11th March 2018

The Long Slow Road to Recovery …. Part One… by Karen Duxbury-Watkinson

People often write about their journey when starting something new. How they struggled to achieve a new goal, about the resilience, the hard work, the sweat and tears and finally the triumph when they get there. That feeling of huge personal sacrifice, in time, sometimes money, often in personal relationships and family moments to reach the end and achieve the outcome that they wanted. Often it is a weight loss goal, a fitness goal, sometimes it’s due to with mental health and wellbeing; but more often than not it is about trying to recapture some sense of self-worth and identity that they have lost along the way.

However, my journey isn’t about reaching a destination or one goal. I won’t ever feel that sense of final achievement of ‘I did it’, ‘I’m there’ because every day I will have to face new challenges and set myself new goals to strive to reach.

So here goes the “the long slow road to recovery”……

On 1st November 2015 I was sitting as a passenger in a car on my way home from a busy day at school. That’s right I’m a secondary school science teacher, well to be more precise a Head of Biology. Subsequently, have a hefty workload (not that most of society would believe me). I was travelling with two other colleagues and we were sat in traffic and I was leaning forward in my seat chatting as is the norm for me to my friend in the back seat. When out of nowhere; well actually behind us a car, rams into the back of the car! I’m thrown forward and backwards a couple of times because yep the seat belt didn’t work because I was turned around, (lesson learnt) and was slammed into the dashboard and back into the head rest.

The pain in my neck was immediate and across my chest and lower abdomen. Ambulance was called, I was put in the most awful collar and whisked off to A&E. Now things get a bit blurry here, I guess the joys of opiate painkillers but was eventually discharged in the early hours of the morning with a diagnosis of severe whiplash. Go home rest, take some painkillers and “you’ll be right in a couple of days”.

Couple of days, couple of days, you must be joking, the next day I woke up and couldn’t move. Feel my feet, legs, frantic phone calls, doctor visits. But the upshot was that I became practically bed bound for the next three months.

I was unable to walk further than the toilet, couldn’t get up and down stairs, couldn’t walk outside, which meant my beautiful 1-year old German shepherd at the time spent a lot of time with my parents as he wasn’t getting the attention he needed.

I couldn’t work, barely take care of myself. I couldn’t cook, shower, get dressed without assistance. Everyday things that we take for granted I couldn’t do and all because of a whiplash injury.

Eventually after many visits to specialists and doctors the reason as to why a whiplash injury was taking so long to improve was discovered. I had developed or triggered an underlying condition.

A silent, non-visible totally debilitating condition that leaves you thinking you are losing your mind. The symptoms are varied yet specific to each person but range from; feeling like your feet are on fire, to walking on broken glass all the time. To times where the mere feeling of clothing on your skin, makes you want to rip your skin off and stand in your bones. You can’t regulate your temperature, you fluctuate from hot too cold in nanoseconds. Your brain doesn’t function correctly. You forget simple words, can’t hold conversations because you lose track of what people were saying to you. Watching a film is hard work, and frustrating for those with you as you constantly ask, “who’s that? Why are they doing that?” because you’ve lost track of the plot. You feel like you are losing the plot.

You are unable to lift the kettle to make a cup of tea, the sheer effort of taking a shower means that you are done for the day and spend the rest of the day laying on the sofa feeling a failure.

Don’t talk about going to the supermarket, bright lights, noise, smell it so overpowering that your senses shut down and you can’t cope. Anxiety and depression become the normal for you. Staying in becomes the new going out. Days pass by in a blur of exhaustion and wanting to sleep but not being able to because lying down is too painful, but then sitting up takes too much energy.

Sleep is so special that anything that disturbs that is viewed with venom because nights are the worst, when the house is quiet and everyone else is a sleep but because of the pain in your body you just can’t get comfortable and even when you do it doesn’t last.

Exercise becomes a distant memory, I was an active spinner, often attending 3 sessions a week and 90min session on a Sunday. I loved the feeling of the burn, the sweat, the accomplishment of working my body hard till it hurt. Now just opening my eyes and breathing hurt.

My god I hear you cry what is this horrible thing? ….. Well it’s called Fibromyalgia and it’s a silent, crippling condition that no one can see and only you know you have it. To the outside world you look fine. You look normal, and that’s what you tell people.

It takes away who you are, who you were, what you could become and leaves behind a shell of a person.

So, this is me……well it was me, I let it define me.  What happened then is a mental shift, which led to a physical shift.


Follow Karen on the links below:

Twitter: @KDWScience

Strava: Karen Duxbury-Watkinson RMR





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