Back in September I wrote a little about something I’ve been dealing with for the last four and a half years, a chronic back pain condition which developed after a relatively minor car accident back in 2006. Looking back, and this is not meant to sound in any way trumpeting, I was on a roll back then, snapping up properties to renovate and rent, buying houses to do up and sell, glamorizing out homes to live in, getting planning permission to build a house and working for other developers project managing and designing schemes. Phewf! Happily galloping along getting better and better at what I did, suddenly life changed when bang, driving along on a quiet Sunday evening, a car pulled out right in front of me and I hit him head on.
People talk about whiplash and giggle a bit, a quick £1500 and a trip to the Trafford Centre they think, but if you’ve had it properly, then you’ll know it’s a absolute nightmare. I am biased, but think that injuries or pain when you’re self employed is even worse because you can’t ever simply take a day off. I was determined, even on my worst days, not to claim benefits or stop being self-employed and if I could pick up a phone or get to a computer, I worked. I’d just finished renovating a block of apartments and had put our renovated home on the market in the April when the accident happened, and as the pain wasn’t getting any better over a period of weeks into months, we decided to still sell and move into a house I’d been renting out in the middle of studentville. The plan was to get better, build the house we’d got planning for and move into that, and re-rent the student special. Funny how plans don’t always go according to plan, especially where pain’s involved, something you have very little control over. I spent most of 2006 and 7 in a co-codamol haze, barking orders at builders to do the things I used to do and trying to find other sources of income. 2008 was better, then a major relapse in 2009, and all the while still working, managing the rentals and concentrating more on client and media work, far less lucrative than personal renovations but rewarding and satisfying in their own way. And all the while still with The Claim dangling like the Sword of Damocles.
In summer 2010 during an appointment with a pain specialist (I didn’t even know such people existed!), it was recommended to me that I attend the Pain Management Course at Hope Hospital. The what?! I thought. For two full days a week for a month. Jesus! To any self-employed person that’s a massive commitment, never mind one who’s not 100%. Will it make me better? was what I wanted to know. No, they replied. So what’s the point? I asked. Come and see….. So I did and am beyond relieved that I swallowed my scepticism and pride to do so.
I initially felt like I shouldn’t be there. I’m not in a wheelchair. I’m not bed-ridden. I don’t weep with pain every day. I can still work. But I do have constant daily pain and it does flare up badly if I do certain things, things I used to take for granted. I was assessed, pocked, prodded, examined, questioned and passed as a viable candidate for the course. I really didn’t know what to expect, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I knew from the leaflets we’d been given on a previous interview that the course would be mixture of the physical and the psychological, but wasn’t really sure how it all related to me. I had a feeling that I would get the most benefit from the psychological stuff, because I had been really struggling to accept my new limitations and decreased physical ability, feeling that I wasn’t as good as I used to be, that I was useless, weak and a bit pathetic when I’d once been strong, capable and invincible!! I could still ‘do’ stuff, but it’d knock me out for a few days, beyond frustrating for a whirling dervish, as you can imagine.
When I got there and found a room full of relatively young people – 20 to 40ish – I was a bit surprised, I thought I’d be the youngest there! And they all looked….. normal. No-one was wheeled in, no-one was lying down, no-one was crying out. No-one looked ‘in pain’. We had to do some physical tests individually and I went for it, walking fast, then on a step block up and down, feeling again like I was too fit to be there, but at the same time knowing my back would kill the next day.
And then they starting talking about Chronic Pain. Sorry I said, what’s that? I’d heard the term a couple of times in the assessment stage and seen it on the paperwork but honestly didn’t know what it was. Er, it’s what you’ve got Sian, it’s why you’re here.
Sorry? Me? I’ve got Chronic Pain? And as I listened, suddenly everything started to slot into place. As people started talking, as we read the handouts, as the psychologist said her stuff, I found myself recognising my life, my thoughts, my feelings in other people’s words. After over four years of utter frustration and anger at myself, my body and my life, it dawned on me that this was entirely normal behaviour for someone with this alien ailment they called Chronic Pain….
Below is a little more about what it actually is, in someone else’s words, if you are interested in the subject, but I’ve gotta head out now and will write about this, plus how I’ve ended up getting secretly and very creepily filmed this week, later….