My friend, Kiki Poulatsidou, is one of those amazing personalities who have so much positive energy that it’s impossible not to feel good when you are around them.
She is not ordinary.
She is extraordinary.
Granted, we all are.
One of the main reasons why I wanted so badly to start my own blog, was to be able to write about projects I love and to interview people I admire without being anxious about the editing process and the editorial policies of the media outlets.
And Kiki is one of the persons I wanted to urge to share their story and their life journey as I am sure that it will inspire others as well. She is a mom to a charismatic girl, Anna who has already made our world a better place, I feel. But my Kiko -that’s how we, her friends, like to call her- is also an amazing writer (we met while studying Journalism in Thessaloniki) a charismatic singer and a talented cook. It’s no wonder that she recently won a culinary competition held in Thessaloniki for her traditional pie.
This was an opportunity to discuss dreams, motherhood, books, travelling but also about the challenges that a chronic disease can bring into someone’s daily life.
Would you suggest a song to hear while reading your interview?
“Losing my religion” by R.E.M.
How would you introduce yourself in a paragraph?
My name is Kiki -my friends call me Kiko. I am Anna’s mom and Antoni’s girlfriend. I am now 35 years old although I think that this issue with our age is just a conspiracy and soon it will be proved that all of us are children or teenagers who constantly dream and wait for these dreams to become a reality. Now, why our body is wearing out and our face changes, I don’t know.
The only thing I know is that I am still figuring out what I will become when I grow up. I am a graduate of the Department of Journalism and Mass Media and recently also a graduate of the Department of Education for People with special needs.
I am not yet working to earn money. I will do this as well when I grow up (hehe). For now, I work at home. I help Anna, until the moment when she won’t need me anymore, and Antonis with his work -because he has already grown up and has to earn money for all of us.
You have been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines. Could you tell us a few words about it?
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease about ten years ago. It is an autoimmune disease, one of the many that have appeared in recent years and affects all the digestive tract. Basically, due to Crohn’s disease inflammations are created which result in a variety of symptoms, inside the intestine but also on the outside.
What are the practical difficulties you are facing in your everyday life because of Crohn’s Disease?
Living with Crohn disease has brought many changes in my life which are also related to simple, everyday tasks. In fact, it has brought many difficulties which sometimes are more serious and not manageable, and other times are a little easier to deal with. Diarrhea, fatigue, abdominal pain but also pain in the joints are some of Crohn’s manifestations. This practically means that some days it is almost impossible to get out of the house or even to get out of bed.
That’s why I have doubts as to whether I will be able to work but also where and if I will be able to go for a walk with Anna.
I remember you had told me that you were relieved when they diagnosed you with Crohn’s Disease because for many years doctors and specialists kept telling you that you don’t have anything, even though you knew there was something wrong. Do you think there has been a better understanding now within the medical community of the Crohn’s Disease and its symptoms?
When I was diagnosed with Crohn, it felt like the absolute vindication. I knew that something was wrong and I could not accept that what I was experiencing was just in my mind. Therefore, for me, the diagnosis meant that I did not suffer some sort of a mental illness which I would gladly accept if that meant that I would have a better quality of life.
In recent years, there has certainly been much better information and awareness among the medical community regarding the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). This means that it’s easier to associate the symptoms to the possibility of a person’s illness.
However, the more knowledge the doctors acquire around the subject, the more they insist on specific protocols when dealing with it, and they are often unable to customize the treatments according to the needs of each patient.
Any natural remedies that have helped you deal with Crohn’s Disease better?
During the last years, I have been trying to treat Crohn mostly by my diet, psychological support, yoga and by strengthening my body with supplements of vitamins, amino acid and antioxidants in order to achieve a better health level and thus have the disease recess. Unfortunately, I cannot get the necessary nutrients through diet, since some of the foods that are rich in them are prohibitive.
Do you believe our diet and the food we choose to nourish ourselves with is important? If yes, why?
The diet is a basic pillar of good health. And the reason why it’s so important is that the results of harmful diet habits may not be immediately understood but can prove to be destructive. And what is worse is that it is very difficult to reverse these results because it is very difficult to change our bad eating habits. However, I believe that sometimes indulging in a not so healthy eating habit, even though it’s considered inappropriate by nutritionists, can have a positive psychological effect, which might worth it in the end.
Have you tried expressive writing (writing about your feelings and thoughts) as a way to heal and deal with difficulties in life?
For me, writing has indeed a healing effect. The truth is that I have not yet attempted to write about Crohn and my own experience although it’s been a long time since I was diagnosed. Maybe it’s because I still haven’t come to peace with this reality and I face Crohn as a big opponent, although I must admit that due to this illness I have also acquired some positive characteristics. Once I feel as if I am more powerful than “her”, then perhaps I will be able to write about my personal story.
You have recently written and searching for the right publisher for a children’s book about autism. How did you get inspired to write it and what’s the main message you wanted to convey to the young readers?
This book, “A friend from the water”, was Anna’s inspiration. A year ago, she told me about two friends who decide to save the animals of the sea.
I had just graduated from the Department of Education for people with special needs and I felt that I could combine her inspiration with my fantasy and knowledge.
That’s how this fairytale came to life; its main goal is to introduce autism to children ranging from pre-school to 8-9 years old.
I do not know if they will be able to read this book eventually, but I have already gained so much by writing and illustrating it. Speaking of illustration, I would like to tell you about a very talented teacher, Betty Giannakopoulou, who brought our fairytale to life through her pictures.
I am so happy when I browse through the pages and I definitely hope that one day I will be able to share my joy with the little readers out there.
You are raising a wonderful girl without having much help around, except for your husband, Antonis, and the occasional help from family and friends. How difficult can it be? How do you cope during the challenging periods?
Anna is my strongest motivation; so strong that it makes me get out of bed on the difficult days and being able to stay active even though the simplest job seems desperately difficult. I would like to have some help from my family but Antonis is so dedicated to our needs that I believe we are coping just fine on our own. Difficult days will always remain difficult, but when you realise that another human being depends on you, you value yourself differently and appreciate even the minimum that you can offer to them. I will always feel guilty for all the things I cannot do with her, but I will always try to do more than I can.
What does travel mean to you?
Travelling has been challenging for me since my health problems appeared. Unfortunately, I have to organize everything very well before I decide to travel. I cannot cope with the fatigue and everything has to be at a certain pace so that I can follow. However, travelling is certainly the greatest source of inspiration, and anyone who loves writing knows very well that even with a single trip he/she can draw so much inspiration for his/her writing.
Why do you believe it is important to travel with kids even though it is often challenging? Do you have any tips to share with us based on your family travel experiences?
For us, travelling with Anna has been always our only option. Now that she is older it’s a real pleasure to travel with her because she is very well behaved and adapts so easily that it’s as if we are not travelling with a kid.
At this age, she can also remember all the places we visit. We have not yet travelled abroad with her, but we plan to do it very soon as it’s an experience worth having together as a family.
I have no specific advice on travelling with children but a statement which you could also take as a warning: no matter how well prepared you are, it’s certain that something unexpected will come up.
What was your favorite travel experience so far and why?
In Loutro, in the South of the Prefecture of Chania, in Greece. It is a dream place and it was the last vacation we went on the two of us with Antonis just before we got married.
The next trip you are currently planning is…
We plan to make our first trip abroad although we have not yet decided on the destination. It will definitely be somewhere in Europe because we have friends and relatives in many countries and this would be a great opportunity to meet them as well.
Which book and/or movie would you recommend reading/watching to get inspired?
In the last few years, I rarely watch cinema movies but I have been able to read some books. I would recommend Jonas Jonasson’s “The Girl who saved the king of Sweden”. As in many literary pieces, its messages can be adapted to the reader’s perspective, thus giving answers to personal questions and perhaps even solving personal problems. At least that’s how I see it.
Could you share with us one person who inspires you in some way?
I am fortunate to have people in my life who make me admire them every day for smaller or bigger things. All of them earn my love, not as a given but because they inspire me and I try to make Anna be inspired by them as well. It’s not just one or two persons, they are more. That’s what I have agreed with myself. To identify in each of them their positive characteristics and to try to be like them. Whatever “flaw” they might have, I have learned to ignore because they too are happy to overlook my own “flaws” and to love me with and regardless of them.
What is happiness for you?
Happiness for me is Anna, Antonis, my friends.
Happiness is to know that the days that dawn on us bring smiles. It is impossible not to bring troubles, problems or pain as well but they must also bring smiles in order for me to say that I am happy.
So now tell me. If you were to interview one of your friends or family members, who would that be and why? What kind of questions would you like to ask them? What’s the one thing about them that inspires you the most? Have you told them? If not, it’s about time!