Level-Up: Part 35
If this post had a sub-title it would be: feel the fear and do it anyway. This week I had to do two big things. One would require a certain amount of courage and the other called upon all my physical stamina.
Following four months of waiting, I was finally called to my top-up counselling sessions. My GP thought they might be useful after my big (but only, to date) panic attack. This was when I was becoming slightly overwhelmed with both managing life with chronic illness and how much change had taken place in my life over the past year or so.
During the last batch of counselling, which took place last summer, the fear came from the unknown. It came from knowing that I couldn’t go on with such a negative and destructive outlook, but having no idea how I was going to break those patterns of thought. I was scared that I couldn’t make the leap. To say that those seven sessions changed my life would be an understatement. The counsellor managed to adjust my view of my disabled life and helped me begin a grieving process for who I used to be. She guided me through the process of apologising for all the damage I’d done to others and set me on the path to rebuilding my life with illness, but never defined by it. It was by far one of the most painful things I’ve ever worked through. Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s difficult to explain the rawness that level of insight can leave you with. But it was something I absolutely had to do.
This time around, the fear came from knowing too much; remembering how much it stung to stare myself in the face and say goodbye to my life pre-illness. This was the reason I was so nervous to go the second time. It’s a difficult thing to lay yourself bare for a stranger. Having now been to the assessment, I’m not sure this batch will be quite as painful in the same way. It will be hard work and I’ll undoubtedly feel drained by it afterward, but she was keen that we don’t go over old ground I’ve already come to terms with. She wants us to build on how much improvement I’ve already made and find new ways of tackling the things that still upset me: daily uncertainty, having no control over my body, feeling limited, isolation, not being able to do what others can, and so on.
I blogged each session last year because I was going through something of an awakening. I felt the need to share what I was learning about myself publicly. In fact, sharing private pieces of myself was a recurring theme. I had lost a lot of people through illness. I put up a lot of walls. I’d stopped trusting pretty much everyone and sharing felt too vulnerable. Illness stole the best parts of my personality, and I had to find ways of bringing them back out again. Believe it or not, I’m still wildly private. This is week 35 of this series and there isn’t a single installment where I haven’t hovered over the ‘Post’ button for a few seconds and taken a deep breath before hitting it. Thank you for always being kind.
I won’t be directly blogging this counselling. Where I learn things that help me I’ll undoubtedly mention them in Level-Up. Where appropriate I’ll share things with my friends and family. But this is very much for me, and the fact that I have so many more people in my life to support me now is just one indicator of how much work I’ve done over the last year and how many barriers I’ve let down. That’s a good feeling.
Where counselling took a lot of emotional moxie, Thursday night was more about managing my physical strength. My new sister-in-law Jen and I went to see Little Mix at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena. No jokes about me being comfortably old enough to be the support act’s mother, please. I mentioned my disability when calling to book tickets a few months ago and was surprised to hear that they offered balcony tickets set aside for anyone who required a little extra help – Live Access tickets. Knowing I’d have a little extra support was comforting.
We arrived not needing to queue for too long and were personally escorted to the balcony. The view was good, there was nobody stood up in front of me while sat down and having something to lean into meant that even when I was feeling quite dizzy I was still secure. Sitting in a firm, static chair for that long was a challenge.
I had anticipated that the noise and particularly the largely teenage audience screaming would have an impact. I even took earplugs along in case the high-pitched screech became too much.
I ended up not needing them, as the screaming wasn’t as constant as I thought it might be. There were definitely a few moments when things started to spin after some particularly heavy bass lines, but on the whole I dealt with it. I had also considered that darkness and the flashing lights would make me quite queasy. Of course, they did. The number of young girls waving glow-stix and bouncing around with light-up bunny ears on their heads made for an assault on my eyes. Every time a light flickered my eyes and balance system tried to follow them. My eyes compensate for my poor balance, so if they’re disturbed by flashing lights, so is my stability. I managed this by either trying to focus directly on the stage, resting my hands under my eyes to block the flickering or simply looking down for a few moments.
The best thing about all this though, was that I managed not to let it spoil my enjoyment of the show. There were so many moments where I could have allowed myself to feel down about the extra measures I was having to take or even panic about how poorly I felt. But I refused to allow it to take over and had a fantastic night. Thank you, Jen.
The expected Friday ‘hangover’ was intense and unpleasant, but knowing it was coming helped me not get angry about it. I rested and allowed all the extra dizziness, shakes and muscle pain settle again. I think I’m still feeling it a little today, and the weekend of thunder storms is holding the recovery back a bit, but it’s passing.
I’ve been playing it down in the name of ‘feeling normal’, but it was a massive deal for me to have not just got through Thursday night, but to have refused to allow my illness to take away from having a happy experience. It’s not enough for me to just endure things. That’s not living, it’s surviving. I want to enjoy things. On Thursday night, I absolutely did. We’ll call it training for when some kindly person agrees to take me to see Taylor Swift. During which the high-pitched screaming will mostly be coming from me.
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.