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Today I am delighted to have a guest post by Lynley Gregory from the blog topladytalks.com. Lynley writes in a very honest and open way about the drastic change her life has taken: from being a secondary school Welsh teacher to now being in a wheelchair and learning to cope with chronic pain on a daily basis.
In this guest post, Lynley shares her experiences of how she copes and manages her pain and adapts to carry on living a life she enjoys. She talks about change in her mindset, the power of hope, and how CandyCrush is a useful distraction technique!
“Miss, you ok? You look a bit weird?” was the last question or sentence I heard before my life changed forever into a life full of pain, confusion and worry.
I was the Head of a large department in a Welsh Valleys secondary school and I loved my job. The constantly changing interaction with over 700 pupils every week was challenging but exciting and every day, I was so very proud of those pupils.
I was teaching a class when ‘it’ all started. ‘It’ felt like I had been shot; a severe pain straight through the bottom of my back which was excruciating and I sat down in agony for what seemed to be the longest 7 minutes of my life until the buzzer went. I immediately went to the local doctor who was as puzzled as we were and had no idea what was causing the unbearable pain.
An MRI scan was arranged and the very next day, I received a phone call from the surgeon saying that I had suffered a spontaneous fracture of my sacrum, the large spinal bone that connects the pelvis at the back. Bed rest for 4 weeks was ordered to help the fracture heal, with crutches afterward.
The reasons for this spontaneous fracture were then sought; all kinds of tests and scans were done and eventually the diagnosis was found – Pre Menopausal Osteoporosis. My bone density levels were dangerously low and this explained the spontaneous nature of the fracture.
Whilst my fracture started to heal and repair, my pain levels did not improve at all.
Months passed but the pain continued at the same levels and after 18 months with very little progress on reducing the pain, I had to face my Rheumatologist and my Pain Management Consultant telling me that the fracture had caused nerve damage and that the pain was now considered permanent and was extremely unlikely to ever go away.
The next step was to ‘manage’ my condition. This prognosis was sent to my school and as a result, I then lost my teaching post and with it, all hope of my life returning to any semblance of normality.
The next year was a very dark one; I don’t mind admitting that this prospect was one I struggled to understand. How do you reconcile and even try to accept a life full of unrelenting pain? How is any human being able to do that?
I admitted how I was feeling to my Pain Management Team who were very understanding and listened to my worries through my constant sobbing. They referred me for counselling and it was only really then that I started to have some idea of how to live with the pain for the rest of my life.
I have had to make many changes to make my pain manageable and to have some kind of life. We have moved into a bungalow so as to take stairs out of the equation. I have bought an electric powerchair so I’m not struggling through the pain to walk with my crutches. Through my disability state benefits I can exchange one of those benefits for a car with a hoist so I can take my wheelchair with me when we go out and I have accepted my Ill Health Retirement from the teaching profession so at least I have a small income coming in.
To manage my pain, I practice pacing and try to arrange my life so that I plan it around my pain; if I need to be at the hospital for example, I cancel any activities for the few days before.
On a quiet day, I distract myself by writing paragraphs for my blog TopladyTalks, this has helped me chart my progress and also to reach out to others in the disabled community who suffer chronic pain like me.
I use adult colouring books and audio books to help me distract myself from the pain. I also use a heat pad to bring the pain level down slightly and I have to admit that I’m a CandyCrush addict too!
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One of the major changes though has been the change in my mindset; my pain has not altered but my outlook and the way I deal with it has. I go to meditation, mindfulness and chair yoga regularly. These classes have helped me adjust to this ‘new life’ and they support my emotional wellbeing immensely.
Am I happy that this is my ‘new life’? No, of course not but seeing as it is beyond all of my control, I deal with it as best I can. I can finally see a positive way forward. It might not be the future I was expecting but it is a future and I try every day to look forward with hope.
Every new day is a blessing and has something good in it; it may be something as simple as a rainbow following the rain or a blog post finished at last, but there is always something and I hold on to those things everyday.