So here goes! My first blog. I have been contemplating writing a blog, well probably for the past four years. I kept putting it off thinking I would write it: when I was better? Found all the magical answers of managing my condition? Become at least good enough at managing my condition? On reflection what all of these meant I am not sure. What I do know now is that I am not better, I do not have all the answers and I am continuing on the long journey of allowing myself to be human and ride the complex, emotional and physical waves of the roller coaster ride of living with a severe, debilitating and invisible chronic illness. I also know that putting off this one thing that I a m passionate and physically capable of doing (with a little help of a volunteer and a computer programme) would be putting my life off yet again for another day awaiting some magical cure rather than living the life I have now in this moment.

Nearly seven years ago I seriously injured my back rupturing discs in my lower sine. The significance of my pain meant that I was unable to do very little resulting in subsequent atrophy and stiffness. A year later in 2008 I went for a procedure on my back which unfortunately in my case went horribly wrong leaving me with spinal headaches and chemical meningitis. My condition significantly worsened and I began feeling very depressed and anxious. Over the past five years although I one point I started to feel a little better again and felt like I was on the road to recover, generally my condition has been worsening with me experiencing severe pain in my neck, upper and lower back and hips. Any of you reading this who experience any form and severity of chronic illness will understand how extraordinarily difficult it can be.

Alongside all of this when my condition began I was half way through my doctorate in clinical psychology. Through the support of many special people in my life who I will be internally grateful for, and the support I received from the University of Leeds where I was training. I somehow managed through more up and down times than I can now remember complete my doctorate and subsequently get a job working six hours a week as a clinical psychologist. I had to be extremely creative to make this happen, utilizing various aids such as a book stand, alter book, voice recognition software. In addition to the dictator I am currently talking into.

And here comes the essence for why I would like to write a blog. I would like to use it to do whatever I can to share my experiences, reflections, thoughts, fears, hopes, frustrations, anger and so much more. With any one going through anything remotely similar, in the hope that in some way I can even for a second help make that person’s life just a little bit more bearable. Being a professional, and in particular a psychologist has both its advantages and disadvantages when living with a chronic illness. On the one hand I do without a doubt have a wealth of knowledge on the inner workings of the human psyche in addition to the many therapeutic techniques to help one cope. Being able to draw on these in a time of need can obviously be very beneficial, however on the other hand sometimes knowing too much in addition to expecting yourself to be super woman can have its drawbacks. I am blessed that I am able to use my skills and expertise to help many other people, however I have had to learn to try and accept that this does not mean that I am somehow impervious to pain. And that I most definitely do not have all the answers. What I would like to do however, is draw upon my experience of being a patient and a doctor to try and connect with and help other who may be living with the most difficult task of a chronic illness, in addition to those who love that person and the doctors and other professionals whose job it is to treat them.

Now that I have provided a wee bit of an introduction, in the next blog I would like to share my reflections on my own naivety as a health professional prior to living with an invisible illness. Part of the work that I did, was working in a neuropsychology department as an assistant psychologist, frequently working with people with unexplained medical illness. Where because western medicine, science and doctors were unable to comprehend what was going on within a person’s body, the psychological aspect of their illness was often emphasised. There is no doubt that our psychological state has an impact on our health and wellbeing whether we are someone who has severe chronic illness or someone who is for the most part healthy and living a functional day to day life. What I am also sure about is that every one of you who is reading this, who is living with an invisible chronic medical illness, particularly those which western medicine has yet been able to really understand, have been dis missed, belittled, misunderstood and well the list is exhaustive, both literally and metaphorically. I hope you have enjoyed my first blog (hopefully of many), and would be greatly interested to hear your thoughts, experiences, reflections in addition to what you feel someone who is both a patient and a doctor can do to help you, someone you love, or indeed wider society and the professionals treating us. Thank you for taking the time to read, my thoughts are with every single of you.

Dr Kristine Abercrombie

Krissy

10 thoughts on “Being a patient and a doctor

    1. aww thank you Rachel I am excited to see how my blogging progresses and I am very interested to hear of any reflections or particular topics people would like me to cover. I hope you are feeling as well as you possibly can be on this day.
      Kristine

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  1. Well done for jumping in the water and making a start. I have the same problem of finding more reasons to wait than start something but it’s true that if you wait until everything’s “perfect” you never do anything. Now is always the right time to do something for yourself & others.

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    1. Exactly Morag, some of my debates in my head are around how it might conflict with the boundaries that are required for my clinical work, in terms of generally my clients knowing little about my own personal life. I know other clinical psychologist and therapists all have different thoughts and opinions on just how boundary to be but the general idea of courses that the spaces for the client and to write this blog the way I would like it to I would have to share enough myself, but then again my readers so far have been from all over the world….Anyway just some musings I suppose 🙂

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  2. Hello!

    I wanted to connect and let you know I enjoyed your post, and that I feel connected in the similar missions of our blogs. Blogging is taking some of our very limited energy these days, so I know it’s a long shot, but if you’d ever like to collaborate on a post or a project, I hope you’ll let me know.

    I really appreciate that you’ve chosen to move forward with the blog despite the urge to put it off and also the boundary issues you are contemplating. You’re offering something valuable, and I wish you luck. More, I wish you some relief with your illness.

    Best,
    The Professional Patient

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    1. I too have been meaning to get in touch with you. As you said the general feeling around our blogs are so similar, and at the same time complimentary given your medical background and my psychological background. I am sorry that you too however have been suffering, it is so hard when the rug has literally been pulled from under your feet and gives you such a different perspective on life. I too have enjoyed your blogs, and would definitely be interested in doing a project of some kind, I always have lots of ideas running around my head 🙂 it just may take us a while, eh! It would be great to get to know you better.

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