When we stop talking about our pain

The other day, I read something that really struck home:

“You don’t learn to live with pain, you just learn to stop talking about it”

When an injury first occurs or before a chronic illness is diagnosed, we talk about our symptoms, if they’re worrying us, we have no problem saying “I’ve got a splitting headache again” or “My tummy ache’s not going away” or “The cold really affects my joints” but once you’ve got a diagnosis and are managing (with medication or otherwise) as best as you can, there seems little point to keep going on about it…this is something that seems to happen naturally but it’s a tricky thing that isn’t always the best thing.

One of my husband’s friends was having terrible back trouble a while back, as fellow Christians we were praying for him as he made decisions about treatment including the possibility of invasive surgery. After a while, I asked my husband how his friend was, he said he didn’t know – we didn’t know if that was because his back was better (unlikely) or he’d just stopped talking about it.

I have chronic pain in my neck, back and shoulders and have done for many years. This is due to spondylosis in my spine and fibromyalgia affecting all joints and soft tissues. Spondylosis is diagnosed with MRI and is a degenerative bone condition causing pain, including periods of inflammation and osteophyte (bone spur) growth, which press on nerves etc. Fibromyalgia is a condition diagnosed by ruling out all other connective tissue disorders which causes tender/trigger points and generalised pain and fatigue. I also have arthritis in my ankles which causes pain with every step I take.

I used to complain quite a lot, the conditions I have are difficult to manage, especially in someone “so young”, as my orthopaedic surgeon told me! I take regular pain killers, do physio, do regular exercise, get regular sleep and do relaxation techniques.

The other day my husband asked how my pain was, commenting that I’d not said anything about it for a while. I said that it was ‘as usual’ – I hate complaining, and I hate lying so it just is what it is!

I have come to realise I may have a low pain threshold (ie I feel pain sooner than someone else) but I have an incredibly high pain tolerance – I can put up with a lot of pain and still go about my daily life, not that it doesn’t bother me, just that I don’t let it stop me. This, of course, take a lot of energy which contributes to the fatigue I get anyway!

I find it difficult to talk about my pain as most people, when they hear about it, want to help in some way, or at least say something useful, sympathetic or supportive. But there isn’t really anything anyone can say or do to help. If I do mention it, it generally feels quite awkward and I defer to lying, along the lines of “it’s fine, I’m managing ok” or “I have good days and bad days” – which is technically true but my good days are still about 5-6/10 on the pain scale…

Normal for me is pretty bad but who wants to hear that every time I see them?!

If I don’t talk about it, people don’t realise that I’m suffering, assume I’m fine and don’t understand when I need to leave events to go to bed, if I’m distracted or if I don’t offer to help (set up tables, move chairs etc). I worry that people won’t believe me because I ‘look normal’ or they will just think I’m lazy or a flake!

The thing is, I can act normal, as I did the other day in breakaway training at work, but I pay for it afterwards. That evening, I could hardly think, my head felt like it was completely split open, my shoulders and arms were stiff and I coulnd’t move them without excruciating pain. Hot pokers and crushing vices could probably reproduce the pain fairly accurately.

I have read some fabulous books by Paul Brand and Philip Yancy about how we’re meant to listen to our pain, not get angry about it or wish we didn’t have it – it tells us something is wrong, if we didn’t feel it we wouldn’t pull our hand away from the flame or take care of a brewing illness.

Unfortunately when it comes to fibro, the thing that’s wrong is the pain communication system – this means, I feel pain when I shouldn’t. Pain from spondylosis is due to physical degeneration or deformities – I listen to my pain and do not push my body beyond it’s limits too often but it’s incredibly frustrating when my brain is active and wants to be doing, but my body just can’t.

I’m not looking for people to feel sorry for me (that’s fairly pointless!) – I’m just saying it how it is.

So it’s a difficult balance, talking about the pain doesn’t solve anything and makes other people feel helpless or awkward, not talking about it means people don’t know the truth, may think I’m rude or acting strangely.

So, perhaps we should try to remember, if someone has a chronic condition, no matter what it is, diabetes, arthritis, mental illness, bowel or kidney disorders, they are managing it every single day. They may not talk about it but that doesn’t mean they’re fine, it doesn’t mean they’re not suffering just as much as when they do talk about it, all it means is that today, they’re not talking about it.

Sometimes I wish my conditions were more visible but most of the time I’m glad I can choose who I tell. I guess, my health is my business and I maybe I shouldn’t worry about what other people think.

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Think before we speak, taming the tongue

The tongue is an incredibly powerful muscle, it can discourage or encourage, praise or curse, gossip or spread rumour, express love, hate or anything in between. If you believe in creation as set out in Genesis, (God) speaking brought the world into existence!

As children, many of us were given the simple message “if you’ve not got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, this helps us stop before we speak and evaluate whether our words are nasty or nice, mean or kind, cruel or compassionate.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’m guilty of letting my tongue get the better of me. When I’m feeling a bit rubbish, I’ll say a curt word, for some reason, want to bring down the people around me – I can be nice and polite in public but it’s my husband who gets the less than helpful comments and underhand criticism. I don’t mean to be harsh, sometimes things just come out.

We’ve all been around people who seem to just want to discourage, knock confidence and generally hinder, cause difficulty or seem to oppose everything. I’m going to be blunt and say it’s best to let people like that slip out of your life but of course, this isn’t always possible.

I was asked in some recent bible teaching (name drop alert), with Simon Ponsonby(!), “how do you respond to criticism” – my answer was that I used to take it really badly, take it to heart, I would even twist it to fit my belief that I was useless, pointless and couldn’t do anything right. More recently, I’ve noticed I’m more likely to defend myself or even shut out the criticism; this is because I’m aware my self esteem incredibly fragile so if I take the criticism as I used to, it would mean all the work I’ve done to build myself up would be wasted.

However, we discussed that criticism can help us develop and be better people. This, of course, has to be the magical ‘constructive criticism’ – to give this kind of advise is about finding the right balance.

So, when I hear criticism, it’s important to evaluate it immediately and decide if it’s going to cut me down or whether it has the possibility to help develop me. If the latter, it needs to be listened to, understood and taken on board.

In the bible teaching, Simon was looking the book of James, chapter 3, about taming the tongue.

It’s not about saying nice things or not saying the horrible things you really want to say. We all know passive aggressive people who communicate incredibly loudly with their silence or through their fake niceness…this makes for a toxic atmosphere.

It’s about wanting the best for those around us, it’s about considering what they need to hear (NOT what we think they need to hear) but making sure you communicate effectively and take time to ensure they’ve heard what you intended.

Thinking about taming my tongue I’ve looked up the definition; although many definitions of the verb to “tame” suggest, submission or lacking in something, I’ve come across one that I think is more helpful when thinking about taming the tongue:

“To harness or control; render useful, as a source of power.”

This recognises the capacity of the tongue and that it can be used to accomplish great things. I’ve been challenged to tame my tongue, to think before I speak and (not stay silent) but speak with love and compassion, and ensure what I say builds up those around me. If I feel critical or argumentative, I need to consider what is best for the other person – can I rephrase what I want to say so they benefit instead of feeling got at?

I will THINK before I speak and consider whether it is:

  • True
  • Helpful
  • Inspiring
  • Necessary
  • Kind

Anxiety is like a car alarm

If you have a posh enough car, it has an alarm. If someone tries to break in, it makes a loud sound to warn them off and alert others to the problem.

In the same way, anxiety can be a useful alert system – when there’s a threat that requires the fight or flight response, adrenaline surges through the body in order to make us run faster or fight if necessary.

However, if there’s a fault with our car alarm, it will also sound when the wind blows, when a cat runs under it, when someone walks past or for absolutely no reason what so-ever!

If anxiety works in overdrive, it is set off, for example, when you think about going outside, or when you’ve been invited to a party, or if a compulsion has not been carried out correctly, or…for no clear reason at all.

Anxiety is terrifying because adrenaline surges through our body as though we are experiencing a threat on our life.

We can take the analogy a bit further, the first few times your car alarm goes off, you dash out to check, thinking someone is stealing your car.

When we feel anxious, we assume it’s an accurate feeling for the threat posed so react appropriate, usually by running away or avoiding the situation. For example, if agoraphobic, we stop going outside, if we have social anxiety, we stop socialising, if we have obsessive compulsive thoughts about switching the light switch exactly 17 times, we have to switch is exactly 17 times.

Or, in my case, I developed a fear of fat and of putting on weight so felt anxious around food, this combination led to anorexia. So what started as a simple fight or flight response getting out of control, led to a complicated mental illness and years of difficulty.

Both, the car alarm and anxiety, can be distressing and negatively impact those around us no matter how hard we try to hide it.

Unfortunately, by the time we’ve realised the anxiety is not an appropriate response to the situation, the behaviour has become a habit.

If our car alarm goes off multiple times we turn it off – unfortunately, we cannot do this once anxiety has “gone off” too many times.

However, take it another step – when we take our car to the mechanic, they check out the wiring, maybe replace or re-set some of the workings.

Here’s the good news – we can re-wire our brains – how great is that?! We can re-train our neural pathways so that we react with an appropriate level of response. This may take a long time but it is possible with the right therapy and a lot of perseverance!

Recovery from mental illness isn’t about staying within your comfort zone

Regarding mental health recovery, I just saw someone on facebook advise one of my friends to “take baby steps”- totally agree with this, but then she said “go at a pace you’re comfortable with” – this, in my humble opinion, is dangerous ground… let me explain.

Recovery from mental illness is going to be painful, it’s like physio, it ain’t gonna work if it doesn’t hurt! No pain, no gain and all that jazz!

The one barrier to recovery, I’ve seen over and over again is being terrified of change and needing things to stay the same.

There’s the old adage – no-one likes change and it’s true.

Yes, being mental ill is horrendous, no-one actually wants to be ill but, wanting to get better and wanting change are two very different things – I don’t think anyone would be ill if getting better was easy, straight forward and didn’t involve making massive painful changes to the way we think, feel and behave.

Unfortunately, the longer someone has been ill, the more comfortable the illness is, which makes change even harder. BUT there’s also the opportunity to use the feelings of frustration to motivate the change.

When recovering from anorexia, comfort, for me included, feeling hungry, saying “no” to food and making decisions based on consuming few calories and burning many. If I’d been told to “go at my pace”, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere at all. I’m not saying I wanted to stay ill but changing even the tinniest thing caused distress I couldn’t manage.

As odd as it sounds, depression can also be comfortable. I had my routines, I had people care for me, my thinking patterns were familiar, I believed the running commentary in my head… I was useless and trying was pointless – it was easier to stay in these patterns.

How could someone not want to break free?! Of course, I wanted to break free but I also didn’t want anything to change.

There’s a fear of failure, and let’s be honest, taking huge leaps increases the chance of failure, then confidence in one’s ability is knocked! So, it’s essential to take baby steps but I always found the tinniest step was uncomfortable.

Once I’d decided I was going to tackle recovery and make it work, I had the right people around me, people who had faith in me, they presented me with challenges they believed I could achieve; every step was difficult, I had to fight my daemons and manage extraordinary levels of anxiety, but if I’d not gone through that, I’d still be at square 1 (or worse).

With all mental illnesses it’s important to make the changes stick, so, unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a day off! If you take your foot off the gas, chances are, steps backwards will occur.

Deciding to take a day off (as enticing as it is!) is dangerous territory!

So, baby steps – yes, even half baby steps, but as soon as you think it’s ok to stay comfortable, chances are, recovery will halt.

I DO NOT want anyone reading this to feel bad about taking steps back or not making progress, this is natural and (dear I say) ‘normal’! Recovery is exhausting – it’s seriously been the toughest thing I’ve even done, it’s so difficult to make the ‘right’ decisions days after day!

I’m simply pointing out, that in my experience (in myself and supporting people) recovery is about stepping out of your comfort zone, not staying within it.

I hope this will help supporters understand why linear recovery just isn’t possible!

What makes someone an mental health ‘expert’?

I cannot say what has prompted me to write this blog, suffice to say I was recently told an article I’d written, that I had researched extensively and was backed with my personal experience of mental illness, was inadequate. I was asked to get backing from an ‘expert’ (which I tried and failed to do) and this got me thinking!

I have spent years trying to cope with my mental illness on my own, years in and out of hospital, and further years on the road to recovery using various therapies and medications. On my journey I’ve met tens of people, each with their own struggles.

I’ve tried numerous medications so I know what it’s like to decide whether to put up with symptoms or side effects. I know what it’s like to put every ounce of energy into trying to recover, to keep failing and keep getting it wrong so I know what it’s like to feel completely hopeless.

I have spent hours trying to distract myself from intrusive thoughts, sometimes succeeding, often not. I know what it’s like to be completely overwhelmed by my feelings, not have a clue what to do but have to figure it out anyway!

I know what it’s like to feel as though no one understand, as though you’re completely alone and no one will ever be able to help because they just don’t know what it’s like.

When I’m ill, of course, I need support from professionals but I’ve lost count of the number of times they’ve asked me what I need, what will help! They know theoretically which medication would help or what services are available but they always consider me the expert.

As an aside – I have a medical degree, I learnt a lot as a student and when I practiced as a doctor – this knowledge is helpful but in my opinion, no amount of text book learning is equal to experiencing illness itself.

How often, when unwell, taking advice from a doctor, nurse or other professional, do you wander if they have a clue what it’s like to live with your condition? I’ve often thought this about physiotherapists…do they know what it’s like to have extreme pain and push through and do all your prescribed exercises anyway? If they did I think they’d be a bit more congratulatory, maybe throw you a party at every appointment!! I digress!

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for medical professionals, they do a difficult job and have incredible knowledge and skills but there’s something about experiencing illness yourself that gives you that bit extra to help your patients.

In my professional life I’ve supported people in the grips of severe mental illness, hallucinating, talking about delusions, self harming or wanting to take their life – every time walking alongside these people has taught me so much.

Research is interesting but personal experience brings it to life.

What’s more, I have a passion for spreading the word about mental illness, for raising awareness and ensuring more people understand what it’s like to live with mental illness.

The ‘experts’ I was asked to get backing from do not have this passion… so I ask for their input and I didn’t hear back.

I never have, and never would, pretend I know everything, which is why I think my combination of degree and personal experience is helpful. As a doctor, the most important skill is to know when you don’t know – I carry this through my work today.

I have experience of a mood disorder and an eating disorder, if I want to find out about schizophrenia or a personality disorder, for example, who do I talk to? Someone sitting in an office who’s read a lot of books?! No! I talk to the people I know who have personal experience – they are the experts in my humble opinion – tell me what you think in the comments below.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week – Why Wait?

26th February this year is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Beat (the UK’s leading eating disorders charity) are asking Why Wait? So I thought I’d try and answer!

Beat’s research shows:

“On average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That’s almost three years, 37 months or 1,043 days.”

I’m going to be addressing this primarily from the point the point of view of having recovered from anorexia but some, if not all, of this will apply to other eating disorders too.

People with no experience of eating disorders would be puzzled by the delay in seeking and engaging in treatment but having been deeply entrenched in one for many years, I know recovery from an eating disorder involves a lot of ambivalent feelings.

The most prominent reason for waiting to recover is fear – saying ‘yes’ to treatment means saying ‘yes’ to change, saying ‘yes’ to stepping out of your comfort zone and most feared (when it comes to anorexia) saying ‘yes’ to weight gain.

Denial is also a problem, delusional beliefs about weight, shape, body shape and the extent of the problem lie square in the way of stepping up to getting help. Interestingly, I found, that even when my delusional beliefs were challenged, and I started to see and understand that my beliefs may not be entirely accurate, it was fear, again, that made me hold onto my inaccurate beliefs.

Some people hold on incredibly tightly to their delusional beliefs, no matter how gently or ferociously it’s challenged, there’s no budging it.

Fear and anxiety are helpful emotions – they tell us when something is dangerous, when something should be avoided. I’d be pretty grateful for the fear if I was being chased by a lion, my fear would be accompanied by a rush of adrenaline that would help pump blood to my muscles and help me run faster.

The fear of recovery from an eating disorder is pretty much on this level. Imagine everyday, feeling this fear, it’s not surprising that denial feels like a friend. Every time I was challenged about my weight, my restricted diet or my weight controlling behaviours, this fear and denial kicked in. It felt like I was being chased by a lion I was never going to be able to outrun, the fear was immense but accompanied by feels of hopelessness.

Fear of gaining weight is incredibly powerful – it’s a genuine belief that if you engage with professionals they’ll make you balloon to 100 stone, if you already think you’re overweight, it makes absolutely no sense that you should have to put on more weight…!

So, it’s pretty clear, there are some good reasons not to recover but now I’ll address some reasons why recovery could be a good idea, right now.

When I was struggling, I was advised to step back and look at your life as objectively as I could, as if looking at a friend.

Is there anything you’d change?

Do you want the daily fear to decrease?

Would you like to socialise more?

Do you want to feel less anxious?

Do you want people to stop worrying about you?

Would you like to stop thinking about food all the time?

Would you like to be able to find clothes that fit?

Do you want to go on holiday and just eat what you want?

Would you prefer not to be chained to the bathroom scales?

Do you want to enjoy exercise rather than flog yourself through it?

Would you prefer to be less deceptive and secretive?

Do you want to be free from the number on the weighing scales dictating your mood?

Do you want to try new foods?

Would you prefer to enjoy your food rather than fear it?

Do you want to stop feeling faint?

Do you want to eat your favourite food without fear of a binge?

Do you want to be free from numbers?

Do you want to satisfy your hunger rather than ignore it?

Even if it’s just one of these things, just think about it… Don’t immediately think – “but putting on weight/recovery” won’t do that for me, don’t worry about that right now. Just think, what you’re doing at the moment isn’t working, is it?!

The definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Perhaps now is the time to try something new?

Recovery gave me all of this, and more!

If you’re watching a loved one battling an eating disorder, whether they’re in denial or fearful, perhaps direct them towards this blog, this maybe the first step for them to start the conversation about recovery.

I’m not offering all the answers, I’m just suggesting, recovery is there for the taking, but it has to be an active choice, the only thing that’s going to work is to find professional help and engage with it.

When in treatment I was advised to read a book called ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ – I was very angry that I was being advised to read this book and I’m sorry to say I read the blurb and went no further. Every single day I felt fear (fear of going out, fear of being seen, fear of eating, I was afraid of everything) and I got on with my day anyway, I never let anything stop me. I was offended that this therapist didn’t have the first clue that I was ‘doing it anyway’ every single minute of every single day.

I haven’t read the book so I can’t be certain what it was about but I’ll hazard a guess that it would have challenged my way of getting through, the only way I could manage was to deny my fear. Yes, I was fearful of everything but I feared feeling that fear fully as I thought it would halt me in my tracks. I’m someone who pushes through regardless. If I’m worried about something, I don’t put it off, in fact, I’d rather get on with it, soon rather than later, I hate having worry gnawing away at me. I never avoid anything…except my feelings!

Maybe the book would have taught me that fear is ok (something I’ve grown to learn anyway) you don’t have to ignore or deny it, you can accept it, appreciate it, get to know and understand it…and then ‘do it anyway’!

Maybe we could all learn from this – if there’s something we’re fearful of, the fear is telling us to beware but it’s also giving us the energy to fight. As an eating disorder sufferer, when I worked out how to use that energy to fight, that was a big step towards recovery.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week

26th Feb this year is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Check out some blogs I’ve written, I’ll be posting more during the week!

If you’re wanting some general info about anorexia, try reading this blog, everything from diagnosis to treatment of anorexia.

If you want to learn more about eating disorders, it might be worth watching To The Bone on Netflix but check out my thoughts first, some of it is brilliant, other bits, not so great! To The Bone review

I worked hard to recover from depression and anorexia, I couldn’t have done it without my faith, read more about it here: How my faith helped me recover from mental illness

If you’re wondering if recovery is worth it, sometimes it’s worth thinking about the long term effects, it’s not easy reading but here’s my blog about some long term effects of anorexia

Insomnia is a common problem with all mental health diagnoses, when my anorexia was at its worst, I wanted to sleep and I didn’t want to sleep at the same time! Here’s why: Anorexia haunted my dreams

Talking is key

So sorry I’ve not published a blog for a long time. Basically I’ve moved house and I’ve changed jobs – 2 of the most stressful things anyone can do!

It’s blogging that appears to have taken a back seat, not a conscious decision but none the less, it’s happened and I’m now working to rectify this!

My job change has only been to a different department within the same hospital but there have been a lot of changes, not least a massive change in hours. I have been used to working shifts which, although you can’t form a routine, there are huge benefits, for example, having time off during the week! I was working 3 long days (out of the house before 7am, home after 8pm), but this would mean I had 4 days off a week! In my new job, I work 8-4, 5 days a week, great if you like a regular routine but I’ve lost a lot – commuting an extra 2 days per week stole 2 hours of my life and in admin, you get 1/2 hour unpaid lunches, another 2.5 hours taken from my week!

Other changes, of course, include working with different people, managing a very different style of work, managing my own work load and prioritising. I’m also working in an office for the first time and I’m experiencing some, apparently normal, office culture, such as an ongoing conversation about food, weight and dieting!

The stress of moving house is immense, the physical moving went pretty well but there’s so much paperwork involved and money, a lot of money!! It’s mostly over but I’m still working my way through the infinite list of people who need to know my change of address, and decorating and DIY have become an ongoing fixture in my life!

It’s a very confusing time as these positive events happen, I ‘should’ feel happy but it’s important to acknowledge what’s been lost and no matter how positive the change is, everyone finds change difficult.

Managing these life events a few years ago, I would definitely have needed time of work and there’s a high chance I would have ended up in hospital.

The last few months have been highly stressful BUT, I have remind relatively health and not ended up in hospital!

So what’s changed?!

I think the title of this blog says it in one! I now talk about how I’m feeling, about what I’m thinking and about what I’m struggling with. Previously, I have not had the language or emotional understanding to explain the knot in my stomach is related to anxiety or that the tension in my shoulders, causing migraines is related to worries I don’t know how to solve.

Often it’s difficult to know how to start talking but my husband and I find a good start is “I don’t know what’s going on but…” or simply “can we talk about…” the conversation then moves naturally from there even if it’s in a stop-start way, we manage to talk about anything and everything! Although we like to solve each other’s problems, we’ve learnt that ‘just’ listening is often what we want from each other, but we do have to remind each other that’s what we want – we don’t expect each other to mind read!

When trying to talk, it’s ok to say “I don’t know how I feel” or “it just doesn’t feel right”. Not every conversation has to go all deep and meaningful, it’s ok to not have the exact words but it’s important to say that. Starting to talk is the hardest thing but expressing our thoughts and feelings is important, no matter how jumbled it is, not just for our own mental wellbeing but for the good of our relationships.

I snapped at a colleague the other day, not like me at all! But, I took a deep breath and apologised. I didn’t need to poor my heart out to her, I just said “I’m sorry, I’m stressed about other stuff and I didn’t mean to take it out on you” I felt better for having said what was going on for me and the mood in the room lightened immediately.

It’s best not to take our stresses out on others people but sometimes this is inevitable, if we spend a lot of time around someone, they’ll get the sharp end sometimes. But emotional intellect is about being about to take responsibility for our feelings, for our actions and how we impact others. Apologies may be hard but being honest about our feeling helps mould healthy relationships (and helps you move on from unhealthy ones).

Today is Time to Talk Day with Time to Change. Let’s use this as a opportunity to, not only raise awareness of mental illness, but also to forge more honest, deeper, healthier, more meaningful relationships by talking about what really matters to us!

The Liebster Award

Thanks Lexydragonfly for nominating me for this Liebster Award! Yes, it’s a little bit like a chain letter, so click away now if you’re not interested but I think it’s a fun way to find out about other blogs and a great way to help each other get our messages out to a wider audience 🙂 So, I answer some questions set by Lexy Dragonfly then I nominate some people, set them some questions and we all get to learn a bit more about each other.

1. What makes you roll your eyes every time you hear it?

“No offense but…”, “In the nicest possible way…”

Saying these things does not give you carte blanche to be as offensive, rude or insensitive as you like!

2. What movie or TV show had the most profound felt on you and why?

The English Patient makes me cry every time. It’s a tail of bravery, kindness and pure selflessness that we just don’t see day to day. I hate war, it’s stories like this that show us the human aspect of why war is not the answer and never will be.

3. What are you interested in that most people aren’t?

The movement to raise mental health awareness is growing pretty big but most people out there still think it isn’t relevant to them. Within the mental health world, were all singing the same tune but I’m desperate for the other 3/4 people who don’t think it will touch them to wake and realize it will, at some point!

4. When did something start off badly for you but in the end, it was great?

Bit of an odd one, maybe. When I got divorced, not only was I seriously unwell but I actually thought my life was over. Turns out, my soul mate was just waiting for me, for the right time and now I’m more happy than I’ve ever been (with a new husband!)

5. What are you curious about?

The human mind, we know so little about it!

6. Would you rather live in the country or the city? Why?

I’d definitely rather live in the country, I love open views and space. I also love the village community life.

7. What brings you comfort and calm?

Stroking my cats. Being wrapped in our massive blanket.

8. If you were going to bury a time capsule, what would you put in it?

I have no idea! I guess, photos and some basic tech, maybe a cassette! Over time, it’s how we look and technology that changes the most.

9. Is there a story behind the name of your blog?

It’s simple really, in order to get better from mental illness, I had to be more mindful, not just in the practice of mindfulness but in the everyday, noticing how I was feeling, being aware of triggers, being careful of my impact on others. And I consider myself not just a survivor of mental illness but of the mental health system, it was not and is not working well, at times I was driven to despair, not only through my illness but because the support that should have been there just wasn’t. So I consider myself a Mindful Survivor 🙂

I nominate:

Ele

Living Past Depression

Fighting The Demon Anorexia

My Quiet Roar

Maha Khan

Please answer these questions:

  1. What made you start blogging?
  2. What’s your favorite quote and why?
  3. If you could meet anyone (including history and fiction) who would it be and why?
  4. What makes you cry?
  5. How do you celebrate?
  6. Roller coasters or country walk? Or both?

It’s just a bit of fun!

Why do we need rewards to look after ourselves?!

After my recent ankle arthroplasty I struggled with the expected pain, a lot of it but it was bearable. I was working hard at my physio and doing more, she told me I would obviously experience more pain but it really wasn’t feeling right, she told me to persevere but I don’t think she really understood how much pain I was in. I may have a low pain threshold but I have a very high pain tolerance. I experience a lot of pain, I just get on with my life but that doesn’t mean it’s ok or that I’m ok with it! It’s hard to know where to draw the line, how do you know, when you’re rehabilitating, how much pain is too much pain? I was pretty much told, I should keep exercising but absolute agony was the line at which I should stop!

Speaking to a colleague about his painful knee has had me thinking. He was injured 4 months ago and because he didn’t make a fuss when he first went to A&E he’e been through months of pointless pain, finally culminating in an MRI that concluded he needed surgery. He’s been thinking he should have made more of a fuss, if only he’d limped into A&E stating he was in agony, he would have had an MRI within days and surgery so much sooner. Those of us that don’t complain so often don’t get what we need.

I’ve been wondering if I was experiencing more pain than I should have been but my physio said it was fine, to be expected.

I was beginning to think I would be in pain for the rest of my life and I was beginning to get to used to the idea that I may never run again. Disappointed, doesn’t even begin to come close.

I saw my surgeon last week and he had a different opinion, I should NOT be in so much pain. Steroid and local anaesthetic injection on board and…I’m pain free, I can’t quite believe it!

When my physio said “repeat this exercise 20 times”, I do it 60 times and she says “good”, to be honest, I don’t think she was used to patients actually following through with their exercises but I’m so desperate to get better I thought the more I did the better…I can’t help wondering I shouldn’t have been doing so much exercise, I guess there’ll be no way of knowing.

Anyway! Today, on a totally pain-free ankle, I (with more measured advice from another physio) tried running for the first time in 5 months, it was for 1 minute at a time and I’m so excited that I didn’t feel any pain. This is the first time for many years I’ve run with no pain!! So excited, it’s unreal!

I have promised my husband I won’t push it. I will stick to 1 minute at a time for 2 weeks and increase it so slowly I’ll feel like I’m running backwards! But the hope is, I will be back running properly within a year!

My husband knows I’m likely to want to push myself. For starters, I got on the treadmill earlier and said to myself I’d to 2 x 1 minute stints, I ended up doing 5… it’s not don’t any damage and I’m still pain-free but I really cannot push it! I cannot risk needing more surgery.

We started talking about whether I need an incentive…for every week I’m “good” and stick to the slow build up plan, is there anything that would help me stay focused? We discussed all sorts of things but it occurred to me, what more incentive do I need than to look after my health?

Why do we always need incentives? When people are giving up smoking, it’s suggested they put the money they would have spent on cigarettes in a jar so that they can spend it on a big holiday or some new clothes, there has to be something to aim for. It’s the same with people trying to lose weight, for every pound, there has to be some material reward. Reducing the chances of long term life limiting illnesses just isn’t enough!

Our health gains are intangible and it’s like they’re just not enough.

I’m so proud of my 60-something mum who has just completed a couch-to-5k program and has done a couple of Parkruns, being one of the fastest women in her age category! That’s what I want to be doing in 30 years time, but I won’t be if I don’t look after my bones and my joints now, what more incentive do I need?!

Seriously, if I want the best chance of avoiding further surgery and to be running in my 60s, I need to take it slow and steady so that’s what I’m going to do, no other incentive necessary!