Wednesday Waffle - Walks

Hello lovelies!

I want to talk about walks. I've always loved walking.

When I was a child and I needed to think something through, I'd take myself off walking on my own - often barefoot - because I've always been a bit of a free spirit. You might think 'What would a child have to worry about?' but I've always been an old soul, and my mum and dad split up when I was really young so I was often troubled.

There was this one place I used to gravitate to. It's a small burial ground in my home town. It's not a graveyard as it's not attached to a church, but there used to be one there hundreds of years ago. The gravestones are all placed along the walls of the burial ground. It has a spectacular view across the town as it's high up on a hill and I used to stand there for ages trying to work out my problems. I've always felt at peace among the dead.

When I started going to senior school I got plenty of exercise as I lived about 2 miles away from my school and walked there and back every day up hill and down dale as we didn't have a car. Going into my teens I still walked to process my thoughts, but mostly out of necessity. Anywhere local I wanted to go, I had to walk to. I'd always prefer to walk rather than getting on a train or bus. When you're on foot the world's your oyster - you're not crammed in a moving lump of metal with lots of other people, being forced to listen to their noise. I walked miles and miles every week. When I started my first job, again I walked. I had a 2 mile walk each way initially, and once I'd moved house it was a 3 mile walk each way. Any time I was pissed off about anything, I'd stomp around until I'd worked it out of my system.

I was still walking everywhere when I met hubby. It wouldn't be unusual for us to walk 8 or 10 miles in a day on the weekends. We walked on holidays, we walked at home, we walked round London when we'd been to see his parents - you get the picture. 

It was on a holiday in 2007 that my illness first came to light. I'd been feeling quite off for a while, but we had decided to book a caravan holiday in Torquay 3.5 miles away from the town centre so we'd be forced to cram loads of walking in every day. The first day or two I was suffering and thought 'Oh, you've only just finished work, you'll have a couple of days of good sleep and then you'll be fine.' But it didn't get better, it got worse. There were a few times on that holiday where I'd be walking along crying as I didn't feel like I could put another foot in front of the other without collapsing. Plans of our walking holiday were abandoned and we walked part way to town every day and got buses or cabs the rest of the way. Being the optimistic fool I am I just brushed it all off and it wasn't until April 2008 when things really went to pot physically that I knew the future was full of question marks.

I've documented very recently (last week) how things with my health have affected me, but I've never really spoken about how I've had to give up on my love of long walks. I'll talk at the end about the way I've adapted walks to suit me so I can get some exercise when the pain allows it.

When I was first ill, say for the first 3 years, I railed against it hard. I'd try to do the things I liked to do, like walking a long way, until it got to the point where my body was screaming at me to stop. If I had a good day, I thought I was cured. I'd do everything at once and end up feeling awful for days. It's called 'boom and bust' and I've gradually learned not to do it. The big wake up call was when we moved about 4 years ago. Obviously packing up a home is a hard job on its own, but when it came to moving day, I carried just 3 boxes down from our top floor flat one at a time, put them in the van then went back upstairs. After the 3rd box my friend took one look at me and ordered me to sit down. I did feel tired and breathless but I didn't know what she meant until I looked in the bathroom mirror. My whole face and neck was purple. I looked like I was going to have a heart attack. I busied myself with cleaning up and ordering people about as required, but didn't do any lifting from then on. At the new flat I was putting things in the right rooms, and doing some light unpacking (the kettle, oh how lovely to see you again my friend!) but again not really doing any heavy lifting. The aftermath of the move meant I was sleeping for about 14 hours a day (or more) for almost a month. I'd literally get up, have something to eat, fall back to sleep, wake up at teatime, be awake for a few hours then have to go back to bed. Rinse and repeat, do not pass go. Lesson learned.

So after that I curtailed my activities further - I wasn't working, but I still tried to have a pretence of a social life once in a blue moon. As we lived fairly near to town, I'd have little excursions into town and got some exercise that way, but if I took the opportunity to capitalise on a sunny day and have a longer walk, I'd overdo it and have to get to bed as soon as I got in. With Fibro you have a delayed pain reaction, so one minute I'd be fine and the next I'd be in tears of pain and exhaustion. I would literally get in the front door, crawl up the stairs on my hands and knees to our top floor flat (yes another one, what a prat!) get into bed fully clothed (as I didn't even have the energy to take my clothes off!) and be out like a light.

Soon after this point walking to town became too much as walking on concrete for any length of time started to jolt my joints. When we moved again 2 and a half years ago (I did NO lifting or carrying at all this time, ha!) from a place right near town to somewhere about 3 miles out of town I would occasionally still try to walk the whole way. It wasn't pretty. As time went on. I'd walk less than halfway and book a cab for the rest of the journey, and then as I got worse I'd get a cab there and back. So every time I go to town without hubby now, I go there by cab and back. By bitter experience I know if I were stupid enough to try to walk to town tomorrow I'd be in pain for several days afterwards. I have to pick my battles. Some things are just not worth the pain.

We'd worked out that walking around towns was bad news for me a couple of years ago, so we tried forest or country walks, and that summer that was grand up to a point. We'd drive to somewhere where I could walk without hurting myself. I could rest when needed as woodland tends to have lots of benches or logs to sit on and the softer ground was sympathetic to the cries of my joints. As is often my way, when something goes well I want more, more, moaaaaar. After a second walk over this particular weekend we were about to go back to the car when I looked down to close a farmer's gate and BOOM! The next thing I knew I was laying down. As I turned to the left to roll over and get up, I saw asphalt - my head was in the road. At first I thought I just fell, but hubby said I just tipped over backwards suddenly. More to the point there was no sense of falling. None. One second I was latching the gate, the next my head was about to be road pizza. For the second time since I'd had Fibromyalgia and CFS, I'd passed out from overexertion. (The first time it happened I was hoovering. I woke up with a big headache and a lump on my forehead where I'd conked out and bashed my head on the radiator.)

So then I realised this CFS business was a serious bugger and I'd better rethink this walking malarkey. So the walks got shorter, and then other problems appeared. Walking in woods in the summer is fine - the ground is usually dry, but once it starts to rain, there's lots of mud for me to slip in. My legs went east and west respectively while I was trying to climb up an almost vertical slope one time and I almost pulled hubby down with me when he offered me a hand ;) Then CFS made my balance worse, and I started tripping a lot. There are no end of tree branches and holes in the ground in woodland, so hubby found himself having to walk in front of me pointing out every inch of terrain in case I had a fall. It was a massive pain in the tits for both of us. I was scared of falling and hurting myself, and he was probably scared I'd fall on him and flatten him, hahahaa!

For a while it looked like I'd have to give up on walks altogether, but the dead came to save me! I love photography and history, and if I can put them together then all the better. We started driving to old churches with parking nearby. There are always LOADS of benches in graveyards and as they're places of solitude no one minds if you sit on a bench for half an hour. I can walk around taking photos of old gravestones, sit down for a breather if I need one, even eat a spot of lunch if we brought some. When I've had enough we go back to the car to go home.

Another thing I worked out was I can walk a bit further if there are no stupid hills to contend with. I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer at times! I have a very gammy knee and it really doesn't like hills. It tends to get a bit irate and start wobbling about dangerously if it has to contend with hills, so another thing we can do now we have the car is drive to somewhere where it's all flat and have a little perambulate. I live in a town which is up and down like no one's business but there is one very flat bit - the sea front. Genius - what do seafronts always have? Loads of friggin' benches, that's what! Why do you think old people love the seaside so much? Benches, mo'fuggers!

So, although I can no longer go on bloody great yomps through town and country, I can adapt walks to my health sitch and still get a little bit of time out in the fresh air, which is what really invigorates me. On the days where I'm really not up to a walk, hubby will sometimes indulge me by taking me on a drive, as just getting out of the house can be a tonic.

In my roundabout, not-at-all-articulate way this is positive, or it's supposed to be. No matter what changes ill health may bring you, it is possible to adapt and still do something that makes your heart sing, just perhaps in a slightly more gentle way than you used to do it.

Thanks for reading!