Cheery Picture? Not really. But why share it today…?
This mornings conversations with my partner went something along these lines;
Me: So what have you got on today?
He: ATOS forms! (cue sad face and twinges of anxiety)
Me: How long has that taken you now? Surely you’re nearly done?
He: I’ve done all the tick boxes, defaced most of the questions, and am now about to conquer the ‘Tell Us About yourself’ pages.
He looks nervous. He looks sick. He feels sick. Because he is sick.
This is the saddest part of living with someone with a chronic pain condition. We spend so much time NOT talking about his condition, NOT focusing on whats wrong in life, NOT mulling over just how bad it hurts, that when ATOS time comes around again, it is something of a culture shock to have to delve deeply into that Pit Of Doom and take a Good Hard Look at all his faults and failings.
At age on 39, he is living with the fallout from an accident which took place when he was 15 years old. (Teenagers beware! Those ‘Holiday Pranks’ WILL come back to haunt you)
A keen and committed cyclist, he was hit from behind by a car travelling at over 70mph. He sustained compound fractures of both legs, spinal injury, head injury and endured over 18 months of physiotherapy to learn to walk again.
His consultant (unbeknownst to him) told his mother that he would be in a wheelchair by the age of 30!
As a young man, strong and keen to progress he did what a lot of teenagers do, took manual work to support himself, as un-diagnosed dyslexia meant he struggled academically, in spite of being very bright.
Thus years of engineering work, heavy lifting, machine operating and repetitive tasks took their toll, resulting in ripped tendons, pulled muscles, strained ligaments and ongoing pain, which slowly became a way of life.
Added to a lifetime of depression due to family circumstances in childhood, the poor guy has a had one hell of a load to carry.
Now, please do not misunderstand, this is not a post for pity, but rather a BIG statement of Truth.
To the outsider, who cannot see his pain, he looks fine. He can walk, sit, stand and function. To a point. For a while.
But he cannot embrace growth and personal development in the way a healthy person would. he cannot stand or sit for a prolonged period of time (so College courses are out!)
His dyslexia means reading is a struggle and writing takes an age. (What I can write in 10 minutes, would take him up to two hours)
He is also socially awkward. A perforated eardrum at age 9, means he is deaf in one ear, thus conversations in busy environments are a nightmare, using the telephone is troubling and a lifetime of stigma has meant he carries a great amount of paranoia around being judged and disapproved of.
So his main coping strategy to date has been to ACCEPT where he is in the moment. To be GRATEFUL for all the blessing in his life. To LOVE and BE LOVED by me and his children and to be the BEST FRIEND he can be. Offering help, support and encouragement wherever it is needed.
A great listener, he is a talented counsellor, although never trained, and with my history of depression and mental he has been my saviour in bringing me back to myself.
So the daily grind, for himself, is to cope with living, every day. To manage his pain and put self-care at the forefront of all considerations. And not to feel guilty because he cannot support his family financially.
A hands on dad, he has been around for his kids in ways which Working Dads can never be. A positive spin on being low income means my kids are growing up with a very REAL sense of values and worth. And have grown to be highly compassionate individuals, outspoken and have an innate understanding of pain and its pathways.
I wonder how common this story is? How many of you feel the same way about yourself, or someone you love?
(NEWSFLASH! At this very moment, after my getting frustrated at my spell checker insisting that I spell everything in American English rather than Proper English – he has decided to go into the loft to find my English Dictionary. The ascent into the loft needs step ladders PLUS a bit of a haul. It is precarious. It is challenging. He has failed before! )
Such is the drive to avoid the dreaded ATOS forms, he would rather endure more pain and the possibility of a fall, to help me, than continue his given task. Seriously ATOS, have a heart! Leave the poor guy alone.
There will come a time when I have to speak out about the state of Britain. The ongoing failings of successive governments and the REAL story behind our supposed Freedoms!
But that SHALL be another post.
For now, thanks for reading, and please, share and comment if this speaks to you. I think there is a very real and heartfelt conversation to be had here. And I look forward to having it.