The Irish Balance Turns Two

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Oh boy – where to start? I kinda can’t really believe I’m writing this post. When I started my blog two years ago, I wasn’t sure what it would become. Of course I had a vision of sorts for it, for the recipes I wanted to share, the topics I wanted to write about, the platform I knew it could be. And at the same time, I was very much still figuring ME out, which is why I’ve always said that a big part of my blog is sharing my journey to balance with you guys.

As The Irish Balance turns two this month, I decided, especially since there have been MANY new followers here and on my Instagram and Twitter in recent weeks, to share a little bit about my journey as a doctor blogger over the past two years. I hope you enjoy it, that it helps you get to know me and my message a little bit better, and that it might inspire you in some way!

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October 2016. I was working in Dublin at the early part of my second year as a doctor, in a hospital on the outskirts of Dublin city. I had just finished the first part of a series of exams we have to do for continual training, and I was blissfully embracing getting my evenings back from studying. I found myself with some time to kill on days when we finished up on time, giving the traffic a chance to lighten up before I would begin my commute home. I had recently downloaded Instagram, and was sharing some ‘foodie’ pictures, and getting messages from friends and followers about the recipes. So much so that I figured, why not put these in one handy place for everyone to find? Maybe…a blog? And that gang, on one sunny evening after work, is how I got started. I wrote out five of my favourite recipes at the time, downloaded a blog platform called ‘Blogspot’, and started my blog.

Blogspot didn’t last long (I would NOT recommend using it!) for me, and despite being 100% NOT tech-savvy, I soon changed to WordPress after a couple of months. I transferred the existing content I had, figured out my way around the ins and outs of the site, and got into a groove of content creation I was happy with, uploading about a recipe a week as I continued my medical training. Three months after starting my blog, I moved hospitals as part of our rotations, back to where I had done my intern year, a home away from home of sorts! Thrust into six months of Emergency Medicine followed by Oncology, it was definitely the making of me as a doctor, and the most consistently out of my comfort zone I had ever felt. Attempting to live a healthy, ‘balanced’ life didn’t come easy! And yet, my social media and blog served as a really welcome place to keep me motivated to try, and I continued sharing recipes and reflections on The Irish Balance.

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I’m gonna give you guys a little insight into how my blog tied into my work as a doctor over the past couple of years. So, during this time, I was working hard to figure out what area of medicine I wanted to specialise in. I can’t describe it fully, but my gut instincts told me that blog was going to somehow show me the way, and I think that’s a big reason why I love creating and curating it so much. I had realised before I started the blog that I was really fascinated by and passionate about how our lifestyles affect our health – the food we eat, physical activity, sleep, stress – the preventive side of medicine, and health promotion. I was learning so much in my hospital rotations, but in the acute medicine setting. This was invaluable experience, but it also showed me how prevalent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity are, and how little time we as doctors can devote to addressing lifestyle factors for health with our patients.

So as I rotated through many different specialties in the hospital (we changed every three months), I met such an incredible amount of patients and teammates, and saw just so many different clinical presentations. As I continued completed the second and final third exams we sit as senior house officers, I started to educate myself on the area of prevention and lifestyle medicine. Reading articles with breakfast before the ward round, tucking into podcasts every time I would go for a walk, going to the Irish Public Health conferences – it all fascinated me. By the start of my third year as a hospital doctor (second as an SHO, we do two years SHO training after intern year), I kinda knew public health, preventive medicine and health promotion was where I wanted to spend my career, and share as much as I could with those following my blog and social media, to help you guys on your journey to be the healthiest, most sustainable version of you.

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Currently, I’m eight weeks into a full-time Masters in Public Health and Nutrition in Dublin, having finished my three years hospital training in July. The next step when you finish those, with exams in hand (thankfully!) is specialisation. For me, that’s Public Health. So I’ve taken the (scary, but worthwhile to the nth degree) step to pop back into postgraduate education for this year, which is pretty much a requirement to become a Public Health consultant. I absolutely LOVE my course, even just 8 weeks in, and I feel very content in my decision to leave the hospital for the year. I’m trusting my gut that I’m on the right path, because it feels so much that way, and this chapter is one I’m enjoying every page of. Was it an easy decision? Of course not. It took a lot of soul-searching. But like I say – you have to trust your instinct, your head and your heart, and trust the process that brings you through even when it isn’t totally crystal clear.

People often ask ‘But HOW and WHERE do you find the time to write articles or share recipes on the blog? You must be so busy already!’ And yes, that is true – I often joke I need to invent a 25th hour in the day. Even as I write this article, I’m laughing at myself because it’s a Sunday night, I’ve just finished my ‘meal prep’ for a new week of college, I should probably be chilling out – but I want to write. I’ve always loved writing – when I was a kid, I wrote SO many books and short stories, and I could literally lose myself for hours doing so. If someone said to me ‘What do you want to me when you grow up?’ I used to say a writer. When I hit secondary school (i.e. before college), I realised I loved science and wanted to work with people too – and so I pursued medicine, and was also always interested in nutrition. And so, to have reached a point in my life where I work as a doctor (and now public health advocate and student) and get to write as well? That’s pretty frickin’ mind-blowing to me, and I’m grateful every single day that I was brave enough to trust myself and keep on writing, even when it sometimes felt like I was a bit of an oddball among my peers for doing so.

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It’s hard to describe to someone why I blog. I’ve been to many blogger events now, and even won ‘Best Irish Blog’ in 2017! I’ve heard people ask ‘How do you start a blog?’ or ‘How do you keep yourself motivated to keep creating content?’ To be honest, I think if you’ve got a message you want to share, a genuine passion behind what you do, you never ask yourself those questions. I definitely don’t – in fact, I get so lost in writing that I have to keep myself to word counts, because I just feel like I have so much to share. I love writing, I love learning, and I love sharing what I learn with you guys – and the positive feedback from you all is one of the best things about this blog.

And so, the Irish Balance is two years old. CRAZY. I’ve made so many new (now close) friends through blogging, and found whole new communities, experiences and ways of thinking. I don’t say this often (or ever really) but I feel very proud of my little blog platform. Sure, I figure it out as I go 100% of the time, but I trust my gut every step of the way, and I have SERIOUS hopes, plans and dreams for this little platform of mine for the future.

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Thank you for following, thank you for such lovely positive words always guys, and of course, if there’s ever topics or recipes you’d like to see on the blog, comment, DM or send me an email – I’m @theirishbalance on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook!

HB to me 😊

Ciara 😊 x

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