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Monday, 25 July 2011

A Perception of Pacing- Part One…

Since my spinal surgery three years ago, I often feel like I do nothing but fight & try my best every day to stay strong- a feat which when you have had to face the physical & emotional hurdles that have been presented unto me of late; is a pretty draining task indeed.
Reflecting upon this point the other day, it struck me to question- what really is being strong at the end of the day anyway? Perhaps my definition has been a little off the mark, as I’ve been perceiving it as desperately trying to achieve significant goals; but again what really is achieving a goal?
When it comes to this question, I have been pondering for a while whether doing ‘normal’ things, such as managing to make it to a friend's wedding, or to wheel with my husband & dog along the river on a Sunday afternoon, is achieving goals; or perhaps achieving goals is actually realising larger tasks, such as cleaning my flat from top to bottom by myself, or walking a significant few steps on my sticks to show that I can still physically 'acheive' something, in my mind- the result of this maybe that I have to stay in bed for days, weeks or months as a result; but that’s all part of the price of suffering with pain & injury, isn’t it?
Perhaps achieving my goals is simply doing mundane tasks such as managing to get up & go to bed at a normal time- perhaps requiring an afternoon nap in between, but nonetheless managing to do this 5 days in seven maybe? Is that a reasonable goal. or is that a complete non-event?
Up until now, I would have absolutely said that only the more significant events were the definitions of accomplishments; but I am being encouraged of late by friends & family, that maybe the later is more appropriate & conducive to having & sustaining a life for myself & importantly for myself & my husband?
For the last five years or so, I have been told by nurses, doctors, physios & surgeons that I really don’t know how to pace myself & as a consequence have a habit of  pushing myself to achieve self imposed goals & really overdoing things as a result. In fairness, I’ve admitted more recently that they’re right, & that maybe I don’t quite have the right balance of rest & 'having a life', but my response is always to ask with frustration in return- 'well what is right balance exactly? Please tell me & I will gladly oblige'; but as an inaccurate science that is hard to quantify, no medical professional has as yet been able to help!
The wannabe high achiever in me says that surely it is better to have greater more impressive goals & achievements, (such as those which we so often hear about in the media- climbing mountains & running marathons with amputations), & pay the price of bed rest following: than to live a mundane uneventful life where I may be able to sustain a level of living that does not need huge recovery following activity.
Controversially, I sometimes feel frustrated by these wonderful & unequivocally admirable feats that are portrayed to us in our media.The reason why, is because I feel that we never hear the full story & only ever hear solely of the sensational events that have raised amazing amounts for amazing charities.
The story that I feel is not being told is the price that is being paid by these events subsequently & what sacrifice to one’s marriage or family life these events can have.
Having tried to push myself to achieve significantly smaller goals than these, (but challenges to me nonetheless), I have realised with my personal circumstances, just how much of a toll these things can take.
I have experienced the annoyance & frustration & even resentment from my husband when I have had a pig headed drive to achieve a personal challenge- as a result he has suffered, as it has meant that I have had to be confined completely to bed for months on end, unable to have interaction or enjoy events with him & frankly unable to have a relationship with him at all.
I can therefore see on reflection, that at times I have been selfish & not considerate of my husband & family's needs in these circumstances of ours.
I am of course by no means belittling or criticising these amazing achievements by fellow persons with disabilities, (in fact I praise them for their extraordinary efforts); but I am simply trying to make people aware that because we are not all climbing Everest, does not mean we are not achieving in our own way.
This is a new concept for me, as until recently I have felt a failure for not being able to achieve a sensational challenge to raise funds for others & prove to those around me, (& more honestly myself), that I can still reach noticeable heights.
Having finally metaphorically removed my fingers from my ears when talking to friends & family, I’ve learnt that they actually do not want to see me reach these goals & subsequently have to remain in bed for months, but would much rather have me able to be involved in our family life & it’s small events, & live a quieter & more sustained existence simply as me.
Having spent my youth competing county wide in athletics in my former life, I’ve always been encouraged that I should achieve, push myself, win the gold & beat personal bests & as a professional dancer in training, I should always aim to be more flexible & get my kicks higher than anyone else in my class or audition.
When someone tells you to go against all of that which has become ingrained in you over the years & to under-do things, be average, be adequate, to not do things quite to your full ability & hold back on achieving things that you could achieve, but should not due to it’s physical price- you are trying to change mental & physical habits of a lifetime & turn them on their heads!
As a disabled person who suffers from chronic pain, these goals of making it to friends' birthday parties, or shuffling further than you have before in the house are hugely valuable- but what really is the value, if you end up in bed unable to have a relationship with your husband because you are so out of it on medication to fight the pain that has been caused by these ‘achievements’?
To be continued....

This subject is one that I have discovered I have a lot to share about. Please therefore bare with me & join me again tomorrow for the second part of this post.

Today the thing that has made me smile, is simply being able to get out & about & sit in the park in the sunshine for 'Pimms O'Clock', with my Barley Dog! The freedom associated with this action, is something  that I would never have dreamed I would be able to experience ten months or so ago, when I was completely confined to my bed.

So many things are so much more precious to me since my accident & subsequent disability. If you are able, please try & grasp a little of this perspective for yourself without having to experience something negative in your own life to get there.
Happy 25th July everyone. Value & savour those little things today & everyday!

1 comment:

  1. This is the best post yet for me. Very much speaks to the spoons article you posted the other day too. Also makes me think about one's definition of an achievement which I think is where you're going with this - it may not warrant a book or an oscar-winning film, but could the maintenance of close relationships with family and friends be a sufficient achievement for anyone ?