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A bump in the road (An everyday tale of self-managing long-term conditions and being knocked off course).

The ‘eye make-up’ moment and why I’ve not blogged in a while.

I bought myself some new eye make up last week and was trying to remember why I’d stopped wearing it and when was the last time I’d bought any. makeup-brush-1768790__340

Then it came to me it was another thing that had slipped off my daily routine due to the effects of the car crash back in June 2016 when I’d been hit from behind at a roundabout.

At the time, apart from being initially shocked and shaken up my mind had been taken up by how getting my car repaired, dealing with insurers, getting a replacement car in the interim etc would take loads of time and effort to get through. I was grateful that the person who hit me had apologised straight away, accepted blame and was kind enough to ask how I was as I shakily got out of my car.

Equally I had almost expected a few bruises along with my existing arthritic, neurological and gastrointestinal conditions flaring up which they did with style and kept going for months. What I wasn’t expecting was a new acute condition to join in. I was in more pain than usual due to the arthritic flares but the increasing pain in my shoulder was new and quickly got my attention above all the rest as it reached excruciating level.

To cut a long story short my shoulder had been damaged and very quickly became agonisingly painful and unmoveable. So after investigations, an interim procedure and advice from an orthopaedic surgeon I ended up having surgery on my shoulder 7 months after the accident. I had a good result from the surgery but now have some permanent loss of movement and strength and some residual, albeit generally low-level pain.

So what has eye make up got to do with the car crash and my shoulder?

It’s only now, 18 months since the accident, that my life is nearly getting back to my normal that I’ve realised just what impact that bump had on my day to day life.

As my shoulder increased in pain and lack of movement everyday functioning became more and more difficult. For example getting dressed and undressed with only one functioning arm became a more time consuming and painful part of my day than usual.

A challenge too far?

One good thing about already having chronic long term conditions is that I live on one level in an apartment and have some adaptations such as pick up sticks and rails in the bathroom etc. But I quickly realised that being down to only one functioning arm was almost a challenge too far.

Additionally the added levels of pain contributed to the overall fatigue levels I experience normally so I had to prioritise even more to get through the day.

Reflecting back now I realise that I prioritised basic needs and functions in order to maintain the part time work I do and gradually nearly everything else dropped off my radar.

The ‘everything else’ included things I love to do such as swimming, writing, visiting friends, family and places and going to the theatre. Most of these activities became too painful and/or too tiring to accomplish easily and indeed became chores instead of relaxing and restoring times.

Adjustments to daly routine

I pared down my essential daily routines too which is why putting on eye make up stopped, as I couldn’t use my left hand higher than my waist. Even what I ate changed to some degree as I could only use one hand reliably and safely and even now have to be careful, as my left arm has not regained full strength or movement.

When I wasn’t working, and as I said before I can only work part time, I was often flat out on my sofa or in bed early as I was so tired from the additional effort to keep going and the added pain which was heaped on my existing normal pain levels.

It’s only now as I get back to some semblance of ‘my normal’ and I’m gradually picking up some activities that I realise just how much this ‘bump in the road’ knocked me off course in terms of self managing well and even to some extent socially isolated me as I stopped being able to do things easily and stayed in more on my own. I say this cautiously as I didn’t have an all singing all dancing social life before the bump but I have missed the things I did manage to do which connected me with other people.

I’m grateful this bump in the road wasn’t life threatening but it certainly wasn’t life enhancing! I’m also grateful for the support of those friends who like me live with chronic conditions and who just understood and didn’t mind me whingeing from time to time. Their sense of humour, always quirky, certainly helped a lot- thanks people – you know who you are.

Thank you 2As I’m picking up slowly now I’m reflecting back and wondering could I have managed better? Should I have tried harder to hang onto doing social stuff? I think I did try but ran out of options as I lost function and pain was overwhelming.

Most of the advice about living with pain conditions from the NHS, or specific charities such as Arthritis Research, which I have found useful before didn’t really help me much this time as I’ve lived with deteriorating conditions for more than 20 years now.

How do you manage ‘bumps in the road’?

So I’m interested to know your experiences if you are managing different conditions and how you get on when something else disrupts your ‘normal’ routine? Is letting go of social stuff just part of managing? Or have you discovered better ways to get through life’s diversions and road bumps?


For information

NHS Choices

Living with pain, information about different health conditions, self care tips,

Arthritis Research

Living with long term pain and daily life