It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day

Just over 6 months ago and things were very different. Considering the nature of my last post my silence is likely to be interpreted as everything got too much! I’m happy to say that the silence is a result of quite the opposite. During the darker hours of my ordeal with a malfunctioning bladder/urethra/does-anybody-really-know? it seemed like there would be no end to the traumas. Although it hasn’t been as straight forward as “and now you’re better”, I have made significant progress which I can only be forever thankful for.

But it’s not just the condition of my health that has changed; in fact it seems that life as I had come to know it for the 6 months after Uni has completely changed. Rid am I of an innocuous self-centred flatmate, rid am I of thankless and insensitive employers and rid am I off a desolation that knew no bounds. Instead I find myself happily ensconced with my ever-supportive boyfriend, the both of us now proud parents of a tiny Dwarf rabbit. I now face the exciting and gratifying prospect of moving our little “family unit” down to the Big Smoke where I shall be studying a Masters in Health Psychology whilst making a freelance living from the marketing skills I have acquired over the past two years.

And just like that my big sources of woe have been dissolved. I no longer am stuck in a scenario of no social life or even proximate social support network and thankless employers begrudging me my illness (how inconsiderate of me!) My dad being a part-time Buddhist constantly reassures me of the concept of “impermanence”. Of course nothing ever remains the same and that is the one consistency of life. But this is of limited comfort in a limited amount of situations; if you’re happy at that particular moment in time, it’s disheartening to know that this shall not remain the same and if you are suffering at another moment in time it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can manage to feel any better about how things are.

So what can give you solace in the good and bad times of life? The answer to this is never going to be a straight forward one unfortunately but having been very much down and out, despairing with no means or will to turn things around I am fascinated with my own case of astounding recovery. “Recovery” in this instance does not exclusively refer to my physical health problems but also my mental health. To paint a picture of my mindset and health but half a year or so ago:

A broken girl, who barely had the inclination to raise her eyes from the floor to focus on anything within the immediate vicinity of herself. Suffering 3 to 5 hour migraines daily, sometimes twice a day, it was no comfort to shower and be clean or lay in bed under the safe of duvets when the necessity to was to be stuck stead-fast to a toilet. I had no desire to socialize as such social settings were anxiety provoking if anything, not feeling myself and considering myself a failure in many social exchanges – not to mention that the constant nagging urge to relocate to a nearby toilet to relieve but a drip of urine. Yes. Very pleasant times indeed.

It had gotten to the point that I couldn’t see an end, didn’t want to face the struggle of coping in the circumstances and fighting for regaining my life and health left me distinctly underwhelmed. So what changed to allow the close of night and rise of dawn? It certainly wasn’t an abrupt change that snapped me back to “normal” but however subtle, it was hugely significant. I must first acknowledge the role of Feverfew. For anyone who is suffering regular migraines (or even infrequent ones) that seem to be unwarranted, this may just be a miracle cure. It’s a herbal tablet that when taken once daily can completely eliminate the occurrence of migraines at all. As I was saying, I was literally experiencing a minimum of one migraine a day for up to 5 hours for at least 2 weeks with no end in sight. As soon as I started taking Feverfew I had one last half-hearted migraine which more closely resembled a bad headache and since then I have not suffered one.

As miraculous a cure for migraines as Feverfew was, this barely made a difference to my mental health at all and this alone would not have lead to the return of my volition. A hollow shell of myself, one night I lay listless on my dad’s couch barely tasting the food that he had made and offering nothing for conversation or comfort to my worried parent. He suggested that we watch a DVD of a support group for chronic pain patients that could no longer be helped by drugs and the pharmaceutical industry. I didn’t want to watch it, having no interest in watching other “fellow sufferers” yet I didn’t protest.

The DVD (Healing and the Mind by Bill Moyers) was a documentary focusing on the treatment of chronic pain using the Buddhist based practice of mindfulness. The mindfulness practice was lead by John Kabat-Zinn who had detached the religious context from the highly beneficial practice of mindfulness in order to allow the adoption of it into a Western society. Initially the people attending the 8 week program are shown to be skeptical, disheartened by the fact that they have come to the end of the line of modern medicine’s answers and remedies. Faced with the prospect of living with the current chronic conditions for the rest of their lives, their hopes had been shattered, nerves and resolve battered.

As the DVD continued my dad and I became privy to the almost intimate process of the lives of these people improving and improving, their spirits rising and rising as they now enjoyed and envisaged a life without the awful suffering that they had had to endure for so long. As the documentary progressed it was as if certain neurotransmitters in my brain started firing again, gradually allowing cognitive functions that I had lost the ability to muster and exercise. From that evening on I began to make plans again and to feel the strength to fulfill them. I regained my control and resolve, I saw a light where once there had just been darkness and I found that I was able to allow stumbles without remaining helpless on the floor.

The dawn of a new day began with the glimmer of hope that has been realised almost every day since. And long may it continue.

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