Thoughts at 2am…

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I thought that by now, with less pressure and less stress in my life I would be happily curled up and asleep at 2am, but apparently it’s a good time to write. It’s quiet here and just leaves me alone with my thoughts. It’s nights like this were I’ve tried everything your supposed to do that I just turn to writing instead, which some people will nag ‘the light of your computer will wake you up more!’ but honestly nothing’s getting me to sleep right now. I don’t like mentioning or talking about the pain in my spine still bothering me but lately it hasn’t been at it’s best. I’ve been sat in a very rigid chair for about 10 hours a day for the past few weeks, for anyone’s spine that would cause problems, for mine it’s hell. So while I’m trying to wait for the second lot of painkillers to kick in I thought, why not let my mind wander, see where I end up.

I’ve been trying to fall asleep for a few hours so a lot has been going through my head, just thoughts zipping past like cars on a motorway. One keeps coming back to me though, I suppose it’s because of an essay I was writing today, I can’t seem to escape the bloody things even when they’re done! I was thinking that pain, in all it’s forms is something that makes us human. When a person is in so much pain, mentally or physically, they will let go of what they thought they knew, sometimes of their opinions and prejudices, all that matters is stopping that pain, unless you are incredibly stupid that is. Great pain is a humbling experience. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from or anything like that pain and fear make us all the same, because it is.

I’m a true believer that once someone has experienced true pain in their lives it will change them for good. For some people it will make them bitter, angry, resentful. For others pain makes them appreciate more, try and be more compassionate and understanding as a person. For a long time after my spine broke I would be angry, I’d be filled with tears and hatred that my body had let me down. Thousands of people fell off horses all day, why did it happen to me! Why did the doctors risk it! Why did my notes keep getting lost! I was miserable and honestly the anger was just making me more tired, more sad. I’m not saying people aren’t allowed that time, of course they are. In the words of John Green ‘pain demands to be felt’, I know I needed that time because I was so upset and heartbroken and unsure of the future. If you were told that there was a chance you might just lose the ability to walk by trying to walk (and do the one thing that would make you better in the long run), wouldn’t you be?

I held on to the pain and frustration for a long time, I was convinced that I was just a burden and there was no point to anything when it took me so long to take a few steps, when going out somewhere meant having to take my wheelchair or that I had to sit while everyone else could stand. I wish I could tell you there was a wonderful eureka moment where I let go of it all, where I just went ‘ok, enough is enough let’s get on.’ I was always carrying on but after time and after I learnt what my body needed and how to start managing the pain I felt a little calmer, a little more able to deal with the world.

I would never wish my injury on anyone, the fact that it’s causing me to be awake at 2am the day before my final deadline because of physical pain is not a fun thing BUT I do believe that it’s made me into a better person. The injury taught me more than I would have believed it could. I quickly learnt that life was what you made of it when you got given something shitty. I learnt that as much as I wanted to organise everything for the next 30 years I couldn’t. I learnt that life is a mess a terrifying, wonderful and always evolving mess and you just fit in where you can. I realised I was allowed to take a break and not be this built up image of ‘perfect’ I’d associated with myself. Am I annoyed that I might not get the first I worked for because of the early days of fuzzy pain? Of course I am. Am I going to let it taint my whole university experience, final year and the progress I have made? No. Likewise I learnt what I need in friends and that I can be alone comfortably more than I give myself credit for. I learnt that I can handle a lot more than I can give myself credit for and that while my body might not look like a magazine cover, it’s mine and it’s actually a pretty amazing thing. Being in horrific pain lead me to most of this, which is something so strange to me. Either way, the past is the past and my future is my future so I’m going to see what I can do with these experiences and be the best person I can be.

Sunday 7 – 7 Things I’ve Learnt Since Breaking My Spine

I’ve been feeling fairly emotional in the last few weeks about today. It’s been one year since breaking my spine and I just feel kind of weird about it. I broke down in tears after a particularly bad pain day, because I’m still in all this pain a year later. I just felt so fed up but then I had a hug with Ali and he reminded me of what I’ve been saying to myself for the past 12 months. I may be in pain but I’m still here and I’m still walking. What happened to me was bad enough but it could have been a lot worse! I’ve also really grown as a person in the past year, my opinion on life has changed and I’m truly grateful. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I’m glad it happened, it changed a lot and I didn’t have the best year BUT I am really proud of myself, how I’ve reacted and what I’ve learnt.

You can have all the ridged plans you want, but life doesn’t work that way.

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Before the accident, I had a plan of how my life would go and it would go that way. I was like I’ll graduate then and I’ll go straight to my masters, then my Phd. I’ll have a house by this time, a dog, a child, another child, I WILL HAVE CONTROL. I learnt after the accident that life can throw ANYTHING at you, there was a point where I physically couldn’t walk. Of course, I didn’t plan that, no one plans almost losing the ability to walk. It made me realise that I can’t have this idea of infinite control, so I’ve let go a little. Things will happen as they do, I only have so much control.

Stop being so hard on yourself! 

Recovery was hard, super hard. I constantly get told by my physiotherapists, pain specialists, lecturers, family, Ali that I need to stop being so hard on myself. They’d remind me all the time this wasn’t a small break, this was a huge part of my body trying to fix itself. So what if I put on weight, if I didn’t get the top grade in my class. I realised striving to be great is good but I don’t have to be perfect all the time.

The human body is a beautiful and amazing thing.

For a long time after the accident and sometimes still now I resented my body. I hated that it had broken in such a simple fall, I hated the stretch marks that had bloomed all over my thighs, I hated the fact people commented on how much weight I’d put on and I hated that I didn’t fit into any of my clothes. I had a realisation at a point that I just thought my body has been doing so much work. It’s literally been healing the main pillar in my body that hold everything together, that’s amazing.

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When you’re sick enough, you can cope with your hatred of needles/hospitals/ claustrophobia. 

I still hate needles, I will always hate needles BUT when you’re sick enough (like when I was in the hospital earlier in the year) you get on with it. I still don’t like hospitals (who does) but now it’s just another place I have to go sometimes. I won’t lie having my MRI and CT scans were pretty nerve wracking and claustrophobic but the people running them understood that. Basically you can get through a lot more than you think you can.

The gym is better than any therapy session and any religion. 

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If you’d have asked me a year ago about loving the gym I would have laughed at you, now I’m stressed when I CAN’T go. The gym is a love and an obsession and I can’t wait to get back into routine and slowly keep building my muscles and be in so much better shape than I was a year ago.

It’s ok to have days where it all feels like too much. 

You’re only human, you need these days, it’s okay!

The people who stick around are the ones that are meant to be there. 

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My relationships changed a lot after the accident, I lost a lot of people and I gained some others. More than anything I learnt that the people that are meant to be there will be. I also learnt that some people are in your life for a certain amount of time and that’s okay too. I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason.

Who’s going to hire me? -Embracing your past

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I didn’t expect to be laying in my  wide awake at 4am this morning, followed by wandering aimlessly around my flat. To say my sleep pattern is messed up at the moment is an understatement, my days and nights kind of blur together if I don’t have anything to leave the flat for, I’m in a constant state of write, study, read and possibly eat at some point. I found myself thinking and worrying this morning about getting a job at stupid o’clock in the morning. What if they read about the problems I’ve had this year and don’t want me? What if they do secretly discriminate against me because of my mental health? What if was a prominent theme of the torture my sleepless brain put me through. But, it’s not because I’m dramatic.

I’ve been filling in a few job applications here and there, currently only for roles that I really want and could see myself working in and then there is the box that asks if you have a disability. While I myself don’t like being called disabled because it’s a crappy label, I know that to get help I need to tick it, lately though I’ve found myself  not wanting to tick that box, to hide a part of myself and my past out of fear more than anything. Like many other third years, I’m scared of the unknown and I know that the odds aren’t in my favor. Talking to Ali about it tonight he reminded me that there is so much proof that I can do so much more than a label, and I already have done so much more.

I’ve never been embarrassed or ashamed, and I’m not but I do know there is still a lot of people who are uneducated about my condition, but I’ve managed to educate people through telling my story before. With that in mind, why should I be scared of doing that again? When I saw this quote on Pinterest it made me take a breath, because what’s the point in trying to hide a part of my life or the hardships I’ve faced in the past? There is none. If anything that takes away from what would make me a great employee. I work hard, I persevere. Yes there may be times where my illness kicks my ass and I need a day to get myself better but I’m not a quitter. I got through my final year at university with a healing spine, a ‘broken’ mind and sickness and I think I’ve still done pretty damn great and have never let it affect my two jobs.

Why am I writing this? It’s not to brag. It’s because I know that sometimes you need to see someone else lay everything out. All the good times and all the shit times too and just remember that actually, you may not be ‘normal’, whatever the hell that means, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have a story to tell. To some people I’m an ‘inspirational’ person, which I’ll take but to me it’s just my everyday life, carrying on no matter what because I will not let a label or a box define me. I am so much more than that.

Why I’m jealous of YOU at the gym..and it’s not the reason you think

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As all of you know, in the last 5 months I have become a gym bunny. Even though there was  break when I was sick, I’ve gone back to the gym and I’m hungry and obsessed to get back. After going on Tuesday, I spent the week waiting for Sunday morning so that I could go again and now I’m (hopefully) going tomorrow as long as my migraine disappears. I have noticed though, that sometimes I look around and feel myself getting a little jealous.

Now, I’m not jealous of people with beautiful athletic bodies, those who don’t sweat when they exercise or look endlessly cool.  I’m not jealous because I want the results without having to work hard. I’m jealous because their bodies work and mine doesn’t always behave. BUT at the same time, I’m learning to love and worship my body that literally had to rebuild a core part of itself, and know how lucky I am to be walking.

I get a little anxious and self conscious at times, not at all because of the way I look, after all the gym is where people go to work on themselves. No, I feel self conscious because of how much slower I am than others, and how little I can do because of my spine. For me, doing an hour at the gym is another small step towards normality for me. An extra five minutes on the treadmill for me is a huge thing BUT when everyone in the gym wants to go on the exercise bikes at the same time (positioned exactly behind the treadmills and therefore with a full view of my bum) and I’m still just able to do a walking pace, and a fairly slow one, at that. I do feel a little awkward I want to shout at them, ‘I’m in spine recovery, I’m not pathetic I promise!, I’m not just lazy’ because this is how I fear others see myself.

I try and tell myself not to care, that most of it is in my mind  and who actually cares what I’m doing? It might be silly but these thoughts go around in my head sometimes. Then then evolve to me wishing that I was fully recovered and I could run or lift a weight that was a ‘real’ weight rather than the tiniest ones that are there because they’re the only thing I can comfortably lift.

There will be a time where I’m a lot better and that’s happening slowly, just under a year ago I had to have help to get up one step and a small set of stairs to my flat were a huge problem. So the fact that I can go to a gym and try and do some exercise is incredible, and I know that. But sometimes, just sometimes, the green eyed monster will rear her ugly head and make me feel a little down, I know that’s normal and one day I’ll be able to throw her off my shoulder.

 

 

Remembering the good.

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If you haven’t guessed already I love pictures like the one above. I love words and slogans and nice backgrounds. I guess it’s because sometimes I don’t have the image that says what I want to say or sometimes I don’t have the words to say how I feel. It’s because of that I use Pinterest a lot because sometimes the words I need are already there. I don’t use the quote I picked today because I think I’m this brave, strong person. I’ve always said I’ve simply got on with my life the best I can.

I’ve thought a lot about the accident in the past few days, about my spine. This isn’t because I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, more because I’ve been in pain again and there’s nothing more frustrating. When my doctors say the scans look normal and my physio says there’s not much he can do and yet I’m still in pain a lot of the time. When I’m in the awkward part where I still can’t walk too far or stand up for long periods of time and have to explain that I’m recovering from a spine injury. When I have to call venues and explain why I need a seat and they have to decide if I’m ‘disabled enough’, because I’m not officially registered as disabled but at the same time I’m still struggling so much. Don’t get me wrong I do not want another label at all, but sometimes it’s what other people want so I can get the help I need at concert venues for example.

So while I was feeling pretty down about this yesterday, I had a conversation with Ali about how I was feeling and why. He reminded me that while the accident was shitty, awful and did change a lot of my life, a lot of positives came out of it too. I was reminded of these again when I went to see Joe tonight.

  • I’ve got a new appreciation for my body when it’s healthy
  • I’ve gotten better at taking me time and not doing things I don’t want to do
  • I’ve learnt a lot about friendship
  • I’ve got a much better relationship with food, portion sizes and exercise
  • I met Alice, who has come to be a great friend and support to me, I would never have set foot in a gym if it wasn’t for the accident
  • My relationships gotten stronger
  • I have a new sense of understanding when it comes to physical disabilities
  • I got a job I love that I might not have applied for if I hadn’t been spending so much time online when I couldn’t move
  • I got a lot of reading done
  • As a result of the reading I finally embraced feminism and found a new passion

There’s a lot there and I think, as with anything that changes your life when you don’t expect it, there’s a lot to deal with. Sometimes I forget all the positives because I’m just having a down day, that’s all. I worried about writing tonight’s blog because I have had people in the past saying I think too much about my spine, that it takes over my life. Then I shook the thought off because of COURSE breaking your spine is going to have a huge impact on your life, it changes everything for at least the first year – two years after it happens. I no longer care about the ignorant or negative people who don’t try and understand or make throwaway comments because my spine and how I handle it is a part of my life. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Crack – a poem

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Sometimes I write poetry, this image really made me think about the past year and where I’m at now. I started writing this after a really tough gym session,where I just felt my body let me down. Anyway, this is one of my few poems, enjoy.

One second was all it took,

Flying then falling

My lungs gasping for air

You cracked and you crumbled,

making me not as high.

Once I’d dreamed of growing taller, now I’d take it with no complaints.

You made my legs useless,

my summer a sleepy haze.

A city that should have been my playground,

turned into white walls and levels of pain.

Even now as I start to reclaim,

some of those things you took.

You can still floor me with a no notice

reaching out for boxes, the only hope I have of taking away my pain.

No doubt you’ve changed my life,

for the good as well as the bad.

In ways I couldn’t have dreamt of,

before their letter came.

I don’t want to fight against you,

spend my days angry and depressed.

But some days I can’t forgive a body that fights against me.

When I’m trying every day.

But I suppose time will tell,

and all I can do is carry on.

Slowly and pick myself up from the fall.

Workouts and Willpower

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Work it!! 

For the last 6 weeks I’ve been trying really hard to get fitter and healthier. As soon as I was told that I was allowed to attempt a little more exercise I wanted to work on it. I went to physio religiously and only missed one week because I had the sickness bug and wasn’t allowed to. I’ve never really had the kick up the butt I needed before, but after the accident I had a huge appreciation for, you know, a working body.

Now I’m at home it would be easy for me to say ‘oh well! I’ll just start again in January!’ and then eat everything, ignore my routine and then cry in January. I refuse to forget my progress. So, a few weeks ago I called the biggest gym enthusiast I knew and asked if he could be my gym buddy once I was home. This morning I was picked up by my Gramps and we headed to the gym for my induction and his work out.

It is very weird that my Gramps is so much healthier than me and while I was being shown around, he was on all the machines! Eventually I got started and we were doing some of our exercises side by side. It’s nice because we’ve always been super close, to the point where I wouldn’t sleep as a toddler until he’d come home from work, so having this to do just the two of us was nice. Hopefully I’ll get at least 2 more sessions in before I go back to London.

I left feeling energised and really proud of myself. No one forced me to go and work out today I wanted too and felt so good after. My new gym buddy was pretty pleased too. If 16 year old me had been told I’d love the gym she would have fainted (I’ve never been sporty at all, riding was the only thing and, well, you know how that went).

Now, the other thing I need to work on over the holidays is not over indulging on sweets, chocolates, my Mum’s amazing cooking and my sisters delicious baking. Over the past few days I’ve been very good. I’m using my app and still eating my recommended amount of calories but it is hard. I don’t want to just not eat but at the same time I don’t want to seem rude. It’s a tough balance and on days like today sometimes I don’t want to eat because I know I’ve done so well, then I quickly remind myself that I’m not getting into that cycle again. I’m doing this the healthy way or not at all, hence why I won’t have any scales in my flat.

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Mine and Summer’s Gingerbread House…looks so yummy!

My willpower is being pushed to the limit but so far, so good. I feel healthy, happy and actually really accomplished that I’m sticking to something I’ve found so difficult in the past. Unlike a lot of the ‘new year, new me’ types that will head into the gym January I’m not doing this to lose that big of extra weight or because I ‘should’, I’m doing it because I’m really proud of my body. After all the healing and growing new bone after so much damage (some of which may be permanent) I’m going to treat it as well as I damn well can.