Level-Up: Part 17
Every Sunday I record my health achievements and discoveries for the week here. To find out why I decided to start doing this, you can read an explanation in the first post of the series here.
This week could really have been split into three parts. On Monday I set my goal to get back to using public transport in motion. I realise it probably seems ridiculous to need a plan or a project for taking a train journey. I suppose it’s a little embarrassing. I can’t help but feel that people are laughing at my restrictions sometimes. Disability can often have that effect. Your life can feel so much smaller than everyone else’s, so you assume there must occasionally be some sniggering. In reality that feeling mostly comes from myself, but without the plan it won’t happen at all. I recorded a quick video on Monday evening to talk about what I’m trying to do. If you haven’t already seen it and you have a few minutes you can click here to watch the video. It was all completely off the cuff, so apologies for any waffling.
On Wednesday I had another GP appointment. I’ve had a couple lately. I wasn’t sure whether to mention this or not but I’ve decided that to talk about chronic physical illness honestly you can’t leave the uncomfortable stuff out. The panic attack I mentioned in Part 15 where the idea that my illness would scupper all my future plans shook me up. Initially I scoffed at the suggestion that I should mention it to my doctor. It’s just a one-off. I’m fine, thanks. It won’t happen again. But what if I wasn’t fine? I found out through bitter experience that ignoring how I really felt about my illness lead me down a bad road. The first time it took me to persistent and destructive anger. When I found the courage to bring it up he stared at me like he could see through my bullshit and said “I think stress-wise you’re just about hanging on. You’re putting on a brave face. And the thing about brave faces is that they eventually slip.” Nobody has ever looked at me like that before. He got it.
The real reason I didn’t want to mention it to my GP was that I felt like I was failing to cope. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but my personality works against that. At least, when it’s myself. When it’s anyone else I encourage them to seek help when they’re struggling. It’s a pride thing. When you’re the kind of person who likes to appear tough and goes out of their way to look after other people, admitting that you’re struggling isn’t all that easy.
I’m glad we discussed it though. He had given me some homework to do the week before to help us pin down what was really going on. We eventually agreed that I had become incredibly stressed. I’d absorbed so much over several months that it had nowhere to go. I was like a sponge starting to trickle over the border into anxiety about the future. Not all of the big life events that have stressed me out over the past six months or so have been illness related. But every single one of them has been made more difficult because of it and some would even have been resolved already without it. Nobody tells you when you become disabled how much it influences everything. Chronic illness takes a picture of your life and paints a tint over the top. Everything becomes a slightly different colour. It touches everything. And not just for you but for everyone you share your life with.
We agreed that I wouldn’t take any further medication. Mostly because this series of stress would eventually come to an end, but also because I already have enough on my prescription and the side effects would likely make me even dizzier. That would, of course, make coping with my illness an even bigger challenge and oppose what we’re trying to do. We also agreed that topping up the counselling I did last summer with a new course would be helpful as I move forward in trying to live with my disability. This will be NHS counselling so, unfortunately, it could be up to four months before I’m called. But it’ll definitely be helpful. If in the meantime I work out some fantastic stress-busting techniques I’ll share them in future Level-Up posts.
Between my train station jaunt and the doctor’s appointment, which I walked home from, I got to Friday with a few outdoor chores needing doing. I had some shopping to do and some documents to get in the post. It struck me that it was Friday and I was only then going on my regular walk for the first time this week. It then occurred to me that I actually have a regular walk now. Sometimes I vary the route depending on how far I think I can walk and what I actually need to do, but I now have a place that on a good day I can walk to and do a few things independently. That’s pretty amazing and it snuck up on me like a ninja.
At one point when I was working in my last job I couldn’t even make it across the street from my office to the shop. If I forgot my lunch I’d have to ask my colleagues to go and buy me something. I hated that. I celebrated on Friday by getting a big sandwich from the deli. It wasn’t the easiest walk because it was pouring with rain. I had to hold an umbrella up (losing my balance arm) and all the benches and walls were too wet for me to take a break. I just leaned against some shop windows instead. That didn’t look suspicious at all.
Walking is never easy. It still has to be done incredibly slowly and on a bad day I have to accept that even staying upright is going to be a challenge. But without realising it I actually found a little piece of normality. It may not be the normal I want, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Level-up!