So, I settled into my room, unpacked my bits and bobs, and had to head to the room where I would be meeting the rest of the people I would be spending 3 weeks with.
I knew nothing about them, didn’t know how many people, what issues they would have, their backgrounds, nothing.
I think I may have been the first in the room. I took my seat, and waited.
Slowly a small trickle of miserable faces entered the room with mine. My thoughts “oh shit, this is going to be loooooong 3 weeks!”
Each one of us had a story, a story of why we were there, how we got there, who we had left behind, whether we were all ready to move forward. We may not have chosen to be with each other, but over time we all developed a wonderful relationship.
There was only 5 of us, 4 women and one poor guy! I’d say he was probably the most “disabled” of us all, and maybe should have even been in the hospital setting. The pain on his face hurt my heart every time we sat in the same room together, but as the weeks went on we managed to laugh together a lot, and develop a wonderful supportive friendship. We all did, as a group. You kinda don’t have much choice. You spend every waking hour together, generally have most meals together, to which I affectionately named it “the cripple corner”.
The program was full on, when we were given the schedule I thought to myself that I hadn’t had to work so hard since giving up work. Physio, Occupational Health, Pilates, Stretch Classes every morning, daily lectures, meditation, art therapy, cooking therapy, sports therapy. But there was more sitting than I could bare. But we were in a safe environment that we didn’t have to continually sit down, we were in fact encouraged to move more during the lectures.
We had to change so much of our physical habits, that I ended up having more pain and discomfort than when I came into the program. I had a massive crash in week 2, which apparently was very normal. There were huge realisations that I refused to accept, the hardest being I was actually classed as disabled! The second thing I found most difficult was that I had started to get more pain than I could bare, and my headaches and panic attacks had come back. This was all normal, a bit like a healing crisis. The support was amazing.
To this day I won’t accept I’m disabled, but by definition I was. I contributed a lot to the lectures, probably annoying many folk including the amazing, kind and patient staff members, but my bodywork background allowed me to share many stories and experiences. Who knows if I was getting eye rolls, but hey ho!
We did things we might never have tried, and heard terms we might never have heard of before coming on this program. As the week would draw to an end we would bid each other farewell each Friday, I can honestly say, for that time, I looked forward to going back into my safe environment each Monday with the people I had grown very fond of.
It was all very well organised, and managed. The staff who were part of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, were amazing. Truly, they were there to help us find ways to understand pain, manage pain, and function with pain. Remember, we all had different pains from different reasons! So it wasn’t so straight forward for the staff!
I was sad to leave these people, we had grown to get each others odd habits and behaviours, we had learnt more about each other day by day, and developed lifelong relationships. As the program drew to a close, we all swore we would stay in touch. Some of us lived near each other, most not.
We did keep in touch, for a short while. My guy friend and I would meet up occasionally, but he has now moved back to his home country. One of the women was local to me, and we still meet when we can, her and I had the most improvement I’d say. She started the program with a stick, and now is living proof (as am I) that things can change for the better, in fact, she is an inspiration to me, no stick, working full time, travelling, managing a busy house of teenage boys! Amazing!
All in all, that part of my journey was a mixed bag of emotions, it really was a roller-coaster, highs, lows, twists, and turns. But it was the most amazing experience of my life, I learnt so much and connected with some amazing people who I might never have met had it not been for this amazing program. The only shame in this whole thing, is that it isn’t easy for people to get into it. There are millions of people suffering with pain, who either think their life is doomed and may not even know there is help and support out there for them, or have to wait years to get onto a program like this. I feel so fortunate that I managed to get on it as quickly as I did.
Next stop, putting it all into practice, in real life……..