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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Me Time

Saturday 31st March

Hi all,
I hope that you are well and enjoying a wonderful weekend, despite the sudden shocking drop in temperature!
The rather naughty side of me had to laugh a little yesterday, that having spent the last week in a dark and dingy office devoid of any of the fabulous sunshine that we have all been experiencing of late- my husband  set off on a 'boys weekend' by the sea in Poole- which with my brother and sister-in-law away attending an engagement in Newcastle- would leave Barley and I on our tod in the flat.
As my husband cautiously asked whether I was sure that I was going to be ok all alone, (not forgetting Barley dog of course!)- not wanting to bruise his ego, I tried with all my best applied acting techniques, to imply that it would indeed be tough, but we would somehow cope.
Knowing me o too well, my dearest husband wasn't buying any of it as he saw the excitement twinkling behind my eyes! He promptly dropped his fained concern and jibed- "you're actually excited to get rid of us all aren't you?". Realising that the game was up and I could conceal it no longer, grinning from ear to ear I replied that I was indeed bursting with excitement at such a prospect of precious 'alone time' with myself!
I feel it imperative to clarify here that I love my husband, brother and sister-in-law, (who all live with me at the moment), more than life itself and am so blessed to have such fantastic relationships with them all; however I feel it is both honest and quite natural to admit one's love for time alone.
As one of life's 'deep thinkers', (perhaps a little too much at times my husband may argue!), there are times when I love nothing more than to retreat into a solitary world where I can enjoy a mixture of watching my favourite films, eating my favourite foods and reading my favourite books and pondering over my most common thoughts!
Prior to my accident I was a 23 year old bubbly former dancing air hostess, who loved nothing more than a night at the pub, dinner with friends, or a night out with fellow crew in whatever country that I would find myself in with work flying around the world!
Juggling my time when I was not working between my new relationship with my RAF pilot, (now my husband), and my loyal and loving friends back on the Isle of Wight- the only 'me time' that I would ever experience was either in my car commuting between these said locations or in my hotel room down-route when working for Virgin Atlantic as an air hostess.
Embarrassingly my time in my car was far from serene, as was spent screeching at the top of my voice and 'rocking out' to the likes of Tenacious D in an attempt to keep myself rejuvenated and awake after long and often gruelling overnight flights back across the atlantic: so the only real 'me time' I would actually ever have was in my hotel room between flights with work.
From childhood, I have always associated staying in hotel rooms with luxury and something sonoymous with the acts of movie stars and high flying business men, ( sorry- business people).
When I started with Virgin, I therefore still regarded this aspect of the job as a major perk and one to be savoured, and savour it I did!
I submerged myself in the luxuries of room service, mini bars and pay-per-view films, (the likes of Harry Potter and The Bourne Identity only I assure you!).
I would sit there in my best PJs, draped in the hotel's dressing gown, plastered in face mask, consuming exquisite hotel nosh, polished off with a lovely merlot or a cliched G and T, (or perhaps even both if it had been a tough Orlando flight packed to the rafters with sugar hyped children!)- all whilst watching a tear jerking chick flick or rom-com.
As far as I was concerned I was living the high life! But what I didn't appreciate at the time, (as I think we rarely do ever appreciate what we have at the time of experiencing such things), was the fact that I had 'me time'- time to ponder life's big questions, as well as those matters pertaining simply to me as Karen.

I recently found some scribbles on a New York hotel's headed note paper, of such contemplations. I was so intrigued to find a reflection of my 23 year old self, at that place in my life.
What was so encouraging was that even then, 'pre-life-changing-disability-inducing-event', I was asking myself deep and philosophical questions?
The scribbles read along the lines of-

What should be the primary values in my life?
What character traits should I strive to hone in myself?
What kind of person would like to be thought of as?


How do I achieve all of the above?!

Perhaps not that surprisingly these are still some of the same questions that I ask myself today, but with an added sprinkle of maturity, ( well not that much!) and life experience thrown in for good measure.
There is no doubt that having emerged from the other side of the cravas of depression and devastation that occurred after my life altering accident- that such an experience has given me a greater perspective upon life.
I now value even the slitest of events or simple experiences, such as wheeling my dog to the park along the river path, or treasuring a brief phone call with my dearest Mum, in a much deeper way.
As a Christian I personally believe that God has a plan for me and that he will not desert me. Whatever your philosophies or religious convictions, if any- there may be a part of you that questions whether events in your life have shaped the person you are for the better or perhaps even the worse?
There was a time immediately post becoming disabled that I would have definitely said that the experience had made me a worse person than I was prior to my accident.
I was depressed, disappointed, devastated to have lost my job and lifestyle that I adored so much and I was perhaps even a touch bitter that such a thing had happened to me!
Thankfully having worked my way through these difficult emotions, I have managed to put the vast majority of them all to bed. I now feel at peace with what has happened to me and ready to embrace the opportunities and limitations that my life has now, and I use the negatives as things to give me better perspective.
I now recognise how blessed I am in SO very many ways- to have all of my senses and to have my brain function in working order, ( some who know me may indeed argue the later- but we'll leave that one open to debate for now!)
I have also been blessed with the invaluable emotional support I have, of my husband, my parents, brother, sister-in-law, extended family and wonderful friends, as well as the practical support of the NHS, the RAF and the wonderful military support groups as a whole.
Whereas as I once focused upon all the things that I had lost or would never experience again in my life thanks to the accident on the 29th July 2006- I now focus upon how lucky I was to have had those things  in my life at all! 
For example, some people go through their whole lives longing to travel and never have the means to do so- whereas I was so incredibly lucky to have ticked off so very many countries on my travel 'wish list' and all whilst staying in the very best hotels and getting paid by the great Mr Branson to do so- how incredibly lucky was I!

So many little girls daydream of dancing and performing on stage- and I was again so incredibly lucky to choreograph and perform in countless professional productions in so many genres and again bizarrely also whilst receiving a pay packet at the end of the month! As a travel loving dancer, I literally got paid to live out my dreams- how many people can actually say that!!??
So it had to all end a little before expected to do so- so what? I still did it and have some absolutely amazing memories and photos of all of those times and they will stay with me forever!

What an incredibly lucky person I am!
Having submerged myself in dare I say 'self help' and positive thinking books over the last few months, in a concerted effort to give myself the best possible chance to regain as much of my previously lived life as possible- as bar any major medical advances, doctors can never fix my chronic pain and nervous system issues so they will subsequently be with me for life- but what I can do is put myself in the best frame of mind to deal with what life has challenged me to take on.
I believe that that is one of the most fundamental factors in life to stand me in good stead for the future.
To me probably the most important principle of these books and philosophies that I have been studying, is that of the thought of giving gratitude each and every day for the things in the past, present and the future to value life in a much deeper way.
I understand that the thought of giving thanks for what is in the future, may be an odd concept for many to grasp without further explanation, but it is one that I promise that I will come back to at a later date!
The main thought of 'giving gratitude' is that of focusing on giving and really feeling thanks, ( to whom or whatever you are so inclined), for all in your life  that you have been given, however small or insignificant or incidental.
This exercise has really helped me to shift my state of mind to one of more positivity than before I started.
A positive attitude and one with more peace and less anxiety, thanks to the practise of mindfulness that I have also turned to- is really helping me to cope with my incessant, unrelenting chronic pain.
At presesnt I am practising one of these techniques of Rhonda Byrne, (the author of The Secret and it's succseoors The Power and The Magic), and writing down each morning that I wake, 10 new things that I am thankful for that day; from such fundamental things as my family and friends, to the little things that we all so easily overlook, such as my sight, my walks to the park with Barley and the fact that I have the gift of reading and writing.

Having received many requests from readers of the formula of how I 'cope' with my circumstances- which anyone who has read all of my posts will know that I most certainly have not 'coped' all of the last five and a half years, but have indeed managed to learn some techniques to strengthen myself and am now finally enjoying the fruits of these inquiries at last, (which is not to say that I still don't have wobbles and setbacks!)- I have been spending much time contemplating what to share with you in response to these requests.

I do feel that the most fundamental key to improving one's state of mind in any circumstance, and especially of those who have experienced a life-changing illness or injury- is to get professional psychological help and support if it is so needed.

This the primary principle of my charity that is currently in production. I believe that there should be psychological support readily available to all who become disabled, as well as their partners or parents whose lives change dramatically also, and who's relationships so often become strained with 'the patient' due to shear enormity of the situation.
In my experience and the experiences of so many of you who have so kindly been in contact since I started this blog- there is sadly a huge shortfall in emotional care for these people who have to mourn the loss of the able bodied lives that they naively thought would be there for them for there future.
Without this emotional help, I believe that the physical help is almost incidental; as you can fix somebody's spine, heart or nervous system as best as is physically possible- but without the psychological support  people are all too often left isolated, insecure and severely depressed and without the emotional tools to adapt to their new disabled or less physically able lives.

Tangent and rant over now I promise- phew!

What I was going to say before I got so rudely distracted by my passion to change the world, was to reiterate what I said in my last post, that bar the essential support of professional help if necessary- I can do my best to advise you of the techniques and philosophies that have helped me; but at the end of the day they are just that- the ideas that have helped 'me'. They may not suit you. They be a breakthrough in your recovery. They may give you the ideas and inspiration to find your own keys to recovery. But at the ned of the day- nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Life is incredibly tough at times and we all have to pick out our own paths out of the dark woods of circumstance induced depression.
And there is certainly no harm in trying out the gratitude technique- ( which I promise you I will expand upon next week!), but for now I am going to indulge in my solitary time with just my Barley dog and put my feet up and perhaps enjoy a bit of Saturady night trashy tele with even a cheeky diet coke thrown in! Pushing the boat out for a girl on Lent whose given up alcohol trust me!
I may even go and contemplate those ever intriguing questions in life before bed? Or I may take a day off and bury my head in a good book instead?
As much as we all love our family and friends, we all need a little alone time in our lives whatever our circumstances. I personally feel that it is imperative for our personal and emotional well being and self improvement to have such time.

Having had to rely on others for so much physical support over the last few years, I have come to appreciate any time that I am physically able to be on my own as extremely special.
Today I am thankful of my special and precious 'me time' and special quality time with Barley.
Good luck seeking out your own path to physical and emotional rehabilitation.
Stay positive everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Karen

    I'm used to living on my own so having my mother here to help me all of the time can feel quite claustrophobic though I really appreciate her help. Its good to just have a little space and time alone to relax and be in your own thoughts, though too much is not good as I tend to dwell on things and maybe go a bit nutty with the worry of illness etc. I hope you are having a good day today, these blogs are a good way for us to realise we are not alone in our cirumstances and to connect with people it would be impossible to with out the internet.

    Best wishes to you

    Lynn

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