Health and Disability

I can…oh wait, no I can’t.

I spent last night overcome with emotion as I was faced with something that I have never had to face before.

Over the past few years I’ve adapted my life as my health has got worse. I cook in batches and freeze for when I can’t cut things or I’m too tired to cook so that I’m eating as healthily as I can. I plan out my time so that I see my friends and family and have a social life. More recently I’ve been using a walking stick to help me get around, I’ve had an occupational health assessment for my house and I have a bath seat and a toilet frame among other things which really help me day to day. I receive PIP after a year and a half fighting for it, have stepped down from my management role at work and now do admin part time. I drive an automatic car to help reduce pains in my arms and I have started my own business to give myself a financially stable future in case I get to the stage that I can’t work.

These feel like a lot of changes to me and occasionally I get angry and bitter about the things that I can’t do anymore. I get frustrated that my body doesn’t work in the way that it should do. I’m annoyed that I can’t have the life that I want and I’m angry that I feel as if I don’t have any choice in what I can do as it is dictated for me. This frustration and anger has been eased through counseling and I manage it by surrounding myself with positive people and experiences, finding the joy in the simple things, completing my happy book every night and always looking for a silver lining.

I was talking last week about new year and new starts, I mentioned my resolutions and how I want to save up for a house, build my business and be able to go swimming regularly. This week I’ve been working towards those goals and have felt so positive and upbeat. I’ve felt better physically this week than I have done in months which has been amazing. I’ve been able to do my physio exercises everyday, I’ve also been meditating everyday for at least 15 mins which I’ve found very relaxing. (I said I’d tell you more about meditations, but I feel that this post follows on better from last week, so we’ll come back to the that another time) I’ve also been to the swimming pool and walked and swam 3 lengths!! I was so pleased with myself, but also really scared that I’d be exhausted and in pain the next day. I wasn’t, which was amazing, so I’m building that into my plan for every week now, slowly building up the swimming until I get stronger and see how much I can do without it negatively affecting me.

A huge frustration is how unpredictable this condition is. I have no idea how I am going to feel from one day to the next, and I cannot predict how something is going to affect me. This makes planning both essential and pointless as pacing is sometimes thrown out of the window due to a flare up.

So I’m having a really good week! I’m feeling positive about my health, I’ve made progress towards my physical goals, and I’ve also managed to challenge myself with my business goals and make some phone calls.

Making phone calls is my kryptonite. I’m not scared of speaking to people face to face, I can start up a conversation with anyone. Public speaking is fine, I’ve talked in front of hundreds of people before and enjoyed every minute of it. I’ll happily get up and sing in public, or do things that others find scary just to lead the way and show them it’s not as bad as they think. I’m happy to pick up spiders and speak to aggressive dogs, but ask me to make a phone call and I’ll put it off until the end of time. I’ve been working on this recently and have realised that if I want to grow my business and have the life that I want then I have to pick up that phone and speak to people. So this week I’ve been doing it. Over 2 days I made 12 calls and got 2 meetings sorted, just have to nail down the exact date and time and that’s my target achieved for this month! I’ve been buzzing with how well everything has been going.

I’ve also been nervous about going back to my day job, as I’m unsure how I am going to fit everything in that I’ve built up this week. I know that I need to relax more and take more time for myself, but I always push it to the back of the queue and allocate my time to something else. I know that this needs to change if I’m going to manage my health better, but I really have no idea how this is going to work once I’m working 30 hours a week again in an office!

So yesterday I went to a success day with my business and was worried about that as well. 10 – 4 in a conference room with uncomfortable chairs was scaring me, but I really wanted to go, so I said to myself that I would just leave when I needed to. The day was amazing! Uncomfortable, but amazing, I wasn’t leaving early as there was so much to learn. I was recognised for achieving the first sales level and saw members of my team getting their promotions rewarded which was so good to see after all of our hard work. I made some new friends and listened to training from some inspirational leaders throughout the day. Then to finish off the day we had a guest speaker.

His name is Richard McCann and his story and attitude is just brilliant. I was captivated from the start and as more of his story struck chords with me I got more emotional and was wiping away tears. We got to the stage of him finding a new social group and moving away from people who had been a negative influence on his life, and he told us how he started Salsa dancing, which gave him a new hobby as well as lots of new friends. This was so emotional for me as I have been dancing since I was about 6 years old, doing Ballroom, Latin, Disco and Sequence dancing until I was a teenager which was a huge part of my childhood. I did exams and had almost completed them all, with all of my medals and trophies in my parent’s loft still. We also put on shows every year where I got to dress up as a penguin, a Diddy Man and a can-can dancer and learn fun routines to perform to our family and friends. I picked it up again at university with some classes in modern and many nights in clubs dancing the nights away with my friend who loved dancing as much as me. When I moved back to Newcastle I started Salsa classes to make some new friends, just like Richard, and then took Ceroc classes for a year or so to try something new and get some exercise while I was loosing weight. Eventually I stopped as the classes were on a week night and I was really struggling to get to work the day after as I was just too tired. I realised that I wasn’t well enough to do it and gave it up with the intention of finding a class at the weekend, but never got round to it, then I got too ill to do any exercise at all.

At the start of 2014 I spoke to my physio and told her that my goal was to get back to dancing regularly, her face said it all as she asked me to think of another goal. I settled on swimming. I was devastated at the thought that I wouldn’t be able to dance again, but I bounced over it and focused on what I could do. Last year was a challenge health wise and I didn’t reach my goal so I rolled it over to this year and have been motivated enough to join a gym and get started by walking in the water with a plan to build it up. This is good, no it’s great! To be able to swim is huge for me and I’m going to see how I get on with it. Having this goal keeps me focused and makes me happy thinking that I am doing something to improve my health.

That is until yesterday. Richard asked us all, a room of 200 people, who can Salsa? I stuck my hand up, the one holding the tissue I was using to wipe my tears, and as I was in the front row he saw me straight away and came over and asked me to dance. The music started and I just stared at him and whispered “I can’t” The tears were flowing more freely now and I saw my friend Helen turn towards me and shake her head and mouth don’t. The music was playing and my body was aching from sitting in a horrible chair all day and he asked me again and held out his hand. I said “I can’t” a bit louder this time and looked at him, he didn’t move and just smiled at me and reached his hand closer to mine. I can only assume that he thought I meant that I didn’t want to get up in public and do it. That “I can’t” meant that I didn’t want to, not that I physically couldn’t do it. His philosophy is built around “I can” it’s the name of his website, his book and his business. He was talking to us about a positive mindset and being able to overcome any obstacle and here was someone telling him “I can’t” a perfect choice! He could prove that “I can” if a few dance steps.

I made a decision. I wanted to dance. I put my hand in his and got up and did about 1 min of Salsa. We did some basics, a cross body lead and a couple of spins and I sat back down to the room applauding and me with tears streaming down my face. My friends all had pained expressions on their faces as they knew how difficult this was for me physically, and how it could affect me tomorrow. Christine grabbed me as I sat down and hugged me. I felt people patting me and trying to calm me down. I was shaking violently as my heart broke.

I sat there trying to listen to what Richard was saying and attempting to make notes as my hand shook so much I could barely hold my pen. All I could think about was that I don’t care about swimming, a better car, a house or other “things”. Yes they’d be nice, but stuff has never been a priority for me. I want to be able to dance again.

I managed to get through the rest of Richard’s presentation, bought his CD, got a photo and drove home. I went to the Gym and sat in the sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, I did some meditation and managed to calm myself down then came home and went to bed, but I was still trying to figure out how I am going to be able to do this.

When your consultant tells you not to exercise as your body doesn’t react normally and it’ll actually make you feel worse so just listen to the physio, when your GP says to rest more, and when your physio says that you can’t do it, you believe that you can’t.

I might be being ridiculous, I am probably being detrimental to my health, I might even be setting myself up for a devastating fall emotionally, but I know that I need to be able to dance again.

I can accept that it probably wont be every week. I’m currently aiming for 4 times a year (and this one doesn’t count as not even 1 full song!) In a few years time I’d like to think I can build it up to once a month, but that really depends on the rest of my commitments and how things go with my condition.

I need this to be a goal as I realised how happy dancing makes me. For a minute yesterday in a conference room at Newcastle Race Course I felt like myself again. I felt confident and happy, beautiful and talented. I need that in my life. I need to know that even though my life has changed so much that I have had to reassess and redefine every aspect of it, from work to relationships to my future, my plans, goals and dreams…everything has changed, but I haven’t. I’m still the same person who loves being with my friends and family, but also loves time to myself. The person that loves reading and will happily read a book in a day, but can also be addicted to films and music. The person who wants to be the best that I can be at everything that I do. My job, my business, my hobbies, my friendships and the energy that I put out into the world. I am a positive, happy person and the thing that makes me happiest is dancing.

So watch me.

Vic xx

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