturday morning at 8, I was down washing my dishes when Saovanee asked if I wanted to join her on a trip to the coast. I had to rush to ready myself because she was ready to leave right there and then. We all hopped into the car and firstly drove out to her house. It’s about 45 minutes out of the city and I can imagine on a bad traffic day, it could take hours to drive between the two locations. Her house is set right next to a small stream. It’s much quieter than the city, although they are building a new condominium across the way. She collected her bills and then after a short walk to the train station we sat to wait. I say train station loosely, as it never existed until they decided to stop here because of the new condos.

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While we waited for the train, Saovanee had lots of stories to tell about her time working at the Babies Home. I won’t repeat them, as I’m not sure how much she’d want retold, I can definitely say she is one of the most dedicated, strong, determined and loyal women I have ever met. The children are lucky they are in her care.

The train arrived late, although no one complains, as it’s a free service for the locals. Once again my looks come in handy. This was the Mae Khlong-Mahachai railway which runs between Wong Wian Yai in Thonburi, West Bangkok, and Samut Songkhram on the Gulf of Thailand. Only about half an hour trip and we arrive at our destination, Mahachai Markets. Before the tracks have even finished, there are markets stalls surrounding them. People were everywhere, crossing over the tracks just after the train had passed.

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This is where the merchants come to buy their seafood, so that they can transport it back to Bangkok and resell there. It’s brilliant. The main road to the docks are lined with stalls selling fresh seafood straight from the ocean, fruits, vegetables and dried seafood. I know the smell is off-putting for a lot of people, but I love it. It makes me just want to cook up a huge pot of my version of Tom Yum Goong! There are markets inside, but Soavanee said the floor is too wet, so we stayed outside. She took me to the dock where the boats drop off their catch. I think, if I could, I would have wheeled off a few buckets for myself.

 

We hopped on the ferry (3 baht), which only took 5 minutes to shuttle us to the other side, called Tha Chalom. I’m not sure I’d ever be comfortable doing as the locals do and ride their scooters across the gap between the boat and dock!

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This area is only residential and has whole sale shops. You can be taken on a tour to some temples if you hop in a bike but we decided to walk to the train station. This one is also the Mae Khlong railway, just separated by the canal. However this line is the one famous for the markets which are laid across the tracks, but are removed when the train is approaching. Since today we both wanted to buy some groceries we decided not to travel there and return to the Mahachai Markets.

I do believe it would be a brilliant way to avoid travelling in a cramped tour van in the Bangkok traffic to visit both markets though. I’m not sure, as I haven’t done it myself, but the station in Bangkok is apparently near a BTS station, and it’s definitely near a bus stop where no. 9 stops. If you catch the train out to Mahachai, you can at first enjoy the fresh air here, eat at one of the stalls and then cross the canal to the other railway and be on your way to the next market. I can’t comment on how tourism has affected it because I’ve not been there in years, but I must say I do like Mahachai, purely because the seafood is fresher, definitely not from rivers and I didn’t see many tourists here. It was a really pleasant way to spend the day, even though I was completely unprepared for it.

Protected: 31st Jan 2015 – Day Out at The Regent’s School

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26th Jan 2015 – End of Our Whirlwind Trip

Nothing much to report today. It was quite brisk again, but the sunrise was stunning today. Definitely nothing to complain about when you are eating breakfast, with this view.

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After we’d all checked out, we were on our way. We stopped along the way at the Hindad Hot Spring. While it looks like a pool, they actually channel water from a hot spring down to the two pools on the left. One of them is pleasantly warm, the other almost hot. Water flows from a waterfall on the right and it’s quite a cold shock when you hop in the warm first and then try it.

 

We arrived back in Bangkok at about 5 and I went straight to the children to spend some time with them. The more they know me, the more comfortable they are. Boon takes a while to warm up to anyone, but every time he sees me now he cries out my name and jumps up and down. He had to ask one of the carers what it is a few days ago and since then he’s remembered. Sua-chai normally ignores me, but tonight he asked me to point out things in a book. He is incredibly smart for his age. He attends school and is speaking Thai and basic English. He repeats any English word I say. It’s such a pity that any of these children have to wait for so long, but he has been here the longest. He was allocated to a German family, it was approved and they came to pick him up. However, over night they changed their minds, and brought him back claiming he was stupid and deaf. They tried to have Saovanee fired, telling her that she lied to them about him. Luckily now, he is awaiting approval for a New Zealand family to adopt him. I’m sure they will appreciate him much more than the German couple who were too concerned with their idea of perfection.

On a nicer note, I was showing Titi some bird decals on the wall and I am positive he tried to repeat the word bird when I said it to him! Doesn’t seem like much, but he never speaks. It’s also quite co-incidental considering my first English word spoken was also bird!