How do you describe a colour to someone who has never been able to see?
A strange way to start an article, a philosophical question. The relevance will be revealed later but as to the question, I don’t know. I’m sure that there is some empathetic way that some specialist or another could answer the question but I will remain, for now, none the wiser.
My previous two articles briefly covered my injury and my inability to cope until fairly recently. The reason I am writing about something so deeply personal is because of an aim I am hoping to achieve. When I had hit rock bottom, medical and legal bills had made me, sorry us (my wife whom I had left in 2008 stuck by me and nursed me through the hardships), penniless the Royal British Legion stepped in and helped us. I vowed that I would repay the kindness and decided (a New Year’s Resolution of all things!) that I would do a sponsored walk to raise money for them. I also promised them that I would write about it and needed to write the articles, describing my past, in order for some context.
So, a sponsored walk. Many of you would think nothing of it, hell, I used to walk miles for the simple pleasure of walking in the countryside. They say that we don’t miss something until we lose it and I now appreciate the saying. Deciding to haul my fat backside out of a chair was one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do – and I’ve done some pretty tough things in my life. Not being able to feel my legs but still try and walk is something so alien, so counter intuitive that it came as no surprise when I kept falling over. Ironically it was a new pain that has allowed me to walk as well as I am able in that whenever I lift a foot and place it on the ground a sharp, piercing pain courses through my leg. Or so it seems. That pain means that my foot has been placed on something and I am able to repeat the process with my other leg. Prior to this ‘new’ pain I kept trying to lift my other leg before I had placed my foot on the floor, resulting in the obvious. I got used to seeing the ground, really close up and personal. Gravity is a bitch!
That said the process of standing is extremely painful and walking just adds to it. Not only that, my legs don’t always want to work and sometimes just give up on me mid stride. Gravity did the rest, a common occurrence by now. So, how do you describe an all-consuming, debilitating pain to someone who has never experienced pain of this magnitude? Back to my original question. I can’t. I could never imagine pain this intense and now I cannot remember ever being without it.
Trying to walk a few metres was my first challenge. My muscles had deteriorated so much that I could barely support my own, now significant weight. I had gone from 95 kilos to 127 kilos. Although I have lost a couple of inches from my spine (yes, it was surgically proven that I actually had a spine!), I’m still fairly tall standing a portly 191 cms. For the first time in years I saw myself in a mirror and hated what was staring back at me. I was really overweight! It was no wonder my legs had trouble supporting, even without the paraparesis it would have been a challenge!
It wasn’t going to be possible to walk any distance without support and so I bought a walking machine that could support me whilst I exercised my legs. I needed to build some muscle. To say it was slow progress would have been insulting to snails! It was slow, painful and exhausting. My brain couldn’t comprehend how or why. Ok, I had been almost immobile for several years but I never imagined it would be so difficult. My brain just remembered when it was so easy for me to go for a walk but my body just wasn’t co-operating. It was demoralising and seemed so unfair. Yup, back to moaning.
The problem was that my depression was telling me to give up. There was no point. I was never going to be able to walk like I used to and so why put myself through all the additional pain and discomfort? That was how it worked – I would stumble and fall, go through severe spasms as my body protested about the pain and then my mood would plummet resulting in me wanting to give up. The results of these falls wasn’t a short period of extreme discomfort but weeks of pain and misery. Oftentimes I would look up at the picture of my mother and just start crying. I was weak and pathetic and didn’t want to go through any more pain. My depression grew deeper and darker and thoughts of just ending it all were are the forefront of my mind.
The thing that dragged me out of my personal self-pity was the thought of my mum fighting through her medical problems and that gave me the strength to try again. That’s how it went for weeks and months. I would try and exercise, go through periods of pain and depression then start again. Over time my legs lost the cellulite that had formed and began to tone up. When I started losing weight my ego reinforced my determination and things became a little easier to cope with.
It was my doctor who recommended that I get the leg braces fitted. He had given up with trying to convince me of staying in my chair and said that if I was so determined to walk I had better get the braces fitted for those times when my legs stopped working. The braces would help support me whilst walking and support me when on the verge of collapsing; they would also help prevent me snapping my legs in the event they buckled the wrong way, something I hadn’t considered. Barnsley General Hospital fitted the braces and I was surprised how much they actually helped.
I still practice and/or train as often as I can. Recently I’ve been going through a very rough patch and haven’t been able to walk for weeks. Just before this rough patch I managed to walk over a mile before I collapsed, both physically and mentally exhausted. My goal is to walk three miles, the same length as the Basic Fitness Test in the army. It seemed like an achievable goal but now, just a few weeks away from attempting it, it seems impossible. That’s not to say I’m not going to give it my upmost but I wonder if my best is going to be good enough.
I set the goal I wanted to raise for the Royal British Legion at £5000.00. I created a JustGiving page to raise the money and posted on FaceBook, urging my friends to sponsor me. Unfortunately I’m still a long way off that goal and will begin to pester my friends more and more. I may even resort to begging. I really want to get as close to my goal as possible. I’m going to push myself to the point where I will collapse and be in agony for weeks but it’s for a very good cause. I cannot list the amount of good the Royal British Legion does for people who desperately need help. Veterans like myself and many of my friends but not as fortunate.
The pain I will suffer will be indescribable but the good that the money I raise as a result will be incredible. If you can, please help.
The JustGiving page has already been linked but the URL is as follows: