“OK” Is Not As Flippant As It Sounds

I am OK.

Friends, family and colleagues ask me how I am. They ask me how my back is. At the moment my answer is “OK”.

This always feels a little bit like I am fobbing them off, or not wanting to talk, or a bit flippant in the face of a genuine question. But here’s the thing. It is not flippant, or fobbing off, or hiding behind a vague answer.

I do not feel amazing. I do not feel ready to jump and run and lift my 4yo onto a zip slide. I am still in pain, often.

I do not feel crap. I am not bedbound. I am not wincing or crying when I move. I can walk for an hour or two at a time instead of 2 minutes. I have halved my medication. I can put my children to bed by myself if I need to, and we don’t need people staying to help out anymore.

Sometimes “OK” is exactly how I feel.

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How Can You Know What You Don’t Know?

Hello again. 

It’s been a while. Turns out it’s quite easy to let a blog lapse once you get out of the routine. But here I am again, with my fingers on the keyboard and things to say. 

I am doing well. The surgeon who operated on me has discharged me and I don’t need to see him again. I have been assessed by a doctor, a physio and a psychologist to check that I am right for the pain management clinic, which will take place in June. 

When I saw the surgeon and then the doctor, the meetings were brief. They both smiled at me and told me I was doing really well and that was pretty much it. In part this can be very reassuring. However, it has struck me how infrequently you get to see anyone who is a specialist in your area of pain, and therefore, how infrequently you get to ask anyone who knows stuff any questions. 

I have taken to writing down questions I would like to have answered, so that when I have an appointment with a doctor I don’t leave and then kick myself afterwards (not a good feeling).

When I have asked questions, both the surgeon and the doctor took their time to answer, answered thoroughly and made sure I understood the answer. This led me to thinking – how can I ask what I don’t know about?

The speed of being discharged can be very unsettling. I have stood in the waiting rooms, realised my appointment is over and walked away feeling distinctly unsettled and unsatisfied.  

Consent. Again.

I have just watched Channel 4’s news covering the new report on sex and teenagers. [For more, see here: http://www.channel4.com/news/sex-teenager-consent-rape-survey-young]

Here are some comments from the piece:

“Even when sex takes place under forced circumstances, they tend to blame the girl for putting themselves in a position where they ended up having sex.”

“It’s not really anybody’s fault, because the girl is getting drunk, that’s what she wants, and, like, the lad wants to get it on with somebody.”

Channel 4 had on Laurie Penny and Luciana Berger MP to discuss the report. Luciana Berger commented that the views expressed were “shocking”.

The views are harmful, and distressing but I don’t believe they are sudden or surprising. It cannot be a surprising state of affairs given we cannot tell the difference between teenagers’ opinions, adults’ opinions and media opinions. Victim blaming is everywhere, from twitter, to newspaper columns to law courts. Young people have had little experience of autonomy over their own physical boundaries and comfort zones [as I wrote about previously in September: https://kissmeandbequiet.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/teaching-consent-to-a-4-year-old/], and we let our young people down terribly with the woeful state of sex and relationship education in schools. How can we possibly express surprise that young people find the issue of consent difficult?

The tone of the interview on Channel 4 was ‘should young people be having sex at all?’, furthermore the women were asked whether Miley Cyrus was a good thing or a bad thing.

I think the response to both of those things is WTF??

We should be helping our young people navigate feelings, emotions, boundaries, healthy relationships and how to enjoy consensual sex when they are ready for it. We should be educating the whole population, and not only young people, on how to enjoy consensual sex and to understand what consent means.

Why is this so difficult?

Fooling my Brain

A friend of mine has recently gone through a pain management programme. She passed on lots of great advice, and one of the things she told me was that your brain can be tricked. Very simply put, you try and focus on all of your senses when doing something simple, instead of only focussing on the pain. In this way you can distract yourself for a little while. 

I try this sometimes when I am out walking and I am beginning to hurt. Sometimes it works and the pain subsides and I can keep walking for quite a lot longer. Sometimes it doesn’t work. either way it makes my walks a lot more pleasant. 

Here are some of the things I have noticed: 

When you stand quietly in the middle of a wood at this time of year, it sounds like it’s raining even when it isn’t. The leaves falling off the trees make a gentle sound when they hit other branches on the way down. 

Squirrels are really noisy, and they sound like birds. 

There are some beautiful places very near to my house. Today there were moments when I felt like I was inside my childhood imagination when I was reading Narnia, or Tom’s Midnight Garden. 

Although my favourite season is summer, the colours in autumn take my breath away. 

Sometimes it feels wonderful to be rained on. 

Walking past the metal fence of the golf club in the sunshine feels like walking past a strobe light. 

Walking past the biscuit factory makes my nose smile. 

Silver Clouds, Big Mercies and a Cup That is More Than Half Full

I have felt fed up today. My back and leg are hurting, little things that I know are little things felt like a hassle and decisions felt really hard to make. 

I know I still need to be patient and no doubt the pain management clinic will help in ways I can’t quite imagine yet, but the continuation of pain is disheartening. I knew before the operation that the back pain may not be fixed, but I shall confess to believing that it would be more fixed than it is. I thought if I did everything right (doing all the physio and all the walking, and no lifting etc) that I might have had a pain free day by now.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to take my 4yo ice-skating any time soon, but I hoped I might be able to do some hula hooping, or hop scotch, or running around the park and those things are feeling like a distant dream. 

However, there is one thought that consistently undermines any attempts to feel sorry for myself: and that is ‘thank goodness this happened with my second pregnancy and not my first.’ 

Interlude

Hello, 

I’ve been hiding. 

It’s 6 weeks since my operation. I am walking. I am doing my physio exercises. I am listening to audiobooks and I am talking with all the wonderful people who have come to help. 

I have not been blogging. Turns out that lying down typing and apparently having welcomed the Norovirus into our house was not conducive to writing. I would think up blog posts while out walking, and then just not pick up the laptop, at all. I think I felt the need to hide myself away a little and simply recuperate. 

Everyone in the house has been ill. It started with my 4yo, then my husband, then my friend caught it, then my dad, then my sister and finally my 1yo. Somehow I was spared. Small mercies – I did not have to work out how best to throw up without wrenching my back. I did however have to sit somewhat uselessly by while my 1yo was sick and distressed and frightened, which was awful. 

I have been to my follow up appointment with my surgeon, who calmly informed me that the disc he operated on was completely calcified and had turned to bone. It’s possible that the other 2 discs which look a bit dodgy on the scan are in the same condition, but he didn’t look at those, so we don’t know. He is pleased with my progress, assures me that the leg pain I am still getting is normal and won’t fully go away for another month or so, and that I am likely to still need the pain management clinic to help me with my ongoing back problems. 

It was a bit of a shock to realise how far my discs had degenerated. I’ve not quite fully got my head round what this means for life and mobility and general wellness. I guess this is the journey to find out. 

 

*A short aside, during my time off blogging, a blog I nominated for an award at the Blog North Awards did in fact win, and her blog is absolutely worth reading – heartbreaking and beautifully written: http://www.wifeafterdeath.wordpress.com 

Walking a Different Way

I’ve been doing lots of walking since my operation. I am told this stimulates the nerve that was being squashed for the last 2 years, and so this is a good thing. I have walked round the block (a lot), I have walked to and round nearby parks and I have walked along the Fallowfield Loop, which is nearby. It’s a lovely walk, lots of trees and is pedestrianised and flat. The pedestrianised bit is great because it means I can listen to my audiobooks without passing traffic making me miss essential parts of the storyline, and the flat bit is great because have you noticed how many bumps, lumps, stickyuppy bits and weirdly angled pavements there are? 

Then yesterday I came across this news story: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/image-released-hunt-serial-phone-6184422

It turns out that a young man is targeting women and girls walking along said flat, pedestrianised route to steal their mobiles. 

On today’s walk I found myself feeling suddenly nervous as I approached the loop and walked past it instead. I walked to the park and walked round that instead. I found myself walking a different way because I felt too nervous to walk down the path away from the traffic. I found myself justifying my choice to myself; that feeling nervous was not a way to relax into trying to walk further; that with my headphones on I couldn’t hear when someone was coming up behind me; that being mugged for my phone or starting in surprise would not be good for my back, let alone my nerves, that…. [insert your own reason here]. 

I feel angry that not only is he taking phones from girls and women, he is also – of course- taking confidence away from us, and not just those he has targeted. This is not a new observation nor a new occurrence. I want to say ‘fuck you’, but instead I’ve changed my route. And as much as I understand my own reasons, I feel kind of disappointed with myself.