What is your ‘back story?’ a PR guru asked me? She might now wish she had never asked…
The last four years have been a complete ball-ache (well a back ache to be more accurate. In fact it has been a back-absolute-agony!).
One morning in late November, 2012, I tried to get out of bed and couldn’t move without banshee screaming. The pain was like nothing I had ever experienced which is saying something having birthed my three children (one back to back and one whopper) at home with no more pain relief than hot water and a paracetamol. I managed to drag myself to the top of the stairs, calling for help then passed out on the bathroom floor in an undignified state of undress.
One appointment with a totally disinterested doctor later, I left with the first of a myriad of prescriptions for increasingly potent medication (some that are banned in the US, even amongst their military as they are deemed so addictive and damaging, but dished out like penny sweets in the UK). It took the NHS, our typically wonderful NHS, a staggering 10 months to finally diagnose it as two seriously herniated discs and a degenerative disc condition at the top of my spine. A consultant later referred to the standard treatment of back injury on the NHS as ‘cost-cutting induced negligence’ but that is another story – my soap box is lost somewhere beneath a thousand Lego bricks right now.
Over the past four years I have called in a lifetime of favours and my friends have seen me at my worst, most miserable and most frustrated. I spent the first four months crawling around the house on all fours, unable to walk properly or drive, with a two-year-old to look after. I did more jigsaws than I could care to count, lost the will to live watching daytime TV and came up with more than one evil plan to turn Peppa Pig into sausages. On the plus side though, my youngest daughter could fasten my shoes for me before being able to do her own and through sheer bloody frustration, I learned to find a patience in my typically frenzied self that I would never have thought possible.
Never again will I ever think someone with back pain should ‘shut up whining and get on with it’. Serious pass-out-from-the-agony chronic back pain and the often-resulting sciatica, numb legs and drug-induced mental fog is hell sometimes. There’s no getting away from it.
Unable to sew, my business dipped and so did my self-confidence. In desperation I tried every trick in the book to self-heal. Some worked, some didn’t and were a case of good money after bad. Acupuncture was the first complementary treatment that finally set me on a slow path to recovery – even if the woman doing the needling was, I’m sure, a closet S&M junkie. I will never forget the day that I cried in the middle of town, tears of pure joy from being able to walk from the car-park to the coffee shop or the bliss of being able to hang out my washing – hey – it’s the small stuff.
I’m so much better these days, I can walk happily, I play with my children and even brave the odd silly dance around the kitchen when the mood takes us. I have launched a new business, as I can sew for maybe two hours at a time but not for days on end. anymore. I’m still designing and making clothes but focusing on sustainability and fair-trade items and working with charities to boot – all things that our family care passionately about.
But, and for me it is a big ‘but’ (well quite literally actually, my big butt is a huge part of the problem!). Four years of little or no exercise, four years of nasty horrible chemical drugs, and four years of pain and not taking care of me, has left me at least two stone heavier and a tired and run-down version of my former self. I barely recognise the person I see in the mirror. I watch the current #bodypositive movement with the likes of the fabulous @stylemesunday with a sense of mixed joy and frustration. Joy that women are finally joining together to break the mould of what a beautiful woman should look like, but frustration that I am so far from feeling able to join them.
However, I have decided that the time has come. Self-pity never did anyone any good. My business @InkRocket is growing fast and so are my children. I don’t want to waste the precious dwindling years of their childhood feeling sorry for myself, hiding in the back of photographs and missing out on their experiences as time races by.
I’m going on a journey, of rediscovery and self-improvement. I am going to feed myself slimmer and feed myself healthy – cutting out the junk and stoking up on the good stuff. I’m going to explore new ways of self-healing and repair. I’m giving myself a year. It took longer than that to get in this mess so it will more than likely take longer than that to climb back out of it, but boy are we going to have fun doing it!
This ‘big fat caterpillar’ is off to become a ‘beautiful butterfly’ (without eating the one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon – yes I’ve read it so many times I didn’t even need to check it) – unless it works. In which case bring it on!