chronic pain

It’s Back To Work For Some… The Lucky Ones That Is…

Well the Christmas holidays have now officially come to an end. Those who work are returning to the daily hum drum of sitting in traffic, lunch rush hour and in some cases, unhappiness and stress. Some of whom are lucky enough to be in employment have grumbled for the last 24 hours about having to set the alarm clock once again. Or perhaps their countdown to retirement has begun.

I acknowledge that the work environment can bring about a considerable amount of stress but for those of us who can no longer work, all of the above seems so insignificant.

Why is it that the grass is always greener on the other side? Or we want what others in our social circles have? Due to chronic illness/ injury/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for the third time in the last 10 years I have had to step away from a position that I treasured greatly. I have been a teacher since the early 90’s returning to university once my own children were in preschool/school. It felt so alive whilst attending uni, even though I completed it part-time so that the family and my then husbhand were still made a priority in life. I enjoyed the stimulation and challenges that studying provided and felt so alive and fortunate, during this time period.

I went on to become a teacher and continued studying part-time when I was offered scholarships. This continued for about 10 years until I picked up a stomach parasite while studying in a third world country. My body found it extremely difficult to recover from this and I was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I would not wish this illness on anyone and those who have suffered with CFS would certainly agree. I’m not sure how to put the following into words politely, but let’s just say my husbhand of 18yrs did not ‘tolerate’ my illness well and sought the companionship of other women. It was a diffiuclt time in my life, I had lost attending work which brought such happiness and joy into my life, I had lost my husbhand and I had lost living in our family home. What I did have however, was two amazing children. They were 10 & 13 yrs old at this stage and unfortunately had to grow up a great deal over night. Because of my illness, I wasn’t always able to cook & clean and complete other duties that a mother would. My daughter pretty much became the mother and my son learnt how to give the best massages to my aching body. Looking back it was a very dark period of my life and now on reflection I made it more difficult for myself as I did not now ‘how’ to ask for, or to ‘accept’ help that was offered.Being the second child of four, I had learnt independence at an early age and preferred to “do it myself”. This personality attribute lasted with me for the next 47 years. It has only been during the last two years that I have really learnt the true value of asking for, and most importantly, accepting help when it is offered.

When suffering Chronic Pain or Chronic Illness we need to really learn to communicate our needs. I am the first to admit that letting go of the “control” and “perfectionist” factors that directed my life was incredibly difficult and learning to “allow others to help” can be a skill that needs acquiring. But for those who are ill, in the end, you really do have no other choice. Communicating your needs to apply to every facet of life becomes a survival technique. Not just within your living situation, but also, and perhaps most importantly with your medical practitioner’s or specialists also. I can clearly remember one appointment where the tears of frustration started not long after arriving in the waiting room. I suffer severe burning pain at times when sitting. So if you will, please imagine how you would feel when you wait the usual 1-2 hours for your appointment, in increasing pain. By the time I got to see this particular specialist I had wanted more than anything to impress the fact that the pain was real and genuine, that I was not wanting an out from work, and that I was asking for help in the best way I could possibly think of. I walked in to the medical room and placed a folder on the table. Before the usual medical questions i began the conversation. I referred to the folder on the desk. “This is me”, the folder held every qualification I had ever received. “I want your help in making work for me, a viable option”. We then discussed my resume together and I felt as if I became a person, not a patient. Upon stating what I needed from the interaction, I felt for the first time since my diagnosis that I was being heard, and that I was also ready to accept help. I found after my appointments with two Specialists that day, that not only had I felt heard and listened to, but I also felt a strong sense of honesty coming through, on exactly what I could expect from my illness, even though it may not be the diagnosis I was hoping for.

This is where I will leave today’s post. For the next few days I am going to remind myself to ask for help from the team and family around me. If you are not used to putting your needs as a priority, try to communicate those needs and let me know it all works out for you. Look forward to hearing from year!

Health & Happiness

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