Monday, 14 November 2011

Pacing Plans

Remembrance Sunday is a very important day for me. Even before I became a Christian, I used to go to the memorial service and pay my respects. Nowadays I feel the need to go even more strongly than when I was serving.

This morning I took my son to the local service. As I was one of the few veterans attending we were asked to lay a wreath on behalf of the British Legion. Following the laying of the wreaths we walked a short distance to the church where there was a particularly touching service. In all I stood for about 25 minutes and walk about 400 metres on sticks but it turned out to be too much for me. I spent the afternoon taking things very easily, but all the while I could feel the tell tail signs of a flare up coming on. It finally hit hard at about 4 o’clock this afternoon and despite having taken all the meds and run through the techniques I use to manage such situations I am still sliding.

Fortunately, last Sunday I built the service into my week’s pacing plan and was careful to build in an expectation that the afternoon and tonight would be very difficult. I planned an afternoon of reading poetry and other activities which would minimise my discomfort. I also made sure that I let my family know what was likely to happen so that they would not be fussing around me, something which makes me feel guilty and depressed. In short I prepared myself and my support team physically and mentally for a difficult time.

I also decided that I would post the following poem in the late evening. The poem describes what it is like to have a flare up. It does not make comfortable reading, but I’m hoping that it will demonstrate to other pain sufferers that if you pace yourself and plan how you are going to deal with a flare up it is possible to achieve things you might not normally achieve.

I know this strategy doesn’t help on the occasions when you get caught out but the old Army saying known as the 7 P’s is worth remembering; Prior Preparation and Planning Prevent Piss Poor Performance.

Flare Up

The tormenting ache is obscured
replaced by searing agony.
I feel the flesh melt,
Imagine the blisters as they bubble,
blacken and crisp over.
The edges split and retract
to reveal red tissue below.
It blackens and the cycle starts again.

My mind tells me it’s not true,
burnt nerves can’t feel.
but this is no ordinary fire
no water can quench these flames.
Born deep within neural pathways
they burn as intense as
the a charcoal maker’s kiln
consuming all reason and sanity.

Bed covers lie thrown back
the soft linen had burnt;
as its folds crept like molten lava,
and scorched everything in their path.
The mind fights for control
looking to stem the flow
as if closing the sluice on a stream
but the gate valve is stuck.

Thoughts are marshalled,
challenged and found wanting.
Well-rehearsed counter points are delivered.
Slowly control is regained.
Unhelpful thoughts rally for a final push
but once again the mind delivers a ‘coup de grace’,
another battle is won
and the leg will bare weight today.

John Carré Buchanan
19th August 2011


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