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A few months ago I was diagnosed as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following a violent assault. I’m a home loving adventurous nearly 70 year old. I wasn’t expecting any of this. I started feeling extreme anxiety and panic attacks. When I even had a panic attack on the sea, my safe, happy place I knew it was time to get help. My Doctor is an excellent GP. He has 10 minutes per patient. Most consultations overrun so the waiting room heaves. He can do nothing about the waiting list for talk therapies. He can prescribe medication. That’s the quickest and only fix he has. The medication that my GP prescribed left me feeling like a dead fish so I stopped after one dose. Most of all I wanted to understand what was happening and connect with other people with the same diagnosis. The brilliant Mind website gave me all this. It is a reliable source of information on mental illness. Best of all for me was the elefriends forum. This is a moderated forum where you can “meet” other people and share support and advice. I posted “I have a diagnosis of PTSD. Has anyone else had this diagnosis and what works for you?” By the end of the evening I had connected with several people who sounded like kindred spirits. Don’t take the meds, they said. Set yourself a challenge. I started with small challenges: get up, stack the dishwasher, go outside, go outside on your own, be there longer. It worked, one small step after another. Each day I felt more in possession of my life. I phoned a friend: “I need a challenge” “Well how about the Severn?” he suggested. “That’s about 10 days…that’s too short” “Well how about when you get to the estuary you turn the corner?” “Wales Circumnavigation?” “Exactly,” he said. “You’re totally capable.” I’m not totally capable. The Severn Estuary, Worms Head, The Stacks? These are big value challenges in themselves. But with a little help. And help comes in many heart warming offers. I’m turning the corner. One day the kitchen table is a mass of charts and maps. Winter is turning to Spring and the magic of a challenge is working.
My friend Brian is one of the bravest, most generous people I know. He always says he wants to live to 100 to enjoy all life has on offer. In November 2017 he spotted something was amiss and saw his GP and was referred to hospital. Pretty soon he was looking at a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Brian was shocked but somehow not surprised. “But it was bewildering” he said. For a while, before chemotherapy began he kept the news to himself. He told his children first, then the rest of the family and friends. We all held our breath for our big hearted friend. He went into chemotherapy and then radiotherapy with characteristic courage and determination. As I write this Brian has just finished radiotherapy and is waiting another 6 weeks to see how he has got on. All the way through his treatment he’s been making the most of life: whenever someone needs help Brian is there. This spring I could not have paddled the first section of the circumnavigation without help and Brian was there. Soon he’ll be off for an adventure in Slovenia where he will quietly be using everything he’s got to help beginners and support the rest. When I phoned him to ask him if I could use him as my “poster boy” for Macmillan Nurses his response was standard Brian: “Oh yes! Because all the information leaflets on the stands in the hospital were from Macmillan Nurses. No-one can take it all in when your talking to your Consultant. There’s so much and also you’re in shock, to be honest. But you take those leaflets home and they help so much. And the website is amazing. And if we can raise awareness so that even one person checks themselves out for symptoms or goes for early help or uses the Macmillan helpline when everything is getting on top of them -well if we can save even one life or help one carer or raise money for even one Macmillan Nurse then it’s worth it.”
Thanks Brian, you’re an inspiration xxx