What is the project about and what does it aim to do?
‘Bravery Bottles’ is a project I have decided to set up for anyone with a chronic illness (be that physical, mental, or a combination of both).
The purpose of the project is to redefine ‘bravery’ and those who are considered as ‘brave’ within the chronically ill community. The aim is to include anyone facing any chronic illness, who has challenged their own limits, stepped outside of their own comfort zone, and achieved their own goals, and for this to be recognised and rewarded.
There are some aspects of illness that, by no fault of their own, wouldn’t even enter the minds of those without an illness and generally wouldn’t be given a second thought by the remainder of the chronically ill community, but to you may be the hardest thing in world to face. It’s in those exact situations that individual bravery can be rewarded, irrespective of the opinion of anyone else.
How does ‘Bravery Bottles’ differ from other similar projects?
Put simply, the difference between my project and other similar well-known projects is based on the definition of ‘bravery’ within the chronically ill community, in particular who and what is considered as ‘brave’. The majority of other similar projects are aimed at those with an illness that, at times, means lengthy hospital admissions, the need to be blue-lighted to Resus in ambulances, require multiple ITU stays, need regular surgery etc. as their lives are at risk. Having to face ‘acute emergency’ type scenarios like this is, of course, very scary and no doubt deserves recognition and reward - and this project does just that. As well though, it extends to include the people who still have to face, manage and cope with a chronic illness as part of their daily life, but who don’t necessarily have the ‘acute emergencies’ as mentioned previously as part of their illness. Those who have a ‘stable’ illness, or one that doesn’t require emergency hospital admissions, either because of the nature of their illness, or because they have community care implemented to allow them to be cared for at home when they’re more unwell than usual, are often not considered ‘ill enough’ to take part in these sort of similar projects. Not only is this unfair to the patient, but it also encourages competition within the medical community as to who is the ‘most ill’.
As someone with a chronic illness, I’ve spent the majority of the past few years in hospital, often in ITU as an ‘emergency’, because I was too complex to be treated in the community. During admissions in particular, I was told by many people on a frequent basis how ‘brave’ I am, as well as ‘strong’ and even that I’m an ‘inspiration’ to some people. Having now been lucky enough to move all of my care locally, setting up a strong support system to be cared for in my own home with very few scenarios that will now require admission, and having my home life adapted so it is set up with very little differences to the care I receive as an inpatient, I’ve had significantly less comments on my level of ‘bravery’, even though nothing has changed in terms of my health, and life is far from easy for me or my family who have to care for me 24 hours per day. What part of the change in my care makes me any less brave?
This got me thinking about those who, like me, do everything possible to avoid hospital admissions, to be cared for by community and district nurses, adapting their homes to virtually become a hospital ward; even if that includes oxygen tanks, home IVs, tubes and lines including stomas and catheters and anything else that their condition requires. This route isn’t possible for everyone, and it’s definitely based more on preference and suitability than anything else. So, when you are unwell enough as someone with a lifelong illness to need hospital-level care, why are you only considered ‘brave’ and ‘ill enough’ to earn rewards in many of the well-known ‘bravery projects’ if the only difference is where you receive that care?
Having thought about this, it made me realise that unless you spend a lot of time as an inpatient in hospital, you are almost always forgotten about, and hardly ever, if at all, considered as ‘brave’.
This is where my project differs. Anyone living with a chronic illness is brave; whether by the generic definition or otherwise. Everyone has to face their own individual battles, and do so in their own individual way. ‘Bravery Bottles’, as a project, is inclusive of everyone battling a chronic illness, and bravery is rewarded to everyone in the same way, no matter what those battles are, or how they are faced and overcome.
Upon application, a ‘Bravery Bottles Kit’ will be sent to you in the post, and contains everything you need to be part of the project: a personalised hanging decoration on a suction hook to which your bravery bottle, which holds the beads you have earned, is attached. Also included are the actual beads for your bottle in a small organza bag, your ‘Bravery Booklet’ with a calendar on the front which enables you to keep track of 1) the amount of beads you have in your bottle, 2) the acts of bravery that have earned you the beads, 3) how many beads left until the next milestone is reached, and 4) any special charms, prizes, or monthly draws you have won.
In the kit there is also a numbered token along with an addressed and stamped envelope ready to send back to me when you’ve earned enough beads to exchange for a charm, and a bracelet and keyring to put your charms on (you’ll receive both so you can choose which you’d like to use.)
There will be step-by-step instructions on how the project works, a leaflet and business card about my blog and project, if you encourage your friends to sign up to the project, make sure they put your name in the allocated text box on the application form - it will earn you and them an extra matching charm. This all comes in a small gift bag which you can keep everything stored in.
How does the project work?
Simplified, step-by-step instructions will be provided in your Bravery Bottles Kit or can be viewed here; below is the more extensive explanation for those who would like further details. If you still have questions or queries despite this, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Each day that you do something that means stepping outside of your comfort zone, achieving something that took courage for you, and therefore, on your part, meant being brave, you put a single bead into the bottle. At the same time, you can circle/tick/highlight (as you wish) the date on the calendar which is provided on the front of your Bravery Booklet; and in the correlating ‘details’ section on the inside of the book, you can note down a brief description of your act(s) of bravery which earned you a bead for that day.
(n.b. In order to be able to run successfully, the project runs on a ‘bead per day’ system, as opposed to ‘bead per act’ system. Put simply, each bead signifies a day of brave act(s), rather than the individual act in itself.)
Your bravery booklet is personal to you - at no point does the project require anyone else other than you to see it - so the details of the acts you’ve rewarded yourself for can be kept completely confidential if you wish. )
There are set milestones, which will be made clear in your bravery booklet - for every 30 beads earned, you’ll earn a numbered charm for your bracelet/keyring. When you reach the first milestone (i.e. have earned 30 beads), you can place the ‘1’ token, provided in your Bravery Bottles Kit, into the pre-stamped and addressed envelope and put it in the post. You can then empty your bottle of the beads back into the organza bag, and restart the process of adding a bead to your bottle each day you have acted bravely and marking it on the calendar on your Bravery Booklet, and noting brief details inside, exactly as before.
In the meantime, once I’ve received in the post your envelope and token, I will exchange your ‘1’ token, with a ‘1’ charm, which I will post back to you, alongside the next token (i.e. token number 2 in this case), and another stamped and addressed return envelope. This is in preparation for when you’ve earned another 30 beads (and so reached the 2nd milestone), so again you can put the envelope containing the number ‘2’ token in the post, and I will exchange it for the number ‘2’ charm, as well as the standard items that will always accompany your charms - the next token, and a stamped and addressed return envelope.
The process repeats; as you reach each milestone, you will receive a charm as a reward for doing so. You are by no means expected to do something brave every day, but also have the option to do so if you wish (don’t forget that each day is limited to 1 bead; regardless of how many times you have acted bravely). The purpose of your bravery booklet to keep track of your beads and charms, but most importantly so you know when you have reached each milestone and so when to post your toke to me and get your milestone charms.
Also, on the 1st of each month, all participants will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win a gift voucher of your choice**. This will be recorded and uploaded as a video onto the Facebook group, but the winner will be contacted via email too.
As well as earning the “milestone charms”, there are other “bonus charms” that you can earn in a number of different ways. Some will be spontaneous and will be announced on my blog at the time. Other than that, bonus charms are given:
- For every 100 ‘Acts of Bravery’.
- For encouraging friends to sign up to participate in the project (their is a field for them to input your name on the application form)
- You will receive a charm for the 1st friend referral, and a £10 gift card for every 10 friends thereafter who sign up as a result of your recommendation.
- For overcoming/completing an extraordinary act of bravery, or going above and beyond to do something which deserves recognition*.
- You can earn these by nominating yourself or someone else for doing something that meant carrying out an extraordinary act of bravery for the sake of their health or for someone else.
- These can be applied for by emailing me directly with the name of the person (whether that be yourself or someone else), whether you'd like it sent anonymously (as a surprise, with an optional added message from you) and details of the extraordinary act.
- For being an 'asset to the project’ which involves contributing to Bravery Bottles in any way*.
- This includes fundraising on behalf of the project, which will earn you a hand picked gift alongside the charm.
- For writing a guest blog post - I want my blog to be as broad and include as many different views of as many people whose lives are affected by chronic illness in any way (whether you have a chronic illness yourself, or care for someone who does/know someone who does etc).
- If you'd like to write a post, about anything to do with life as someone who is chronically ill, you are more than welcome to and I make sure that they are all published.
- You can send your posts to email@example.com, and when I'll confirm that I've received your post with an email detailing your post's publication date.
*Earning 5 of the same bonus charm (10 for the 'friends' charm), or 5 'Bravery cards' will earn you a gift card of your choice.
Your Bravery Book will have a calendar on the front so you can mark off each day you have earned and placed a bead in your bottle, so you can keep track of how many beads you have and therefore how far away you are from reaching the next milestone. You can write the details of each act and keep a record of your charms too if you wish.
I will also keep a record of the charms you have earned; but obviously cannot monitor your bottle of beads - so that’s the important thing for you to keep track of!
To conclude, there are no restrictions as to what you consider as brave; whether it be going to an appointment that you’re nervous about, achieving one step further in your physiotherapy programme, facing your phobia of needles, going outside in your wheelchair for the first time, or whether it is something such as hospital admission or surgery - if it’s taken courage for you to do, it qualifies as brave.
**In the case of you winning the draw, I will be in contact via the details supplied on your application form. If I have had no response within 7 days, a new winner will be drawn. If you do not wish to be included in the monthly draw, please let me know asap via email.