Change is easy to promise yourself, I know, I’ve done it hundreds of times since my injury. The hardest part is actually doing the deed especially when you are in complete agony and you just want to curl up and die. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve just wanted to die, to be free of the pain, the misery and the memories that haunt me. I’m not saying this lightly. I’ve fallen down the pit of depression so many times, tried to crawl out only to be kicked in the teeth and fallen lower than before.
I’ll warn you now that this post sounds like the irritating whining of a selfish, woe-is-me weakling, which it is. A friend once told me that pain is weakness leaving the body. I have a lot of weakness! I’ve given fair warning so read at your own mental peril!
Whilst I was in Headley Court the psychiatrist told me to start a journal in order for me to articulate my feelings in writing. It didn’t take long for me to get bored writing, “Hurting and pissed off”. The psychiatrist had a go at me and said I wasn’t trying, I asked him how hard he wanted me to try? “Express your feelings” he told me. “I have” I told him back. Needless to say, that conversation didn’t get very far and neither did my ‘articulation of my feelings’. As I mentioned in the first part, I’m not very good at showing my feelings.
Not knowing how to handle myself in my new situation, I thought I would see how other people managed. I started reading about Tracy and her way of handling her situation that, when you read her blog, is much more complicated than mine. I tried to draw inspiration from her and it worked, for a while. I even started a blog and played around with image editing. Just something to take my mind off the pain and onto something more constructive.
The problem was that no matter how hard I tried, the pain and depression would eventually get the better of me. Especially the pain that just continued to get worse and more pervasive. My life was beginning to revolve around the pain and I began to actually fear it. Sitting still was very painful and trying to stand more painful still. After a few years of this, my efforts became little more than echoes in my mind and I gave way to my fears. I stopped trying. I stopped everything, isolating myself, ostracising myself from everyone and everything that I had known.
They say it never rains but it pours and my personal life was having a monsoon. As a direct result of the pain I was, subconsciously, continually in a state of tension. It was a way of coping with the pain by keeping my muscles tensed up, anticipating the waves of nausea and near black-outs. Eventually my muscles needed release and this came in the form of spasms. My whole body would spasm with such force that it could throw me out of my wheelchair, recliner or whatever I happened to be sitting in at the time. The spasms could last for minutes or seconds but no matter how long they lasted, they would leave me in a terrible state, sometimes conscious oftentimes not.
My lower back near the L5/S1 vertebrae was hyper-sensitive and even running water from the shower could send me into a fit. I couldn’t lie down, I barely slept and sleep depravation was soon a regular part of my life. I was passed from clinic to clinic, some for the pain, some for the sleep and some for both. None were able to help and it was just more money pouring down the drain, money I didn’t have. I’m going to say it again, as selfish as it does sound, I was a mess.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have a go but it was half hearted at best and my promises of changing were smothered by ever increasing amounts of morphine and other drugs. By 2012 I was so stupefied by my drugs that I didn’t even realise that I didn’t care anymore. I was no better than a vegetable although not as useful as one. At least you can eat vegetables!
The slap in the face that shocked me from my stupor was the death of my mother. Not long after that my younger sibling got stroppy with me and we parted ways then my drunken father, after insulting me with his wild imaginations, no longer wanted anything to do with me. The glue that kept our family together died and we fell apart. It didn’t really help my depression but it was certainly a wake-up call. I didn’t want to be weak anymore, not after what my mother had managed to do. I was supposed to be a fighter but had actually been a coward. That humiliation mixed with my grief gave me the strength to fight the pain. In what could be considered a contradiction, I decided that I would start reducing the amount of drugs I was taking.
Change isn’t easy, it’s also bloody painful!
Reducing my drugs didn’t increase the amount of pain I was in per se. It did make me more aware of it as my senses were no longer clouded by the affects of the chemicals that had had free reign in my system for so many years. In addition to that, I had the joy of experiencing withdrawal symptoms as my body craved the drugs that it had become so dependent upon. It wasn’t fun!
Given that I was in more pain and suffering from drug dependencies, there was a noticeable change almost straight away. First was my mind. I was so used to being on cloud La-La land, reality was almost too much to handle. Instead of being a hazy and insubstantial thing, life was becoming clearer and more defined. I could see what I had become or what had become of me and it wasn’t a pretty thing. It did make putting my argument against the insurance companies a lot easier as I was able to use a lot more of my mind and articulate a clearer, more logical case to the Financial Ombudsman.
Another development was a new type of pain. It was new in that I had never noticed it before, not that it would have been difficult for it to hide considering that I had more narcotics going through my system than is smuggled into the UK in a year! No, the new pain was actually very painful but, at the same time, very beneficial. I noticed that whenever I tried to stand a different type of pain would shoot, very briefly, up from my feet to my back. It was this ‘new’ type of pain that would eventually enable me to ‘walk’ as it allowed me to know when my foot had touched terra firma. Prior to this I had no idea if my foot was on solid ground (rather some imaginings my mind came up with) as I couldn’t feel my feet. Try walking when you are not sure if one foot is on the ground or not. You do end up with your face in the dirt quite often! So, in a weird kind of way, bonus!
This one small thing made a huge difference to my mind set. It gave me the upper hand over my injury that was quiet unintentional, if injuries have intentions, that is. Either way it spurred me on to do more and to do it quickly and therein lied my first mistake. I had been a vegetable for the good part of three years and I was trying to run before I could walk, almost literally. In my excitement to take advantage of the situation I failed to remember that my legs had a habit of just folding on me and my attempts at walking usually ended up with me being in too much pain to move for weeks at a time. I tried showing off to a friend when we went to visit my mother’s grave one year resulting in me not being able to move for months!
Not that I mind falling flat on my face when my legs decide to stop working, I do. My doctor’s only concern was that there was a chance of my legs buckling the wrong way and snapping at the knees. Apparently that is a bad thing. That one small problem led me to having an appointment at the hospital to get leg braces fitted. These would help support me and, more importantly, stop my legs snapping like dried twigs. It didn’t take long to get measured up and within a fortnight I had some brand new toys to play with.
I’ll end on this ‘high’ note. I have left a lot of details out and given a broad brush outline of the last few years. Even though I’m writing this blog I’m still not comfortable with ‘sharing’. As I re-read this I cringed but it’s all for a good cause and the next posts will reveal more about my ‘training’ and my ultimate aim. Bear with me.