This is my friend Jaye. She runs a blog, Jaye Rockett, curates a beautiful Instagram, and rivals Matilda herself for bookishness. She’s an inspiration in so many ways, and she helped me get through the worst bit of my diagnosis. Join us for a chat about not letting your health get the better of you, finding the joy wherever you go and why autumn is the best season.
You’ve had quite the wild ride with your health over the past few years. Can you tell me about what happened?
I’ve struggled with stomach pains and chronic fatigue since the age of nine, which peaked and troughed throughout my teenage years until I was diagnosed as having ME [myalgic encephalomyelitis, better known as chronic fatigue syndrome].
Eventually (after passing out on the underground three times in a week) I had a blood test that showed I had basically no iron in my body. I was referred to a gastroenterologist and then passed to two specialists, who eventually removed a five and a half centimetre tumour from my large intestine.
From there I was referred to the Teenage Young Adult Cancer Unit for ongoing monitoring, and I still struggle with rapid transit IBS, anaemia, pernicious anaemia and chronic fatigue, amongst other things!
That’s a lot to go through at such a young age. How does your health affect you today?
Mostly, I’m very tired. I struggle with stomach cramps and a really irritable stomach, basic activity is really draining, and I get a lot of headaches and brain fog. I’ve had to learn to accept that my body isn’t capable of doing as much as a ‘normal’ person’s.
Is there something you wish more people knew about chronic illness?
It’s not linear. You might have a few busy days where you feel normal, but you’ll likely pay for it with days where you can’t get out of bed afterwards. Also, people with chronic illness get quite good at managing their time so they can maximise their energy – so they might look like they’re doing loads but in reality they’ve planned for it with rest days and naps!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with it?
Mostly dealing with my own acceptance of it. Being diagnosed with a cancer or any chronic illness is scary, and can leave you with a lot of anxiety and depression. I was lucky that anyone with a cancer diagnosis under 25 has to see a psychologist, and mine really helped me come to terms with the fact that my life wasn’t going to look how I thought it would.
How long have been blogging?
I started my blog back in 2012, during my first year of uni. I was pretty lonely in halls, I was on a competitive course where the other students weren’t particularly friendly, and my boyfriend was definitely bored of hearing me talk about makeup.
Our course advised us to start a blog anyway, and at the time my student loan and I had just discovered high-end makeup, so starting a beauty blog felt logical. After a few years I started a personal blog, and eventually merged the two. Now my blog is just a collection of ramblings on things that happen to me and things I love.
Have you always talked about your health online, or was that something you got braver about?
It’s definitely something I’ve gotten better at over time, although I still find it difficult. To start with, I was always concerned with being tied to a ‘sick gir’ identity, which isn’t how I ever want to be identified. And I was seeing very tangible evidence that people don’t like hearing you talk about being sick, even one of my usual photos posted on instagram with a caption about going to hospital would get terrible engagement, or people unfollowing.
Eventually I decided that if me sharing my experiences helped even one person it was worth it, and it seems I started to find people that that resonated with, because now the posts where I’m vulnerable about my health are the ones that get the best engagement by far. It’s still something I struggle with, but the conversations that come out of me sharing are always worth it.
I think I first ‘discovered’ you from your #huntingforautumn hashtag on Instagram. And I was thrilled to find someone who loves autumn as much as I do! When did you start that and why?
I started the hashtag three years ago, around the start of my own journey with the slow living movement. I’ve always been happiest in the autumn, so creating the #huntingforautumn community was the perfect way to find people who were truly appreciating each season as much as me. Besides, who doesn’t want to see a curated gallery of autumnal images?!
What’s your favourite thing about autumn?
The way it invites you to slow down. Autumn is all about slowing down, staying in, drinking endless cups of tea and listening to the rain. It’s watching the leaves fall and getting your boots muddy in the forest, and coming home to eat homemade soup on the sofa. God doesn’t that sound amazing?
I can’t think of anything better! I’ve always wondered how you motivate yourself to do all these different things with your content. You always seem like you have a really good work/life balance too.
I’m glad it seems that way because it doesn’t feel like that haha! Honestly it mostly boils down to knowing when you’re most productive and working around that. I plan ahead a lot, so I always know what I can be doing when I have the energy. Most of my content is born of me just living my life which certainly makes things easier, and I really love making the content, which is motivation in itself!
This is where I’m going wrong – I have no plan! Is there a knack to finding the balance between looking after yourself and getting stuff done?
In my experience it really is just trial and error. I still don’t have the balance and have generally accepted that I pay for every productive day with one in bed. It’s worth remembering that productivity is relative, and to stop myself going crazy I try and focus on what I can do. Also, I hired a cleaner, because there was no way I was using my limited energy on that!
You’re one of the most prolific readers I know, how do you find the time to read?
I don’t go out! Haha no but really, there’s a lot of things I can’t do because of my health, but I can usually read. I have always been a massive reader (when I was eight I’d read every book in the school library so the librarian put me in charge of picking the new books to order), and for me, I’d rather read than watch a movie, scroll on my phone or go out in the evenings! (P.S. I actually just remembered I wrote a blog post with some more tangible tips.)
What are your favourite books?
The books that made me fall in love with reading were Jane Eyre and To Kill A Mockingbird, I constantly reread both when I need to fall in love with literature all over again. But more recently I’ve loved The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw, Pretending by Holly Bourne and The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart by Margarita Montimore. Also, The Faraway Tree series will always be special to me.
What are your favourite things to do when you want to unwind and relax?
Run a giant bubble bath with a Lush Sleepy Bubble bar, stick on my favourite album (Oh Wonder), grab a book and a cup of tea and stay there for a couple of hours. Or, pull on my walking boots and get out in the forest!
How have you been finding lockdown?
I actually think it’s been easier for me than most people because I’m so used to being stuck at home! I’ve enjoyed the pressure being off, there’s no expectation to be doing or achieving, and I’ve had lots of time to just do the things I love. That said, I miss my family, my dog and afternoons spent in coffee shops.
What are you most excited to do once this is all over?
I’ve got the perfect day all planned out! Breakfast in South Coast Roast (a veggie Bondi breakfast with sweetcorn fritters and an oat milk dirty chai, please!), peruse all my favourite independent book shops, walk in the forest, visit a plant shop, and grab a hot chocolate with you!
Oh, you! Where would you like to be in 5 years?
Writing in my office, with walls covered in bookshelves, more plants than is normal and, hopefully, running the business I’m currently plotting…
And finally, could you tell me one interesting fact about yourself:
I’m currently applying to go back to uni to do my MA! I’ve been waiting 5 years to feel well enough and I’m so excited!
Eee, good luck! (I know she’ll smash it.)
Stay safe xx