Today I thought I would write a slightly different blog. There are many readers and bloggers out there who take reading and reviewing a book for granted and probably can’t imagine a time when they cannot read or blog. Unfortunately for me this is an everyday hurdle that I have to overcome, so today I am going to write about how reading and blogging are part of my therapy, and in a way save my life. This is my story.
Ten years ago I was half way through my Open University Degree in Art History, and working for Newcastle Council in payroll and volunteering at the Laing Art Gallery. Over the space of a year my life completely changed. I was always a very independent woman with goals set for the future, my husband and I were going to move to Alnwick in Northumberland and after my degree I was going to do my MA and then a Phd. I was also looking at working part time in one of the galleries in Edinburgh or cataloguing art works, and was going to spend a month in Florence doing an extra Art History Course and learning Italian. Over the space of a eighteen months these aims were shattered.
I had always had a slight pain in my neck which I put down to working at a desk during the day and studying at my desk at home in the evenings and weekends. On New Year’s Eve 2007 I woke up in terrible pain, unable to move my neck and head and this was the beginning of my health problems. I won’t go into detail of the diagnosis and treatments over the years, just to say I was diagnosed with spondylosis in the cervical spine had every treatment available, and it has deteriorated over the years and now I also have arthritis of the spine. I was lucky enough to finish my degree as the OU were very helpful and bought me a new laptop with voice recognition software and other aids to help me through my final three years. I got a first class honours but was not able to do my MA and we were not able to move house. I also had to give up my job.
My spondylosis and arthritis leave me with pain in my neck, upper and lower back, arms and hands and severe headaches. I also have chronic IBS which means I have to be very careful what I eat, nausea, and aching limbs and chronic depression. My doctor is now considering whether I have fibromyalgia with all the symptoms combined. What this means for my life is that I am in pain everyday, in varying degrees, I can’t do any housework, which may sound great but believe me its not, I have to go to bed in an afternoon to help with the pain, and the medication also takes its toll as I am on opiates which leave me with brain fog. My headaches restrict my reading and the pain in hands, neck and back restrict the time I spend on my iPad and MacBook. Now I am practically housebound, if I do go out I am very unwell for the next three to four days. I really miss going out with my daughter and husband. I now also have chronic depression which is awful when it hits, which is frequently, I have had help but with it being linked to the pain it is hard to address.
So, you may think how can reading and blogging be a therapy? I have always been a bookworm and reading is the only hobby I have left from before I became ill; I used to run, go out a lot with friends, go away to Italy at least one a year. On the days I can read it is an escape, I can get lost in another world, someone else life even someone else problems. It also helps pass the time, I can’t tell you how many books I have read over the past ten years in consultant’s waiting rooms. I still prefer a paperback but on days I cannot hold a book I have my Kindle, but there are still days where I cannot even look at a book due to the headaches.
I started blogging a year ago, I had often thought about it but wasn’t sure it was for me. A lot of bloggers blog everyday and seem to read about four books a week at least, I knew I couldn’t do this with my pain levels and if I’m honest I knew I would find it hard to stick to deadlines with my condition varying day by day. The depression is very hard to fight, and I thought that maybe having a bit of structure and purpose to my life would help, so I decided to bite the bullet and go for it. It was one of the best decisions I have made, I love sharing my reviews with others and I have met so many lovely people on Facebook along the way. I don’t have as many followers as most and I can only blog a couple of times a week but this is something I do for me.
Reading and Blogging give me a sense of normality, a chance to connect with other human beings, day to day I just see my husband David, daughter Briony, my dad twice a week and my lovely dogs who help me feel loved. It can be lonely but as an only child I am very used to my own company and quite like being on my own with just the dogs and my books for company.
The reason for writing this was that I wanted to share my experiences and show how important a book and a blog can be to someone’s life. So many take these things for granted, I did, but when you are in my position it is the small things that make the difference, that make you want to live and fight the suicidal thoughts that encroach on your life (death would take away the pain, and Briony and David could have more of a life). Thoughts like this do go through your mind, but books and my blog are my therapy.
Thank you to those who read this.