Testimony from a previous participant in Touchstone’s Positive Care Programme…
Walking through horizontal rain driven by disdainful gusts that whip across my face I try to remember why I am spending two hours on a Thursday just to get to the Postive Care Programme in Leeds. Three months ago I would have avoided it like the plague. Any place that spoke in seemingly middle class hippy terms such as “balancing the individual where they are” or “accepting your disability” would not be on my agenda. I am amazed I am trying this mega journey as I have the ability to scare any local with my ability to get lost, forget who I am and the one that still has them holding their children to their chest ; a panic attack that leaves me exhausted and wet with my own fear. I am hardly dressed for this adventure for my head and legs are bare due to chronic pain. Contact causes prickling that leads to aches and then that mental distraction that leads me up the wrong path; literally.
I could blame the lovely Ann Penfold, an acupuncturist who told me of the programme and encouraged me to attend. It was her I turned to when I could not bear the pain and more importantly when I lacked any belief in improvement. Perhaps the medical profession should claim some credit for bringing me here; filled with pills and the isolation one feels when the medics leave and you are left alone with your Mediterranean diet. The walk to Ann’s really began when I was told after a week in hospital “some of my pills were fighting each other and it is a worry.” The quality of life was disappearing and it was a “worry.” AAArgh
I remember thinking that the PCP leaflet appeared to speak of mindless, indulgent and probably misguided programmes for weak people run by old hippies who could probably eat their own clothes. I am a sceptic, skilled in the western world and carrying degrees to prove it. I was a Catholic who seems to have missed the forgiveness part and cling to a belief that we all deserve our own pain. I felt so angry at my first “spiritualism” talk as the leader placed herself, us and me before my paper based God.
The first time I walked into the meeting room I was shocked for there were no obviously disabled people, no crutches or wheelchair and no collective signs of pain. In place of yards of urine and mouldy creepy individuals there was tea and cake in abundance and smiles. The clients were a little more hesitant, but the genuine desire to help was everywhere. I was welcomed by a leader I had met once before who seemed so pleased I had come. She hugged me and as I have never been hugged in public before, it took me three weeks to recover. My fellow travellers were precious and seemed to live by the desire to “improve”, or “find something to give a hope of change.” For the first few weeks no one said what condition had brought them to PCP. I felt humbled.
I felt real commonality of purpose. Every treatment, workshop and talk was picked over for its usefulness. There was always a desire to somehow hide the individual urges and needs of the day and look a little deeper for the potential fix to the reality of your own life. For example we would discuss the benefits of “treatment” sessions. The immensely calming shiatsu, the all consuming wholeness of acupuncture, the reflexology that left me feeling so worthy or healing “where you see lights and feel so much lighter”. The Dru Yoga that slapped your body into the day.
The emphasis on the need for daily exercise however you felt found me incorporating Tai Chi, EFT and meditation in to my daily exercises. As the rain continued to force its way into my glasses and blur the whole of Leeds I remember thinking today’s expedition would be good exercise.
In truth I am enjoying my walk for I am in charge, I know where I am going and I want to be there. I have nearly enjoyed every session I have undertaken, more importantly I have refocused my life. I am so much fitter, mentally alert and coping with the concerns in my life so much better. I value myself for the first time in years and know others feel the same.
It makes me smile that a man who would not entertain Chinese meals now embraces so much of his new knowledge from the East. Now every day begins with calming of Tai Chi, restoring balance and belief. Every second day I go to the Gym and can measure real gains. Slowly I am learning to pace myself in all I do while remembering that exercise must be taken even when you feel rough.
Suspending disbelief is almost a habit. I was so certain PCP was going to be some form of brain washing that I was reserved in joining in at first and did not recognise what was happening to me. Now I can feel a “wash” of urgent supporting energy and can share my joy at its arrival. Can you believe that tapping on your head can calm you and prepare for the horrors of some thoughts or days? It works ….. Have a go. I do not know how it works and the same could also be said of the Alexander technique which has eased my fatigue.
Walking through the market my journey no longer takes me to the meat counter. I load up with fish and veg. Another change that has allowed me to take a real interest in what I eat and how I cook because there is now a purpose in what I am doing and that purpose is ME. I am now not afraid to look after myself and have learnt to say no to others and to myself. I choose battles more wisely and do not regret the inevitable so earnestly. My life is now aspiration. I try not to waste energy, especially on thoughts on the negatives that have happened to me. My strokes are the catalyst that has allowed to grow up as a person. I have bad days, but I had so many more before.
After reviewing my case, from stroke to paralysed man in bed 7 to today; a consultant lifted her head and said,” Overall, you are a rarity and should be very proud of where you have got to; secondly you will have pain forever.” I felt judged as a person and felt so proud of who I have become. The pain is a known and I know it will always be with me, but it is not the most important thing in my life any more. It is a thing and I am so much larger.
As I reach the underpass I shake rain from my face and know the time is near for painkillers. My face prickles before the burn sets in my left hand side. I sometimes think that one day I could use this intensity to keep me warm, but not today.
Arrival. The greeting is a mark of the excellence of the PCP. I watch them settle concern, laugh at our uniqueness and then a turned head catches my eye and winks.
I have arrived. My journey continues.