Working out the steps

Oh No. Not another one about dance?
This one’s about Multiple Sclerosis. Again.

Overall my health and physical ability have been steadily declining. The decline is because of inaction.

Disabled But Not Really

(sloth and laziness and for sitting and writing and planning and getting all up in my mental for far too long. Here, mentally, at least I am not disabled. My mind for the most part still works.)

Possibly due to a range contributing factors that include time management, MS, experiences of low mood and high frustration.

Noticing Selma Blair stand on the Black and White Carpet with a cane earlier this year, brought to mind the significant journey I have been invited to take part in.

(Unwillingly. At times kicking off. If I were to be 100% honest!)

There has been resistance. Lots of resistance. As the Borg in Star Trek have stated ‘Resistance is Futile!’ And so acceptance has been my next begrudgingly shrugging shoulders move.

Core Work
I would say I am limping into this one, with balance issues, drop foot, lowered centre of gravity, weakness in the back and legs, not to mention the burning pain in what feels like the spinal column near to the pelvis. It’s been an experience of ever diminishing returns.

The aim of writing this piece is to explain what I have done to check and correct the downward health spiral I have been forced to look at.

I contacted a personal trainer that I know and an osteopath. They both put me through my paces exploring my limits, stretching me beyond them and explaining what has been happening to my body. They have both then followed the assessment with the support to help me blow past the limits that my body was attempting to put on me.

Hand Written by Anna Snow, a comprehensive breakdown of what exercises to work on

An example of Anna’s outline.

The MS Treatment
As a 2nd rounder of Alemtuzumab/lemtrada treatment, I had thought that the physical elements of Multiple Sclerosis had been checked off and put behind me. After years of neglect, my body has come back screaming and yelled “Ahem, what about me? Uh uh, uh, that’s right if you don’t pay attention over here it’s gonna be pain!”

Both Daniel (Osteopath) and Anna (PT) in their own way stated that
we should be
(that’s you out there reading these words and me)
putting more importance and time to making our bodies work better. Just 10 -15 minutes a day. For pain free movement.

Daniel even suggested I do yoga. Yoga? I have been thinking about attending a local class for about 2 years. My thoughts are to help increase my body’s flexibility and overall brain body connection. I will let you know how this goes. If and when it goes and if there any of the desired gains made.

Flip It
So the point of all of this is to invite you to take a few moments to reflect on what ails you. Spend some time putting right what is going wrong or has the potential to and get moving to make what troubles you most – better.

As a Consultant, Coach, Counsellor, Supervisor, Writer there is help available for every situation that you would like to tackle so make that enquiry and ask for the help to get better.

Exercise Routine

Daniel the Osteopath further exercises and stretches.

So what did Anna and Daniel do? Anna helped me to identify the root problem – which are my core muscles in my back and stomach areas. She put together some exercises and routines that focus on improving my core strength. The aim here was to improve overall stability, flexibility and strength. As an MS client I found her approach enabling and supportive.

Simple tasks like crunches or lateral planks were broken down and carefully explained with what the benefits of getting into these positions are. As a Personal Trainer (PT) Anna also observed my gait, eating and other exercises I was doing to make sure the routine she had planned was not going to compromise me or add to my physical output load for the day/week. Which would be counterproductive.

Daniel was equally supportive and informative however as an Osteopath his approach was hands on and caused some pain. Okay, hands up who likes prodding a bruise or massaging a sore muscle? Well if you do, this is what I experienced. There were shouts and yells and then serene moments as the muscles bones and tendons were coaxed back from atrophy to life once more. There’s a glute stretch that was performed on me that did all of the above.

Daniel was patient and explained the 4 steps he was going to take to assist me working it out and back to health. The walking assessment and then the assessment of the tender parts of the spine with touch. The muscles that support to gain a sense of what is going on were also carefully reviewed. Not much pain here. Stages 0-1. This part was like a rudimentary vehicle check.

Stages 2-4 Pain and release and sore relief.
This is the part where my legs were stretched and pulled and massaged to ease fluidity of movement. Ham strings and quads were focused on as were my calf muscles. All of this to resolve pain in the back?

Daniel’s Outline
Yup. It’s hard to believe.

The back is the highway for everything you are. It connects the upper body to the lower body. My lower back is where I have been experiencing a lot of pain. Disabling pain. Pain that simply won’t leave. Ibuprofen lightly touches it but doesn’t nullify it. The help of Anna and Daniel have helped a lot!

In short don’t leave getting in to shape until the last moment. When all that can be looked forward to is the end of, the bike ride, swim, row, pilates, kickbox, gym session, walk, sail, kayak, surf, climb, garden, football, basketball, netball, volleyball, badminton session, horse ride, cross country run, tough mudder assault courses. Find enjoyment whilst doing them.

Set small achievable targets and No Matter What it! Do it, sign up for that event be it a park run with friends and attend no matter what, or surf event in SA. The point, your wonderful life is counting on it.

So do it.

When you do, share what you find!

Further thought/practice

Science of Success Hack Your Bio-Chemistry

Tim Ferris The Art of Getting Things Done

TED Talks NPR The Big 5

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Daring Greatly

Admitting defeat.

Ignore

Be so

In September 2015 I spent a few days reading a book by Brene Brown called Daring Greatly. The book offers the idea that owning our vulnerabilities makes us stronger, or better at not fearing our lives. Daring greatly as an idea has struck several chords for me as I have lived in fear of discovering that my disability might prevent me from doing my job well enough.

I have spent the last 6 years developing my craft as a counsellor and Mental Health professional; working in the community in private practice, at a University as a Student Mentor, in a prison as a counsellor / psychological wellbeing practitioner and as a Forensic Mental Health Practitioner for Together. I thought I should aim to be better than good. Better than I thought that the disability would somehow stop me from being. In the profession this type of thinking is identified as over compensating. I can put my hands up owning that I do that.

I have Multiple Sclerosis. It is a disease I have struggled to live with for 6 years since being diagnosed in 2011. I can remember the day that my doctor at Moorefields Eye Hospital reluctantly told me. I felt huge waves of anxiety lift. I dreaded that I might have a terminal disease like brain cancer. I might not be bright enough for that. I was also intensely angry and sad. As I imagined that my dreams of being a brilliant professional had dimmed due to my understanding of what Multiple Sclerosis is.

My struggle has been, I have not wanted to admit to myself or anyone that, I have an incurable disease. A disease that has enabled me to take a good look at myself and reflect on the past 30 years of my life. Over the years there were signs of the disease which hinted at a serious nervous system malfunction, that just wasn’t identified after multiple misdiagnoses. The most frightening was at 22-23 I suffered with a 6 month experience of the left side of my body going into spasm after exerting myself. A doctor I saw identified that I might have an inflammation in my lower back that flared up when over stimulated my body through exercise. He requested that I hold my breath through these episodes and either sit or lie down until the spasms had passed. The humorous thing for me was this was a sign of MS and it was missed but his advice worked.

I looked into the mirror on a particular morning in October 2015 and said to myself “I am going to have a great day.” On this particular day I struggled to make it to work on time and tripped and fell hard on pavement, partly due to the fact that I was rushing and partly because of my balance and co-ordination and tiny calculations in gait and flagstone pavement height that I struggle to compensate for felled me. This morning was not what I had in mind as a “Great day”. But a day is 23 hours and 59 minutes and 59 seconds long, I just had to wait for the rest of the day to unfold. It did get better.

For 6 years I have wondered about not letting my secret out as I had not wanted to give others insight about my weakness. But as the book ‘Daring Greatly’ describes, admitting where you are weak is a strength that is indescribable for what it offers: release – a sense of liberation. It feels like for a long time I have lived in a cell with a high barred window. I could hear and smell the seasons change and birds chirping, but the scant amount of daylight that entered my cell was not enough for me to grow strong. I have hidden my illness as a result of how I believed others who may never meet me may judge me. Now I am beyond the cell, and striding into sunlight.

On the day in October where I said to myself “Have a great day”, I attended training at the head office of the organisation where I work. The training was on motivational interviewing and I was invited to share a real story with a colleague about something I had wanted to stop doing. I mentioned that I wanted to stop living in fear of this secret of my MS secret getting out. My colleague EK allowed me to think about what changes I could implement. Owning my flaws, my weakness, bearing to be vulnerable could actually be my biggest ‘to do’.

It scares me as to what this may mean for me and my family, my business and my future. However I already realise that by writing this and then sharing this a huge boulder that I have been pushing much like Sisyphus is now gone. I no longer need to hide it. I have accepted that I have a disability and it does not define my star’s ascent.