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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Getting My Life Back!

Once again, my sincere apologies that there has been a significant gap between my last post and this one.

Please do not think that you have not been in my thoughts, as just logging in to write to you this evening, I have found myself confronted by three or four unfinished compositions that I have started with the good intentions of communicating with you of late, only for my efforts to have been thwarted by the unwelcome companion of unbearable pain and/or related depression.

One of these said posts focuses a little more upon both of these issues and explains in more detail why I have not been around- but with the time now fast approaching 11pm, a doctor's appointment looming at 9.10am tomorrow morning, and pain intensifying in my legs and feet to the point that I'm about to reach for the morphine- I am acutely aware that my window of effective concentration that is so very limited, is closing in upon me: so rather than attempt to edit these 'previous works' and try to decipher quite what my frame of mind was at the time of writing- I thought that I would drop you a new, albeit it brief hello before I rest my weary head upon my much longed for pillow!

I'm sure that those of you who have worked anything upwards of eight hours today, will be frustratingly frowning at your computer screen right now, asking just how one can be quite so 'weary' when one as not been to work?

I understand this view point and may well have expressed it myself before I was enlightened by experiencing what it is to live a life with a disability and more specifically chronic pain: however from this position that I now find myself in, I can inform you that every day waking up in pain and trying to undertake the most simple of daily tasks, is on a par with the toughest day of work I can possibly relate to! And I used to work 12 hour flights serving alcohol to wannabe 'Rat Packers' en route to Vegas; sweeties to sugar hyped kids en route to life out their fantasy of being 'Belle' in Disneyland Orlando and coffee to work tired business men racking up their air miles across The Atlantic- all whilst trying to pretend that my feet weren't killing me from walking miles up and down the aisle of the A360 Airbus aircraft; my eyes weren't stinging from the severe lack of sleep, and my cheeks weren't aching from maintaining my perfect red lippy painted smile!
This is by no means an expression that 'trolley dollying' is the most difficult job in the world- after all I am married to an RAF pilot who I am profusely proud of- it is just to prove that I do know a little of what physical hard work feels like. Please don't turn this into an "I have the toughest job in the world competition"!
I do, despite receiving much banter regarding my employment as a dippy dancer and tottering trolley dolly- know hard work!
I used to work 18 hour days as a dancer and choreographer, as well as once racking up a record 25 hour working day when a flight was held up in South Africa as a Virgin trolley dolly- all of this was hard work but their was huge rewards! (Not least the cocktails on the beach that would be waiting for me in Cape Town, Barbados or Sydney- it was a hard life!).
Of course there was immense satisfaction at receiving pennies in my pocket at the end of the month to pay for my rent, maintaining my car and paying for treats- that all gave me independence which is invaluable and something I miss massively! But there was also an immense amount of job satisfaction in it's own right and I felt a great amount of pride to put on the uniform of a company that I respected and revered.
There was a fantastic feeling of accomplishment at passing my tests in aviation medicine and safety procedures and receiving my wings to fly for Virgin Atlantic, and an incredible feeling of satisfaction at seeing a production that I had choreographed being performed and receiving a standing ovation.

The absence of these feelings in my life since my accident has been a hard adjustment to make and accept, not least the void of having my own money to feel proud of earning and to enable me to buy essentials and treats.

Each hour of being awake nowadays, (be them day or night- and there are many that I indeed spend awake at night through immense unrelenting pain!), are incredibly tough with little or nothing to show for them at the end of the day!

Almost everyday feels like a battle, both physically and emotionally and all I have to show for it on all too many days is a list of all my intended tasks, with all but one thing ticked off- and that was simply to eat breakfast!

I've always been a perfectionist and 'wannabe high achiever' ever since school. I have always taken on too much, but before this stage in my life I would just stay up all night to accomplish whatever overambitious task/tasks I had set myself. I was a 'doer', I was an achiever, I would life life to the full and some!

I get very frustrated that these qualities are now unobtainable, in that doing things to the best of my physical ability at the time of trying, invariably results in me experiencing increased pain that leaves me bed bound for days, weeks and even months. Things are out of my control and that makes me want to cry at times.

My psychologist calls this the boom and bust pattern and if you are of the nature and have the tendencies that I so obviously am and have- it is an extremely difficult pattern to break!!

Things in my life are now obviously very different and that 'wannabe high achiever' is frustrated and annoyed!

For the past year or so I have been seeing these said psychologists to tackle the many issues that occur as a result of finding yourself facing a changed life as a result of an illness or injury.
The above issue is one I have been focusing upon a lot with the help of my psychologist.

With the help of antidepressants I feel that I am finally making headway in pulling myself out of the dark hole of despair that I found myself in at the beginning of the year, after a major setback in my condition left my whole family emotionally reeling from witnessing my condition take me back to a place pre-spinal surgery that we never believed we would be in again.

The realisation of quite how much I had improved since that point in January/February came only this morning when I attended the Pain Clinic at the hospital to meet with my psychologist.

This morning we sat together looking back upon the diary of my sleep time, wake time and time that I am physically able to get out of bed and we were able to see in black and white that this pattern had improved immensely.

There are obviously many contributing factors to this improvement, one of which being that the relapse in my physical condition had levelled out and was now reasonably back under control thanks to new medication- and another, that I had taken big steps to look at myself as an emotional and spiritual being and try and improve my emotional health of my own accord and exploration.

Someone recently reminded me that our bodies are simplistically only there to collect food, prepare food, physically place the food in ones mouth, digest the food- all to feed our brains at the end of the day, the most important and undervalued organ in our entire bodies.

I believe that taking these steps to spend more time and attention looking after my emotional well being has had a huge effect on me of late.

As much as I believe in PMA, ( positive mental attitude) and mind over matter, my nervous system is physically damaged at the end of the day, so as much as I long it to just go and give me back my life- my pain is never going to disappear, and in fact with the degenerative condition that I have, it is actually likely to get worse over the years: what I can do however is to prepare myself and arm myself for this eventuality by strengthening my mind and soul to be as strong as I can possibly be to cope with this situation and therefore maintain as full a life as is possible considering my physical state.

I recently received an email from a reader asking me how I stay so strong- my first response was to say that I most certainly wasn't. In the past I have hit emotional depths that I never even believed were possible and one of these times was actually very recently- but thankfully at the moment I am actually starting to feel emotional strength grow within me and that is such a fantastic feeling!
 So I implore you all that however low you may be feeling now, if you find yourself reaching rock bottom - remember that the only way is up and with time and the right help that is possible. Please excuse the cliche, however cheesy and overused, for me it rings so very true!

Aware that every individual is indeed that- an individual, I was fearful to answer this girl's request. She was almost my age and had also lost her active and fast paced life and was now facing one filled with pain, despair and uncertainty- I so desperately wanted to help her in any way that I could, but I recognised that I am not a professional. I do however have something that many professionals don't have- related experience.

I have to personally believe that good should try to be gained from every negative possible- so maybe that is why God has put me in this position in my life- to help or guide others who are where I was not so very long ago?
Whether or not you share my beliefs, maybe you would share with me that positives should try to be gained from negatives, or even that if you can try to help someone in need- surely that is better than passing them by and not trying at all?

I don't know the answer to this poor girl's question, but in my next post I will share with you the things that have helped to strengthen me.
They may help, they may not; or you may find that they may give you inspiration to try something similar.
I don't know. I by no means believe that I am out of the woods when it comes to leaving behind the depression that has ensued since becoming disabled- as I have fallen into this false sense of security before.
I don't believe that many of these feelings will ever disappear completely, but I do feel that we can perhaps learn to live with them.

On that note, I am off to bed as that is one of the biggest things I've learned of late through my psychologist at the Pain Clinic- whatever I think is important, what is probably more important in terms of my rehabilitation and clawing back some semblance of a 'normal' life- is to get to bed at a reasonable time. Is 12.34am classed as reasonable?

It is a mistake I have made so much in the past, most significantly in writing this blog! I have enjoyed having a purpose again, having something to focus upon and the cathartic nature of that 'something'.
What I didn't realises was that with my perfectionist nature, I would find myself on so many occasions adjusting grammar and phrasing until 4am to the detriment of my rehabilitation!

In the attempt to not get complacent after my praise from the Pain Clinic today, I am going to cut things short now- well only I could say that after a few thousand word dissertation style blog!
Good night everyone. I hope that tomorrow is a positive and pain free day for you all.

Why not try starting your day by setting your alarm ten minutes early and taking those minutes to focus on the positive things in your life however small and insignificant you may believe them to be. It's one of the small steps that's helping me- it may not work for you, but what do you lose by trying?
Sleep well folks.

If you are finding yourself struggling and not receiving the help that you feel you need, below is the number for The Samaritans in the UK and Ireland and The Crisis Helpline for the United States and Canada.

The Smaritans in the UK dial 08457 90 90 90.

In the Republic of Ireland dial 1850 60 90 90.

Crisis Help Line – For Any Kind of Crisis: 1-800-233-4357

Crisis Canada-   Greater Vancouver604-872-3311Toll free – Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast1-866-661-3311TTY1-866-872-0113BC-wide1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)Online Service For Youthwww.youthinbc.comSeniors’ Distress Line604-872-1234

There are also ways of communicating by email if you feel unable to use the telephone on both websites-