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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

I have a lot of posts half-written now – or perhaps, less than half-written. But they’re not ready to go, and today I’ve been distracted with other chores, so I thought I’d share a photo or two from a very pleasant walk I took at the end of last week with my husband. When the wind drops in Wellington in spring, it is time to grab the opportunity and get out and walk. This year we’ve been trying to find new places to walk, because – perhaps due to the lockdown – I’m a bit sick of walking around my neighbourhood, frankly. For years we have been driving over a particular bridge at the beginning of a valley, and I’ve looked at the river and the walking paths along it and thought or said or both, “we really should walk up there one of these days.” But the decades passed, and we always drove on, needing to check in with the in-laws, and getting caught up there. Now that they’re gone, though, we felt free to park under the bridge, and take a walk.

It’s a simple path, made for dog-walkers and human walkers and cyclists, along a river. There’s nothing strenuous about it, but perhaps that’s the point. It is relaxing, we were surrounded by green, with trees with new spring leaves lining the river, and on the other side of the path, a couple of paddocks, a driving range nearest the bridge, and an expensive golf course next to the path. This was the adventureland of my husband when he was a child, before the driving range, and when the paddocks still had cows and sheep, and before the bypass was built on the other side of the river.

In the midst of some small rapids on the river was a fisherman, casting his line out into the calmer water. We tried to imagine what he was hoping to catch. “There aren’t any fish in that river!” my husband exclaimed. But the water was crystal clear, running down from the mountains without travelling through farmland or industry, and so it would make sense that there are a few. We were passed by the occasional cyclist, a jogger with a very tired dog, and we never caught up to the woman pushing the pram way up ahead of us. We eventually turned and walked back to the car. The exercise was good to have, but better than that, we had time to breathe some fresh clear air, enjoy the sun, and feel some peace.

Note: I did not play with the colours at all on these photos. It really was that green.

Can you see the fisherman?

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After days of wild stormy winds, yesterday was calm but cool. I ventured out for my first walk in a long time, tired of exercising inside with the blinds down to youtube videos. Coupled with other events, exercising inside had not been doing anything for my mood, and it was time to get out.

As I stepped out into the crisp air, I felt an immediate lift in my spirits. The sky was blue and finally the trees were relatively still. Everything sparkled, cleansed by nature’s storm. I headed off on one of my usual walking routes. The light had changed since my last walk – no longer the low, gorgeous light of winter. Now it was brighter, promising new things to come. It made me smile. Spring had definitely arrived.

I walked past my favourite stand of toi toi* that catches the light so beautifully in the early morning and late evening.

Alas, there was only one stem left, and a broken stem beside it showing how the wind had battered it. All the others had disappeared. I’m hoping it is resilient, though, and will be watching to see if it recovers. It wasn’t the only casualty of the wind. The neighbours’ gorgeous blossom tree next to our driveway was stripped of its blossom. But tiny green leaves were emerging, leaving a feeling of hope.

As I got to the park and playground, I could smell the freshly cut grass. Nothing smells more of spring or summer, does it? There were children playing on the playground, and kicking around balls on the sports field, enjoying the first beautiful day of their school holidays.

I continued my walk – past old folks venturing to the shops, quite a few other walkers and joggers, the occasional dog-walker, grandparents babysitting the grandchildren, and older kids out enjoying their two weeks of freedom.

The whole feeling was one of serenity, perhaps helped by the fact that we had no new community cases of COVID-19, and that it has now been two weeks since any new cases from the Auckland cluster’s outbreak. I took in a deep breath of pure, clean air, and smiled.

* or toe toe, or I may have mistaken pampas grass, an exotic weed, for our native toi toi.

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7 October is Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) Awareness  Day. Few people know anything about this condition. I didn’t until a friend was diagnosed with it almost 20 years ago. It sounded horrific.  Some years later, I developed shooting nerve pains in my face. Once again, I was lucky with my GP and my dentist. Both suspected it might be TN and I was saved the months or sometimes years of multiple tooth extractions and struggles to find a diagnosis that other sufferers have endured. It has since changed its form to what is called TN2, and now manifests with a constant burning. That change, too, was diagnosed quickly.

The condition can go into remission for days, weeks, months or years. But it is a progressive condition, and flares (or attacks) become more frequent, and for some, constant. They can be triggered by touch, wind on the face, weather, stress, brushing teeth, eating, or talking.

Even after diagnosis, TN patients struggle to find adequate pain relief, are accused of being drug seekers, or of exaggerating the pain by medical practitioners who know little about the condition. One woman reports of being told by a psychologist that she had “two arms and two legs” and should “get out and live.”

I have joined an online group of New Zealand sufferers. It is a supportive group, but shows the devastation this condition wreaks, as it is filled with people who have had to give up working, who live constantly with pain, who struggle to care for their children or elderly parents, or live anything close to a normal life, and who feel isolated and lonely. Yet they are able to joke online, climb ladders to paint their houses, travel overseas, and keep connections, even while their family and friends distance themselves, because they struggle to deal with someone who is constantly in pain.

So far I have been lucky, and I know it. So I’m torn between balancing the need to make more people aware of this condition and my desire not to make this a big deal – because for the moment, for me at least, it is manageable. So I’m talking about it today because there are many who are not as lucky as I am. And having TN makes me more aware of others in pain too. I now know how chronic pain or severe pain can be extremely debilitating, whatever the condition that causes it. It can be exhausting and restrictive and isolating. You never know when it will hit. And although someone might look fine, that doesn’t mean they are not screaming inside.

So I choose to use TN Awareness Day to implore you to reach out to anyone you know who suffers pain and let them know you care.

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