Alex Stubbs, UK
Summary: Summary: Alex was only 23 when, in March 2018, she began experiencing pain in her lower back. This graduated to numbness in the top half of her legs and was diagnosed as two slipped discs. Six months later, Alex realised her symptoms were getting progressively worse and so went for further tests.
Alex was then diagnosed with something called Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) and chronic pain. She received this diagnosis around half two in the morning from a junior doctor, who advised her it was all in her head and that she could go home the following day.
Understandably, these comments had a significant impact on Alex’s mental health. The symptoms of FND, combined with her chronic pain, meant she had to use a wheelchair, give up her job as an estate agent, and required help with even the most mundane tasks.
First Gamechanger: Getting into a rehab facility.
The first major shift in Alex’s perception of her condition came when her partner, a firefighter, managed to get her help through a workplace charity scheme. The charity got Alex booked in at an in-patient rehab facility in the Lake District, where she met a physiotherapist who had experience working with FND.
Working with a medical professional who had specific experience with the condition completely shifted Alex’s mental attitude. Not only did she learn more about the condition, she realised that she was still able to do many of the things she had before, just in a different way.
Over time, Alex was able to pick up some hobbies she had previously given up. She got back into fitness using a recumbent bike, began reading again, and discovered clay and resin crafts. Crafting and reading gave Alex a much-needed distraction from her constant pain. While the pain didn’t stop, she had something else to focus on instead.
Second Gamechanger: Finding people in a similar situation.
The second big shift came when Alex met her current psychiatrist, who also uses a wheelchair. This helped Alex to realise that things are still possible when you use a wheelchair, and it is often you who puts up the restrictions and barriers around what you can and cannot do.
Moving forwards, Alex is looking to get back into work and, with the help of her NHS team, plans to be walking again by the time she has kids.
Reading: Alex loves reading and in particular Crime Fiction. She finds a good book is highly immersive, which in turn takes her somewhat away from the dominant feeling of constant pain.
Crafting: Alex loves creating claywork and resin work. Like reading, she finds that the focus of the activity helps temporarily take her thoughts away from pain.
The little things:
Reduce self induced pressure: Alex recommends not to pressure yourself to do things and judge each day on its own merits.
Spiritual connection: Alex has really found medition and reiki helpful. It puts her in a much more present state.