NHS Cuts, Disability Benefits & Me

 

A drastic change in my health around ten years ago sent me spiralling along a path of limited mobility and chronic pain. Raw and reeling, my mental health plummeted and subsequently I plunged into clinical depression. It was a dark time which left me feeling unable to care for myself, or my three children.

My local hospital didn’t know how best to help me and so came a frustrating and emotionally draining year of researching treatments that might help me (I found one) and then trying to get my local authority to fund it as it was outside of my local town (eventually they did).

For around the past eight years, every now and then,  I’ve undergone this quick, simple but life-changing procedure and I am so thankful for the NHS for the time and care I have been privileged enough to receive so far. Alongside this I have paid for my own physio (I didn’t get long on the NHS lists) and I’ve done everything I can possibly do to take responsibility for, and improve my health. Today, I can potter around the house, drive, nip into shops, go for short walks, my pain levels have drastically reduced and my quality of life has greatly improved. I feel like a real hands-on mum again. I no longer need to take daily medication which had been causing me horrendous side effects. Although I still use crutches sometimes and my wheelchair for days out, when I think back to ten years ago when I was unable to stand unaided or get myself in and out of the bath, my life is unrecognisable. For that I am very grateful.

Returning to the hospital last Thursday I was shocked and dismayed to be told, through no fault of the team, that due to NHS funding cuts the hospital would no longer be offering this treatment.

This post isn’t a self-pitying one – government cuts have affected most of us in one shape or form- but rather a way to unpick the tangle of emotions I am feeling right now.

Today, thanks to the improvements to my health I can work full-time. I don’t claim disability benefits, there isn’t enough to go around and there are people worse off than me, that I know. I am in the fortunate position where I work from home, make my own hours. I can change positions if my pain gets overwhelming, I can go for a lie-down when I’m feeling exhausted, I can even skip the odd day and stay in bed during bad flare ups. This I could not do in an office but I worry now, that without this relatively simple treatment, my mobility will likely decline again, my pain increase, my mental health suffer and the thought of losing my financial independence if I am no longer capable of working is a frightening thought indeed.

Slashing funding and impacting upon people’s health will surely cost more in long run; potentially driving people out of work, onto benefits, increasing the need for medication, pain killers, anti-depressants, the already flooded waiting lists for counselling will creak under the strain, and then of course there is the need to treat the often horrific side-effects these drugs can cause.

And this is what I am struggling to make sense of. The logic behind it all.

I really don’t know what the answer is. I don’t feel I am more entitled than anyone else. All I do know is at the moment, my world, the world, seems a scary and uncertain place.

Join me on the Peace Path

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Those of us that have been blessed enough to have spent time around children will recognise the look of utter contentment babies have as they observe the bright, shiny new world they have been thrust into.

Fast forward a few years, throw a career, a home, financial stress into the mix (aka real life) and those once serene babies look as frazzled as the rest of us.

What happens to that inner peace we are born with? Where does it go?

It doesn’t actually go anywhere, but as we grow and get busier we lose touch with ourselves. We come defined by our relationships, our job titles, always busy, always striving for more, waiting for the right time to be happy. Happiness won’t come when you are 14 lbs lighter, when you have a different job, financial security. Happiness isn’t a destination.

When I lost my mobility the physical effects were hard to deal with, the emotional effects almost impossible. I see-sawed between depression when I thought about all I had lost and anxiety when I thought of all the obstacles I would face in the future. I was completely missing the present moment. Through mindfulness I have managed to make peace with the past. I take time each day to meditate and reconnect to that place inside, the place were we are enough, whatever our circumstances.

Inner peace isn’t an absence of emotion, it’s being comfortable with whatever we are currently experiencing, even if that emotion is uncomfortable. It’s about releasing the need to be in control, to let go of judgements, relearning self compassion.

The Dalai Lama once said. “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” 

I am privileged enough to teach mindfulness now. If you want to try one of my short mediations click here to listen or download. Ten minutes a day can make a significant difference to your physical and emotional health.

Join me on the peace path.

 

Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. This weeks prompt is Peace/Piece.

 

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Falling in love with writing

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It’s the school summer holidays. Often a struggle with my limited mobility. I love spending time with my children but days out leave me exhausted with increased pain.  Yesterday I asked my eight year old son whether he would like to go to the park for a while, I do like him to be out in the fresh air and sunshine whenever possible. ‘Do you mind if we stay in today and write a book,’ he replied.  Ummm ok. No pressure then!

Finley had been totally gripped for weeks by the Chronicles of Avantia series by Adam Blade. So much so that when he finished Book Four he had tears in his eyes. I offered to take him to the book shop to see what we could find to read next, but no, he started to reread Book One. ‘I love the series so much I never want it to end,’ he told me. But, he decided there was a chunk Adam missed out, alluding to an event rather than describing it. Finley explained that he could see it so clearly in his mind he wanted to write it down.

So write we did. It was so refreshing to look at life through the eyes of a child. He decided he wanted to write a book so sat down to do just that. There was no could I or should I’s, no doubt that it was achievable. He sat and described the scene in his head so beautifully I could really envisage being there. He had such a joy watching his story come to life with no worries he was switching from past to present tense, using too many adjectives and creating sentences that were far too long. He wrote because he loved it. Because he wanted to. It was a privilege to be part of that and a timely reminder for me of why I started this journey.

 

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SoCS – My body is awesome

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My body is awesome.

I never used to think this way. Ironically it has only been in the last few years since acquiring a disability that I have learnt to love myself.

When I was younger I used to weigh myself every single morning and that figure on the scale would govern my entire day from how I dressed, what I ate and most importantly my mood. I used to believe the way I looked defined who I was. After all our appearance is the first thing we notice about each other and although pretty much everyone is familiar with ‘never judge a book by its cover,’ sadly many automatically do.

After my health circumstances changed so drastically I began to explore mindfulness as a way to cope with both the daily pain and the emotional distress a chronic health condition can bring. I reconnected to my conscious awareness, that inner peace that is present from birth. We commonly lose sight of this as we grow and develop our (often unhealthy) belief systems.  Exploring my consciousness helped me understand I am not my body. It’s just a place I inhabit in this lifetime. and doesn’t define who I am. We can lose pieces of our bodies, limbs, skin, one of our senses and it doesn’t make us any less of a person. I call the body the ‘little me’. Me, the actual ‘big me’, is something beautifully whole, intangible and perfect.

I am grateful for the body I have and I am thankful for all it still can do. I have an extraordinary skeleton which houses all the vital organs I need that function each day for my health and wellbeing.

My body is awesome, but you know what? So is yours.

 

Written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Word prompt – ‘Body’.

 

Getting naked and vulnerable

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I was determined that I would be Enid Blyton when I grew up. My earliest memories involve me straining my eyes by torchlight under my covers, too captivated by the world I was transported to and the characters I met there, to contemplate going to sleep.

I had a nurturing primary school teacher who encouraged me to read as many different genres as I could and to write, write and then write some more. (Thank you Mr Townsend).

As I grew older, while I never lost my love of reading, writing fell by the wayside. Much to my disappointment I just grew bigger and never turned into my favourite author and It seemed ludicrous to ever conceive I would be in print one day. Anyway, I had a job, a family and many hobbies to keep me occupied.

In my 30s I had a car accident which caused some spinal damage and exacerbated a pre-existing medical condition and I was left with very limited mobility. The advice of my spinal consultant to take up knitting was quickly disregarded but what could I do? Never one normally to sit still, my new enforced lifestyle left me with little choice, I needed something to occupy my mind, a purpose, some joy.

I toyed with the idea of writing but who, I thought, would want to read my stories? I don’t know the answer to that one yet but it turned out that many people wanted to read my personal story. Being a (former) kinesiologist and nutritional therapist and a (current) mindfulness coach I found I had a lot of knowledge and experience on how to live happily, healthily and peacefully internally, regardless of external circumstances. I was soon writing for many disability and health magazines and sites.

I started a professional blog celebrating health, happiness and peaceful living and share much of myself with my readers. However I always have a valid (in my mind) reason why I haven’t started writing fiction yet. I am too busy, too tired, too uninspired, too, well, you get the picture.

Over the past few weeks I have been reading many of your blogs and WOW. I have been blown away by the talent and pure energy that shines through the posts. I have been in tears one minute and laughing the next as your carefully constructed sentences convey so much raw emotion. The subject matters have been nothing short of genius and I am more than a little bit in awe of you all.

Today I was asked to write a piece for a magazine I contribute to on living fearlessly because, said the editor, I know all about that with my health challenges. Hearing these words the inner me hung her head in shame. I may have overcome many difficulties but the thought of writing and putting any fiction out there makes me feel vulnerable and exposed. If I don’t though how can I possibly be an advocate for fearless living?

So I have set up this blog with no plan, no posts written and no idea where to proceed from here. I feel naked and vulnerable but determined to at least try and post something (if my nervously sweaty fingers don’t slip off the publish button).

Here goes.