My Journey To Mindfulness: Part 1

Before I write about my experiences, I would like to give the definition of the mind and of mindfulness:

  • The Mind: Oxford Living Dictionaries define the mind as ‘The element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think and feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.’
  • Mindfulness: Psychology Today State ‘Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past, or anticipating the future.’

I believe our minds are very powerful. If we’re not aware of our thoughts, they can run away with us, moving our attention past or to the future, away from the present. I have to pull myself up on this frequently, but that’s all part of the journey. I am aware when my attention has moved away from the present and I am able to adjust.

My first experiences of realising how strong our minds can be was during my work as a nursing auxillary. I was around 20 years old. The first situation was with a patient who had been admitted with a stroke. She was unconscious, with CT results showing a huge amount of brain infarction (death of cells). Medical staff informed her family that she probably wouldn’t recover from it.  Within 24 hours all her children, apart from one who was in Hong Kong, had visited to say goodbye. It took her son 4 days to make the journey. The night following his visit, she peacefully passed away. I was amazed that she was able to wait to die until after her son saw her.

This was the first realisation I had of how, in some circumstances, there’s a possibility we are able to make the transition of death consciously. That’s an incredible realisation. We may have the power to choose when we die. This means death may not just be something physical which happens to us when our body stops functioning. It means there’s a likelihood we consciously take part in the transition.

My second experience whilst working on the same medical ward was during a hectic shift. We’d had a cardiac arrest first thing in the morning. That lady didn’t make it. Inevitably, we were running behind. In those days we made sure all patients were washed before lunch time. At the point I was gathering the other nurse who was going on break with me, a buzzer rang in one of the side rooms. It was a 92(ish) year old man, who had been admitted with one form of chronic leukemia. He asked if he could get back onto the bed. This took two members of staff as a hoist was needed to transfer him. Due to time constraints it was impossible that was able to happen at that time. I told him we could get him back on the bed first thing after our break. He replied ‘I’m dying you know’. I told him he wasn’t, as it was part of the job to remain positive and encourage the patients to be so too. He once again told me he was dying. I left him, with the belief I would help him back on the bed after the coffee break.

We returned from our fifteen minute break to find the crash trolley outside his room. He’d had a cardiac arrest and died in the chair. I can’t remember, but I think they got him back on the bed to work on him.  I felt awful. I had denied someone their dying wish.  I deeply regret that now and of course if I could change that, I would.

At the time I wasn’t aware that a person could be so conscious of their impending death. It is something I have often thought about over the years. His statement has become part of the foundation of how I treat and respect people. I believe others when they tell me how they feel. Even children. It makes me so angry when adults don’t believe children just because they are children. Especially schools/teachers not believing in illness and being poorly. However, that’s another post!

The main thought these experiences led to is that if our mind has this much power in our lives, how can we use this to our benefit?  Our minds can have a negative effect on our lives, by always bringing us down and somehow, drawing our attention to bad things that happened. We have the ability to use our mind in a positive way, to not let it control us by taking our attention away from the present in a negative way.

 

Losing My Job and Career Due To Chronic Illness: Dealing With Grief

How Grieving For The Loss Of My Career Started A New Career In Writing.

The time after my spine injury was very challenging. It took over 6 weeks to initially return to my job as a Health Care Assistant on a busy Medical Ward. However, I had lied at the Occupational Health Appointment. I told the doctor that my back and pain were much better than they actually were. I just wanted to get back to work and normality.

Within a week of returning (which was in early December) I came down with the Noro Virus, which was doing the rounds on the wards. During the following Spring I had tonsillitis, needing more time off. Then lastly, the final straw in my nursing career was my appointment with the Occupational Health Doctor at Exeter hospital to start Nurse Training. My goal was to become a Macmillan Nurse. My Dad’s Mum died of cancer when I was seven. I had an idealistic view that no one should be in pain! I wanted to have more input into helping people transition with cancer. Ironically, 16 years after my spine injury with numerous chronic conditions, I realise how living a pain-free life is unrealistic. Part of the physical assessment at the appointment was checking my back to see if there was any nerve root involvement. One of the nurses I worked with told me to put up with the pain this would cause, as it would be worth it to get onto the course. Of course I did this, it had been an ambition since I was five to become a nurse. Anyway, as I lay on the couch, she lifted each leg up as high as it could go to see if it hurt. It did, but I allowed her to keep lifting my leg. My sights were firmly on the long-term plan, not the short-term pain (which is what I thought it would be).

Chris and Ben had come down with me for the appointment. We stopped on the way home for a picnic in a forest and to stretch our legs. This is when the pain started. My back became more stiff. Within the following week I had horrendous nerve pain going down my right leg. It was very intense, requiring to stop what I was doing until the pain passed. One of the G.P’s from the surgery I attended at the time referred me to the orthopaedics.

Life changed a lot from then, as I was never well enough to return to my nursing job. By the November I had an appointment with my Nursing Sister and a Personnel Officer. I ended my contract by mutual consent. It was heart breaking. I am in tears now as I write this. My dream to be a Macmillan Nurse burst as quickly as a pin popping a balloon.

I absolutely loved my job with all my heart. I was always the first one out of the office in the morning to get to the patients and start taking observations. I enjoyed helping people recover from an illness, or just being there with someone through their final moments. That was who I was, that was what I based my identity on, as well as being a wife and a mother. I was offered work elsewhere in the hospital, but each and every day I would have had to go through the same heart-break of not being able to do hands on care. I would not have been able to go through that. As it was, I would be in tears after every appointment I had at the hospital, for a long time afterwards.

Eventually I began writing poetry. This was a great way to process what I was going through. I would generally write when I was frustrated with a situation, or angry/annoyed over something someone said. I don’t really argue with people. I don’t become defensive or say things back in a counterargument. I keep quiet and slowly process what was said and how I felt. I firmly believe that we can’t change anyone. The only thing we have the power to do is change how we feel about a person, a situation or ourselves.

I feel the journey with the poetry allowed me to process my grief for the loss of my career. I slowly changed from being a negative person to always being able to see a positive in any challenge or situation.

New YouTube Monetisation Policy And It’s Affect On Chronically Ill Creators

 

Today YouTube have once again changed their monetization policy, for the second time in a year. This morning myself, along with thousands of other small channel creators received an email informing us that our Partner status will be terminated by February 20th if our channels fail to reach 4,000 hours view time, or 1,000 subscribers.

I have three channels. A kids channel, a family vlog channel and another small channel. I am lucky as the kids channel has been going for nearly three years. It has almost 10,000 subscribers and nearly 10 million views. I can transfer a lot of the family vlog videos to the kids channel. The family vlog channel was initially monetized, then late last year that was taken away, to be reviewed when the channel reached over 10,000 views. It reached 10,000 views over Christmas, but monetization was never re-instated.

I began YouTube as a job due to my medical conditions and their effect on my health. Being self-employed it is possible to juggle pain and fatigue alongside childcare and household tasks to what is suitable on any given day. I believed YouTube was a wonderful platform for people challenged with health issues. I was proud to be a part of something which allowed so much creativity and supported so many people living in adversity due to their health. I felt supported, safe and secure in my employment, knowing this wouldn’t be a challenge to any of my health issues. (Stress is frequently a trigger to exacerbation in my health conditions. Leading to pain and fatigue and a more limited ability to carry out activities).

I am now questioning my safety on the YouTube platform. First there was the ‘Adpocalypse’ crisis last year, when decreased revenue was experienced by every YouTuber. Now, not even a year later, we are faced with YouTube pulling the rug out from all small creators who don’t meet their requirements for monetization. During such a time of government austerity this will hit some small creators hard.  Many disabled people have had their benefits taken away from them in the UK, due to cuts. Now the ones who run small channels will have their YouTube income taken away from them too. I expect ‘Rubbing salt into the wound,’ is a massive understatement for some creators.