I have been contemplating writing a blog, and eventually a book, for the past 8 years. I kept putting it off thinking I would write it: when I was better? Found all the magical answers of managing my condition? Became at least good enough at managing my condition?
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 roller coaster ride of living with a debilitating and invisible chronic illness. I also know that putting off this one thing that I am passionate about and physically capable of doing (with a little help of a a computer programme) would be putting my life off yet again, awaiting some magical cure rather than living the life I have now, in this moment.
Nearly 11 years ago I seriously injured my back, rupturing discs in my lower sine. The significance of my pain meant that I was able to do very little, resulting in subsequent atrophy and stiffness. A year later I went for a procedure on my back which unfortunately in my case went horribly wrong, resulting in spinal headaches and chemical meningitis. My condition significantly worsened and I began feeling depressed and anxious. Over the past 9 years although I one point I started to feel a little better again and felt like I was on the road to recovery, 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.
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 managed to complete my doctorate and subsequently got a job working 10 hours a week as a clinical psychologist. I had to be extremely creative to make this happen, utilizing various aids such as a laptop stand and voice recognition software, in addition to the dictator I am currently talking into. On returning home to Ireland 7 years ago I specialised in providing therapy online (via Skype/email and instant messaging) and via telephone.
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.
I have been asking myself, what does it mean to me to truly raise awareness of chronic illness and disability? Surely, it is as simple as opening dialogue between people from all walks of life, opening our hearts to one another and truly listening. This is me playing my small part in doing just that. Why not join me? We are all wounded healers, in our own unique way.
My long-term goal is to actually write a book, not only representing my thoughts and ideas, psychological and social insights, but to actually produce something a little bit more interactive. I am not quite sure what that will look like yet, but I figured doing a bit more writing would be a good start.
If you think anyone you know would benefit from reading, please do share, comment and enter this process of raising awareness together!
Love and peace to you all
The Wounded Healer (A.K.A. Krissy)