Set Backs

Yesterday was a good day, infact most of the week has been good it has been easier to be positive. That was until out of the blue last night around 6pm things started to go downhill. I developed a constant deep ache on my right side, sciatica down my right leg and then shooting pains around my pelvis, hip and through my pelvic floor muscles, I filt sick and dizzy, my brow beaded with sweat.

I had to be helped up stairs, helped to get into bed, helped to go to the loo…. It was exhausting and terrifying. How am I supposed to know if this is normal for spinal injuries? I am trying so hard, but the fact is it’s pretty terrifying. I cried that I wanted Valium. I am SO tired of this. I just want it to stop. I haven’t walked more than half a km in over two months, I haven’t been anywhere except Doctors on my own for over two months! Surrounded by hot water bottles, I sung childrens songs I know to distract myself, did breathing excersises, Juan sung a Krishna chant to me as tears rolled down both our faces. I recited the names of all the gods and goddesses I can think of, visualised myself at Bantham. Slowly it started to work, the spasms lessened, my breathing eased, I didn’t take valium. Finally, with the help of rescue remedy, Neals Yard Relaxation oils, ibuprofen and paracetamol sleep found me. Today is better than last night, but I am weakened, I ache alot more and the excersises which have been so relieving are not so today. This morning I sent an email to my wonderful physio, who despite it being bank-holiday emailed me straight back with a message full of reassurance, which is largely all I needed. I am proud I haven’t succumed to drugged numbness and proud that I am smiling and laughing with my husband today.

Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege!! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures, followed by wreckage, were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes. -Joseph Campbell

Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege!! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures, followed by wreckage, were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes. -Joseph Campbell

 

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The Best Beach in the world

I have been to alot of beaches in my life.

White ones, red ones, orange, yellow, brown and black ones. Rocky ones, chalky, fossily,shell-full, seaweedy, muddy, pebbly. I have been to beaches where the water is so clear you can see each grain of sand under your toes, to others where the sea’s so murky you can’t tell if there even is a bottom. I have been to salty and freshwater places. I have seen waters of turquoise, ultramarine, deep blue, blood red, green and golden too. I have stood on those shorelines and seen white horses chasing each other across oceans, whipped up by Poseidon himself before crashing at my feet. I have run barefoot and sweating into water so warm it feels like a bath and dived confidently into grey waters, only to surface with blinding ice-cream headaches.

I happily admit I romanticise about beaches. I am drawn to the seas, perhaps it is my Pisces heart, but they call to me and I am unable to ignore them. There is something about the places on earth where land falls away and the water creeps in. Something wild and ancient is evoked. Even on a packed out resort beach at the height of  season, full of sound-systems, Coca Cola and baby oil, if you dig your toes into the sand at the point where the waves lap the shore, stare down, it is there. There in that cooling, grainy, sinking sand, an ancient feeling fills me up. Excitement, expectancy, and a calming knowingness. When I am there, at the edge of  the elements, I am filled with the knowledge that it is OK. I can breath.

Of all the beaches I have visited there is one that I return to again and again. To me this beach stands out above the rest, even the remotest most perfect desert island beach is no contendor to my BB (BEST BEACH!) It is an ancient place called Bantham Beach. Lying on the southernmost part of the Devon coastline (UK), for me it is simply un-comparable.

When I was a child I used to trudge through the lanes from West Buckland to the beach. Wearing flip flops dragging a body-board and fishing net. I had swimming costumes under my clothes, that rubbed terribly but I couldn’t have cared less! Being England it was often raining too but again my mind was elsewhere, it was on the beach, in the rock-pools and sand dunes.

Bantham has everything and more that you could ever want in a beach. There are no buildings within a mile of the shoreline. A headland has grown out of sand-dunes, that provide amazing hide-and-seek places, butterflies, shelter from the wind and blackberries. From there you can check out the surf and hide from your parents! There are dozens of small limestone cliffs to scramble up and down. Each cliff protrudes onto the beach at different angles and distances, making one beach into 100s of smaller ones. A super fast, deadly River meets the sea at Bantham too. When the tide is right you can jump into plunge pools and let the current spin you down stream 400m before you bob up. The Tide is HUGE at Bantham, a smallish beach becomes 100s of meters wider and deeper as the moon moves. As the tides move they leave behind hundreds of rocks pools, mermaids purses and treasure troves abound. Out to sea looms Burgh Island, a quintessential child’s-idea of what an island should be.

Surfing spots along the English channel are notoriously poor, few and far between. Bantham is one of those rare exceptions and when surf’s up at Bantham she is truly magnificent! Such is the pull of this beach for me that while at uni I once made the 10 hour journey from the North just to sit on that shoreline for half an hour. It was one of the best 30minutes of my life!

Today was a glorious spring Monday morning. At 9am, whilst the rest of the world worked we headed out to Bantham. I haven’t been well enough to attempt the walk over the sand-dunes onto the beach for the past 3 months so today was triumphant. I had the sand, the sky and the water pretty much to myself, a few dog walkers passed by as I lay on the sand drinking in the glory of that place. I am so blessed to have grown up playing along that shore and today it gave me such Peace just to be there. Appreciating little things, realising that they are in-fact the big things, feeling Love for Bantham, is all helping me heal. One Love Bantham!

 

 

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Anxious Herbs

Anxiety is another issue I have struggled with. There are a myriad of medical descriptions of what anxiety, ‘mediacally looks like’. I am not going to focus on that too much, the NHS has a good general information page on this if you would like to know about it further. Essentially what anxiety boils down to is a fear of fear itself. A vicious cycle which once you are in it, it’s very hard to break. Several years ago I was given a book on Anxiety and Panic by Dr. Claire Weaks. This literally transformed my life. Once I understood what was happening, I could begin to live with it and maybe one day control it. I am not afraid.

Accepting troubles

Since then I have also been storing up some herbal wisdom to help with anxiety and stress. These are my top tips:

1) The trusty Bach Rescue Remedy. As you drop it on your tongue breath in for 7….and out for 11. A neat rhyme and very soothing.

2) Valerian Root. Used for centuries as a cure for insomnia. A tea at the end of the day or after a stressful event is wondrous.

3)Kava. I first had this in Fiji several years ago. It’s hard to get hold of here in the UK and if you find it , it tends to be in ‘party packs’. If anyone knows of a wholefood store stocking it please let me know!

4) Passion Flower. In tea and tinctures. Traditionally used after seizures to calm the body. It is in most ‘calming teas’.

5)Hops, in a tea mixed with passion flower and valerian.

6) Lavender. Helps breathing, encourages rest and sleep and contains anti-bacterial properties. It is commonly used in aromatherapy for stress.

7) Catnip, stimulates the nervous system, balances the mind and encourages rest.

Finally, for any herbalists reading this I am sure many people would wonder why I have left Chamomile out. Chamomile is lovely and many people use it regularly, but I find it gives me a headache. I don’t know why- if anyone has any theories I’d love to know more about it!

Herbal helpers

 

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Working with Health

When I woke up this morning I flipped the date on my Angel Calendar (I know, I know but I love it!) it said:

“you have the power with your focused intention to create a career that is rooted in your life’s purpose”

This is something I’ve always felt, yet always struggled with. So I thought that today would be a good day to write about my experiences trying to find and maintain a job, whilst having epilepsy and other health complications.

It is a subject I have previously avoided, worried that it might be seen by potential employers or upset previous ones. However, I now think that honesty is really the best, healthiest and most positive path to take. I hope that by sharing some of my experiences I will understand the challenges in them myself better and that they might perhaps help someone else too.

It is perhaps an obvious statement to say that our health affects everything we do. Every job we apply for and everywhere we consider working. It is so obvious that people who are Well, take this totally for-granted. I know I did.

When I was 15yrs old, just before I was diagnosed with Epilepsy I decided I wanted to go to a new Sixth form College the following year. It was an amazing school in Dorset with an incredible Art Studio. It was so far away that I’d have to stay there some nights but I really wanted to go and was very happy when I got in! That same year in August I was diagnosed with Epilepsy aka Brain Farts. When September came and the school term started, I was still getting used to my meds. I was pretty ill, I was still visiting Doctors often and missed alot of school. This made making friends and settling in even harder. I became more sick, people called me Spaz……… with the help of an incredible-life-time-inspiring-I’ll-never-forget-teacher Mrs Stuart, I went back to my old school and managed to take my A-Levels. Although, school is not strictly speaking a job, this experience was the first time my health had directly impacted on a choice about my education/career path and although I didn’t see it at the time it was the start of many such incidences which surely have charted the course of my life so far.

University was by far my best Educational Experience. I never knew I could love education that much, having pretty much hated school. Despite my uni registration form reading that I had ‘Multiple Dissabilities’  ( I had never felt I was disabled)My meds where working, I was free and having fun! ALOT OF FUN. I spent those three years in a whirlwind of being blissfully happy or blissfully distraught in an exquisitely-painful-horrendous-wonderful way!  I can’t say I remember much of what I studied inside the University buildings. I was far too busy studying life outside and what I learnt rocked my world! At the end of third year Epilepsy reared its ugly head again, I missed my final exams and didn’t do a dissertation. After a long fight involving Occupational-Health-Therapists and Neurologists, The University let me re-do my third year aka my fourth year. I find I’ve blocked alot of these memories of exactly what happened. Explaining why I spent 4 years at Uni was hard, explaining makes it real and I was/still often am very happy in my unreal land Thank-you-very-much!

So Education Done. Phew! Two health challenges beaten. Little did I know the reality of what I would face in the wide world of full-time employment. All through uni I’d done part time work in Primary Schools. I’d always truly loved children and as I’d grown up, I developed a real interest in education, particularly in children’s early development. It seemed like the natural step to become a Primary School Teacher. Indeed I felt so lucky and blessed that I had a really strong feeling about what I wanted to do, I saw friends floundering in a sea of ideas and was so pleased not to be one of the confused Graduate Masses. I thought not only have I found something I want to do but I know, I really know, deep down in my toes I could be good at this, I could.

I want to make this positive blog, but there are some dark things that I want to get out first. There will be a silver lining I am sure, but first there is this ////I just wrote a detailed blog about several experiences but the computer just deleted them and I can’t retrieve them- I am taking this as a SIGN that it was too heavy and negative! So here is an abbreviated version with added silver lining and JOY!////

I didn’t complete the Teacher Training. In summary I found my way blocked by mountains of paperwork, interviews with Occupational Health workers, Tutors needing detailed medical accounts, insurance lacking and ultimately being prevented from being in a room with children. Any children. This was just ‘the process’, no one took into account how stressful this was for me or even considered the fact that I didn’t consider myself disabled, couldn’t even discuss epilepsy honestly with myself let alone the rest of the world. Failing this course took my confidence,my self-belief, my ability to see myself as able-bodied and my ideological view on what ‘Equality’ looks like in a C21st workplace.

My Silver lining came in the form of an expenses-only third sector job in South Africa with Tenteleni. It is still one of the best things I’ve ever done. They gave me responsibility, barely commented on my health, gave me confidence and built my self-belief. I made friends and met my husband. I was totally skint and happier than ever!

Tenteleni

Blissful as this was, you can’t live on Happiness (why not I wonder?! A flaw in the Creators plan I think!) I decided to look for work in the Third Sector and pretty soon landed a job, which to all intents and purposes seemed like my dream job. A real, proper job. No one could’ve been prouder or happier than me! Untill after a few months I again found my way blocked by mountains of epilepsy-related paperwork, sudden needs for detailed medical accounts, refusals to insure me to work with children or travel and consequently being excluded from work………I couldn’t believe it had happened again and in the third sector too…..I was so stressed that my Epilepsy became the worst it’s almost ever been and I couln’t go to the office. I fought to be treated equally, my Neurologist supported me, I fought not just for myself, but for future employees. I don’t know if it made any difference, I left. I couldn’t work there anymore. I am trying to choose love, trying not to be bitter about this but mostly I was desperately saddened to find this type of discriminatory behaviour in a sector I had on such a high pedastall, that I was so very proud to be part of. They broke my heart and any shred of idealism I had left.

After I left, my health drastically improved and now my Epilepsy is back under control. Since then I’ve only had very limited part time work in a Nursery. Now it is my back preventing me from working. I know I have lost alot of confidence again, I am scared of my Epilepsy coming back under the pressure of full time work, I am worried that the only thing I can do is work with Children, I’m trying to set up my own business but now my back’s got so bad – probably from spending days on the floor- that I don’t know if I’ll even be able to do that. I know that like Tenteleni, another silver lining must come. Balancing what I want to do, what I can do and what I need to do is one of my greatest challenges and will therefore be one of my best achievements when I manage it.Which I have to believe I will. Until then here are some pretty pictures and wisdom on the topic.

If you’ve found health & work challenging I’d love to hear your stories too.

 

 

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