Monday, 27 June 2016

When life events makes you stop and think.

On Tuesday, June 21st 2016, this column was published in the York Press. I did not write it with the Referendum or the European Cup in my mind at all. But it was perhaps prescient.

In the circumstances, I have added to it.*

It had been a good week. I was feeling fit and healthy as I walked to my volunteer work in the hospital. Before going on the ward I visited the cafe. Then I had a blackout and became a patient, rather than a helper. A week later, I went to the GP to report symptoms of post concussion. We agreed that recovery would be 50% psychological. So it has proved.

There are some life events that make you stop and have to reassess future plans. Sometimes we have a warning of them and have some control over our reactions. At other times they are sudden and we have little control. In many situations there will be sense of loss as we adjust to new circumstances and we will grieve for the past. It can be a loss anything, such as, a person, job, relationship, home, freedom, appearance, money, abilities. Our emotional brain needs to work through the process of grief.

* Are there stages or processes of grief? There is much debate and some controversy over the suggestion. These are the suggested stages: shock, denial, anger, blame, acceptance. Some people dislike the fact that the brain processes shock and grief in a natural way over a period of time. They feel as if it negates their own experience. A period of healing and each person will have their own personal timeline. They feel that their own experience is different and not a process or anything else that sounds manufactured.  From my personal and professional experience, I believe the framework is a good one to work with. Ill health can arise from any of the stages and certainly people can get 'stuck' in one stage before moving to the next, if they ever do. Time can heal, but only if you allow it to. If you think that is wrong, reflect on your own experiences and of those you have come into contact with.

In only the three days since the result of the Referendum, I can observe people who have moved on past the initial shock and denial and now working through anger and blame. 

Returning to the column

What have I learnt?

Treat yourself kindly:  A physical injury often means that we are forced to stop for a while and give the injury time to heal. An emotional injury also takes time to recover from, but we can rush the healing time.

Time to think: When the certainties of life are thrown up in the air, the brain can feel as if it’s in a spin-dryer. We need time for the brain confusion to settle down and to think logically over future choices, perhaps sharing our thoughts with someone else.

Share your feelings and fears: Any sort of illness can set the imagination going.  However strong a person we are, it is healthier to share our feelings and fears, rather than dwell on possibilities on our own. Even health professionals need to share and cry.

Replacement activities: If the loss means we have to stop doing something, then we need to find something else to replace it. We need to concentrate on what we do have and can do, not on what we don’t have and can’t do.

Accept change. This is challenging and takes time.

Count blessings and live day by day. There is much to be thankful for on a daily basis. 

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” Hippocrates


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